We all like giving good gifts, ones that are used and appreciated for years to come. Personal, creative gifts that mean something to those giving and receiving them.
However, as much as I would like to be, I am not the crafty, creative type. And trust me, a hot glue gun or crochet hook in the wrong hands does not a meaningful gift make. My blood pressure goes up just thinking about it.
But I have always loved the idea of creating personal, meaningful gifts. Enter Shutterfly photo books and calendars. No scissors, no glue, no mess. Once finished, you just click order and wait for the shiny orange and white package to arrive on your (or your loved one’s) doorstep. That I can do.
I have tried three other photo sharing sites in the past, and Shutterfly is my hands-down favorite. Their site is user-friendly, their backgrounds and layouts fit every style, and their products are beautiful every time.
Over the years, I have made gifts from several different Shutterfly products, but my favorite options are the photo books and calendars. Here are a few ideas for creating these personalized gifts:
Photo Books for Parents or Grandparents or…
2012 marks the seventh year in a row my four siblings and I will create a Shutterfly photo book for my parents as a group Christmas gift. My husband’s siblings have started the same tradition for my mother-in-law. There are five of us kids in my family and four on my husband’s side, all grown with families of our own now. Even though we are spread out and not always able to spend holidays together, this is a unique way we can get together (online) and give our parents something meaningful from all of us.
The books act as a family yearbook, a fun (and growing) collection of memories on the shelf. This is perfect for my parents who rarely take pictures, as well as my mother-in-law who takes billions of pictures but doesn’t do anything with them. Either way, our parents are getting our photos and words collected in one nicely bound book.
Here’s how our families organize it:
- Start a new photo book in your Shutterfly account.
- Figure out the number of pages you want in your book. We usually do several pages for each sibling/family, as well as multiple pages for family gatherings, trips, or reunions. This is also a neat place to mark new additions to the family, with any weddings or births that occurred during the year.
- Send out an email to all involved, giving them your password (change it before/after the project if you don’t trust your brother, even after all these years), a list of each family’s pages, and a deadline for everything to be completed.
- Have one person make finishing touches and order. Send a quick email to let everyone know the final amount. Split between multiple people, these books are crazy cheap, especially with the many discounts Shutterfly offers.
- Give as a gift. Prepare for big smiles and a few tears.
You could also just focus on one trip, outing, wedding, birth, retirement, or anniversary, giving friends or family members a beautiful book to remember a special time in their lives. We have done books for each of our big family trips to Disneyland and printed out multiple copies for everyone who went with us. Super fun way to remember the trip AND makes a great Christmas gift. Double win.
You could also make a photo book each year as kind of a digital calendar for your family (2-3 pages of pictures from each month of the year). Give a photo book to grandparents as a gift each year and as a bonus? You’re forced to DO something with all your pictures each year and you get a keepsake for your own family.
Whether you create books with others or all on your own, photo books are an inexpensive yet priceless gift for any loved one in your life.
Photo Books for Kids
I have also put together small family albums for both of my children. They sit on their bookshelf, tucked in between other favorite books. After 2-3 years, the pages are well worn and the books are well loved. Kids love listening to their own life stories, and it’s great to have photos attached to each one.
It’s also an important visual connection to family members who live far away. Thanks to these albums, our kids know their cousins living in Alaska and Australia even though we only see them once a year.
This week I am creating a photo book for my 4-year old daughter as a Christmas gift from… her very favorite stuffed animal. Yep, I am going to write a little story and take pictures of that silly bear to go along with it. She’s going to flip out when she opens it. I can’t wait to see her face.
Another idea: milestone birthday gifts! I know someone who collects personal letters from adults who are important to her child before their thirteenth birthday. She types the letters into a Shutterfly album, adding photographs for a very special birthday gift they will hang onto for the rest of their lives. Cool idea!
Photo Books for Retirement
When my Dad retired after years working in the school district as a Superintendent, I collected old photos of him, newspaper articles and written memories from his friends and colleagues. I scanned in photos to put into a photo book and typed up the memories directly in Shutterfly to add into the book layout. I even scanned in a few handwritten notes.
This was such a great way to put together a small keepsake to commemorate all his years with the school and help him understand how much he meant to those who worked for him.
Personalized Photo Calendars
Who doesn’t like receiving a nice calendar, especially one plastered with faces or places they love? Shutterfly calendars make beautiful, useful Christmas gifts. There are tons of cool designs to choose from, and you can personalize the dates (national holidays as well as personal anniversaries or birthdays) you want featured on each calendar.
My siblings and I also put together a calendar each year for my parents. They are super fast and easy because the pictures are already uploaded for the photo books, and our dates are saved from the previous year. Each month features pictures of those whose birthdays and/or anniversaries fall on that month.
If you’re looking for more unique gift ideas, check out their HUGE idea page. Find inspiration for Halloween, Mother’s Day, graduation, weddings and so much more.
Shutterfly always has tons of great specials going on and you can usually combine promo codes. If you find a promo code or get something in the mail, you can easily add it into your account and save it for later. Look for deals like free shipping, percent off discounts on photo books and calendars or bonus free layout pages in your photo books.
One quick last note about their customer service. I had a photo book show up with some of the pages glued together and I needed it for that coming weekend. I hopped on the Shutterfly chat and the guy I talked to said he would do all he could to get me another book in time (it showed up one day early even!) AND he refunded my original shipping charge. I was really pleased and gives me even more faith in using Shutterfly in the future.
I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite photo gift to give a friend or loved one?
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Check out all of our great gift guides here.
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