Create Photo Gift Ideas That Wow — Even at the Last Minute

by Norma Gaffin, Staples

Photo gifts are always personal, one-of-a-kind items. And now there are so many options, from custom coasters and playing cards to calendars and photo books — some you can order and pick up on the same day (perfect if you’re a procrastinator who’s always looking for unique personalized gift ideas at the last minute).

But too often, people just upload a photo and call it a day. We’re going to help you take these personalized gifts to the next level. Try out these photo gift ideas, whether for a birthday, anniversary, holiday or even a calendar gift, these photogift ideas will help you give a present that wows.

Kids’ Books

Contrary to popular belief, photo gifts aren’t just for grandparents, parents and significant others. You can use the photo book format to create unique gifts for children. Use family pictures to create a “My Family” book, or take pictures of cherished toys for a “My Favorite Things” book. You can make an A–Z book with photos of items representing each letter. Or even tell a story with the child’s favorite stuffed toy as the star — just take the toy when your child is sleeping, photograph it in different scenes and then write short, simple narration to go with each image.


Whether you’re a chef or a hostess, or have a family with a history of tasty eats, you can compile recipes and photos in a photo book or custom calendar to create a very special gift. Spend a day cooking, then pair images of the final products with their recipes. If you’ve been hosting the best parties all year long and want to compile recipes of the best eats for your friends, pair them with pics from your different gatherings. And of course, if you don’t have the time to cook and take photos of each dish, nothing goes better with family recipes than family photos.

Think Big: Wall Art

Enlargements turn photographs into wall art, and you have a number of options here. First, remember that you can use a single photograph or creative image, or some sort of a collage, using one of the other ideas mentioned here. And then you have just as many options for going large: photo enlargements (available in 11” x 14” – 20” x 30”), photo canvases (8” x 10” – 60” x 20”) or even engineering prints (18” x 24” – 36” x 48”). Engineering prints are great for large images you might want to then mount on foam board, and you can be very creative with them. For example, you can make an oversized photo booth–style strip by taking four photos, cropping them to about the same size and adding a black border to each. Then put the images in an 18”x24” file and order it as an engineering print.

Personalized Newspaper or Magazine Covers

Get creative and turn a picture of your child in a superhero costume from Halloween into a newspaper cover. If you have the skills, you can even write a newspaper article to go along with it. Similarly, you could create a magazine cover with your Teen Vogue Girl of the Year. Once you have your assembled graphic, just turn it into a jpeg file so you can use it as you would a photo. Have it printed as a photo enlargement or as an oversized engineering print.


If you’ve been on any social network lately, you’ve likely been throwing it back every Thursday with pics from the past. Jump on this trend and create a Throwback Thursday photo gift. Choose pics throughout the school years for good friends, or just pictures from when you were younger to create a cherished present for a friend or family member.

Year in Review

Photo gifts are a great way to capture the year that was. Whether you’re creating a photo book, calendar or wall art, you can easily commemorate your favorite memories. On a calendar, choose pictures that correspond with each year in the new year. In a photo book you have more space to tell your year’s story. If you’re thinking of giving someone an enlarged print or photo canvas, opt for a collage — or splice together four pics, maybe one from each season. These ideas can even work on a photo mug.

Instagram It

So many people are now familiar with Instagram’s perfectly square shots. Get inspired and put images together to create a gift that looks like an Instagram feed. Or surprise a friend with a gift that showcases their most popular Instagram photos. Of course, it’s a good idea to know your audience and make sure the recipient would appreciate you doing that and would not perceived it as crossing a line.

Not Just Your Photographs

Speaking of Instagram, social networks give you access to a number of photos beyond your own. But as mentioned, exercise caution. It might be great to leverage your sister’s Facebook photos or your husband’s Instagram account, but cyber-stalking a co-worker may make things uncomfortable. But for those you do know well, a compilation of their favorite personal photos could be an amazing surprise gift.

Other Last-Minute Unique Personalized Gift Ideas

Did you forget about a present, or are you the type of person who always pushes gift shopping to the last possible moment? Get your recipients gifts that look thoughtful and well planned. Calendars, photo enlargements and engineering prints are all available on the same day. And if you don’t have a perfect photo, don’t worry. With our sports and art prints, you can choose from thousands of images in three sizes, from NFL and NBA to fine art, cityscapes and nature — also available on the same day. Just visit a Staples Copy & Print Center location or click on one of the links embedded in this article to get started.

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