The running joke when I was a kid was that with my photographer mom, you could always count on me to give you a photo of myself for the holidays. (Really, Maddie is the gift that keeps on giving.) As a broke teenager, my friends and I took turns trying to outdo each other with personalized presents made from photos of our various adventures together (like the time I gave my best friend a scrapbook of pictures of the two of us, paired with sentimental lyrics from Dave Matthews songs—top that—or the extra large collage my friends made for me that spelled out my name in photos). Those presents are some of my most treasured possessions (no matter how absurd they seem, even though current Maddie would obviously pick Miley lyrics, whatever).
These days, Michael and I often find ourselves holiday shopping for the twenty-or-more people we’re guaranteed to see between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, because adulthood is… fun like that. It’s nearly impossible trying to get twenty anythings without becoming financially insolvent, let alone doing that and keeping it personal. (Here. I got twenty wind up frogs! You’re welcome.) I used to do my best to try and impress family and friends with the fact that I could actually, you know, afford presents, but the older I get, the more I find myself reaching for the meaningful personalized gifts that used to make gift-giving such a thrill.
So, inspired by our partnership with Blurb, we asked the APW staff to help us come up with their best ideas for creative photo book ideas that are out of the box (and under $50 each, because let’s be reasonable). I was blown away by the suggestions, and now have a list of ten or so projects I want to do for myself when the holidays are over. The best part is that everyone you know probably has photos of themselves readily available online, and you don’t even have to own a pair of scissors to turn them into something awesome. (Make a present while I watch How To Get Away With Murder? Don’t mind if I do!) So with that, I give you ten creative photo book gift ideas for under $50. If you have any to add to the list, leave them in the comments.
1. For your friend Group: Every year, APW’s Deputy Editor, Lucy, gives a photo book to her closest friends, depicting the year’s adventures between them. You can modify this idea using old photos, and create a friendship scrapbook for the folks you’ve known since friendship bracelets were currency.
2. For your partner: If your courtship with your partner started with mail (of the electronic or snail variety), gather up your favorite letters and put them into chronological order for a book that tells the story of the early parts of your relationship. Bonus: juxtapose your letters with photos from the first year of dating and joke about how young you looked (even if it was just last year).
3. For your cousins: Does your family matriarch or patriarch have a recipe box stashed in their house, filled with hand-written time-honored recipe cards? Scan those babies, and put them into a book for each family member who would want one. If you don’t have a scanner at home, most local photo places offer scanning services for super cheap. (Dear cousins, now we can finally get Grandma’s recipe for Sunday dinner marinara. Love, Maddie.)
4. For your wedding guests: Some of the best wedding photos are the ones that never make it to Facebook. The dancing shots. The photobooth pictures. Say thank you to the friends who helped make your wedding possible with a personalized photo book featuring their best facial expressions and most creative use of props.
5. For your friends’ kid: If you ever babysit your friends’ kids, you know how hard it can be when the parents leave. So gather up a bunch of recent photos of your friends and their kid, and make a book for baby to read at bedtime that makes the time apart a little easier. Bonus: If your friends recently had a family photo session, you can always nonchalantly ask for a link to the gallery and not even worry about having to source photos from different places. (Or if your friends’ kid likes you a lot, you can take a page from my playbook and give them a photobook of yourself.)
6. For your social media savvy sibling/niece/other person under the age of twenty: Know someone who is all up on Instagram or Facebook? You can make a photo book from someone’s social media account in about two seconds flat using Blurb. Make a yearbook of their activity and don’t forget to remind them that when you were their age, pictures were something you put on your actual wall, not just on your Facebook wall, and also you had to walk to school uphill both ways. In snow.
7. For your friend who just moved to town: Being new in town is scary. If you’ve got a new local friend, or if a good friend just moved to a city you used to live in, make a photo map that doubles as a survival guide. Include all your favorite local haunts, with a promise to check them out together.
8. For your kid’s grandparents: A twist on the traditional gift for grandparents. Scan your kiddo’s artwork and put it into a book for the grandparents. They’ll love it, they’ll love you. Everyone wins.
9. For the extended family: The best part of the holidays is getting nostalgic with your family (and pie, but I digress). So while you’re home for Thanksgiving, gather up all the old family photos and caption them with the family anecdotes that you hear every year. Like that time your grandfather hit on your great aunt before realizing he was actually way into your grandmother. It’s a new take on a family tree, and you don’t even have to figure out what branch to put your Great Aunt Mildred on.
10. For yourself (okay, and maybe your partner too): Inspired by the soon-to-be defunct website 43 Things, this is a record of the things you’re going to do, instead of a list of the things you’ve already done. Sit down with your partner and come up with a list of the things you’d like to do in 2015, like places to visit, restaurants to go to, things to accomplish. Put them in the book and give it to each other as both a present and a promise.
BLURB IS OFFERING A SPECIAL APW-ONLY DISCOUNT ON ALL HOLIDAY PHOTO BOOK ORDERS!* GET 20% OFF WHEN YOU USE THE CODE APW20 AT CHECKOUT! OFFER EXPIRES DECEMBER 10TH.
*Offer valid through December 10, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). Valid for photo books made by you. A 20% discount is applied toward your product total with a minimum purchase of $50, 40€, or £35. Maximum discount is $50, 40€, or £35 off product total. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.