Best Gifts for Photographers – A Few of My Favorite Things

by Greg Downing | November 14, 2017

Best gifts for photographersWhat are the best gifts for photographers? In the interest of sparking gift ideas for photographers, I came up with a list of “a few of my favorite things.” Each year as the holiday season approaches, it’s hard to ignore all of the excitement around us. Every store has their holiday garb on full display, and I can’t help but be excited for the season.

As friends and family get together for celebrations, parties, and lots of food and sweets there is always gift giving. These days, the choices are more complicated than ever with all the expensive gadgets, computers, phones, and other electronics everyone is wishing for. What about gifts for the traveling photographer? This season, I wanted to share with you “a few of my favorite things” that any traveling photographer could use! In addition, many of these items are not necessarily only for photographers, and could be given to anyone who enjoys traveling.

Two Portable Charging Solutions for Smartphones

Keeps My Devices Charged and Ready

As a traveling photographer I am always using my phone to track flights, keep in touch with the office, and store documents such as PDFs of camera manuals. When traveling long distances, keeping your phone’s battery charged is always an issue. I have two solutions for this problem, and I use both on my longest trips.

Mophie Juicepack AirMophie® Juicepack Air Battery Pack is available on Amazon.

Mophie® Juicepack Air Battery Pack

The Mophie® increases the battery life of my phone by 100%. It charges independently or while attached to the phone using a standard mini USB. I charge my phone and the Juicepack fully before each trip and I can get a full day of use—even when taking photos and videos all day.

Anker® PowerCore

Anker® PowerCore 10000 External Battery Pack is available on Amazon.

Anker® PowerCore 10000 External Battery Pack

Anker® makes a wide range of external battery packs which allow you to charge any USB device like a phone, iPad, GPS, etc. The Anker® PowerCore 10000 is one of the smallest options but has enough power to charge my phone at least 3 times and give my iPad a full charge. Since it’s universal, it makes a great gift for anyone with a phone or USB device.

Tip: I use my phone as an alarm clock and white noise app when I travel, but there is not always a charging plug next to the bed where I am staying. Use this battery pack instead to charge your phone overnight next to your bed.

UniqBall UBH-45XC

UniqBall UBH-45XC is available in the NatureScapes Store.

UniqBall UBH-45XC

Keeps My Camera Stable

I’ve used my Wimberley® Head for years with long lenses and until recently for me nothing topped it. But when traveling I also photograph with shorter lenses and require a ball head. So I used to travel with both!

For the last 2½ years I have traveled exclusively with a UniqBall head, and have found it to be the ultimate ball head or gimbal head for travel, making it one of the best gifts for photographers.

At just 1½ pounds it is less than half the weight of a Wimberley® Head and after years of use I find it to be equally as functional as any high-end gimbal, as well as functioning as a great ballhead. The unique “x” clamp enables me to immediately—without any tools or adjustments—switch from my long lens to just a camera with an l-bracket and a wide-angle lens.

PowerHouse Pro Case with Cords Out

Think Tank Photo® and MindShift Gear® Cases

Keeps My Stuff Organized

For My MacBook Pro Cable

The PowerHouse Pro MacBook Accessory Case by Think Tank Photo® is the perfect way to store your MacBook Pro cable. Wind up each end and store on their own side of the case. You can pull out only the amount of wire you need when you are close to power outlet. You can not only organize your power cord but there is room for other cords or adapters in the rear zippered pockets.

PowerHouse Pro MacBook Accessory Case is available in the NatureScapes Store.

PowerHouse Pro Case Top

PowerHouse Pro Case Bottom

For Carrying External Hard Drives, USB Sticks, and Other Media Devices

While the handy MindShift Gear® GP 4 Kit Case was designed for GoPro® accessories, I use it for storing my external drives, SSD drives, card reader, GPS, and various cords for these devices. This makes these items easy to find in my laptop case and keeps them organized. The inside top clear pockets are great for storing USB cords and there is a clear nametag slot on the back. The handle on one end makes for easy retrieval from inside my laptop bag.

