Photography as a Holiday Gift

November 24, 2009 | Category: Reviews


Can’t decide what Aunt Rose could possibly want from you as a Holiday gift? Do you have a collection of family photos? Do you have a few hours? Then read on for an idea that could possibly solve all of your gift giving woes for the near future.

As a photographer I find that even at family events, I’m the guy taking all the photos. This also often means that I’m the only one with access to all of the photos. I have photos of births, holidays, reunions, camp-outs… if it had to do with family, I had it.

Just before the 2007 holiday season, my wife Tammi found out that she was going to need some surgery in late November. Because of that I was going to need to do a few things that I was not accustomed to doing… one of those things being shopping for Christmas gifts.

Shopping is not my forte. I gave the situation some careful thought and realized that instead of doing something that I was clearly not good at, I would instead redirect the task to a field to which I was better suited…. photography. I had been looking at the self-publishing website and had read some favorable reviews of the service. So I began compiling the best photos from all the family events… trying to arrange them into some sort of story. I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do but needed a few extra photos.

Clarissa's CD Photo

Clarissa's CD Photo

As we do every year, we headed to Mom and Dad’s house to visit with my siblings and the neices and nephews. I knew that this would be the perfect time to get some family portraits… photos that would complement the snap-shots that would make up the book. I tried to go about the process in a way that wouldn’t raise suspicion. My daughter Clarissa was also working on a gift project for the family, a Christmas CD where she sang and played the flute on some favorite Holiday songs. So I began working on the photos for her CD Cover. AliciaFallEvery once in a while I’d turn my attention to one of the kids and snap a few frames. Soon I was shooting whole families and no one was the wiser. I kept the lighting simple, mostly natural light with a little bit of backlight to make the photos pop. Everyone was in a good mood an since there wasn’t any pressure to get dressed up and have every hair in place, it was a lot of fun.

After heading home I began the task of compiling all of the photos and telling a story. I called each person and asked them to tell a story about someone else. Something unique about that person that most people don’t know. I got a lot of great stories and with that I gave everyone their own personal page with all of their stats. Additionally each family got a couple of pages. There were also special events that had their own sections. I titled the book “As I Saw It”, a comment on how I saw things through the lens of my camera.

I quickly sent the files off to Blurb to get everything started. I didn’t have time to have one sent to me for approval first… so I crossed my fingers and hoped that everything would turn out okay. Blurb gives you the option to send the books directly to the recipient, so I waited anxiously… knowing that the books would arrive slightly before Christmas and at different times… which meant that I might not recieve mine until everyone else had received theirs.

joeynickbroderickMy worries were soon relieved when I began to get the phone calls from everone who had gotten their books. It was a hit and the copies being passed around to family members outside of our immediate circle… who were jealous that they didn’t have something like this.

In conclusion I’d like to state that I was generally very happy with the service but I was a little frustrated with the software. For most people, the templates included would be more than enough, but I found myself wanting to customize the pages more than was allowed. But to be fair, you can create your own pages in a program like Photoshop and then import the flattened versions into the full page image templates. Also, this was 2007, the newest software update might have made things better. As far as the printing, it was not bad, but as a former print designer, I wasn’t 100% satisfied. The linescreen was a little coarse and the color wasn’t always perfect, but overall I was the only one to notice.

So if you’re looking for a good family gift that shows off your mad photography skills, think about giving the gift that will be enjoyed for years to come.

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  1. Sayed
    on November 24th, 2009

    I actually plan on doing this for Xmas for my grandfather. Going to do some different family portraits and then random get together stuff. It’s hard getting family members out to shoot lol, all these excuses lol.

    Excellent idea. So is offering free photo session for a gift.

  2. Stephen Poff
    on November 24th, 2009

    This is why I recommend getting the photos at family functions… they have nowhere to run! And you’re right, free photo session is a great gift.

  3. Leslie Ellis CarterL
    on November 25th, 2009

    Awesome.Love your work.

  4. Chase Lester
    on November 25th, 2009

    They look like pretty good quality. I will have to check it out. I was going to order from a more expensive place. But now I may not have to

  5. TJantunen
    on November 25th, 2009


    I really like your work. Can you enable RSS feed for your blog? It would be much easier to follow your blog if I could see new posts in my feed reader.

  6. TJantunen
    on November 25th, 2009

    Just for info, I am getting this error message when I click your RSS Entries link at the bottom of page “The page cannot be found” and it is pointing to this link

  7. Stephen Poff
    on November 25th, 2009

    @TJantunen: Thanks for the heads up… got it fixed now.

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