Best Photo Gifts Ever Received

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In some sense, photographers are easy people for whom to shop. An entire store (B&H Photo!) exists so that others can bestow amazing gifts on their photographer loved ones. But, in another sense, photographers can be very good at shopping for themselves (at B&H Photo!) and that makes gift-giving to a photographer a challenge.

We asked some B&H staff, members of the B&H Creative Partnership team, and B&H affiliates what was the best photography-related gift they ever received. These are some of their responses.

Alexander Gordon, B&H — @alexgordonphotos

“The best gift I received was a Canon T4i on my birthday by my parents about 10 years ago. It was my first DSLR and my first ‘serious’ camera. It got me started on this journey in photography and brought me to B&H, first as a customer but then as an employee. I don't know where life would have taken me if I never received that camera. Here is one of the photos I took with the Canon. At the time, it was one of my best shots.”

Allan Weitz, B&H — @allanweitz

“A canvas Adam Marelli camera bag! It's a gorgeous bag and was gifted by Adam as a thank you for ‘connecting a few dots’ for him when he was marketing the bag. The bag will outlast me—it's a truly fine camera bag.”

Ben Matthews, B&H Creative — @bentommat

“Happy to share about my best photo-related gift! My brother, Sam, gifted me a thrifted Pentax MX 35mm film camera when I was in college. This camera sparked my love for photography and made me learn how to use the settings on cameras very quickly, while also allowing me to take my time to study different compositions while taking photos. Because as a poor college student, you get one shot with film, so you have to make it count!”

Brad Shutack, B&H — @bradshuu

“While my first laptop was an incredible gift, I would have to say the best photo-related gift I received was the Canon Vixia HV30, a Christmas gift from my parents. I had just started getting interested in filmmaking and this camera allowed me the opportunity to experiment and develop my passion for the art form. This gift was the starting point that led to me going to school for film and, eventually, finding my love for landscape photography and travel. I want to thank my mom and dad for all their encouragement and support in helping me to discover what I am truly passionate about.”

Chuck Capriola, B&H — @chuckxphotographs

“‘I love you—go buy your camera,’ was on a handwritten message from my wife in a card commemorating our 10th wedding anniversary (We just celebrated our 33rd). Also included in the card was her Visa.

“I knew what I wanted and had wished and hoped for over many years, a Leica with a 28mm lens. Like the Nikkormat with which I learned photography using a Vivitar 28mm TX lens, I wanted the best in simplicity and sharpness. The M6 with the 28mm Elmarit E48 lens was for me.

“I had over the years amassed a large collection of cameras, buying and selling all with the same reasoning: ‘I can’t afford a Leica so let me try this.’ As my wife pointed out (as she so often does LOL!), I had more than likely spent more money on cameras I was either not happy with or not using than the investment needed for the camera I knew I wanted. ‘Cheap can be expensive’ was one of my mother’s favorite pieces of advice.

“The 28mm focal length is for me very familiar and subjects and perspectives seem to ‘fit’ perfectly. With the likes of Garry Winogrand, William Klein, and Franz Christian (F.C.) Gundlach, I am not alone coveting the focal length. Sadly, today my M lenses spend more time on my mirrorless cameras than they do on a film body. I do, when the opportunity arises, continue to expose film.

“Pictured here is John Glenn, who had just returned from his second space flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. This was 36 years after his historic 1962 flight on the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft, when he became the first American in orbit. John Glenn was, at the time, 77 years old and the oldest person yet to venture into space. On November 16, 1998, New York held a ticker-tape parade for his return. This was one of the images I took that day sitting out on the 2nd floor window ledge of the office where my wife was working at the time.”

David Wilder, B&H Creative — @davidwilderphoto

“For me the best photo-related gift(s) I have ever received had to be National Geographic magazines and books.

“My grandmother would often put an issue in my stocking at Christmas. It meant a lot to me because it showed me how much she listened to my dreams and goals. It told me that she cared and wanted me to achieve my goals. I've always told her that my biggest dream/goal was to have my work published in a physical issue of NatGeo; even better would to be on the cover. I've always seen NatGeo as the Holy Grail of publications. I feel like if I were to achieve that dream, it would validate all the years of hard work, failures, setbacks, and those nights of ‘What am I doing with my life?’

“These gifts from her mean so much because it tells me that she already believes in me, and she keeps motivating me to keep trying. So, in a way that means more than any published photo.”

