Yep, wildlife photography is not a cheap hobby/side hustle/profession but it is pretty addictive.
And time consuming. And expensive. (Did I mention that already?)
This can be a bit of a problem when shopping for gifts for wildlife photographers since the new camera and lens combo they are constantly dribbling over is probably going to be a tiny bit over budget.
(If you are flush and considering buying a wildlife photographer a camera or lens or both, buy yourself a cape at the same time, you hero!)
Luckily, there are gifts out there for photographers that will:
- Not break the bank
- Actually be useful
- Earn you a smooch under the mistletoe 😘
1. Memory cards
As far as presents go, these are pretty under-whelming when it comes to size but don't let appearances fool you!
Nowadays you can buy high capacity cards for very little and it means your photographer can carry on shooting without fear of running out of storage space. Memory cards come in different types and capacities so be careful to choose the right one!
With modern day digital cameras using up 20-30MBs per image, a reasonable memory card size would be in the region of 32GBs although bigger is not always better.
There's a good argument for using multiple, smaller cards (e.g. 2x32GB) rather than 1x64GB. If that one card gets corrupted, all the images/video on it are gone.
(In case you were wondering - no photographer ever has too many memory cards.)
2. Camera Strap
This one might come down to taste but personally, I find camera straps are a real nuisance and get in the way 80% of the time I'm using my camera.
I remove the strap from my camera bodies because for the most part I'm using a tripod or supporting my camera on a beanbag. However, there is a middle-ground in the Peak Designs camera strap.
Its design means you can quickly attach and detach your camera to the strap without having to fiddle around with awkward buckles. It looks pretty good too.
3. Spirit level
If your photographer dabbles in landscape photography, spirit levels are great little tools to help keep horizons straight.
It's worth mentioning that modern digital cameras often have a digital spirit level built into them but I find this can be a pain to constantly check. These little ones fit onto the hotshoe of the camera and the ones with the double bubble mean you can check if the camera is level on two planes.
I hear photographers tell me that spirit levels are redundant since you can level images within the processing software. This is true but in doing so you sacrifice some of your image because leveling it means cropping away some of the data.
The best practice is to get it right in the field!
4. Memory card holder
This is a great little gift to combine with idea #1.
Having lots of memory is cards is great knowing you're unlikely to run out of space but keeping track of them becomes a nightmare.
Using a memory card holder not only keeps your cards safe and in one place but helps you organise them.
I tend to store cards face down when I've used them and face up when they are empty and ready to go.
This saves valuable time when switching them in the field.
Another advantage of storing cards together in a protective case is that they are easy to keep on you.
If I'm leaving my gear in a car for an hour or in an accommodation while going out, I'll put my card holder in my pocket for safekeeping.
5. Vouchers for prints
Despite having a library of thousands of images and perhaps a 75-100 I consider to be my all-time-best shots, I have very few in print.
I think this goes for a lot of photographers. I really like seeing my work printed and properly presented in a framed mount but hardly ever do it.
Treat your photographer to a gift voucher for their favourite printer (mine is the award-winning Loxley Colour) with a message suggesting they should show off their favourite image in the way it deserves!
6. Thermal mug
Nothing aids a long session in a hide or in the field than knowing you have a piping hot drink in your bag to warm you up on a cold day.
My thermal mug is one of the first things to get packed when I'm going out in the morning to the point where it has almost become a metaphor for comfort and endurance!
I've tried many, many thermal cups over the years and can highly recommend Lifeventure's thermal mugs.
I've been using mine for about 6 years and it's still going strong (despite the paintwork suffering 😥).
The bonus here is that they're reusable of course so no need for any more paper or plastic cups!
7. Magazine subscription
Photography magazine subscriptions are always a popular gift for photographers.
If you are considering this, try and find a publication that matches the genre of photography the intended recipient is interested in.
I find magazines that cover 'photography' as opposed to 'nature' or 'outdoor' photography to be too general and often end up repeating information before too long.
A magazine subscription is a great gift for photographers seeking to get their work published as it gives them lots of research material and shows them what kind of words and pictures get make it into print.
(Yea, I know, that's quite a specific circumstance but you'll be thanked later.)
8. A buff
Made it to #8 without touching on clothing!
Most wildlife photography involves some waiting around and waiting around can mean getting cold.
Other than the usual things like thermal tops and leggings, one of my favourite extra pieces of clothing is my Buff (or snood, or bandana tube wrap). If you have never comes across one of these, it's simply a stretchy tube of fabric you can wear on your head or around your neck.
They are cheap, have many uses and do a surprising good job of keeping your neck warm which is what I use mind for the majority of the time.
9. A workshop
If you can't find a product to gift to your photographer, how about a photography experience?
Workshops are great ways for photographers to either learn new things in the field or get close to nature with an experienced photographer or guide.
Photography workshops tend to be at the higher end of the budget scale but many photographers offer gift vouchers to be used towards their workshops or tours.
10. Plant a tree
Most wildlife photographers are interested in the environment - after all there wouldn't be much wildlife without a healthy eco-system!
If your photographer has all the gadgets and gear they could possible want, why not plant some trees in their name.
Bonus! Give some time ⌛
One thing wildlife photographers are always in need of is time.
It might sound a bit stupid but if the photographer in your life is a spouse, partner or close family member, consider offering to look after the kids for an hour or two, or make the dinner a couple of nights in a row to allow them to enjoy their hobby during the unsociable hours that so often coincide with the best light (e.g. early evening).
Time is probably one of the most overlooked gifts you can give and it doesn't even have to cost anything!