Writing the Holiday Card Letter

So you’ve decided the write a letter to include with your holiday card. Every year you’ve read the letters from your friends and thought to yourself “I’ll do that next year.” Well this is it!

If you’re like me, you have a favorite style that you look forward to reading. And it’s likely not the 3-page version that chronicles each and every event that occurred in the family’s past 12 months! In the final part of this series, I’ll share some pitfalls to holiday letter writing and some suggestions for sharing the best of your year!

Guidelines for Writing a Holiday Letter (that everyone will read)!

  1. Sharing accomplishments can be tricky. If you only include the highlights without sprinkling some real life challenges along the way, it can be off-putting. 
  2. Don’t use a tiny or script-type font that’s barely distinguishable. If the average reader needs a magnifying lens to read your letter – it’s too small.
  3. Share milestone events without too much elaboration. I’d venture to guess that most mailing lists include a mix of close friends, family and those we only communicate with during the holidays. I’m going out on a limb here, but in my opinion, most readers aren’t interested in the elaborate details.  
  4. Medical updates are another tricky area. Our loved ones care about our health but unlikely to be interested in the gory stuff. So if you’re thinking about how to include the x-rays from your latest operation, guess again! Just sayin!
  5. Poems can be fun to write and nauseating to read. They can be cute or downright cheesy. Is that what you’re going for? Just my opinion.
  6. Be careful how you share your travels because frankly, it can sound braggadocious. “We took a trip to Italy” sounds better than “Our luxury trip to Italy started with a private guide through Florence.” Even if the second version is true, why are you sharing this?
  7. Who really cares about your letter? If you’ve keep it brief and newsy, it might work to share it with the whole list. However, do your work acquaintances care about your children’s achievements? Might want to spare them the trouble.  
  8. Do you have something to share? Some years have more news/updates than others. The photos can be the update. Wouldn’t you agree that a photo of your daughter’s wedding tells the story?
  9. Include a hand-written note. Even if you’ve included a letter, you could at least sign your name or include a short phrase such as “Always look forward to hearing from you”. 

Xmas Card 2012 Custom - Page 003

Writing a holiday letter doesn’t have to be difficult. You can involve your family and let each person write their own year’s summary. If you would like some help with this process, contact us. We can help you share your year’s story.

Choosing the Right Photos for your Holiday Card

This is the year. You’re determined to send a holiday card and you want to include photos. If this is our first time down this road, there are a three considerations: timeline, people, and style.

What’s your Timeline?

Do you want this to arrive before the holidays? Or are you content with having it arrive sometime before the New Year chimes in? The timing can affect whether you can involve a professional photographer. You need to allow enough time for scheduling the photo shoot, ordering the card, processing (1-2 weeks) and then sending it. Some card companies offer a mail option which does all the work for you. However, that’s an extra cost to factor in.

Who’s in the Photo?

Portraits-2000 Family

The people to include in your card is a pretty important decision. If you want a family group photo, then there are more pieces to the puzzle.  But don’t despair, you might already have a photo that you can use. It doesn’t have to be taken within the past month. Something from the current year is best.   

What’s Your Style?

If you want something done professionally, then you’ll need to get this scheduled pronto. Some photographers have Thanksgiving or holiday specials so if your family will be together at that time, you might just hit the timing perfectly. Select a photographer with experience so that your financial investment pays off. Portraits-1989-10 FamilyWe learned the hard way, that the local discount store deal isn’t always a sound investment. It does get the job done but not always a timeless decision. I’m thinking this faux fall background doesn’t exactly say “Classy” does it?  

Using a professional photographer is a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – to replace that out-dated photo on your mantle and to share on your holiday card!

If you go with some candid shots, these don’t have to be posed or even coordinated. Just look through photos you already have. Find moments that tell the story of a family event or milestone. Look for those photos that draw you in or capture rare events. Xmas Card 2012 Custom - Page 002You don’t have to use just one but be careful not to use too many. Keep in mind, the more photos, the smaller each one will be making it difficult to truly see the moment shared. Lesson learned….

You can easily take your own photo using your smartphone to get a pretty good picture. Just make sure you’re in good lighting. Coordinate the clothing so individuals don’t stand out. One person in a white t-shirt next to the rest of the gang in dark colors – you get the picture! A familiar environment such as your backyard can work nicely. Just pay attention to what’s in the background. Remember this is an opportunity to share an update on your family – it doesn’t need to be perfect.

