If you have a photobug as your significant other or on your Christmas list I have a few ideas that I have put together to help. I have no affiliation with anyone and nothing on this list will get me rewarded for suggesting. Some of these products I do not own; they are just suggested gifts based on my own experience in photography, things I would like to have myself, or unique items only a photographer would appreciate. I have tried to keep the ideas around $50 or less and do not require you to know specifics about their type of gear.
Hey. Nothing says "sexy" like a vest with a myriad of pockets, loops, zippers, and mesh. For the photographer in your life this may be really handy, though. Even if they are carrying their kit in a backpack it's still nice to have things handy without having to take the pack on and off. It can make storing things like lens and body caps easy allowing the photographer to keep their hands free to shoot and helps avoid lost caps. Extra memory, batteries, etc. can also be handily stored and readily accessible in the various pockets. Other gadgetry can be stored as well. Personally, when I'm out shooting I like to listen to music to keep my mind clear and focused on what I'm doing, this gives me a place to store (and protect) my devices, route my earbud wiring, etc. I also like to chew on sunflower seeds so the vest keeps a pouch of seeds pretty handy as well. A vest also works well for different seasons. It can be easily worn under a heavy coat for colder temperatures without adding excessive bulk, especially in the arms. For warmer temperatures it's lightweight enough that it doesn't exacerbate hot temperatures. Prices vary depending upon which one you choose but there are plenty for $50 and under. The more ability for storage and quick access the better. You really cannot go with "too many" pockets.
I own this model flashlight and I love it. I don't have the model as shown here with the clip but I have to admit I wish I did. I can't tell you how many times this flashlight ends up in my mouth so that I have both hands free. It's a little too large to be doing that with so it's usually just for a few seconds. What I also love about this flashlight is that it's one of the few flashlights I could find with a red LED included. For photographers who like to do night photography (particularly of the sky) the red light saves your night vision but prevents fumbling around in total darkness. The white light is brilliant and illuminates your path in the darkness easily. This model has a pre-focused beam so you may also want to consider a second flashlight with a focusable beam if they like to do any sort of light painting with night shots, which is the next item on the list. This flashlight sells direct from Coast for $30.
This flashlight has an insanely bright LED and can pretty much turn night into day wherever the beam points. The design of this flashlight is also clever. It comes with five modes of operation. A rear button functions as the on/off switch and slightly depressing the button changes it's modes through High, medium, and low output. What I would call a strobe mode and an SOS pattern mode round out the five total modes of the light. The rear of the flashlight also includes a pretty powerful magnet. I haven't tested to see, however, if it could support itself when attached to a metal surface. I use rechargeable triple A batteries in mine and I think I've had to change them once but I use this flashlight several times a year. I use this flashlight for light painting when I'm doing night shots and want to get more light on something. As you can see it also includes a red and green lens. I don't use these myself since I have the Coast flashlight with the built-in red LED. Both the Beiste and Coast flashlights are practical gift ideas for anyone on your list that might have a need for tactical lights (active duty, first responders, etc.) This two piece set is on Amazon for $17.99 which is less than I think I paid for the one I bought last year. That's a heck of a deal.
I do not own this kit but it is on my short list of gear to buy. The sensors on my cameras are desperately in need of a good cleaning. I selected this particular kit because of the rating and reviews on B&H's website and the reasonable price. This includes everything (except cleaning solution) that someone would need to do their own sensor cleaning. It's certainly more convenient than taking it to a local camera store (which are getting hard to find these days) or sending it to the manufacturer for cleaning. $49.99 on B&H, currently.
Every photographer should have at least a small library of books. Some should be technical books for learning techniques and methods. Others should be inspirational. Periodically, I like to get a couple books out to browse through for ideas or inspiration. It's especially helpful if I am in a funk. A couple suggested books are in my library and a couple are on my own list. I'm willing to bet that your photographer has a source of inspiration and there is likely a book about that person. If they don't already own it, consider getting them a book. For me, it's Ansel Adams. I have 3 or 4 Adams books and also watched at least a couple Ansel Adams documentaries. We also have a couple of prints in the house which I like to looking at and admiring.
While it may seem like a "cheap" gift, this ingeniously designed light reflector is super handy. I've used mine countless times and it is extremely lightweight. You are getting several different light reflectors in one. If your photographer does portraiture then I highly recommend this; it comes in handy for other photography as well. Currently selling on Amazon for $14.99.
I've been meaning to get myself a decent set of flash gels for a long time now and it's just something that keeps slipping my mind. This set has a lot of positive reviews and ratings on Amazon and the prices seems pretty reasonable. ($29.95) In case you are wondering what the heck these are for, they tint the flash to a desired color for artistic or white balancing reasons.
So, this is the one item on the list that is not $50 or less. Although there are options to achieve that I am recommending gifting a full year subscription. I cannot recommend Phlearn enough. In their own words they "make learning fun". They actually accomplish that mantra. Almost all tutorials are hosted by Aaron Nace and he is superb at what he does. If you have a photographer that wants to achieve advanced skills in Lightroom and/or Photoshop then Phlearn is the best place to go. Tutorials are high quality, instructive, and engaging. Phlearn make a ton of free videos but the pro tutorials dive deep into the guts of Photoshop and Lightroom and teach the advanced skills needed for powerful post-processing. A one year subscription is $100 but you can do a gift card to get them started on a subscription for as little as $10.
Stocking stuffer ideas
If the photographer on your list travels overseas this power adapter ($18.99) will come in handy. It offers power connections no matter where they may find themselves in the world and it also offers four USB ports for charging devices. I have a similar adapter myself but I really wish it had the USB ports for charging. Small enough to put in a stocking!
B&H Gift Card
If you are not familiar with B&H, they are the equivalent of a toy store for photographers. I once went to their New York store (their headquarters) and it was like I had found a photographer's utopia. Shipping is always speedy, prices are reasonable, and their support is outstanding. I have never had a bad experience ordering gear from B&H and are my first choice when ordering photography gear.
When a product has a five-star rating after nearly 1100 reviews you know it has to be good. If you don't buy the sensor cleaning kit, consider putting this blower in their stocking. At $9.99 it's an inexpensive item for their stocking and they'll love it for having a high quality blower for keeping the gear dust free.
If the person on your list does any sort of outdoor photography, especially where it involves hiking, camping, etc. then I recommend giving them insect repellant. There is almost nothing more annoying than trying to focus on your photography while you are being swarmed by mosquitoes and gnats; it is maddening. A good bug repellant strategy should involve more than just repellant on the skin, especially if they are going to be in back-country and/or around bodies of water. Repellants like Off! definitely work and should be used but this repellant is meant to go on clothing and gear (it's not meant for direct skin coverage). The combination of the two will do a better job at keeping the pests away, allowing nuisance-free photography. $16.00 at REI but may be a little tough stuffing a stocking depending on the size. ;-)
Yep. I definitely suggest putting a pack of Carmex in their stocking. I prefer the stick form of Carmex since it includes sunblock in it. Carmex is exceptional for protecting your lips when out in the elements. I have ended up with chapped lips in the middle of summer while spending a long day on a beach shooting. I don't know if anyone else has this experience but if I have chapped lips I can put Carmex on when I go to bed and the next morning my lips are virtually healed. At any rate, it's good for lip protection no matter what time of year when you're out in the elements.