Meaningful Presents: Photo Gift Ideas to Touch the Heart

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Meaningful presents can truly touch the heart of your recipients who can cherish the gifts for many years to come and even pass them on to future generations. 

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When my daughter was growing up, we rarely saw either set of grandparents for Christmas since we lived four hours away from one set and eight hours away from the other. Then, when my daughter was 12, we moved to another state and lived around 800—1000 miles from both sets. We always mailed our photo gifts or had them shipped from the manufacturer.

But one time I got to give my widowed Dad a photo gift in person. It was a small booklet I had hand crafted for him that featured pictures of my daughter in her various activities over the previous couple of years—music, dance, theater, etc. 

I vividly remember him sitting in my husband’s rocking chair and turning the pages. Every time he turned and saw a new page he would say “ahhhhhh.”  Every time. Men of his generation did not express emotion well, and I knew that he was moved. A long, drawn-out “ahhhhhh” was all he could muster. When he got to the end, he flipped it back to the beginning and went through it again. Meaningful presents can elicit strong emotions.

What is the best of meaningful presents?

Of all the photo gifts one can make, I believe the most meaningful is the photo book. Whether it’s a handmade scrapbook, or a digitally designed and printed hard- or soft-bound book, there are several reasons behind this belief.


Photo Books are Thoughtful and Personalized Gifts

When you create a photo book, whether you are making it about you and your family, or about the recipient and his or her life, you are bringing yourself into it. Everything is viewed through your lens. This lends a unique perspective to every page.

They are one of a kind. Unless you order multiples, no two photo books will ever be alike.

Photo books offer something that a stack of photos, or even a traditional photo album can’t—the stories. In a photo book there is room for journaling about what led to the picture, what happened before or after the picture, why the picture was taken, and more. The stories make the photos come alive, because our photos are merely moments and stories caught in time.

There is nothing sadder to me than coming across old photographs at an estate sale or a thrift shop, and it happens more than you think. Photos end up being discarded when they mean nothing to anyone left behind. But a photo book? It can last for many years and become a treasured heirloom handed down for generations because the stories make it meaningful.


Photo Books Provide a Contrast to Our Current Reality



It’s easy to get caught up in our routines and day-to-day obligations. Photo books let us relive happy memories and meaningful moments.

Photo books anchor specific moments in an ever-changing world.

They allow us to time travel for a short time—to leave our current surroundings and exist for a while in the past, or in someone else’s world.

Photo books remind us—particularly children—of where we came from, how far we’ve come, of who and what we used to be.

The Most Meaningful Presents Come in Many Varieties

There are many types of photo books you can make.

Photo books make fabulous gifts for children. By nature children are egocentric and will love a book that features them. Create a story book about an event or time with special people. One of my clients designed a photo book for her 4-year-old granddaughter about the time they took her to the zoo. It was a big hit! Another client created an ABC photo book for each of her children featuring photos of items – in alphabetical order – that were important to each child.

An annual album or yearbook each year. This book sums up special and everyday events in the life of a family. Over time this photo book can really keep one in touch with the moments of their life.

A travel diary showcasing the sights and experiences of one or more trips. Be sure to include not only factual information, but emotions and meanings behind the experiences.

You can make a cookbook to pass family recipes down. Be sure to include photos of the hand-written recipe cards. You can also present a cookbook of family favorites to a young adult moving into their own place and preparing to cook their own meals.

Photo books are great for marking big milestones such as weddings, house moves, graduations and some “firsts”—first car, first camping trip, first day of school, first dance, etc.

Photo books can run the gamut from handcrafted to digitally designed. There’s a wide variety of quality between vendors of photo books designed on the computer or phone. This article covers some more common vendors, but not all the ones I recommend.


My Recommended Vendors for The Best Photo Gifts

Handcrafted Books

Over 30 years ago Creative Memories pioneered the memory-keeping industry. Their products are designed and manufactured to be photo safe and permanent so your photos and memorabilia do not degrade. 

You can choose traditional scrapbooking materials or the Fast2Fab™ line of albums, the best way to create a scrapbook-look-alike album in just a few hours. 


Just adhere the photos and write the stories. You get the look and feel of a handcrafted scrapbook without all the cutting and mess.

Digitally Designed Books

Artifact Uprising’s photo books are distinguished for their high quality, eco-conscious materials. They come in hard and soft cover and start at $15. They even have a baby board book you can create for the very young ones in your life.




Forever offers two ways to make photo books.

The first is to use their Design & Print shop right on their website. It’s fast and easy with a very quick learning curve.

The second is to purchase Artisan Software (Windows only). This allows much more flexibility, and yet it also takes more time. Many of my scrapbooking clients use Artisan to create photo books and many other products.

 Mixbook combines unique, on-trend designs with a powerful editor, allowing you to create one-of-a-kind photo goods that truly reflect your personal style. Their books start at $16 and they have a wide variety of sizes and styles (all customizable) to choose from.


A Two-In-One Gift

There is a photo gift that has two lives. It spends the first life as a wall calendar. These calendars are easily customizable. The second life is as a photo album, and it meets all the criteria set forth above.


Wall Calendars Make Meaningful Presents

wall calendars make meaningful presentsPin

Forever offers two ways to create calendars. Using their Design & Print Shop, you choose one of 25 different professionally designed templates, upload your photos, and drag and drop them where you want them in the design. Add captions if you like and you’re ready to print! 

The second way requires more effort and time. Using Forever’s Artisan software (Windows only) gives you the ability to personalize the calendar portion with birthdays and other special events. 

Forever’s calendars measure 12×18, and the perforated edge lets you easily separate the photo collage from the calendar portion for a timeless keepsake that you or your recipient can enjoy for years to come. Forever uses premium satin card stock and archival quality ink, and they bind the calendar at the top, which is important for the two-fer aspect.

The Best Albums For Your Calendar Pages 

Once the year is over, you or your recipient can put the collage portion into a 12×12 Single Pocket Page in a 12×12 Photo Album Cover. The ones I recommend are from  Creative Memories , and you can buy a ready-made cover or create a custom cover on their website. You can even order them ahead of time and give them with the calendar so your recipient has everything they need for their timeless gift. 



Give the Gift That Keeps On Giving

A photo book is a gift that will keep on giving for many years to come. It contains stories and details that might otherwise be forgotten, and these things breathe life into the photos. It really is one of the most meaningful presents you can give.


Next Steps

Any day is a great day to create a photo book. And if you’re strapped for time, make a calendar—it’s just 12 pages. I highly recommend that if you give a photo calendar as a gift, be sure to include the cover and pocket pages so your recipient will enjoy their photo gift for years to come. And I guarantee it will make someone say “ahhhhhh.” 

Is there someone on your list who is a professional or amateur photographer? Check out this excellent post for some good ideas.

See all posts on photo gifts.


Need some help finding the photos you need for your photo book or calendar? Download my free, printable Getting Started Checklist and you’ll also receive my weekly updates. I never share your information and there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email.



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