10 Gifts Photographers Don't Want for Christmas

10 Gifts Photographers Don't Want for Christmas

With Christmas looming on the horizon like a big, hairy money-sink, here are 10 gifts us photographers don't want!

I should clarify that by "us photographers," I mostly mean me. And I'm a miserable sod, so take this with a pinch of salt. Being a photographer, whether an enthusiast or professional, comes with some baggage. If a photo is being taken, that cameraphone is going to be lunged towards you imminently. If anyone who has just bought their first DSLR catches wind of your propensity for photography, you're about to be locked into a conversation you may not want to be in. And when it comes to presents, anyone who has to get you a gift but isn't sure what you might want will likely Google "gifts for photographers" and utilize their Amazon Prime within 30 seconds of the search results.

If, however, the reader of this stumbled upon it before purchasing the first sponsored, photography-themed item on Amazon, hold fire. Read my brief bulletpointed whinge, and then, make an informed decision. Let us begin.

1. The Lens Mug

It's a mug — you know, for hot beverages — but get this: it looks just like a camera lens. I'm not sure what decade this was a thoughtful and whimsical, well-received present, but it isn't this one. This plastic cylinder is not a desirable object, even as far as plastic cylinders go. If I want to take my drink on tour, I'll be using a decent thermos. Also, I definitely do not want every extrovert with a camera coming to strike up a chat about photography.

That said, no one ever bought me one of these, so I may just be bitter. And thirsty.

If you must, here's the one pictured.

2. A Lovely-Looking Camera Strap

We are all special and unique little butterflies, but some tools do not require customization by way of colorful additions. You wouldn't buy a patterned drill sleeve for a builder, so leave your poor target photographer's strap alone and let it be dull. If we want to change it, it's going to be something with comfort and functionality, not — I repeat not — personality. Function over fashion, that's the motto. God, what's happened to me?

If you must, here's the one pictured.

3. A Camera Bag (Unless We Chose It)

Right, I'll halt this train right now: don't buy a camera bag for a photographer unless they picked it. It's an unexpectedly large decision, which has nuances that we like to get weird over. It's also potentially an expensive mistake depending on your budget, and no one wants scorned side-eye over Christmas dinner because the photographer asked you about receipts.

If you must, here's the one pictured.

4. A Book on Photography (Important Caveats)

I'll break format here, as linking an actual photography book would begin to transcend the playful, tongue-in-cheek (intended) tone of this guide and start treading on "insulting". This one I say from experience. When people started to hear about my love for photography, they would buy me educational-style books on different genres and techniques. It could have been their way of telling me my "art" was terrible, but nevertheless, the books were too. They were invariably very basic instructions you could find online and with less than desirable results.

However, the massive caveat is this: coffee table books of great photography are superb presents if you know what you're looking at. If you want an example, here's "Genesis" by Sebastião Salgado.

5. An Interesting Lens Cap

I've seen these at many markets, and I'm sure 2 minutes on Etsy would yield some. They might seem fun, but unless they serve a purpose, not many self-respecting photographers are going to want a ladybug on the front of their expensive lens. We're not boring, I promise; that's just not a good look.

If you must, here's an article about the ones pictured.

6. A Bokeh-Altering Filter

Hand on heart, I have no earthly idea why these exist. Don't get lured in by colorful marketing pictures; they're truly useless. If you're not convinced, you'll probably not be alone. Hop down to the comments to see someone disagree with me.

If you must, here's the one pictured.

7. A Print of Our Work (Unless You Know What You're Doing)

"Photocopying photocopies" by de faria is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

This is the sweetest idea on the list. Us photographers love seeing our work in print, the problem is, it's much trickier than it seems. I'll briefly abate my vitriol and say this is a lovely idea, but you're going to need to find a top printing company to advise you if you've never printed anything before. There are more variables than you've ever dreamed of. Under no circumstances should you use the printer in your office because it has "photo" in the name. It will invariably end up spitting out something that looks like a badger scratched on a leaf.

