The Best Christmas Gifts For Photography Students

Best Photography Gift Ideas

Welcome to my list of the best Christmas gifts for photography students. As the holidays are approaching I know it's time for people to start asking me what some good gift ideas are for the photography students in their live. My first suggestion is one of my photography classes but if they're already enrolled then check out my list of gifts for photography students below. These are guaranteed to put a huge smile on your favorite photographer's face come Dec. 25th.

Beginner Photography Student Gifts

If you're shopping for someone who is just getting into photography you'll love my beginner photography student gifts list. These gift ideas are perfect for the beginner photography student in your life.

Entry Level Cameras

All of the major camera manufacturers sell great entry level cameras that will help the photo student in your life to move up from phone photography to a more serious camera.

Go Mirrorless

I highly recommend that you go mirrorless. Mirrorless cameras can do so much more and are much easier to learn on than a DSLR. While I still use DSLRs the advantages of a mirrorless especially for a beginner are too good to pass up. Mirrorless cameras show you exactly what the sensor is seeing in terms of brightness, they have tools like focus and exposure peaking which are great for beginners, and they offer more versatile options for recording video compared to DSLRs.

Camera Suggestions

I mostly use Nikon cameras but I'm not in any way partial. Nikon does make the Z50 and the Zfc. The Zfc looks like a vintage film camera so if your favorite photography student loves a vintage look or has an interest in film photography they might really love this camera. I'm not advocating for Nikon because I think they're better but they're what I'm most familiar with. That said, all of the cameras and manufacturers I mention here make great cameras that the photography student in your life will love.

Canon makes incredible cameras as well including the EOS 50 Mark II. Sony's mirrorless cameras are wonderful as well and the A6100 is a ultra compact mirrorless camera with great features.

Nikon, Canon, and Sony

People regularly ask which is better, Nikon, Canon, or Sony. The truth is that they're all great camera systems. There is a reason they are the cameras that you see the pros use. They do have their strengths and weaknesses but they're all amazing cameras.

The best part about Nikon, Canon, and Sony is the wide range of lenses they have. Olympus and Panasonic also make great entry level cameras but the selection of lenses don't compete.

Fujifilm has created some really innovative cameras as well but they suffer from the same issues. That said, adapters do exist which are more common these days than they ever were before. These adapters will allow you to use other manufacturer's lenses though they often won't work as well as they would on the camera bodies they were made for.

Should You Buy a Package That Includes Lenses?

If you're looking for a camera you might ask yourself, or me, if you should buy a package that includes lenses. These are often called "kits" and the lenses they ship with are usually not the best that those manufacturers sell. They do often come in at a lower price than what you'd pay if you bought them all separately. That said, if you're going to buy just the camera body and then buy a lens or two you may not want to buy those which come in the kit anyhow.

Where To Buy A Camera

If you're interested in getting one you're probably wondering where you can buy a camera for your budding photographer. I highly recommend ordering from people who know what they're doing and who can make informed suggestions.

Here in Pittsburgh we're blessed with Premier Imaging and have YM Camera not too far away over in Ohio. I know the folks who own and work at both of these shops. They know what they're talking about and care about making their customers happy. You don't need to visit them in person either, you can talk to them over the phone and place an order with them. No camera retailer selling a new camera can sell it any cheaper than the manufacturer allows. While you might find some stores selling them for more than most these local small shops will give you the best deal, I give you my word.

How To Buy A Camera As A Gift

Buying a camera as a gift is a big purchase. You want to make sure you don't do anything wrong that can result in a poorly received gift or you wasting your money. I wrote a digital camera buying guide in 2020 full of advice on how to buy a great camera. This article will help you make sure you're getting the best camera you can for the budget you've got. Additionally I updated this guide this year. Check out my 2023 camera buying guide.

Watch Out For Gray Market Cameras

When it comes to price you have to watch out for gray market cameras. These are often cameras made to be sold overseas which means they can't be serviced in the US. If something goes wrong with them your out of luck. If you see a retailer selling a camera for far below what others are selling it for, especially some electronics' website which you've never heard of, chances are it's a gray market camera.

Walmart and Amazon also allow the sale of gray market cameras which is another reason to call a trusted camera seller.

Other Photography Gift Ideas

If your photography student already owns a nice camera here are some other photography gift ideas that are sure to be a hit on Christmas morning. From lenses to accessories these gift ideas are a great match for your photography student no matter how advanced their skills are.

Camera Lenses

No matter which type of camera they own, if it has interchangeable lenses then a new camera lens will be a huge hit. Just be sure you know if their camera is a full frame or cropped sensor camera. Cropped sensor cameras can use lenses designed for full frame cameras but the opposite is not the case.

Say you're shopping for a photography student who likes to photograph wildlife then consider a telephoto lens. If they specifically like birds you'll want a lens that can reach 400mm or greater. I personally love the Sigma 150-600mm and Tamron makes a similar lens but they are a bit expensive. Expect to spend around $800 or more depending on the camera they have. I can understand if that's too much. Try to look for a 400mm, 500mm or something similar in a fixed focal length you may find something in the $500 range.

