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Photo Gift Guide | Sentimental Gifts

November 29, 2019

There’s a thrill in finding just the right gift for the people in my life. The joy of watching someone you love opening something chosen specifically with them in mind is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season. Photo related gifts often combine sentiment and nostalgia and are a great way to use imagery that represent the year and season of your life. Doing so in a way that is meaningful while not being tacky is where the challenge is. These gifts will help you to find the perfect present for even the most picky on your list this year!

Non-Cheesy Photo Christmas Gifts for Sentimental Hearts 

  1. Artifact Uprising Scrapbook: Artifact Uprising is known for their well-made, modern photo products. This fall, they launched the Artifact Uprising Scrapbook, which makes the perfect gift for the sentimental creative in your life! It allows you to fill the pages with personal photos and narration that can be handed down for generations. Not your mama’s traditional scrapbook, the design is sleek and modern and comes in many cover color options.  
  2. Photo Ornaments: My mom started putting frame ornaments on our tree when I was in elementary school. I remember eagerly unwrapping the ornaments every year, a favorite to hand on the tree, to see how we each had grown and changed over the years. Some of my favorite places to get nice, quality photo ornament frames are Crate and Barrel, West Elm, and Pottery Barn.
  3. Portrait Paintings: Did you know there are portrait artists who can turn your photos into paintings? My brother swears by Paint My Life, a company that specializes in creating paintings from pictures. He has two beautiful paintings in his home of his wife and daughter, and they catch my eye overtime I visit because of their lifelike quality. You can also find artists who specialize in this on Etsy or contact a local painter as well. My brother’s paintings are oil based, but you can also find watercolor, charcoal, or other mediums.
  4. Mixtile Gallery:  My Mixtile wall is one of my favorite in our home, giving us just another reason to spend more time as a family around our dining room table. I used a combination of iPhone and professional imagery throughout Mason’s first two years of life to create a gallery wall with these movable frames. The adhesive is not supposed to cause damage to your paint, so the design can be changed throughout the year. It could be fun to do a Christmas specific gallery wall to include in your holiday decor using fun photos from a Christmas card photo session or sentimental Christmas imagery from throughout the years!
  5. Calendar: This gift has been especially great as we’ve had a family and had grandparents to think about every holiday season. When designing calendar gifts, I love to choose photos that relate to each specific month of the year (who wouldn’t want to see a cute baby toddling through a pumpkin patch in October?!). I love Artifact Uprising and Parabo Press for quality paper and craftsmanship. As an added element to the calendar idea, you can add a special “experience” date to the calendar as part of the gift. Maybe a weekend getaway, or a special trip to visit out-of-town family. This allows you to extend the gift even further to include an experience in lieu of just a tangible gift.
  6. Uncommon Goods Retro Viewer: This one is fun and unique! You can create these retro-photo-viewers using your own imagery and is a great gift for a child or those who are children at heart! Huge nostalgia factor here for a gift for someone who “has it all” for whom you’re looking to surprise with something sentimental and unexpected.
  7. Baby Board Book : I am SO excited to create one of these for Mason this year! Artifact Uprising has outdone themselves again with this sweet gift idea. My son gets his love of looking through family photos honestly. He always visits the framed family portraits when we’re at my parents house, looking over each family member and calling out their names. With these board books from Artifact Uprising, you can create a photo book for your little with photos of the people they love (or pets, or fun memories, or places they’ve visited). This makes a great stocking stuffer or advent calendar gift to help memories come alive for your child!
  8. Playing Cards: Our grandparents love to play cards. We have spent many an hour after evening meals in both of our families  playing “Three-Thirteen” or “Shanghai Rummy” (some of my favorite memories…great generational storytelling opportunities). For Christmas a few years ago, we gave Matt’s grandparents a deck of cards with their anniversary portraits on them. Photos of grandchildren would make this a smash hit gift, for sure!
  9. CreateGiftLove Keyring: I stumbled across this shop on Etsy recently and really loved the simplicity and quality of their products. These leather keyrings are customizable, allowing you to choose the color, engraving, and photo inside. A great stocking stuffer!
  10. Hand-painted Photo Mats: I can’t take the credit for this one, it was recently shared with me by my friend Tori. While chatting about photo-related-gifts, she told me about a Christmas present her children made their grandparents last year. Tori printed beautiful black and white portraits of each of her children, and framed them using photo mats that were hand-painted by the kids (she gave them colors that would seamlessly blend in with the decor of their homes…an idea I loved!). You can find mats at local craft stores, frames through Framebridge, and I love Artifact Uprising, Parabo Press, or Photovision Prints for having prints made (those local to RVA, Richmond Camera also does an excellent job if you prefer a local lab! Remember, not all labs are created equal and ones not run by photo specialty companies may compromise color and quality). 


Gifts of Sentiment: These are some bonus ideas that aren’t necessarily related to photos, but still create heirloom quality gifts. 

  • Mama Sing My Song: Oh, my heart. I found Amanda recently on Instagram and my heart can’t take the emotion in this gift. Amanda sends her clients a questionnaire and then writes custom song lyrics for each of her clients. The video reveals are filled to the brim with love (and tears!). Could you imagine, a song for your baby written specifically with your story in mind?! What a beautiful gift idea!
  • Instax Christmas Box: This is my favorite Christmas tradition, one we began the year Mason was born. From Thanksgiving through New Year, we try to only use my Instax camera to document holiday events. We write the year on the bottom of the print, and place them in a special Christmas box. Every year when we put up our Christmas tree, we open the box to look through the images from Christmases past (I place each year in it’s own bag, so it’s easy to organize). I’m excited to one day be able to share with our children these nostalgic, printed versions of their holiday memories. It’s so easy to rely on the convenience of our iPhones, but those photos aren’t printed nearly enough!
  • Handwriting Cutting Board: The idea of this gift makes my eyes water at the thought of how special this heirloom can become. Find a recipe in a loved one’s handwriting, and you can have it transferred to a cutting board. This gift if beautiful, practical, and sentimental…a win in my book!
  • Handwriting Jewelry: My mother gave me a necklace last Christmas in her handwriting with the lyrics to my favorite Christmas hymn, “Repeat the Sounding Joy.” It is a piece of jewelry I’ll always treasure. You can find old letters from loved ones no longer with us and surprise someone with a gift they will never anticipate but always love!

(Portraits of Mason and I by the incredible Natalie Jayne)


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