8. Photography-Themed Jewelery


If you must, here's the one pictured.

9. One of Those Glass Orbs

These were reasonably interesting at some point, but it was a phase that has successfully passed. You might coax a timid smile and thank you from your photographer, and he might even scurry away to take photos through it. But soon enough, it'll end up in that drawer with the keys you don't know the purpose of and some shoelaces. Incidentally, due to the weight, it would work as an effective projectile.

10. Anything That Says "I Shoot People"

There was a time where this was a funny joke. I believe the unpacked version involved hanging (a print of) someone too. Witty stuff, but it's more than had its day. Once a gag has been relegated from the reaction category of "weak exhale through nose," it is time to retire it to the land of t-shirts that say "Female Body Inspector."

If you must, here's the one pictured.

In Closing

These are my top 10 worst gifts you can buy a photographer, and while the mean-spirited content is meant merely in jest, if you get me in Secret Santa, please don't. I know now that you've read this, you'll be tempted, but I'm begging you, don't. To balance things out, next month I will offer a top 10 gifts photographers do want for Christmas, which will no doubt be more contentious.

Over to you my fellow 'togs. What are some common and unwanted gifts for photographers? Share in the comments below.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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How about those $99 Amazon lighting kits that fall apart after an hour?

Yours last an hour? Mine fall apart in transit. LOL

My coworker bought one of those using the company card for video lighting furniture. I told her not to many times and why it would be a waste of money. She ignored me bought them anyway and then had the sand to say "I have no idea who bought this". REALLY? You did and I told you not to! Now the lights are sitting in her office not getting used.

I'm happy they exist though. I wouldn't pay any more than that for my limited at-home use and so far they've been good for two years.

I bought a kit like this 25 years ago and used it once. ONCE. Cheap gear has gotten better, and there's some that's actually quite serviceable now, but you gotta know what's what, and there's a ton of junk still out there.

"Incidentally, due to the weight, it would work as an effective projectile."

--- my thought precisely when I saw that glass orb.


Oh gack, some of that is truly hideous, although I do have the mug and t-shirt which are kinda fun.

I love the mug! I bought one for myself a few years ago 😂 (Far from a quality coffee mug, but I thought it was cool, so I bought it)

Someone gave me the mug. It leaks and keeps drinks warm for all of 30 minutes. Garbage. You wanna give someone a mug? Get them a nice handmade ceramic mug from a local potter or craft store, something not churned out by a robot. It's a choice that says, "I appreciate your creativity".

I have the one pictured too, but the one that I love and actually use is the 70-200mm f2.8 mug and it was somewhat expensive I remember. I wish I could remember who makes it and honestly I don't even know if you can still find one, but it's much cooler than the 24-105 L mug.

This mug has the Wrcibor brand name on it, which I suppose is better than those which say "Caniam."

Careful... LOL

I've gotten that mug twice. Two Christmases in a row.

Haha me too!

Yeah, I've got two too.

I got one of those mugs as a gift one time. I have a different one I bought for myself on thinkgeek before that. I still use that one every day.

I never want anything photography related for birthday or any other seasonal events.
Thankfully everyone knows that now and all is merry. 😁

On FaceBook I have seen soooooo many shots of The Lake District shot through those blasted glass balls. I only have one question: Why?

'Influencers' love them.

Oh I love that mug too: it has such a small base that it is prone to tipping. Mine was full of coffee and was right next to my macbook. A little accidental bump in the wrong direction and my next gift was a macbook replacement...

Needless to say, from that day on, it was just good for collecting dust.

You should have gotten the stabilized version.

And I thought IBIS was the silver bullet...

