Portrait photographers take many forms, from casual household paparazzi to dedicated studio professionals. Whether the portraitist you are shopping for specializes in celebrity portraits or social media selfies, let me help you check them off your list.
Profoto A2 Monolight
Profoto's newest light is a jack-of-all-trades for portrait photographers. About the size of a soda can and weighing not much more, the A2 travels like an extra lens in your bag so you can take it anywhere a lens can go. Existing somewhere between an on-camera flash and studio strobe, it features a rounded face and outputs up to 100Ws, perfect for adding fill outdoors or serving as a hair light in the studio.
Complementing the A2 is a handful of CLIC modifiers, including a 2' Octa softbox with a mountable handgrip that makes it easily adaptable for use on set or on location. As part of the CLIC ecosystem, the A2 attaches to modifiers magnetically, making setup and teardown a fast and simple process. This is a light that thrives on the go, making impromptu portrait sessions a reality no matter where inspiration strikes.
Kodak Gold 200 Color Negative Film
Is your gift recipient a film photographer? If so, they are probably on the “Notify When Available” list for Kodak GOLD 200 color negative film. After a much celebrated return to 120 format last spring, GOLD 200 has been in and out of stock for months. Cherished for its warm glow and vibrant colors, this classic stock is sure to bring a smile to any analog photographer's face. Daylight-balanced with a flexible 200 ISO, it was once a mainstay in the film aisle of camera stores and drugstores alike. Today, that ubiquity has been lost due to manufacturing constraints, making this gift a rare find.
If you can't get your hands on GOLD 200, there are plenty of other film stocks from which to choose. Again, vigilance is key. Buy a bulk pack and give a roll to each of your photographer friends.
Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II Lens (or equivalent 24-70mm f/2.8)
Recommending a 24-70mm as a portrait lens? In the past, this writer would have considered such advice blasphemy, yet a year after being coaxed into purchasing Sony's 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II Lens, I can't look back. Don't get me wrong, I still love my portrait primes, but the flexibility of the 24-70mm zoom has opened up creative possibilities for wider shots I wouldn't have considered previously. Sony's latest iteration of this zoom classic is loaded with features. But for me, it is less about the technical specs than widening the frame for portraits, whether for individuals or groups. Not a Sony photographer? Find an equivalent lens for your favorite mirrorless or SLR camera.
Apple iPad Pro
Photographers have been using tablets to edit photos on the go for years. Despite the popularity of Apple's computers with photographers, the iPad has been slow to be adopted. The latest iteration of the iPad Pro, in tandem with using CaptureOne to unlock tethered shooting, has finally brought Apple into the conversation as a viable on-set tool for photographers.
In October, Apple upgraded the iPad Pro to include its M2 chip and 10-core GPU, giving it a 35% boost in performance. This only matters for photographers if they have access to their favorite software. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been constantly improving the iPad format, making it easier to manage and edit images without having to lug around a computer. CaptureOne is not far behind, releasing an iPad version in late summer and quickly adding the ability to shoot tethered. While Adobe and CaptureOne's releases have not been without hiccups, one can only expect improvements as time goes on. It's not hard to imagine a near future where iPads have replaced laptops on sets for real-time image review.
Tether Tools TetherPro Cable
Speaking of tethered shooting, does your photographer spend way too much time squinting at images on the back of their camera? A tethering cable is an excellent tool for sharing images with your sitter as you create them. Choose a cable that is compatible with your computer and camera, download a program that enables tethered capture, and you are on your way. Don't forget to add a quick-release connector to protect your gear from accidental shocks.
Brevite Jumper Photo Backpack
I can't seem to shut up about the Brevite Jumper. After digging through a mountain of camera bags earlier this year, I crowned it as my go-to commuter backpack. If your photographer is prone to spontaneous portrait sessions, the Jumper is a reliable everyday camera bag that looks like an ordinary backpack. It offers side and front access to an inside padded camera compartment, as well as a dedicated laptop sleeve and a handful of additional storage compartments. While it isn't designed to endure heavy rain (a separately available rain cover is), I've been caught in a few downpours with the Jumper and my gear has remained dry inside. Finally, it comes in five different colors so you can choose the one that best suits your photographer.
Canon SELPHY CP1300 Compact Photo Printer
In a world spiraling into digital oblivion, physical photographs remain a cherished object by even the most devout digital evangelists. The SELPHY provides a means of quickly converting images created on your digital camera or phone into a real, tangible memento. Capable of printing a 4x6 photo in less than a minute, this nifty little printer is as useful for casual photographers as it is for professionals looking to add an extra package for weddings and other events. You can transfer files via Wi-Fi, USB, or directly from your SD card. It also has a 3.2" LCD screen so you can preview images before printing. When the digital world eventually collapses, your gift recipient's grandchildren will thank you for the prints.
Samsung T7 Shield Portable SSD
If your portrait photographer is as clumsy as the one writing this article, Samsung's latest SSD drive would make an excellent gift. Available in 1TB or 2TB capacities, the Shield has a maximum read speed of 1050 MB/s and write speed of 1000 MB/s. Perhaps more importantly, it features a rubberized shell, and is shock-resistant from drops up to 9.8 feet and IP65 water- and dust resistant. Your computer might not survive you spilling coffee all over it, but your T7 Shield likely will.
Angelbird 1TB AV Pro MK2 UHS-II SDXC Memory Card
No photographer has ever complained of having too many memory cards. Angelbird's AV Pro cards are designed for the most demanding applications. Does your gift recipient also record high-resolution video? Angelbird's AV series offers up to a whopping 1TB of storage on a single card. Clocking a maximum write speed of 140 MB/s and read speed of 260 MB/s, you can be sure it will keep up with the most demanding still bursts and 4K recording. Like Samsung's T7 Shield, these are cards designed to survive rough treatment and are protected against water, x-rays, magnets, shocks, and harsh temperatures.
B&H Gift Card
You read this entire article and still don't know what to get?! Don't worry, I saved the best, and easiest, gift idea for last. You can't go wrong with a B&H gift card for a photographer. Ever.
Portrait photographers—what did I forget? Share your wish list in the Comments section, below. Maybe someone you know will see it.