The MindShift Gear GP 4 Kit Case is available in the NatureScapes Store.

GP4 Kit Case Top

GP4 Kit Case Open

GP4 Kit Case Bottom

As you can see, these bags have been around a block or two and while they show some obvious dirt they are still holding up after years of use!

eWipe by PhotoSol

eWipes® are available in the NatureScapes Store.


Keeps My Glass Clean

eWipes® by Photosol are great for cleaning laptop screens, lenses, and reading/sun glasses. I keep some in my camera bag all the time!

Sustain Sport Electrolyte Supplement

Sustain Sport Electrolyte Supplements are available on Amazon.

Sustain Sport Electrolyte Supplements

Keeps Me Hydrated

For home or travel I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated. Most of us drink less than adequate amounts of water every day. World Health Organization researchers found that men and women who drink five or more glasses of water each day are 54% and 41%, respectively, less likely to die from a heart attack than those who drink two or less glasses each day. Dehydration can cause a number of issues for photographers on the move such as lethargy, muscle weakness, headache, and balance issues to name a few. I have seen electrolyte supplements make a big difference in a very short period when someone is displaying symptoms of dehydration. My favorite electolyte supplement is Sustain Sport by Melaleuca.

While I try my best to stay adequately hydrated it is sometimes difficult especially when flying for long periods. When I need to rehydrate quickly I add electrolytes to a bottle of drinking water for faster recovery.

The World Health Organization’s general guidelines for optimal fluid intake include:

  • Aim for at least eight cups of fluid a day, half of them water.
  • Drink some water first thing in the morning to make up for loss of fluids during the night.
  • Drink a beverage with every meal.
  • Don’t wait until you are thirsty; drink throughout the day.
  • For every cup of caffeinated beverage you drink, consume an extra half-cup of another fluid to make up for the diuretic effect of caffeine.

Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Bose® QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones are available on Amazon.

Bose® QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Keeps Me Sane on the Plane

Nothing is more important for air travel—nothing! I used to travel with Bose® over-the-ear noise canceling headphones but found them to be too bulky and I was always wearing out the ear pads. I also tried all kinds of earbuds and could not find a pair that was comfortable in my ear, until I found these. Bose® offers several sizes of silicone earpieces standard with these earbuds and they are soft and easy to wear for long periods. I can completely drown out 95% the plane noise so only the worst screaming baby penetrates these when I am listening to music. I do not leave home without them!

Eddie Bauer Expedition Rolling Duffel

Eddie Bauer Expedition Rolling Duffel with gear inside

Eddie Bauer® Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel is available through Eddie Bauer®.

Eddie Bauer® Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel

Keeps Me Traveling Smoothly

I have traveled with so many different duffel bags and this one has never failed me. When journeys call for soft-sided bags this is my go to duffel. With the hard bottom and lower compartment I can store my sensitive and fragile items, such as my tripod and other hardware with a little extra protection. This rolling duffel is lightweight at only around 11 pounds.

Inside bottom section of the Eddie Bauer® Expedition Rolling Duffel; shows Skimmer Ground Pod, Gitzo GT3533LS tripid with UniqBall UBH-45XC, Dopp kit (black), and miscellaneous cases. I wrap the tripod with clothing for added padding.

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

LifeStraw® Go Water Filter Bottle is available on Amazon.

LifeStraw® Go Water Filter Bottle

Keeps Me Safe

Reusable LifeStraw® Go BPA-free water bottle filters water while drinking; great for travel, backpacking, and camping. This is a lifesaver in locations where you might be hesitant to drink the tap water. The LifeStraw® Go Water Filter Bottle is so safe you could drink the water from a polluted stream! I take mine on every trip and never have to worry if the water is safe to drink.

Garmin inReach Explorer GPS

Garmin™ inReach Explorer GPS is available on Amazon.