1- Ever since my “Jersey City Public Library” coffee cup sprung a leak, I’ve wanted one of these. The fact that you don’t like these indicates that, not only are you a bad photographer, you are also a terrible human being who smothers all joy in existence. This is true of all your opinions insofar as they diverge from mine.
2- Hey Man! That camera strap is the same one my dad had on his Minolta back in the day. It pairs perfectly with my belted sweater and bell bottoms.
3- That’s not even a camera bag. Much like St. Thomas, unless I actually stick my fingers into the interior and see the dividers with my own eyes, I refuse to believe that this monstrosity is a camera bag.
4- Susan Sontag. THUSLY I REFUTE THEE!
5- Interesting lens caps? None of the ones pictured are interesting. I think we need to have a discussion as to what interesting means, because it isn’t a synonym for shite. Except for when people talk about my work, then unfortunately sometimes it is.
7- It’s the thought that counts, Mr. Grinchographer.
8- I reluctantly must agree. Particularly if it’s jewelry for your intimate piercing.
9- These balls are actually less interesting than the ones mentioned in reply #8.
10- What about a shirt that says “Macro in the Streets, Micro in the Sheets”

How about a shirt that says "I shoot RAW"?

Wide angle in the streets, telephoto in the sheets.

Susan Sontag doesn't write photography how-to books.

Nevertheless, "On Photography" and "Regarding the Pain of Others" are books on photography. Rather good one, as well.

Ah, OK, I see your point. They're not the "coffee table" books Robert suggested.

I assure you that my point is not at all serious!

These kinds of things are what first comes to average folk mind after reading "quick and cheap way to find a great present for a photographer" type of articles or talking to best buy rep. it happens to everyone, not only photographers, that is why good presents are not always cheep or expensive, but rare. Psychology 101. Bottomline it should be relationships over the material things, otherwise no material thing could improve it.

I would superglue the mug to the front of a Rebel and pretend I am in the Canon Professional Network...:D

I'm using the coffee mug every day at work (everyone knows it's mine) - it keeps my hot java warm during the short period it needs to be kept warm. Of course i don't need a 2nd one (unless it's a good one that imitates Minolta lenses). I do have the Russian 70-200G A-mount in coffee-cup but that one is louzy in keeping my koffie hot. It's still fun to have though.

Well to be honnest as long as there is some humor in it - they may buy it for me. I don't have a problem with that - what i don't like is stuff i cannot use at all.

The lens mug is great! I like to ask my friends "Have you shot with this lens yet?" and then toss it across the room at them, making sure it comes up a couple feet short of them being able to catch it. It's mean, but hilarious.

I will take number 2 and 4, thank you

I Got a lens mug last Christmas. I thought it was a cute present. The caveat: I'm a Canon guy and the mug was Nikon! LOL


I'm the opposite. All my cups are Canon and I'm a Nikon guy. Go figure.

Those glass balls are very effective for starting fires.

Because people burn down your house when they see you using one?

Perhaps, but mostly because these glass balls behave the same way as magnifying glasses when in direct sun.

My favorite photography gift is film. 35 or 120 I don't really care what stock because it's an excuse to experiment with new ones if someone gets me something obscure or even really cheap.

I think the photo book is a great idea, but it would take thought and sneakiness on the behalf of the gift giver. everyone that is in this industry (whether through passion, or career, or both) they have friends from that are photographers as well that will know what the person you are getting the gift for like. call them and collaborate with them to make the book. and yeah, coffee table photo books are awesome gifts. the fewer words the better.

Book that works. Sebastiao Salgado-GENESIS. I have quarters in my lens-mug.


"I'll overexpose you!" HAHA!

I'm a sucker for Dad jokes, so I dug that one as well.

My inlaws once gave me one of those photo vests for christmas-- the ones with all the pockets.

I did get the lens mug from my niece a few years ago, which I do love, cause its from my niece, but mostly my other life choice takes over in the gift department and I am inundated with Harley Davidson swag.

The best tip I ever saw when it comes to gift-giving is not to get something the receiver is an expert in that you’re not, as they’ll have specific, niche tastes that you won’t be able to figure out. Best bet is to get something that you understand well and can reasonably assume they’ll enjoy.

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