Emily Mandagie, B&H Creative — @themandagies

“I'm going to turn this around a bit and share about a photo gift I GAVE!

“Last fall, I gathered all my family's old photos and scanned them on my Canon MX922 Printer (similar to the PIXMA TR8620) so every single photo was digitized and preserved. It was probably close to 5,000 physical photos. For the originals, I ordered all the photos in their proper timeline and arranged them in big photo albums to give my mother the master copy of the originals. I then gave smaller albums to all my siblings of any copies or personal photos like school photos and classroom pictures.

“We also had over 40 video cassettes, and I sent those out to a service called LEGACYBOX because I don't have the tools at home to convert them myself. I was really pleased with the care and quality they took in the conversions, and it was nice to finally have a way of viewing those videos again! In the end, they sent me my originals back, and I received a cloud link to access all the videos online.

“Overall, my family received curated photo albums and a cloud link to every single photo (ordered by dates) and home video from our family's archive. It was special to give them these memories, and quite a relief too, to know that they are safe, digitized, and preserved forever!”

Jill Waterman, B&H — @nightpix

“I don’t recall all the details, but I have to say the best photo-related gift I ever received was my very first—namely the Polaroid Swinger my parents gave me for Christmas at age 10. This was the first camera I could call my own, and it delivered instant results. Both form and function had a classic ’60s groove, as famously expressed in the TV jingle, ‘It’s more than a camera, it’s almost alive.’ It was easy to become an active participant in the picture-making process, from twisting the bright red shutter button until the word YES appeared in the viewfinder—as positive reinforcement for proper exposure—to coating the resulting 2 ½ x 3 ¼" black-and-white print with the chemical sealant that came with the film pack to preserve its delicate emulsion. Instant film cameras have come a long way since Polaroid’s domination of this niche, and today one can get instant gratification from ten different camera brands, including Canon, FUJIFILM, HP, iHome, Kodak, Lomography, Minolta, Mint Camera, Polaroid, and Polaroid Originals. Yet, long after my Swinger and most of its pictures have been lost to history, a pungent whiff of its chemistry still lingers in my mind, perpetuating the memory of this early mass-market phenomenon that ignited my passion for photography and connected me to the spirit of the times.”

John Harris, B&H — @jrockfoto

“If you don't count the first camera my mother bought me, my best photo-related gift was a book. It was a 1969 Aperture hardcover edition of The Americans by Robert Frank, published by Grossman, and it was gifted to me by the host of the B&H Photography Podcast, Allan Weitz. Thanks Allan!”

Joshua Fischer, B&H — @joshuamfischer

“Best gift I’ve ever received? Probably a Lomography Diana F+, but the best photo gift I can recommend: X-Rite ColorChecker!

“Speaking of the Diana F+, it was a gift from my girlfriend at the time. She worked in the industry and *KNEW* how much of a killer gift it was for me. Ready for this? I still use the flash to this day! It’s my favorite flash to use with my X-Pro3! Here are a couple of photos from work.”

Levi Tenenbaum, B&H — @ibelevi

“My favorite photo gift ever was a T-shirt that read, ‘I flash people’ with photo of camera and flash. Given to me by my cousin, Shaya. He got it for me for my birthday. It’s a great gag gift!”

Not the same T-shirt!

Todd Vorenkamp, B&H — @trvphoto

“My first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 30, was a 110 film-shooting hand-me-down gift from my grandma (she was upgrading to a Kodak Disc camera). Little did I know that that gift had started me down a path that led to many future adventures.

“Another important gift was the Nikon D100 my father sent me when I was deployed in the Persian Gulf. The very first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, my D100 broke and he selflessly sent me a replacement immediately, so I did not have to borrow the ship’s camera(s) for very long.

“But, of the photo gifts I have received (there aren’t many… I am good at shopping at B&H for myself!), the single most transformative one wasn’t a lens, a camera, or an accessory—it was, like several other entries above—a book.

“No book has had as profound an effect on my photography as the Kodak Workshop Series Book, The Art of Seeing. When I was at sea—stuck on a 750' planet (minus when I was flying) I, and probably my father, must have seen my photography getting a bit stale. The book arrived in the ship’s mail (before the D100 had broken and the replacement had been shipped).

“The words (and images) in that book instantly altered the way I approach photography and making photographs. Since reading it, I have befriended the author, written many articles based on what I learned from that book, and used its writing as the backbone of the photo 101 I teach at Dakota College at Bottineau. Thanks for sending that book to the USS Rainier, Dad!”

