Visual Culture

12 Gifts for People Who Love Photography

Jacqui Palumbo
Nov 22, 2018 1:00PM

Photographers are notoriously hard to find gifts for—they can be fastidious about which gear to buy, and very specific when it comes to the images they enjoy. But whether you’re shopping for a working photographer or someone who just loves to view and collect the medium, we hope you’ll find something special and meaningful below. (The prices listed do not reflect Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, so keep an eye out for cheaper deals—especially for cameras and gear—this weekend.)

Stephen Shore is the quintessential American photographer who, for nearly five decades, has made the banal beautiful. If you know someone who didn’t have the chance to see Shore’s 2017–2018 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, you can give them the experience at home. The 30 images in this stereograph set, produced by Aperture Foundation, were only previously seen in their entirety at the MoMA exhibition; in this form, you can view them in 3D, the result of Shore’s own fascination with the technology. “I was interested in seeking out situations in which the camera was doing something different from how our eyes see things: reflections, windows, a shadow on a chain-link fence, a rug that seems to float off the ground—each scenario created this amazing sense of space,” he told Aperture. In addition to the stereographs, the set includes a title card that’s signed and numbered by Shore, in an edition of 400.


The Fujifilm X-T3 has gotten excellent reviews, and it’s a standout option for an APS-C mirrorless camera. It is sturdy but compact, with a weatherproofed magnesium-alloy body, and it’s super sleek, resembling the classic film cameras of yesteryear. It might be hard to camera shop for a choosy photographer, but if they don’t want a hefty DSLR, love the look and handling of an analog camera, and require excellent image and 4K video quality, the X-T3 should elicit some massive holiday cheer. (If you have a larger budget and want to spring for a full-frame camera instead—full-frame sensors are a step up in terms of image quality, especially in low light—the Sony a7 III is a superb do-anything camera from a beloved mirrorless line.)


Price: $184 (21 L); $204 (31 L)

The team behind WANDRD used Kickstarter to fund its PRVKE 21 adventure camera bag in 2016, which has remained popular due to its stylish practicality. The waterproof PRVKE 21 (21 liters) and its larger sibling, PRVKE 31 (you guessed it—31 liters), have gotten stamps of approval from outlets like Forbes and National Geographic. They both come in black, wasatch green, and aegean blue, and are TSA-friendly with a laptop sleeve and a passport pocket that sits safely against your back. Photographers can access their cameras quickly, whether through a side zip, by unzipping the bag into a clamshell, or by using the roll-top to access gear. If they’re not carrying their gear for the day, the protective padding for a DSLR camera and lenses can be removed, turning it into a regular daypack. WANDRD also offers travel and photography bundles featuring additional accessories.

As Artsy visuals editor Molly Gottschalk recently opined: “Everyone loves Alec Soth.” Soth’s monographs seem to impart secrets as you turn the pages; his photography becomes a treasure to hold dear. Niagara is his classic second volume, first released in 2006 and re-released this autumn. As the title suggests, it’s a series about the falls—though it’s so much more. “I went to Niagara for the same reason as the honeymooners and suicide jumpers: The relentless thunder of the Falls just calls for big passion,” Soth says. His 8-by-10-inch photographs capture hotel rooms, nude couples, half-drunk tumblers of whiskey, snowy parking lots, and the rushing waterfall itself, frozen for just a moment. The images are punctuated by love letters written by his subjects. Together, it’s a portrait of love in all of its forms—cheap and gaudy, tender and slow-burning—but modern love, just the same.

The Diana camera first made its appearance in the 1960s as a cheap novelty, but it amassed a following of loyalists thanks to a low-quality lens that gently blurred images into dreamy scenes. It was resurrected for its retro appeal in the aughts, and since then, it’s gotten a little fancier. The latest iteration, the Diana Instant Square, is the first to pair the vintage plastic body with the ability to spit out Fujifilm Instax square prints. Not only that, it’s the first Instax camera with interchangeable lenses and a mount for a flash. You can take pinhole images, long exposures, or multiple exposures, and Lomography promises “all the unpredictable effects” of the original. It also comes in various styles and bundles, including a flash, lenses, color filters, and more.

