Becoming a photographer has stages. Few have picked up a camera and instantly been a genius without work, sweat, luck, and the right equipment. When getting started in the field, there are a few tools that will help the photographer in your life level-up in their career, explore new options, learn different skills, and help them progress.
But how do you know what to get when you’re unfamiliar with photography essentials, yourself? For anyone who doesn’t have a clue where to start, here are some of the best birthday gifts for the aspiring photographer.
1. Jollylook Mini Instant Film Camera (Overall Winner)
It’s well known that all photographers love vintage cameras. Even though they usually end up gathering dust on a shelf! Getting the film for antique cameras is hard, development options are harder. That’s what makes this unique item truly one-of-a-kind.
This cardboard camera has a vintage bellow design, 110mm lens, viewfinder, seven aperture values, and more! It folds down to the size of a smartphone box. And the best part is that it uses (you heard me: uses) widely available Fujifilm Instax Mini film!
The manufacturer stresses that it’s a little bit of a struggle to master. Persistence is required but that makes it a useful (and awesome) birthday gift for the aspiring photographer. This item is our Overall Winner because it delivers a beautiful blend of usability, age-old camera techniques (you use a crank!), and classic vintage camera design.
An aspiring photographer is a step beyond the beginning stages and therefore is starting to gather even more equipment. As such, the neck strap, is a valuable tool.
This quick-release neck strap from waka claims to work for all major brands. Its key feature is a camera-locking mechanism to prevent the camera from falling. The shoulder pad makes long hours of lugging a camera around much easier. Furthermore, a pocket within the shoulder pad has minimal and easy storage for cards, batteries, and other smaller camera accessories.
I don’t think I need to tell you that there are far more tempting things to buy for a photographer than a cleaning kit. When a photographer is looking at the bounty of lenses, flashes, camera bags, and accessories it can be hard to spend money on something as basic as cleaning equipment.
This Professional Camera Cleaning Kit for DSLR cameras comes with a double-ended retractable lens cleaning pen, air blower, microfiber cleaning cloths, and cleaning fluid with a brush. Those are a lot of options. Your aspiring photographer will thank you.
Photoshop is a foundational brick in a photographer’s journey. However, Photoshop is a broad, complex, layered product that can be difficult to learn. That’s why Adobe Photoshop Classroom in a Book is definitely one of the best birthday gifts for the aspiring photographer.
This 400+ page tome, available in paperback and kindle, offers 15 project-based lessons with step-by-step instructions to learn techniques and conquer Photoshop. Enhance, distort, and correct images. Create composites. Learn how to properly use tools. All of these lessons, and many more, are available including online companion files to go along with the lessons. The web-based version of the eBook is enhanced with video and multiple-choice quizzes.
A durable memory card storage system is essential as a photographer. These holders offer organization and easy access which is why I never go to a job without this is my camera bag. In fact, this is the precise brand I use.
Whether using SD or CF this holder can provide storage, organization, portability and security. And, by the way, we chose this specific version because of its neon options. The common color for camera bags interiors, camera body and lens exteriors, and flash heads is black or dark grey. That’s why this neon shell is easy to spot in dark situations. It’s an under-rated, but valuable, feature.
This flash diffuser kit delivers universal usability and many options to help the aspiring photographer dig into all the options of light manipulation at an affordable price. While developed for the Godox flash head, this kit also works with Canon, Nikon and Sony speedlights.
The kit introduces the photographer to barn doors, grid patters, light diffusers, light-balancing gels, bounce cards, and more.
For the aspiring photographer, equipment is a necessary evil. That’s why a kit that allows the photographer to experience and test equipment before committing to higher-end brand prices is definitely one of the best birthday gifts for the aspiring photographer.
This Deco Gear Kit delivers options. Monopod, tripod, cleaning equipment, LED light, and a carrying case are included in this plentiful kit. It even comes with a hot-shoe mounted uni-directional microphone for those video folks. Universally usable, there is no worry it won’t work with your photographer’s camera brand.
This 43-inch wide, 5-in-1 collapsible reflector set is precisely the kind of tool that can help someone level-up making it essential for the aspiring photographer.
Reflectors manipulate light where and how the photographer needs. The five separate covers provide drastically different results. Shower your subject in warm light using the gold cover. Block out light using the black cover. Soften the light with the translucent and white covers. Finally, deliver a powerful spotlight effect with the silver cover.
Small, portable, and powerful, this reflector kit is ideal for the aspiring photographer.
9. A Lesser Photographer: Escape the Gear Trap and Focus on What Matters by CJ Chilvers (Budget Winner)
As an antithesis to the gear, tools, and tchotchkes is A Lesser Photographer delivering an alternative point of view. Claiming to dispel limiting myths in under an hour, this book instead reframes the art as dependent upon the artist himself. One reviewer stated, “If you are looking for a book that will encourage you to tune out the distractions, get off your butt and go make some photography that matters, then I recommend that you read, A Lesser Photographer.”
This book scores as our Budget Winner for birthday gifts for the aspiring photographer not just because of its very affordable price, but because it helps limit the need for different equipment, therefore, keeping the photographer budget-minded as well.
Fun or Function or Both for the Aspiring Photographer?
Still, a new DSLR is not a bad idea.
Here’s a fact, there is no wrong choice when it comes to perfect birthday gifts for the aspiring photographer. It doesn’t matter if the gift is pragmatic like a lens cleaning kit or whimsical like an instant film cardboard bellows camera, any photog will be thankful for the thought.
(But we are always willing to accept a new DSLR. Just sayin’.)