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Share Your Experience

What was the best photo-related gift you ever received? Why is it the best and who gave it to you? Let us know in the Comments section, below, and help inspire others to give a gift with the same impact!

7 Comments

Photography is a technical hobby that the givee knows better (usually) than the giver(s). In that case, try this:

Christmas Gift Giving for Adults…

     For children, Christmas is a mix of Anticipation (I’m gonna get lots of stuff!) and Surprise (What am I getting? What’s in all those boxes?), spiced with a Bit of Terror (Was I bad? Am I getting sticks and coal?). The idea here is to recapture those youthful feelings but account for the much more sophisticated tastes and knowledge of adults.

     So, what’s wrong with adult Christmas?  Adults often know what they are getting, because they are sophisticated enough that appropriate gifts require special knowledge and givers have to be coached as to what to get. That’s especially true for any kind of technical hobby, be it sailing (boat accessories), photography (cameras, lenses) or embroidery (special sewing machines and software). Surprise is  largely gone. The inappropriate gift syndrome (wrong size, wrong color, wrong model) is also ever present, generating both post-opening letdown and chores like returns. So adults start to anticipate “problems ahead” instead of being intensely interested in “all those boxes.”  And many face the nearly insoluble problem of what to get for the ‘spouse who already has everything.’

     How do we all fix that? Easy! Each spouse goes out and buys their own gift(s), limited only by the budget set in advance. Neither spouse tells the other what they have bought, and wraps the present(s) without revealing the contents. (That last includes nobody looking at the itemized credit card bill until after December 25th.) The presents are placed under the tree as usual, and not opened until Christmas morning. This method works best with spouses, but can work with other near relatives, and close friends.

     Now, how does all that recover the child-within-us Christmas?

            —>  Anticipation? Oh yes, in spades!  It’s exactly what you want, you know it’s in there, and you CAN’T GET AT IT until Dec. 25. Your “want gland” will be throbbing fiercely. Marking off the days on the calendar until Christmas morning, just like children do, will reappear.

            —>  Surprise? If you think you know your spouse well, guess again.  Be prepared to be amazed at what they get.  Example:  When I married, every last one of my female relatives and new female in-laws advised me that gifts for the wife NEVER involve anything associated with the kitchen or housework. So, the first year we used the revised gift-giving method, what did she get for herself?  A pasta maker!

            —>  The Bit of Terror?  Did the spouse stick to the budget, or are you ending up in the poorhouse?

     And those adult-centric problems?

            —>  No more post-opening let downs! It’s not only just what you wanted, but always the right color, the right size, exactly the right model.  (It better be; you bought it yourself, after all.) No more bothering about returns, too.  

            —>  That ‘spouse who has everything’ will find a good way to spend the largesse; you don’t have to.

            —>  Extra Added Bonus:  If you exchange gifts this way with several close relatives (parents, adult children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings) and friends, setting a separate gift budget for each, you can combine those amounts into one “super gift.” This is especially useful for those technical hobbies where the gear can get expensive and costs more than any one relative should spend.  Example: if your budget from the spouse was $500, from Mom and Dad, $300, from your sister, $200, and $100 from dear Aunt Millie, your total is $1100 to spend on yourself. (Yes, you still have to smooch the spouse muchly, and write thank-you notes to your sister, Aunt Mille and your parents.)

      Everything to gain, nothing to lose. Try it this year.

What my wife does is she gives me a list of items she wants. Often she uses Facebook Messenger and I have to scroll through to find what she wants. 

Ah yes, she's done a good job of coaching you, but her surprise factor is still low (the present is almost certain to be one of the list items) and there's no "bit of terror" to speak of. Still, you're better off than many, including some of my friends whose already-have-it-all spouses insist on being "mysterious," leaving the giver floundering about trying to find: "Something, anything...Help!"  :-)

Gift-giving is so stressful that I often end up just shopping for myself. :)

Hi Matthew,

That is an awesome idea!

As a former sailboat owner, I was always hoping my gift would be new sails, standing rigging, running rigging, and a team of people to polish the gelcoat and varnish the teak!

Thank you for reading and thanks for taking the time to share this idea!

Best,

Todd

My wife was browsing various stores and asked me what I thought about a camera. "You buying me a 5D?" She answered "Yes". I said "Let me check B&H." I found a better deal and bought from y'all. 

Hi Ralph,

Thank your wife for shopping at B&H! Enjoy the camera!

:)

Best,

Todd

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