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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.

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Previous comments
Alex Yakimov's picture

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.

Sidney M's picture

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

Mutley Dastardly's picture

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.

Mike Dixon's picture

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.

Jarrod McMatt's picture

I will take number 2 and 4, thank you

Phillip White's picture

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

Nathan Wong's picture

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

David Schwartz's picture

Those glass balls are very effective for starting fires.

Logan Cressler's picture

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

David Schwartz's picture

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

Deleted Account's picture

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.

sam w's picture

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.

mark wilkins's picture

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

Joe Healey's picture


Mads Peter Iversen's picture

"I'll overexpose you!" HAHA!

Ryan Davis's picture

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

Adam Palmer's picture

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

Swede Johnson's picture

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.

Alex Cooke's picture

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.

Phill Holland's picture

Don't get me those obnoxious camera shutter buttons, that screw on top of camera shutter button, to match with that camera strap.

I don't recall being friends with xzbit offering to pimp my camera to suggest I'm the type of photographer who takes nude pictures for page three for only a fiver behind kings cross station.

Oh heck, whilst we're here. Camera mugs in the shape of a lens. It gets worse when somebody gets a Nikon user a canon type camera lens mug.

Money, just give me actual money, instead of some cheap plastic burden that would make me feel emotionally guilty for throwing it away rather than having to constantly keep it around to please somebody who couldn't be bothered to put in effort and thought.

Andrew Waddington's picture

My goal is to keep my photography totally secret - therefore no stupid gifts, I'm actually ashamed to be a photographer because lets be honest most photographers these days are total wankers.

Ryan Davis's picture

It's not that most photographers are wankers. The loudest photographers are wankers.

Tammy Hoherz's picture

Tongue in cheek article. And for the serious minded of this topic: Be grateful someone thought enough of you to buy you a gift and just say thank you. Regifting isn't illegal, either.

Tony Teofilo's picture

I'd...uh...take one of those glass orbs off your hands if you don't want it anymore. I've never been gifted a glass orb. SUDDENLY I NEED A GLASS ORB.

But yes, everything else...ugh. Lens mugs were funny for one second before they went into production.

EDIT: SO many of you use and like lens mugs. So...I'm probably incorrect about that one. Merry Christmasween. I hope everyone gets what they want and can use this season: VERY expensive top-of-the-line state-of-the-art awesome unicorn hair infused actual camera lenses we could never conscientiously buy ourselves because our houses require heat and groceries and other practical items.

Lee Morris's picture

I agree with almost everything but I have always secretly wanted one of those mugs.

Deleted Account's picture

you know you're going to be sent about 90 now, right?

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