If the person you're shopping for likes to photograph or create videos featuring people then a lens that covers a wider normal focal range is really handy. Be sure to find out what they already own. Then try to make sure they've got everything from at least 24mm to 200mm covered. You can often get a 24 to 70mm or a 70 to 200mm lens if they're missing anything in that range. Just try to get a lens that has a large aperture. If you're unsure of what that means consult a camera shop. I assure you they'll help you make sure you don't waste your money.

They might already have those focal lengths covered so consider something like an ultra-wide lens. If they have a cropped sensor camera then a lens that is at or around 10mm is a great choice. Or if they have a full frame camera then a lens that is around 18 or 20mm is a great choice. Likewise a "fast 50" or another fast prime lens (35mm, 85mm, or 90mm) could be the perfect gift.

Buying Used

You can often find refurbished models or buy used. Just make sure to talk with a photography expert to make sure you're making a smart purchase.

Camera Accessories

There are a lot of camera accessories that can help your budding photographer to grow their skills. From tripods and lights to software the following items are a surefire hit on Christmas morning for the new photographer in your life.


Tripods are always a good idea. Be aware that there are a lot of low cost tripods sold on Amazon, at Best Buy, and Walmart that are not worth the money.

Look for a tripod that has sturdy aluminum or carbon-fiber legs. I personally really like the products that Neewer makes. Though I'd avoid the lower end models no matter the brand. If you're getting a tripod then you'll want to spend over $50. Photography is NOT a cheap hobby (or career) trust me I know that all too well.


If the photography student in your life wants to take photos of people or they want to create videos then lighting is essential. The most important thing to know is that continuous lights are great for video but often under powered for photography. For still photography flash is best. There are a lot of kits that include a background and some lighting accessories. Many of these are made in China by companies you've never heard of but don't let that deter you. These can be great kits to start out on. Check out eBay and read the reviews on them before buying.

Flash isn't just for portraits. If your photography student likes to do macro photography (photos of insects or other things up close) then a flash unit made by or compatible with the camera they have is really helpful. I personally love Godox. They're lower cost than the manufacturer but they'll work very well with them so long as you know which company's camera to match the flash to.

Photo Storage

Local photo storage such as an external hard drive can be a nice gift but cloud storage is a safer way to make sure your photos are not lost. If you're looking for a place to help your photography student to store their photos consider a solid state external drive in the 1TB or greater range. I've seen a few nice 2TB drives for between $150 and $200. Cloud storage or cloud backup can be pricy as well but it's better than losing all of your photos. At the very least a Google Drive, Google Photos, or Apple Photos subscription that allows them to upload a lot of images is well worth the cost.

Photo Bags

Photographers tend to collect photo bags in the same way that some folks collect purses. It's good to have the right bag for the right occasion. The right bag depends a lot on the amount of camera gear your favorite photographer is going to carry and what type of photography they're doing. A camera backpack can be helpful for hiking. However if they're an avid hiker who already has a hiking backpack then a belt system can be great. I personally love the Think Tank Belt and Racing Harness. I own this along with the accessory bags for two camera bodies, several lenses, and more. I've worn it in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere while doing monster photography hikes and it's never let me down but it's not a cheap system.

Photography Software

Depending on what they love to photograph or do video of you might consider buying some photography software. Adobe offers a Photographer's Package. If you're buying for someone who is still in school you can take advantage of the student discount.

If your student is more interested in video than still photography there are other programs you might consider such as DaVinci Resolve Studio.

Budget Christmas Gifts Ideas

Photography is a very expensive craft. Here are some budget Christmas gift ideas for your photography student.

Lens Filters

Lens filters help photographers get more creative or to solve a lot of problems. If the sky is too bright compared to our subject graduated ND filters are really helpful. Polarizing filters help us see through reflections on glass and in water. Creative filters such as Black Pro Mist filters and Star filters give us Hollywood style effects.

I recommend buying a filter holder like this one from Neewer if your budget allows and some step-up rings so that your photography student can use them on any of their lenses.

If those are too pricy you can buy some really cool creative filters such as handheld kaleidoscope filters, star filters, or other special effects filters. These can often be found on eBay for between $5 and $50. 

Videography Accessories

Videographers can often use a whole different set of accessories. These include microphones and noise-cancelling headphones. While some of these are expensive there are options that don't cost a fortune. Boom mics that sit on the top of the camera can be had for around $40 and can be super helpful for recording ambient audio.

Another helpful Christmas gift for photography students who love to produce videos is a follow focus. Just make sure they already have a rail system otherwise the follow focus has nothing to attach to. These tools help them to focus on their subject more easily and they're a big help for your future film maker.

Other Gift Ideas For Photography Students

What other gift ideas for photography students can you think of? Have you bought great gear in the past that I've missed? Send me a message through my contact form and let me know. Also drop me a line if you're interested in knowing more about any of the ideas I talked about above. I'm happy to help you find the perfect Christmas gift for your photography student.

Once you've spent a small fortune on your photography student's Christmas gifts be sure to send them to my free photography resources page to improve their skills without spending any more of your money.

September 28, 2022 | Don Orkoskey
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