Gift buying is starting much earlier because shipping times are now a critical factor. A lot of shopping will be online and, once again, I am urging my readers to shop early if you are buying gifts for friends and family. I want to suggest what I think are the best photo gifts for a new camera user.
Updated for 2021
I’m talking in this post about the kind of photography gifts a newbie (or you as a newbie) will use and be thrilled to get. I raided my own wishlist for several pieces of gear that I know will be useful.
What Do I Buy a Novice Photographer?
Speaking as a camera user, I asked myself what would an aspiring photographer love to receive as a gift?
What would you, as a new camera user find helpful and maybe fun too? Something that friends and family can afford without breaking the bank?
The choices here are selected as gifts for every beginner photographer who is keen to grow, learning on the way, and acquiring more expensive equipment later when money allows. (You also have permission to treat yourself too.)
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6 Great Photography Gifts A Newbie Will Use Today!
A Top Quality Photo Memory Card
Whether you are buying for yourself, or for someone else, you need to know that there are two types of memory card. The SDHC and the SDXC. Don’t panic! I will introduce them to you here.
The SDHC is the card you will use as an aspiring Walter Chandoa or Cartier-Bresson. With a limited budget, these card(s) make a great gift for photographers, because we always run out of card space taking zillions of pictures.
OK, here are the important differences between the two cards available.
- SDHC Secure Digital High Capacity cards are memory cards that store up to 32GB.
- SDXC Secure Digital Extended Capacity cards store over 32GB.
- Note: Some new cameras will only let you shoot video using this type of storage card but for photos SDHC is OK.
I have an SDHC memory card in my Canon 1300D and it works just fine when I take pictures at the cat cafe, or at home in my garden. You will not need an SDXC card as a new photographer but you might need more than one SDHC if you take a lot of pictures!
- TOP TIP: If your computer or tablet doesn’t have a slot for your card then you might need a card reader. These range in price from the UGREEN SD Card Reader ($15.99) to the HME SD Card Reader/Viewer w/ 4.3″ LCD Screen ($63.99) which has a screen to preview shots taken. Amazon has a huge range of card readers at budget prices.
The Joby JB01507 GorillaPod Tripod
Added this Gorillapod to my wishlist when I updated this collection for the holidays 2020. This is on my own wishlist for my Canon T6. You can grip it onto poles or bars, wrap it or stand it, and the super-flexible legs let you secure camera equipment or lights to virtually any surface by wrapping the legs on nearby objects to keep the camera secure.
Gorillapod comes in a variety of configurations but the JB01507 will take a basic DSLR, Smartphone (with attachment), or a compact. It can support up to 3k/6.6lbs of weight from your camera or light.
Precision comes in the 360 Degrees panning bed and 90 Degrees tilt and bubble level for optimal position control.
A Good Camera Cleaning Set
It won’t surprise you to know that your camera, whatever its price, is a highly specialised piece of equipment. It needs to be kept clean and tidy or photo quality will take a nosedive in quality.
You really do need to get rid of that cat nose print before you take any more photographs. If you are in urgent need of a cleaner a spectacle lens cloth works but a kit like those shown here is a good bet for a clean camera.
A kit may include:
- A Rocket Air Blaster for gentle hands-free camera lens cleaning,
- Anti-Static Gloves (so you don’t attract even more dust).
- Specialised Cleaning Brush
- A Lens Cleaning Pen
- Tissues and/or Cloths
This definitely comes into the must-have’s gift list for photographers under $20.
A 50mm or ‘Nifty Fifty’ Lens
What is a nifty fifty lens? It sounds weird, expensive, and way out of your budget – right? Not so. This definitely comes near the top of the ‘photography gifts a newbie will use’ list. In fact, it is the one lens I would want for Christmas.
The budget 50mm’s proper label is a 50mm f1.8 lens. This is one of the coolest photography gifts because, as a cat photographer, you want pin-sharp pictures and you want them to be close-ups you can use. The glory and delight of a cat is in the capture an eye, whiskers or ear furnishings, or a type of ‘look’ they give you. The 50mm lens will inspire you and be one of your favourite pieces of camera kit.
