7 photography-related gifts I’ve received and why I love even the cringeworthy ones

Tips & Techniques

As a photographer, chances are you’ll get some photography-related Christmas gifts from your friends and family. Among them, there will be those that will make you smile on the outside but think “what the hell am I supposed to with this?!” on the inside.

Inspired by articles that pop up every year about what (not) to buy to photographers, I’ve decided to write something slightly different. I’ve gathered seven photography-related presents I’ve received over the years. Some of them are awesome, but the others are cheesy as hell. So, I want to give you some ideas on how to use even the seemingly unusable ones. And hopefully, I’ll also make you smile and relate.

1. Lens mug

Oh yes, the notorious lens mug. You will find it in all “what not to buy to photographers” guides. And I’ve got two of those. I left one at mom’s place, in my old bedroom. The other one is in my flat, always by my side, but not because I drink my morning coffee from it.

I’m weirdly selective about the mugs and glasses I drink from when I’m at home. And I wouldn’t even try drinking from something like this, I can’t explain why. However, both of my lens mugs have found their purpose: I use them to store my stationery. And baby dragons.

2. Lens cloth

If you ask me, this gift is perfect. I got this lens cloth from my cousin who’s also a photographer and knows what photographers may find handy. In my case, a lens cloth is something I always need. I like to have one in each of my camera bags, so I never forget it when I change bags. Also, I recently started wearing computer glasses, so I need the lens cloth for them, too.

Plus, this one is pink and has cacti on it. Even if I didn’t need it, I would take it out of the bag from time to time just to look at it, because it’s so cute.

3. Camera-shaped flash memory

I got this one from a friend a few years ago and I was thrilled when I got it. Not because I needed yet another flash memory, but because this one is shaped like a tiny Nikon camera. Until you look at it very carefully, though, and realize that it’s a Nikon α900. (?)

It’s not the fastest flash memory I own, but I use it nevertheless. I mainly put Word/PDF documents or photos on it when I take them to a print shop. In fact, I think this one still has my master thesis on it.

4. Photo mug

I’ve heard many people saying that mugs with photos printed on them make them cringe. And I have to agree, they are kinda tacky. But I got this one from my mom, and here’s why I love it and find it special:

This mug wasn’t a Christmas or birthday present. It was a house-warming gift my mom gave me shortly after I moved out of my ex-boyfriend’s place and started living alone for the first time. I was having a rough time, and this silly mug certainly made me smile rather than cringe. It still makes me smile whenever I look at it.

If you get a photo mug and it still makes you cringe, try imagining “behind the scenes” of this gift:

Someone who loves you went through a photo archive to carefully select the best images. They got in touch with the print shop to explain how they wanted the mug to look. They probably went there to pick up the mug personally (I know my mom did). And then they carefully wrapped it, maybe added a personal note, and some candy. In a word, they made an effort for you. And I think that’s worth cherishing.

5. Printed and framed photo

Many of us don’t print photos anymore. Everything is on social media, hard drives, and on a cloud. Because of this, getting a tangible, framed photo to put on my wall or shelf is something I absolutely love. Sure, in my case, it will always be a goofy photo like the one above. But that’s what my family and I are like, that’s what all my friends are like, and it’s the only kind of photos we have in the archives.

While prints like this don’t make my flat more aesthetically pleasing, they make it “warmer,” so to say. Photos like this are what turns every flat into a home.

6. Smartphone lenses

I rarely take photos with my smartphone. It has a pretty lame camera compared to all these fancy new phones. Still, I got this set of cheap smartphone lenses at a party, and there’s a pretty crazy story how. But since it’s not relevant, I’d rather skip it.

Fast forward to a few months after the party, I actually used these lenses for the first time. The wide-angle and fisheye lenses are pure crap, but I used them for some goofy selfies with mom and brother. They’re really not good for anything else.

However, the macro lens is not that bad at all. Also, it saved me from dying of boredom when I had mono earlier this year. I was able only to walk to the front yard and back to bed. So, I took some macro shots of plants on that 10-meter long journey.

So, if you get a set of cheap smartphone lenses for your pricey phone, you probably may never want to use them. But give them a chance at least when you’re bored, you may end up with some interesting shots.

7. Camera-shaped lighter/keychain

Okay, I figured out that I lost this one, probably because I was moving home five times in the past two years. Still, this was a pretty cringeworthy knick-knack and I can’t help but smile when I think of it. Is it a lighter? Is it a keychain? Why don’t we have both?! It’s even funnier because I almost never smoke.

Despite smoking once in a blue moon, I always have a lighter in my purse. My purse is a big collection of “you never know when you might need it” items. And with a lighter attached to my keys, there was no way to forget it at home. So, I was the knight in shiny armor for friends who would forget a lighter when we go out (smoking in public is still allowed in Serbia). I was there to light a cigarette for them with my tiny camera/keychain/lighter. I was a hero.

Until it ran out of lighter fluid.

Bonus: Camera necklace

Why is this bonus? Well, because it was a gift for me from me. I got it from AliExpress, I can’t remember the exact price, but I think it was arund$2. I mean, it certainly looks like something that costs $2. I think it’s a bit childish, but so am I, so I gladly wear this necklace with some casual clothes.

If you get a gift like this, it depends on your taste whether you’ll like it or not. If you do – awesome! But if not, you can turn it into a badge, a keychain, a fridge magnet or something else that you’ll find more useful, yet you’ll still keep the gift.

And what gifts did you get?

Giving gifts is wonderful, but it can be tricky. You can completely miss someone’s taste, buy something they don’t need, or something they already have. Naturally, it works the other way around, too – you can also receive gifts like that. But, even when this happens, I want to remind you that it’s the intention that counts. Someone thought of us, they know that we love photography, so they got us photography-related stuff. Isn’t that lovely? Because of this, even if you get cringeworthy photo gifts, remember that there’s still a lot of love behind them and that’s what really matters.

And now it’s your turn. Did you get any of the presents I mentioned above? What are some of the best photography-related gifts you’ve received? And what are the worst and the most cringeworthy ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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