Gifts for travel photographers and travellers who love photography may seem dull to the gift giver looking for something special. But for photographers – professional and amateurs – who shoot a tonne of photos when they travel, these practical photo accessories will be greatly appreciated.
A travel photographer always has a wish list. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a professional photographer or an amateur photographer who takes their travel photography seriously when they’re on holidays. But it’s not all camera bodies and lenses on that wish list – often it’s the camera accessories and tech gadgets that make a photographer’s life so much easier when they’re on the road.
So here’s my with list of suggestions for the best Christmas gifts for travel photographers and travellers who love photography – from small yet essential things that are constantly needed that make terrific stocking stuffers to more expensive gear that will last a lifetime.
And if you are looking for a camera and lens kit to buy for someone special, speaking as a pro photographer, this is the best camera and lens for travel and food photography, these are the best travel and food lenses that make up my working kit (that I’ve been using for many years), and these are the best lenses for food photography when you’re travelling.
This is the second instalment of our Christmas gift ideas series. Click through for Christmas Gifts for Asian Home Cooks, a Guide to Asian Kitchen Essentials, Classic Cookbooks for Serious Cooks for Christmas, and Christmas Gifts for Picnic Lovers.
NOTE: a click on the images of the products, below, will take you to Amazon. If you purchase something we earn a small commission.
Gifts for Travel Photographers and Travellers Who Love Photography
I personally use all of these things that I recommend as great gifts for travel photographers and travellers who love photography, regularly recommending these photography essentials and camera accessories to our friends, clients and readers around the world.
We had participants here just recently for our Cambodia for our Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats who were copying their precious travel photos to the local hard drive on their laptop via their camera from dodgy no-name memory cards. That action alone prompted me to write this list – just in time for Christmas and our series of Christmas gift ideas.
Seagate Backup Plus Portable External Hard Drives
It’s so important for pro travel photographers and hobbyists who do a lot of photography when they travel to keep their images organised and that doesn’t mean on the hard drive on your laptop. For each country I visit I have two of these Seagate Backup Plus Portable External Hard Drives, one that serves as my main drive and the other that serves as a backup drive. I back up to the backup drive with SuperDuper! software and keep one drive in the hotel safe and one with me at all times. Drives are so inexpensive these days there’s no excuse not to do this.
The latest crop of cameras can shoot faster frame rates and generate much bigger files than they ever have, so we can never have enough of these memory cards. And if you’re going to dabble in video, you’re going to need the latest generation of these fast memory cards. If you’re also a keen wildlife or sports photographer you don’t want to spend precious seconds after a burst of photos waiting for the files to write to the card. I personally don’t like to buy cards bigger than 64GB (there’s 128GB and 256GB cards available) as I’m nervous that I’ll lose too many photos if I lose one, so I can never have enough memory cards. I have not had a problem with SanDisk memory cards for as long as I can remember.
Memory Card Case
Speaking of losing memory cards, when you’re on the road, these memory card cases are indispensable. As well as keeping all your cards in one place, you can put fresh and full memory cards in different sections of the case so you can keep track of which memory cards you need to download and what cards you have left to use. It really pays as a travel photographer to be organised. These are really cool little gifts for travel photographers.
SanDisk ImageMate Reader Writer
If you haven’t bought a card reader for a few years or are copying photos from your camera to your laptop, don’t hesitate to buy one of these and I recommend that you buy the SanDisk ImageMate Reader Writer. It’s one of the best gifts for travel photographers who spend a lot of time on the road and are away for a long time. With the huge file sizes that are written to your cards from the latest cameras, a USB 3 card reader is essential unless you enjoy watching paint dry while you transfer files.
If you’ve bought one of the latest Apple MacBook Pros, like Lara had to when her old MacBook died recently, you’ll be wondering where you’re going to plug in your current accessories. This OWC USB-C Travel Dock comes to the rescue with connections for fast external drives, USB accessories, and a 4K display all from the one cable. Perfect for backing up your photos on the road and one of the handiest gifts for travel photographers who spend a lot of time working in airports and hotel rooms.
Sensor Cleaning Kit
There’s nothing worse than spending all that time taking the perfect sunset long exposure only to find there are dust spots all over your image when you look closely at it in Lightroom a week after you’ve taken the shot. Dust can easily get to the sensor when you’re changing lenses — which you do a lot in travel photography. This sensor cleaning kit is my favourite because the ’smear away’ cleaning liquid leaves no smears on your sensor when you clean it. When I’m away on assignment, checking the sensors for dust is a nightly ritual and learning to clean your sensor is a must. This will be one of the most appreciated gifts for travel photographers and makes a great stocking stuffer.
Before I came to my senses and bought my Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod, I probably went through four or five cheap tripods over a couple of years. All of them broke, all of them were too light to support a decent DSLR properly, and all of them I bought on impulse. My Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod is now several years old and while it has been mated with more than a couple of tripod heads (let’s just say that it’s not a good idea to let clumsy hotel staff carry your tripod), it’s still functioning just as well as it did the first day I bought it. This latest model has the distinct advantage of being able to quickly move the centre shaft to a horizontal position — perfect for those overhead food photos. Get one of these tripod bags too (mine has survived several years bouncing around the holds of aircraft) and that’s one of the best gifts for travel photographers you can buy.
Manfrotto 3-Way Tripod Head
The reason I haven’t suggested a tripod and tripod head kit here is that for photographers, tripod heads are a very personal thing. Some want a quick and dirty adjustable head to work fast, while others want precision. The decent handle size and the friction controls on this Manfrotto 3-Way Tripod Head is what makes this one perfect for my work, particularly when photographing food. Being able to move position minutely in just one plane is really important when up close on a dish. This is another of those terrific gifts for travel photographers that will be greatly appreciated.
OP/TECH USA CAMERA STRAP
Isn’t a camera strap just a camera strap? No. If you’re walking around advertising your brand of camera with that Canon strap or that canary yellow highlighted Nikon strap, you look like an amateur who put the strap on the camera on the flight to your holiday destination. Looking like an amateur with a new camera attracts the kind of people who will be selling that expensive new camera to the local pawn shop in an hour. There are other advantages to a well-designed strap like the plain black OP/TECH ones I use. Firstly, they’re flexible, which takes some of the load off when you’re out all day. Secondly, you can quickly disconnect the centre section and make a smaller wrist strap which is also handy when you’re putting the camera on a tripod. Thirdly, there’s a non-slip surface under the centre section which keeps the strap firmly on your shoulder.
How important is a reflector kit? I don’t leave home without a set of reflectors in my camera bag. Ever. These kind of reflectors really should be called a reflector-diffuser because they do both kinds of light shaping – reflecting and diffusing. For instance, if I’m photographing a plate of food and the light is too bright coming in a window, I use the centre diffuser section to soften the light. If I need more light reflected in the front of the dish, I use a white or gold reflector cover to point light back into the dish. It’s also a must for portrait shoots as well, where we want to get light into the subject’s eyes to make them shine.
They’re my recommendations for great gifts for travel photographers and leisure travellers who take shooting photos pretty seriously when they travel. I’d love to hear your suggestions, too.
If you’d like to learn more about travel and food photography, come join Lara and I in Cambodia on one of our Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats. We host scheduled small group trips in the low season and private trips on request throughout the year. More details on the previous link, as well as on our Siem Reap Retreats and Tours site.