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Advice & More November 2019

Holiday Photo Gifting

By Marilyn Cappellino

From photo books, to customized wrapping paper, to gift tags or self-sticking labels, my family fully enjoyed seeing images of their own children, pets and projects on unexpectedly useful items.

A great feature of a cell phone is the ability it gives us to snap a spontaneous photo anytime, anywhere and without limit. It requires no loading of film, no special lighting, nor tripod. Though a selfie stick does occasionally come in handy, the mobile phone is a self-containing camera that allows amateur photographers to amass an impressive photo collection in no time.

But then what? What do we do with all those photos of our children, grandchildren, pets, plants and travel sites? Beyond placing in traditional photo albums or picture frames, or storing large volumes of them on DVDs, what can be done with all those fabulous shots of our beloveds? The answer now is "plenty." Online merchants are offering an unprecedented variety of create-your-own photo products, allowing even rookie photographers to design extraordinary holiday gifts.

I discovered a couple of these online shops by accident while Christmas shopping last year. Before long, I was logging onto several, fully absorbed with placing my own digital photos into pre-formed templates to create some of the best-received holiday gifts I've ever given.

Thanks to, likely the internet's best known producer of personalized photo books, I used over 70 photos to produce an 11"x 9" full-color, 32-page, hardcover memory book. The book was a gift for my grandson, then a high school senior, and it captured many moments of his final year playing high school football. Knowing a few others who would cherish those same memories, I had book copies made for his parents, grandfather and aunt. The cost per book was under $60.  Though the time it took to select, position the photos was considerable, the actual set-up took less than a couple of hours. As gifts go, it was a hit.

My daughters, like most moms, love pictures of their pets as much as photos of their children. For them, I made artsy gifts with  Minted uses original graphic designs to create wall hangings, greeting cards, gift wraps and backdrops for personalized paper products. By inserting photos of my grandpups into beautifully designed templates, I personalized a variety of  wrapping paper with matching gift tags my daughters used all year for their own gift giving. Minted products are high quality. Wrapping paper comes in vivid color print on individual sheets cut 20" x 28." The sheets can be bought in minimum quantities of 5 for about $15. For damage protection, they are delivered rolled into sturdy tube mailers.

My firstborn liked her wrapping paper gift well enough to frame. Now, photos of the furry portion of her family – Max, Lulu and Quincy – hang predominantly in her living room. Daughter number 2, whose gift wrap featured not only Lulu, her King Charles Cavalier, but also some of the chairs she professionally redesigns. She uses the wrapping paper on gifts for clients, some of whom like seeing their own renewed chair on their freshly received present.

One intriguing site I haven't yet tried is Imagine resolving the problem of a blank wall by covering it fully with a significant photo you've taken yourself. Maybe it's of a garden, or dream car, or a spectacular sunset loved by the person you want to gift? An image rising floor to ceiling is striking on nearly any wall of home or office, makes a provocative gift promising long-lasting enjoyment. Murals Your Way sells create-your-own murals in 3 standard sized panels. Prices start at around $150 for a mural  3'11" wide by 6'1" high. The company also sells custom wallpaper cut from a selection of high quality materials. To create-your-own mural panels or wall paper, you simply load your image in .jpg format into the company's online template, enter your preferred dimensions, choose one of the 6 material selections, then submit your order. It's that easy. I'm working on mural ideas for Christmas 2019. But I first need to find the just right person with the just right wall who might appreciate so dramatic a gift.

From photo books, to customized wrapping paper, to gift tags or self-sticking labels, my family fully enjoyed seeing images of their own children, pets and projects on unexpectedly useful items. Plus, these photo-gifting merchants made the doing of the gifts easy fun for me. Most importantly though, they gave me a chance to meaningfully share many of the photos that
otherwise would live largely unseen on my phone.


Marilyn Cappellino is a syndicated columnist living in Buffalo, NY, a rebounding city where, she happily notes, her five grandchildren also reside.

Meet Marilyn