Photography is an expensive hobby and an even more expensive profession. But when you’re on vacation, hiking a gorgeous trail through a national park, or watching a dramatic sunset play out across the clouds, you want to capture the best photo possible. What can you buy someone for Christmas that will help them capture better photos without breaking the bank?
Leaving out the camera bodies, lenses, and bags – the most expensive part of photography – there are many accessories that help photographers capture better photos. From amateur point and shooters to professionals, some photography accessories for under $150 will make a pleasant gift this year.
2021 Holiday Gift Guides
Before you can buy the perfect Christmas gift, you have to find it. Each year, I publish a series of Holiday Gift Guides to help you find fantastic travel gear, accessories, unique gifts, and awesome items to put under the tree.
- Less Than $35
- Less Than $75
- Less Than $150
Less Than $35
I still believe the microfiber cloth is the best way to clean a lens – and I keep several in all my camera bags – but the LensPen is also a good way to remove smudges and dust to keep your photos crystal clear. The lens cleaning pen is simple – one end unscrews to reveal a cleaning tip while a push-button lever reveals a fine brush on the other end for removing dust.
Tiffen Circular Polarizer Filter
One of the first filters – and the only essential filter – a photographer should buy is the circular polarizer filter. The CP filter reduces glare from sunlight on reflected surfaces. The result is a reduction in white glare on the surface of water and glass and deeper blue skies to contrast against white puffy clouds.
The Tiffen Circular Polarizer Filter has been in my camera bag since the day I began capturing photography. They’re inexpensive, which is great considering you’ll need to get one for each wide-angle and standard lens.
SmallRig has become an authority on rigs for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. With a simple cage, dozens of additional accessories like grips and mounts can be added for endless fun.
The SmallRig Multitool is an essential item for any photographer. There is always a need for a flathead screwdriver to add or remove a mounting plate or one of the other tools for adding or removing an accessory. This would make an excellent stocking stuffer for the photographer in your life!
Less Than $75
Peak Design Capture Camera Clip
One of the most frustrating moments for a photographer is missing an amazing photo op because the camera was safely tucked away in the backpack. Realizing a camera strap around your neck is more irritable than missing the shot, you have to wonder what other way is there for carrying a camera on a hike?
The Peak Design Capture Camera Clip is a fantastic small device that clips the camera to any strap. The base plate clamps onto any strap – belt, backpack shoulder strap, anything – and firmly stays locked in place. The mounting plate screws onto the bottom of the camera using the tripod mount. When you want to stow the camera, simply slide the mounting plate onto the base plate, and you’re ready to hike with the camera readily accessible!
The Joby GorillaPod is one of the most versatile, portable tripod alternatives on the market. Long, spider-like legs with nearly a dozen joints allow the GorillaPod to be wrapped around objects like posts, rails, and tree limbs, creating a tripod almost anywhere you need it. The attached ball head includes a removable mounting plate, making it easy to connect the camera whenever needed.
The GorillaPod 325 is the smallest and lightest, weighing just 1/10 of a pound – it’s perfect for supporting cellphones. The GorillaPod 1K has a weight capacity of 2.2 pounds – it’s good for most mirrorless and point and shoot cameras. The GorillaPod 3K has a weight capacity of 6.6 pounds – this is good for most DSLR cameras with up to a 200mm lens attached.
Manfrotto PIXI EVO Mini Tripod
Capturing photos and videos with smartphones can be a lot easier with a good tripod. But who wants to lug around a hefty aluminum tripod all day? The Manfrotto PIXI EVO Mini Tripod stuffs into the bottom of a bag but can easily support a smartphone when needed.
The tabletop tripod features extendable legs, a smooth ballhead, and a quick knob for attaching a smartphone bracket.
Joby GripTight Pro 2
Cellphones are the most used digital camera for recording video and capturing still photos. Naturally, people want to hold cellphones vertically – but that doesn’t always make for the best videos or photos. That’s why the Joby GripTight Pro 2 is such a useful accessory.
The grip can secure a cellphone to a tripod or handle grip and – using a knob on the back – rotate from a vertical orientation to horizontal. The Pro 2 – the latest version made by Joby – also includes a cold shoe mount for adding a small light or microphone.