Zanele Muholi’s striking collection of 90 black-and-white self-portraits are not only a masterwork in personal identity and ingenuity—the dress and accessories in which they adorn themself weigh heavy with significance (Muholi uses they/them pronouns)—but in how black bodies are seen in art, as Artsy staff writer Alina Cohen has noted. For anyone who has witnessed the South African artist’s prints in person—as well as those who have not yet discovered the magic of their work—this volume will invoke awe. Accompanying their portraits are more than 20 writings from poets, authors, and curators, including Deborah Willis and Renée Mussai.

This 20.1-megapixel Lumix camera is the perfect small travel companion for both photography enthusiasts and professionals who’d like an easy second camera (or third, or fourth) that can fit in their pocket. Compact camera offerings, like Sony’s RX100 line, have increasingly featured powerful 1-inch sensors like the one under the DMC-ZS100’s hood; unlike the RX100, however, this camera has a much more affordable price point. The camera also has an electronic viewfinder—for those tired of framing a shot through a screen—that works especially well in bright conditions. It also features fast autofocus, a Leica 10x zoom lens, and in-camera stabilization. Another big plus is the camera’s 4K video recording and 4K photo mode, which can capture 8-megapixel stills.

Moment Lenses

Price: from $69.99 (cases start at $23.99)

When mobile photography lenses entered the market, they were mostly either cheap and small, or impractically large and unwieldy. Moment, however, has consistently turned out quality lenses for phones that pride themselves on their camera quality—currently, the company is offering lenses compatible with newer iPhone, Galaxy, and Pixel devices. You’ll need to purchase a Moment case for the phone, then choose from Wide 18mm, Macro, Superfish (fisheye), or Tele 60mm (portrait) lenses. An Anamorphic lens for filmmaking is available, too.

Late last year, Taschen re-released the 1964 volume Nothing Personal by two iconic Americans and former schoolmates—photographer Richard Avedon and writer and social critic James Baldwin—who, together, expressed their vision of the country in a tumultuous time. Accompanying Baldwin’s critical four-part essay about American society are Avedon’s portraits of civil rights leaders, American Nazis, politicians, psychiatric patients, creative luminaries, and celebrities, sequenced with Baldwin’s writings in a deeply impactful way. Followers of Avedon, collectors of socially engaged art, and designers alike will appreciate this revolutionary volume.

For photographers who love the look of film but need to shoot digital, VSCO offers presets that can mimic Kodak TRI-X, Portra 800, Polaroid 690, Fuji Sensia 100, and many other film cameras. Seven style packs include “Classic,” “Instant,” “Alternative Process,” and “Eclectic” films; an eighth, called “Film Essentials,” features favorites from each. Presets keep the image quality that social media filters sacrifice, and can achieve a high-quality film look without the labor-intensive and costly process of developing, printing, and scanning negatives. They are also a great gift for anyone looking to elevate their social media images. Just make sure your giftee has a compatible desktop version of Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop before purchasing.

Though mirrorless cameras have shaken up the market, many students and other burgeoning photographers still opt for Nikon and Canon entry-level DSLRs. Comparable mirrorless cameras are more expensive, and the other main difference is the viewfinder: DSLRs use optical viewfinders, while mirrorless cameras either come equipped with electronic viewfinders (which vary in resolution) or rely solely on the rear screen. This year, Nikon’s latest offering stands out over its chief competitor, the Canon Rebel SL2. The 24.2-megapixel D3500 is cheaper, and has an excellent battery life (1,550 captures per charge). Nikon is offering the camera in a kit with two zoom lenses, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED.

Shanghai-born, Brooklyn-based artist Pixy Liao debuted her first monograph this year, a decade-long project about her relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Moro. In a refreshingly playful and titillating manner, Liao poses him in any number of strange (and naked) ways: She eats papaya off his groin, cradles him like a baby, or positions his nude body to look like sushi. As Liao noted to Artsy deputy editor Scott Indrisek, Moro is “very flexible” (conceptually, she means). Liao’s book is endearing and hilarious. The first print run sold out everywhere, but you can pre-order a copy from the second print run of 500; the publisher, Jiazazhi, lists that it will ship in mid-December.

Jacqui Palumbo
Jacqui Palumbo is a contributing writer for Artsy Editorial.