Garmin™ inReach Explorer GPS

Keeps Me in Touch

This has to be my most favorite item this year. I travel to remote places every year for extended periods of time where I am left without any cell service or Internet access. My Garmin™ inReach allows me to send and receive text messages, as well as my location, to anyone in the world with a cell phone or an email address. It’s virtually instant when you have a strong signal and with the Freedom Expedition Plan you can send and receive an unlimited amount of messages. The best part is that it works anywhere on the planet—and I have tested it in some of the most remote areas without fail! While a clear view of the sky garners the best performance, I’ve had it work inside near a window on many occasions. It links to your smartphone via Bluetooth too so you can send and receive messages right from your phone. This works great when it’s raining or cold out because since it’s waterproof, you can leave the Garmin™ outside and communicate through your smartphone from inside. You can check local weather and send an SOS message if you get into trouble. The Freedom Expedition Plan even includes medical and evacuation insurance and can be turned on and off on a month-to-month basis, allowing the flexibility to pay for use only when you need it. This is one of the best gifts for photographers who travel anywhere around the world.

What Do You Think Are the Best Gifts for Photographers?

As we look forward to the holiday season this year, tell me in the comments below what other ideas you have—or what you’re wishing for this year!

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season,

I personally use and recommend all of the products I’ve mentioned in this article. Links to products are through the NatureScapes photography gear store or NatureScapes affiliate links on Amazon.com. In search of even more ideas? Visit the NatureScapes Store for other gift ideas for photographers.

About the Author

Greg has been traveling the world teaching professional and amateur photographers for more than 15 years hosting his instructional workshops and seminars. Instructing photographers of all experience levels Greg has earned a reputation for his gracious and generous teaching style.

Greg's images are known for their unique style, exacting composition and strict attention to detail. As an internationally recognized photographer, his numerous publishing credits include books, advertising campaigns and editorial publications such as Birding Magazine, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Birder's World, National Geographic and many others. Especially passionate about birds, his images can also be found in printed form in several Wildbird Centers on the east coast, as well as appearing in private art exhibitions.

In 2003 Greg founded www.NatureScapes.net with E.J. Peiker and Heather Forcier. Today Greg is the Publisher, President and sole owner of the company and oversees all operations from his home base in Parkton, Maryland.

As Greg travels the world taking pictures he enjoys meeting others, teaching and sharing his passion while making new lifelong friends in the process.

To see more of Greg's work visit his website at www.gdphotography.com.

3 thoughts on “Best Gifts for Photographers – A Few of My Favorite Things

  1. Excellent, timely and practical article, Greg. I bought MindShift bags last year after traveling with you and seeing your organization. I already had many of the other items. I lack the UniqBall. Does it really replace both gimbal and ball head? Are any other accessories required besides lens and L-plates?

    • Thanks and glad to help!

      I use the Uniqball UBH 45XC which has the “X” cross clamp which allows me to use a camera with short lens with just a camera body with an arca-swiss compatible quick release plate. The Uniqball UBH 45XC is the one linked in the article above. Previous models of the Uniqball had the ability to turn the quick release clamp 90 degrees to use either a long lens or a camera with just a quick release plate, and an allen wrench, but the X-clamp in this model Uniqball is much easier to deal with and requires no tools.

      You can do vertical photos as well with just a quick release plate on the camera, like a wimberley P-5 here:


      But it’s much easier to take vertical photographs when using an L-bracket like these: https://store.naturescapes.net/search.php?search_query=l-bracket&Search=.

      I personally go the L-bracket route because I don’t have to put the uniqball in a sideways position, which is what you would do if all you had was a camera body plate.

      I have gotten attuned to the uniqball such that it is now as second nature when used as a gimbal head like the Wimberley head that it basically replaced for me. I’ve been traveling with this for going on 3 yeas now and while it’s far from perfect it has served me very well!

      • Thanks, Greg. I’ll have to give it some serious thought because traveling with both gimbal and ball head is a problem.

        Happy Holidays and every success in 2018,

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