Adonit PhotoGrip Qi
Would it be easier to capture hundreds of photos on your next adventure if you could turn your cellphone into a comfortable digital camera? That is exactly what you can do with the Adonit PhotoGrip Qi. The PhotoGrip effectively turns your cellphone into a mirrorless camera with comfortable grip and removable shutter release button.
The spring-loaded grip works on most cellphone sizes and securely grips the phone with rubber pads. The PhotoGrip can be attached to a tripod with a screw mount on the bottom. Press a button, and the built-in battery can wireless charge your Qi-compatible phone while you use it!
Anker PowerCore Essential Power Bank
The more bells and whistles are added to cellular devices and mirrorless cameras, the faster it drains the batteries. Fortunately, the power bank industry has responded with higher capacity batteries to keep you going on the road. The Anker PowerCore Essential 20,000 PD Power Bank is one of the best I’ve used yet.
The PowerCore Essential Power Bank has a massive capacity of 20,000mAh, enough to keep a cellphone charged almost a dozen times and mirrorless camera batteries two or three times. The power bank has a single USB-A output, so all you need is a charging cable while you’re out and about capturing photography.
Pixel Wireless Shutter Release
Capturing long exposure photography – stars at night, silky smooth waterfalls, and high F-stops for landscapes – requires a steady camera. After mounting the camera to a tripod, a remote shutter release is required to prevent camera shake. I have been using the Pixel Wireless Shutter Release for years and never had a problem.
The wireless shutter release has a transmitter that attaches to the hot shoe and plugs into the shutter release port on the camera. The remote is wireless with a range of about 100’. The digital readouts on the transmitter and remote allow for easy synchronization – especially helpful if you are shooting with more than one camera at a time – and helps you quickly dial in settings on the remote. Beyond just a remote shutter release, the Pixel remote is also an intervalometer for capturing time-lapse videos.
Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps
Use this step-by-step guide to create a custom map, add stops and a route, and upload to your mobile device.
Less Than $150
Tiffen Variable ND Filter
Any photographer who wants to take their creative skills to the next level will probably buy a neutral density filter. ND filters use neutral-tinted glass to reduce the amount of light entering the camera lens, allowing for longer shutter speeds. This is how photographers capture silky smooth waterfalls, blurs of traffic, and general motion blur from moving objects.
The Tiffen Variable ND Filter is a great starter filter for exploring this realm of photography. The filter has a rotating section that ranges from 2 stops of light to 8 stops. At maximum setting, this would allow a photographer to capture about an 8-second exposure in full sunlight.
Platypod Max Flat Tripod
The Platypod Max is one of the most brilliant photography accessories ever invented. The Platypod Max is basically a flat piece of metal with a ball head attachment. The sturdy metal plate includes four adjustment screws for providing about a 2” tilt and leveling adjustment to the plate once it is set on a solid surface.
The appeal of the Platypod Max is the portability. Unlike traditional tripods – even those made from carbon fiber – the Platypod Max packs flat and weighs less. The adjustment screws give it a level of adaptability, although you’ll have to get used to laying on the ground to make camera adjustments!
Moment Cellular Lenses
One of my favorite moments of 2020 – silly pun intended – was when I discovered Moment lenses for cellular devices. The lenses – including wide-angle, telephoto, macro, and fisheye – screw into a slot on their custom cellphone cases.
I found myself mostly using the wide-angle and telephoto lenses this year – although I bought the full set and almost every accessory in their store. The 18mm wide-angle provides a nice field of view for landscapes and interior shots. At the same time, the 58mm telephoto gives just enough oomph for capturing mountains or architectural details of buildings. The all-glass lenses are sharp edge-to-edge and provide crystal clear resolution on cellphone camera sensors.
For a stocking stuffer, take a look at the Moment Mobile Lens Carrying Case. The zippered weatherproof case has four small compartments – one for each type of lens – a main compartment, and a mesh pocket.
DJI OM 5 Gimbal
DJI made a substantial upgrade to their smartphone gimbal stabilizer, releasing the DJI OM 5 Gimbal. The core functionality remains the same – a 3-axis gimbal, compact folding travel design, and thumbstick controls.
The first major upgrade was inclusion of a magnetic catch for effortlessly snapping compatible smartphones into place. For phones with a magnetic catch, the included clamp bracket can be added to the OM 5. The second upgrade – featured for the first time on the popular gimbal – was a telescoping extension rod. This allows videographers to capture better selfie footage and perform wider movements.