What a Pro Is Gifting
By Deborah Loeb Bohren
In today’s online digital world, we are programmed to look at photos on our phones, tablets and computers. But turning that intangible electronic into a powerful keepsake or gift, means taking your photo out of the computer and into the real world. In other words, the power of the print makes for great gift giving.
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I am always printing my photos. I grew up in a traditional darkroom when paper prints were the only option and one thing I learned over the years is that how I print the photograph makes a big difference in how the final image not only looks, but feels.
So when I want to take one of my images from .jpg to gift, I start by asking myself some questions: What is it a picture of? a baby? a landscape? vacation hijinks? Do I want the photo to feel traditional, timeless, or contemporary? Do I want to print on paper or something different? Will it go on a wall or sit on a desk? Framed or frameless?
From acrylic to wood, there are a wide range of options to choose from when you want to create the perfect photo gift, and several professional level specialty labs that offer user-friendly interfaces and consumer-friendly pricing to help you creatively and easily create a very special photo for giving.
Traditional Paper Prints
To start, if you own a photo inkjet printer, then by all means print the gift yourself! There are a myriad of photo papers to choose from: ultra glossy, semi-gloss, lustre, metallic and matte. For me, a heavy fine art matte paper like Canson Infinity Rag Photographique or Epson Cold Press Bright produce deep, rich tones and a painterly feel and an elegance to the final photo.
To add a bit of shimmery pop and energy to the image, I go for a glossy metallic paper such as Vibrance Metallic by Breathing Color. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s simply a matter of personal preference.
No printer? No problem! There are a multiple services where you can create a traditional photo print to gift. My choice for classic prints if I’m not printing the image myself is Bay Photo Labs. They offer a wide array of paper choices from traditional photo papers to high end fine art papers in sizes from 2×3” all the way up to 40×60”.
For another option for a paper print, consider Artifact Uprising.
Their ultra-thick photo prints with a textured matte eggshell finish give the print a truly luxurious feel and is a wonderful choice for portraits or wedding photos.
Acrylic Photo Prints
Photo prints face-mounted under acrylic is an extremely popular printing option today. Acrylic images boast a modern, contemporary feel and produce intensely vivid colors.
These prints also gives amazing depth to an image because of the way in which light is diffracted as it passes through the acrylic to the photo itself. I’ve printed images from my “Rock On!” series in acrylic because it makes the viewer feel like they are looking through crystal clear water at the rocks.
WhiteWall is a leader in creating beautiful acrylic prints and offers three unique acrylic options particularly suited for photo gifting: the acrylic mini, acrylic block, and acrylic glass stand.
Photos on Canvas
Want to make your photo look more like one of the Old Masters than the 4×6” glossy prints we grew up with? Then consider producing it on canvas, where it will take on the feel of a classic oil painting. This can make it canvas wall art.
The image, printed directly on canvas, is wrapped around a stretcher frame, making the need for any additional framing optional. This is especially useful with large canvas prints. While I generally don’t print my images on canvas, when it came to giving a wedding portrait to my new in-laws it was the perfect choice.
Photos on Glass
One of my favorite ways to gift a photo is by having it printed on glass. Fracture infuses your image directly on to glass and then adds a paper backing to help make the colors pop. Blazing Editions uses a similar technique but doesn’t use an opaque backing making the images perfect for being lit from behind and transforming your image into a piece of stained glass. Glass photos are well-suited for wall or tabletop display giving a very modern, unique feel to your favorite picture.
Photos on Metal
Photographs printed onto aluminum is another contemporary favorite. Vivid colors and crisp detail make metal prints a great choice for landscapes, travel, and architectural images. And with a variety of options — high gloss, semi-gloss, matte and sheer — you can achieve a variety of moods by deciding how much of the metal you want to come through.
I have a colleague who produces all of his exquisite landscapes on high gloss metal and whenever I look at them, I feel like I am standing right where he was when he clicked the camera’s shutter.
Photos on Wood
Printing on wood is one of the newest options for creating a unique photo presentation. I think that wood gives the images a very organic, soft feeling and works well for landscapes and portraits.
At Bay Photo you can create wood prints to hang on the wall, sit on the desk, or as the lid of a wooden keepsake box.
And, of course, don’t forget the photo book. Photo books are always a great gift, especially if you can’t decide which one of those memorable vacation photos you want to give. Simple make a book and give them all.
Blurb is one of the most popular services for professional photographers when they want to create a book.
They offer several templates so that you can easily layout your book, as well as multiple sizes, hardback or soft covers, several paper choices and of course, an e-book option. I’m particularly partial to their smaller square book layouts, like their 7×7” template. I think they are more intimate (you can literally hold them in the palm of your hand), perfect for sharing and don’t need as many pages to feel substantial like a real book. They also offer a 5×5” Mini Square on their mobile app letting you can create a book directly from your phone.
Remember, the most important thing to think about when you embark on creating a photo gift for wall or desktop is the look and feel you want the final product to communicate. Using a professional lab and high quality papers or other unique materials can elevate the ultimate result. Each substrate will present the photo in a unique way – but there’s no right or wrong.
Experiment and find the material that you like best and that you think portrays the image in the best way. But ultimately, it’s about getting those memories out of the ether and sharing them with family and friends in a way that keeps them in plain sight.
About Deborah Loeb Bohren
Deb is a travel-inspired fine art and editorial photographer. After leaving the corporate world to pursue her passion of photography in 2012, her work is now part of private, individual, and corporate collections across the country, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and in exhibitions at the Garrison Art Center in Garrison, NY; The Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon, The Praxis Gallery In Minneapolis, MN and in the A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, TX, among others.
Deb says: “I look through a camera’s lens and move more slowly, breathe more deeply, and become part of the world around me. My images focus on the intersection and interplay of color, light, and line of everyday things to tell a story of what has been, what is, or what will – or can – be.” She offers small group photography tours and workshops. You can find out more about Deb on her two websites: