For photographers, the holidays present the perfect time for putting your work to good use by creating personalized gifts with your images as the focal point. Whether it’s to make a greeting card, specialty print, photo book, calendar or other keepsakes, online services and software programs are making it easier than ever to get creative with your best shots. After all, photos have the power to keep all our precious moments alive, and part of what makes photography fun is putting those finishing touches on an image and then sharing it with family and friends.
AdoramaPix lets you do it all, from special prints and gallery wraps to custom framing, bookmaking and more. The online service makes it really easy to send out personalized greeting cards using your own photos and words. A variety of high-quality photo papers are available in glossy, matte, lustre and metallic finishes. There’s also an option for black-and-white. The cards are made from cream-colored 80-pound linen stock and come with matching envelopes. The image is printed on 4×6-inch photo paper and mounted on a 5×7-inch folded card. You can add text or leave the card blank. List Price: $3 (single lustre or metallic). Contact: Adorama, (888) 216-6400, www.adoramapix.com.
If you’re a Mac user, you probably know how multifaceted the Apple iPhoto application is within the iLife software suite. Full-screen modes in iPhoto ’11 give you a bigger workspace for putting together a thoughtful photo present. If you want to make a travel book of a recent trip, the dynamic Theme Browser is where each theme is stored, and it displays how selected images will look. Once you’ve chosen a theme, the Autoflow tool goes to work, instantly placing the images for you. Page layouts can be adjusted in just a few clicks, and you can get an overview of how the whole design looks. Photos with a higher rating are featured more prominently. Face detection makes sure your people shots are cropped and framed correctly. List Price: $49 (13×10-inch with 20 pages). Contact: Apple, (800) MY-APPLE, www.apple.com.
ARTISTIC PHOTO CANVAS
If you want to give a special print to a loved one, go above and beyond what your home printer can do by turning the image into a gallery wrap. Artistic Photo Canvas allows you to convert a photo to black-and-white or sepia for a more classic-looking print. Or if you have a scenic landscape or portrait that may look better as a painting, APC offers a Brush Strokes technique that simulates the look of an oil painting. Fine details are muted to give the image a more authentic look while key elements, like facial features, are preserved. A Texturizing Gel Coat can be applied to even make it feel like a painting. List Price: $49 (8×10-inch wrap). Contact: Artistic Photo Canvas, (888) 992-2682, www.artisticphotocanvas.com.
On the higher end of the online-publishing spectrum is AsukaBook. The holidays are a special time, and this is a nice way to make a statement with your photographs. After registering on their site, you can do the layout yourself or enlist the services of Red Boot Design, a group of pros that are part of Kubota Photo Design. An extensive assortment of book formats is available, including stitch-bound and book-bound, with various cover and page-finish options. Zen Layflat and NeoClassic are two of the book lines. Zen Layflat features a laminate finish to protect the pages, and it continues seamlessly into the binding of the book. NeoClassic is more traditional with thicker, board-type pages. List Price: Available upon request. Contact: AuskaBook, (866) 330-1530, www.asukabook.com.
Cards make for ideal gifts because they’re meaningful, easy, inexpensive and fun to make. For showing off multiple images in just one holiday card, Bay Photo offers trifolded and accordion-folded designs. The press-printed cards are available in 11 different paper types, including an ecofriendly option made of uncoated, recycled paper. You can create your own template or use ones created by professional designers. Additionally, Bay Photo offers an extensive lineup of other products that make for nice gifts, including calendars, canvas prints and books. For books, there are hundreds of customizable page-layout templates to choose from, and hardcovers are available in lustre, metallic or canvas surfaces. List Price: $44 (pack of 25 accordion-folded cards); $46 (8×10-inch linen hardcover). Contact: Bay Photo, (800) 435-6686, www.bayphoto.com.
If your family and friends do most of their reading on an iPad, Kindle or other tablet, give them a photography ebook for the holidays. BookBaby uses a template system that’s easy to use and gives you complete design control. Features include drag-and-drop widgets, customizable backgrounds and banner images, social-media integration, easy blog capabilities, and unlimited pages, email accounts and bandwidth. If you’d like to sell what you’ve created, the electronic publisher makes the ebook available to Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other digital retailers. List Price: Starts at $99. Contact: BookBaby, (877) 961-6878, www.bookbaby.com.
Blurb delivers a very hands-on approach to making a holiday photo book. After downloading their free bookmaking software, called BookSmart, you can import pictures and add text to professionally designed book templates and page layouts. You also can choose to drag and drop content onto pages that are fully customizable. The controls to adjust the layouts are very intuitive. Blurb Bookify is a streamlined online bookmaking tool that gives you access to a collection of the most popular layouts, fonts and design elements. Once an image is dropped onto a page, the page designs itself. The keys here are ease and portability. Since you don’t have to download anything, you can work from more than one computer. You also can turn the print creation into an ebook for your iPad or iPhone. List Price: $33 (hardcover with dust jacket and 21-40 pages). Contact: Blurb, www.blurp.com.
Step outside the realm of cards and books with some fun novelty ideas. Mpix offers quite the variety with holiday ornaments, key chains, simulated magazine covers and even puzzles. If you want to really go for the "wow" factor, have an image blown up to a life-sized print for hanging on a wall. Wall Clings,
as Mpix calls them, stand up to 72 inches tall and adhere to practically any wall surface. Their gallery wraps are another popular option. Available in 13 sizes from 8×10 to 24×36 inches, your image is printed on high-quality canvas that’s wrapped around a 1.5-inch wooden stretcher frame and ready for hanging. List Price: $40 (18×12-inch wall cling); $55 (8×10-inch wrap). Contact: Mpix, www.mpix.com.
PHOTO BOOK PRESS
Photo Book Press offers a level of quality and craftsmanship that enables you to give a book that’s truly worthy of coffee-table display. Pages are printed on 120-pound archival paper that’s heavyweight yet flexible. Covers can be photographic or made from a number of fabrics including full grain and bonded leather. The PhotoBook Design Tool is free and has a Fast Track automatic design option or a custom do-it-yourself option. Books can be started, saved and resumed whenever you want. You also can use Photoshop, InDesign or other software as long as you follow the submission guidelines. A third option is to have a Photo Book Press designer lay out the book. Just upload your images to their FTP or send them on a disk. Hand-sewn bindings allow the book to lay flat when open. There’s also a glued-spine option, which is less expensive. List Price: Starts at $159. Contact: Photo Book Press, (888) 333-6950, www.photobookpress.com.
With a variety of card designs to choose from, Photographer’s Edge makes sending a personalized holiday photo greeting simple and fast. Just pick the design and the frame that best suits your photo—oval, small window or large window—and you’re done. The ecofriendly cards are made from recycled, textured card stock and printed with a soybean-based ink. Photographer’s Edge makes a variety of cards for other occasions, as well. List Price: Varies by size. Contact: Photographer’s Edge, (800) 550-9254, www.photographersedge.com.