Gift shopping for photographers is easy—especially with B&H Photo and all our holiday gift guides. But, if you have a night photographer in your life, you might have noticed that they are, by the nature of the craft, equipped with a lot of the gear they need to get shots after dark. Because they likely suffer from a nighttime strain of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.), the gift shopper is left with limited options. Never fear, however, here are a few ideas with the specific needs and wants of the night photographer in mind!
1. Flashlights and Headlamps
Lighting to see in the dark or assist with focusing is a core essential of every night photographer’s camera bag. However, this is an area where there is usually room for improvement because flashlight and headlamp technology and performance are always getting better and more high-tech. There are flashlights and headlamps for almost every budget and people have their favorite brands and styles, but, if the night photographer in your life is using a classic oldie-but-goodie Mag Light, or a discount torch they picked up at the hardware store check-out aisle, you can be guaranteed that they will love to get their hands on something robust and cutting edge to light their way. Look for units that have a red or green light option, aside from a bright white setting, to help preserve night-adapted eyesight. Adding to this section, keychain and mini flashlights are more powerful today than ever before and make great stocking stuffers!
2. Light-Pollution Filter
If you live in urban areas, there are some photographic filters that can reduce light pollution and clean up the skies in your nighttime cityscapes or astronomy photographs. I tested a pile of these light-pollution photo filters that claim to reduce the existence of light pollution in your images. The results were so good that I added one of the filters to my kit.The filters don’t have super-magical powers—you won’t turn a New York City sky into an astrophotography paradise, but they do remove a lot of ambient glare from street lamps and such. For the urban or dark sky night photographer, a light-pollution filter might be a useful gift that wasn’t really on their radar.
3. 50mm Lens
Is your future gift recipient new to the world of photography? When they aren’t looking, peek into their camera bag and see what lenses they have. If all that you see is something like an 18-55mm and 55-200mm lens, then you might want to think about adding to their quiver with a 50mm lens. “A lens!?” you ask? Yes. Guess what, most 50mm f/1.8 lenses (or 35mm f/1.8 lenses for crop sensor cameras) will not break the bank. These lenses are especially adept at night photography, and optically superior to any kit lens. For more on the nifty fifty, be sure to check out our 50mm buying guide.
Day, night, anytime—the equipment or lens wrap makes a great gift for the photographer. Like the light-pollution filter, this is probably not on your special person’s wish list, but, once they have one or two or more, they will be bombarding you with thank-you notes and maybe even gifts for you out of sheer appreciation of your thoughtfulness. I use a pair to pad the bottom of a non-photo backpack and wrap around a tablet. And, when not using my camera bag, all my camera gear gets wrapped in padded wraps. Super useful. Super versatile. Super gift.
5. Focus Mask
Does your night photographer enjoy pointing their camera at the stars? Also known as a Bahtinov Mask, Hartmann Mask, or Carey Mask (named after their inventors), these plastic focus masks are slotted discs that are placed over the front of a telescope or camera lens (telephotos will have the best results) and they serve as a precision focusing aid for your lens. Automatic focus does not always work on the stars, and today’s lenses seem to have gone away from the hard-stop infinity focus settings.
Give the gift of support. Um. How should I say this? Most bargain tripods that you get at your local discount store are not good. If you know a photographer who is heading out into the darkness with a sub-par tripod, the greatest gift you can give them is a better tripod. I will be the first to admit that, when it comes to tripod shopping, the options and sheer number of different tripods is dizzying. Lucky for you, you can start here with some homework or skip right to these recommendations for full-sized and travel tripods. Most people say that a tripod is a must-have for night photography. I would say that a quality tripod is a must-have for any photographer.
7. Remote Shutter Releases
Another night photography gear staple is the remote shutter release. Most night photographers have them already, but not all of them know that there are high-tech advanced releases on the market that do more than just release the shutter. There are wireless, wired, and cabled, and there are releases with timers and intervalometers and other useful technology baked into them. Digging deeper into this type of product, there are camera triggers that detect lightning, loud noises, and other catalysts automatically so you don’t have to rely on your reflexes to capture a fleeting moment! Oh, and check out this tripod holster for your release!
8. Night Photography Books
When half the world is plunged into winter, your favorite night photographer might stay inside and enjoy warmth and companionship instead of trekking out into the cold on a solo mission to make great art. For those nights when he or she stays inside, they can crack open one of these books on night photography and gather knowledge and inspiration. There is nothing like a great night photography book to complement any photographic library.
9. Rain Cover
It is not always sunny at night. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. And, sometimes it is just plain damp. A rain cover for your camera will keep your gear safe and dry, even if you did not dress appropriately for the weather! The rain covers come in all shapes and sizes to fit all types of gear, and range from simple to nicer-than-your-raincoat.
There are gloves and there are gloves specially made for photographers. Which one would your night photographer prefer? This kind. Even if it is not cold right now, it will be—especially when your nighttime shutterbug drags you to Iceland to shoot the aurora in the middle of winter. I went hands-on (well, hands-in) with a bunch of gloves in this comprehensive roundup.
Confession time. I have owned a LensPen for years, but I never really found a reason to use it. My tried-and-true methods for cleaning my optics always worked fine for me. And then, not too long ago, I found an interesting mark—what could have been a scratch—on the surface of a beloved lens. It can’t be a smudge. It is too narrow. I tried to clean it with lens paper and a cleaning solution. Scrub, scrub, scrub. It wouldn’t come off. Is that really a scratch? Oh no. Distraught, I dug out the LensPen as a last-ditch effort before launching myself into a deep depression. Boom! The “scratch” was gone. I’m sold.
12. Bubble Level
Besides my job here at B&H, I teach college photography classes and spend a lot of time browsing Instagram. I have many growing facets of obsessive-compulsive-disorder, but my biggest photographic one is level horizons. Note to beach photographers everywhere: if the water is tilted, it is all going to flow somewhere besides your beach and ships and boats don’t really go uphill or downhill (sans waves). Anyway, off my soap box. Use a bubble level to keep things on the level.
A Baker’s Dozen: Hand Warmers
For those of us who suffer from cold hands—even when it is not so cold out—you will feel the warmth of an electronic hand warmer night after night when you’re out shooting. Yes, I wear some of the photo gloves mentioned above, but there is nothing like a hand warmer (or warmers—I carry two—one for each hand) in your pockets on a cold night when out shooting photos. Many of the warmers B&H sells are dual function as flashlights and/or charges for mobile devices.
Well, that is an even dozen plus a baker’s bonus item. What ideas do you have for night-photography gifts to expand our list? Let us know in the Comments section, below!