Picture Perfect Holiday Gifts

What should you give your favorite photographer? Why a professionally made enlargement of his or her photo, of course!

Story and photos by Derek Doeffinger


You’re into photography, or somebody close to you is. And it’s approaching that time of year when you need to start thinking about the gifts you’ll be buying, or maybe even asking for.
Well, for those of you subjected to the rarefied and sometimes hot gases of the photosphere where we photographers tend to soar, or (in the eyes of some) endlessly and aimlessly drift, I’ve got some gift suggestions for both conventional digital camera and phone photographers. With a few exceptions, the recommended gifts cost less than $100.

Let’s start with conventional digital camera shooters. Check out more gift suggestions for your favorite phone photographer on the Life in the Finger Lakes app.

Gifts and gear for the digital camera photographer  

Sometimes known as photo hobbyists, enthusiasts or obsessives, digital camera shooters love their photo gear – so you may need to consult them, or “punt” and do it the easy way by buying them a gift card. Leaders in photo gear such as adorama.com or bhphotobvideo.com are a good choice. These New York box stores often have attitude but more importantly, they have knowledge, tons of gear and good customer service. You can purchase and discuss products over the phone or just order online. The return policies are good. Of course, if you have a good local photo store, give them your business.

While gift cards are great, sometimes you’re looking for the perfect stocking stuffer or something more sentimental. Let’s look at some lower-priced gift ideas and move up.

LensPen – This $10 cleaning tool is essential for any photographer because it cleans lenses quickly and effectively, so pictures will be sharp.

Camera strap – Do you think a new camera comes with a comfortable strap? You’re right, it doesn’t. Good camera straps range from the Op/Tech Pro ($20) to the $80 and up leather Ona Presideo straps. For the world traveler, consider a security strap that makes it hard for thieves to cut the strap and run off with the camera, such as the Pacsafe Carrysafe strap ($40).

Extra battery – I carry two, sometimes three, camera batteries (usually unique to the camera model) when hiking or traveling, and so should your photo buddy. Know the brand and model of the camera before placing an order. These can cost up to $50.

Memory card – You can’t have too many memory cards. Get a 32 or 64 GB Class 10 memory card suitable for the brand and model of the camera. Newer memory cards may not offer full functionality with older cameras, so ask ahead of time if a particular card is suitable for a particular camera model. Brands I have tried include PNY, Transcend, Sony, SansDisk and Lexar. On sale, they should be under $30.

Polarizing filter – This is the most important accessory for improving photos. The filter screws onto the front of the lens and enables a photographer to make fluffy clouds pop from blue skies and reduce surface reflections to intensify colors. Its diameter must match the diameter of the lens, which is written in white on the front edge of the lens. Typical diameters range from 58 mm to 62 mm to 67 mm, but can vary greatly so check before buying. Tiffen and Hoya make good filters, B+W makes the best of this group. Get a filter with the word “circular” in the description. Expect to pay $30 to $100, with larger diameter filters costing more. Top-quality monitor – If your photo bro regularly adjusts photos and makes prints, go for the gold and get a superior 24- or 27-inch monitor. A high-quality monitor that accurately reveals colors and tones is an integral part of adjusting photos. My online search of monitor reviews revealed these two from Asus: Asus PA249Q ProArt LCD Monitor or PA248Q. These two monitors range in price from $250 to $500. Dell Ultrasharp monitors also get good reviews.

And the gifts that top my list … 

Give a gift certificate to rent a camera or lens from lensrentals or borrowlenses.com. Both places rent out cameras and lenses for several days. I rent occasionally because I enjoy testing out the latest and greatest. Prices vary depending on length of rental time and type of equipment. You may want to hand write a gift certificate (or hand over a check) for $75 to $100 and let the recipient “bill” you upon actual rental.

Order a fine art print (matted and mounted) of your favorite photographer’s favorite photo to showcase the quality of his or her skill. Ask for the photo file (hopefully adjusted in Photoshop) and upload it to the lab, where they will tweak adjustments if needed. Two fine art print labs are lumierephoto.com (in Rochester, ask for Michael or Bill) and perfectartprints.com (in Ithaca, ask for Stan). Expect to pay $40 to $50 to print, mount and mat an 8 by 10 print, and roughly double that for an 11 by14 print. Shipping is included in that estimate. To save half the cost, pay just for a print and put it in a frame from a local shop. Just remember, order before the end of November because this is a busy time for printers and framers.

Give the gift of your photography

If you’re a good photographer, you have a means of making others happy at your disposal – use your photos as gifts. The trick is to do it without seeming cheap or self imposing. Keep it light and fun and, unless requested, don’t give your favorite photo as a framed print. Instead, choose gifts that are lighthearted and useful. How do you achieve this? I think you know – by using a photo sharing website like snapfish.com or shutterfly.com. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions.

• My nephew makes and passes out a well-received photo calendar each year. It’s useful and entertaining, it doesn’t need a display space and no one feels bad when its life ends at the next holiday season. Because a calendar is useful, you can fill it with almost any type of photo – from family shots to flowers to scenics to … whatever. Apple (via iPhoto), shutterfly.com and adoramapix.com are just a few calendar-making sites. Check out other products like photo mugs and T-shirts, too.

• Create a photo book. Adult children often appreciate a book that collects photos from their childhood, and parents love one of the grandkids. Younger children might enjoy a book featuring shots from the past year. A spouse would treasure one showing family history, pets, holidays past or a favorite vacation. If you’re the confident type, you might even attempt to show your appreciation (but be careful, my friend) of the relationship; I hope you’re more surefooted than I am if you attempt this last one. Photo book makers include Apple (from iPhoto), snapfish.com, mypublisher.com, shutterfly.com and adoramapix.com.

• Offer your photo services for an event or subject they choose, but don’t put anyone on the spot or feel bad if opportunities lack. You could take shots for a holiday card, pet photos, a family picture, or stage a humorous photo shoot, if your family trends that way.

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