- I help you take successful cat closeups in depth in this post.
The lens also allows you to make good use of ‘manual focus’ (see your camera manual) to focus on very specific points like an exquisite cat’s eye or super-sharp fur texture. The 50mm shallow depth of field allows you to focus on the one thing you want to capture, your cat(s) and it softly diffuses the background’ enhancing your model’s perfection.
TOP TIP The lens you aim to buy should be the less expensive 50mm model (unless you got gift cards for Christmas). It’s amazing and a best seller for a reason – it rocks.
A quick note about what the 50MM can’t do, so you don’t buy the wrong lens.
The one thing you can’t do with a 50mm is Zoom
Not being able to zoom takes some getting used to. Even as a beginner with a kit lens you easily become accustomed to supporting your camera and adjusting your lens so you zoom into or away from your subject quickly and easily. With a fixed lens, you have to think more about how you will compose your shot.
You will literally need to step closer to your cat to do what your kit lens and its useful zoom did, but this lens does it better. It is easy to get used to zooming with your feet, and you get used to thinking a different way.
Amazon spoils you for choice with the range of small camera lights available to help you brighten up indoors to chase dark shadows away. I also suggest that if you have a camera shop nearby ask them for advice, and support a small business near home.
Take a moment to think about what the light will be used for. Small lights can be powerful and fit in a pocket for portability. The range of styles and builds of camera lights is huge so take a look because there will be one for your budget whatever your limits are.
I like the look of the Lume Cube, or if you can find one the Raleno (shown below).
A Reflector Set
If you are like me, you wondered what on earth a photographer does with a reflector, or even a set of reflectors. would they be a useful gift, or even a purchase for ‘me’. I had to find out because every professional seems to have a set and if they are useful, you all want one – right?
What Can A Photo Reflector Do?
A reflector can be really useful for softening or removing the shadows that make a dark cat so difficult to photograph. A soft glow can add just enough light back to your cat to make its fur shine and reduce the shadows. This gives your new photographer the modulation of light and shade that shapes a darker pet.
Just how much you need extra light you need comes with experience, but a reflector can make a difference if your cat usually appears as a spectral black blob in your photographs. If you or the person you are gifting is challenged by the ‘black blog’ a reflector might help.
Reflectors often come in sets and are another piece of photographic kit I thought might be expensive, but are surprisingly cheap. Silver, gold and white are most common, and having a set of reflectors can be useful for different fur colours and lighting situations.
A larger reflector gives softer light so you can experiment with a rectangle of white card, then try a larger sheet of card (A2 or A1 size) so see the impact before investing in a (more convenient) foldable reflector.
If you need a modestly priced piece of equipment to try out, I hope these ideas for the best photography gifts a newbie will use and love too.
BONUS Photography Equipment Suggestions
A camera bag or rucksack can make a real difference if your new camera user has a second lens to carry. If you have the budget then a top-of-the-range Bellingham bag will always impress but, honestly? There are countless shoulder bags for cameras to choose from so see if you can discover if your giftee would prefer a shoulder bag or a rucksack-type carrier3 for their lenses.
An overlooked idea that might really impress your photography beginner is a new camera neck strap. The range is amazing and they don’t have to walk around looking like a Canon or Nikon ad!
A Compassionate Reminder
- Although this post has, I hope, been helpful in allowing you to find some photography gifts a new camera use will love and maybe even hug you for. Please remember that these are extraordinary times and take a breath if things don’t seem to be going right.
- If you buy from a small company, remember they are at the mercy of importing and delivery companies too. Don’t yell at your supplier, it is often not their fault.
- Don’t yell at the camera sttore retail assistant, they may have to wear a mask all day – it’s not fun.
- Rude comments on a retail site or an Etsy store may make you feel better but a small businesses’ hard work and good name could end up down the toilet and, yes, it could be your fault.