For a themed photo, be mindful of your subjects. 1990-12_09One year we thought it would be cute to feature our son and the dog as “Santa and his Reindeer” theme. 1990-12_10Instead of Cute we ended up with Confused! Paying attention to the background would have been smart – notice the basket of tulips on the hearth!  

Making the Card

Selecting the photos is the hardest part. The next step is to select the card style and publisher. Over the years I’ve used Costco, Walgreens and Tiny Prints. Look for a style that matches your preferences and pricing to match your budget. Just upload the photos, add a personal message, your signature and place the order.

If you’d like some help with the mechanics of choosing photos and creating the card, let us know.  We’ve been down this road before and can help you get this done!  Just contact us and set up a phone call to learn more about how this works.

Next Step – Writing the Holiday Letter!

How to Create a Personal Holiday Card and Letter

It’s the holiday season – that time of year when holiday cards and letters arrive – in the mail!  This tradition can be a rare opportunity to reconnect with loved ones from our lives.  The card we choose, the photos we use and the message we send are telling indicators of our relationships and the things we value the most.  

We live in an age when we share more about our ideal selves and less about our true selves. Between trying to measure up to that standard and thinking about sending a holiday card, the whole process could feel absolutely overwhelming. In this 3-part series, I’ll share tips for easily creating a personal holiday card and letter. And you’ll see some real examples of the lessons my family has learned from our attempts at holiday cards through the years!

What’s the message you want to share?

Xmas Card 2012 Custom - Page 003
Our family enjoys opening cards with photos of our loved ones enjoying everyday moments and milestones together. Our holiday card is all about Christmas. We try to select photos that provide a visual update.  The past year’s blessings & challenges are shared in a short letter with plenty of humility and self-deprecating humor sprinkled in!  

So as you think about your holiday card, give some thought to the message you want to send this year. Next step, Choosing the Photos. If you like these ideas but want some help making it happen, contact us. We can help you!



Finding the Treasures

“This must seem mundane to you” said a client at the end of a recent session. The statement caught me off-guard because I would have described that past two and a half hours much differently!


During her photo organizing session, we were sorting through her print collection; identifying the best and organizing them in preparation for digitizing. This phase in the process is a combination of a fact-finding mission and a treasure hunt. One of the treasures we uncovered was a newspaper clipping of her husband as a young adult during his days as a Golden Glove boxer! She was delighted to find it and couldn’t wait to share it with him. It was such a fun reminder that her retired seventy-something husband had once been a fierce competitor! And we knew he’d enjoy sharing this moment of his past with their grandchildren!

Photo organizing is so much more than the task at hand because it’s about understanding family relationships and the stories revealed through their photos. I’m the cheerleader for their stories.  I’m the person they count on to share the heart of the matter. And I’m not just searching for milestone events, celebrations and accomplishments. I also look for the everyday moments that connect the pieces of their life puzzle together.

Sitting side-by-side as we sorted her pictures was actually fun, rewarding and a reminder of the importance of cherishing those mementos (like a newspaper clipping) to tell the story.  If this story resonates with you and you would like some help sharing your photos and mementos, contact us. We make the process fun and easy.

Storytelling – Sharing Historical Moments

Where you you when…

POW Greeting
POW greeting family.

There are times when the events in the news become personal. Something happens in your community and how you internalize that event is an important story to share.

How did this affect you, change you? Document your friends/loved ones in the story. You may not have a photo to represent that moment in history but just a personal description/account can suffice. Newspaper clippings can be useful to document events like these.


Share the tough times along with the good ones.

So often as we look through photos of loved ones, there are those photos that bring up negative emotions – sadness, anger, regret. While difficult, they are part of your story and your family’s  history. Share how you overcame that challenge. If the details are too painful to share in words, the story can be told through pictures. Sometimes it’s ok to include the wedding picture of a since divorced couple. Keep in mind whose story is being told. When we come across these kinds of photos, we will ask our clients how they feel when they look them. If they still evoke positive emotions of a happy event then we recommend including them.  It’s a personal choice we encourage our clients to make.

No offense necessary.

However….if you are fighting the urge to literally cut someone out of your life (and out of your photos), that may be a sign to take another approach. You can choose to leave them alone, share them with someone who still cares about them or discard them. It truly depends upon your situation. Our motto is to err on the side of caution!

Storytelling is a necessary part of keeping our family legacy alive and authentic. Sharing the delicate topics can be tough but they are part of our story.  They help future generations see the resilience of those that came before them.

Our passion is to help our clients choose and tell the stories that have meaning to them. If you would like some guidance in this area, contact us. We make the process easy while helping you find the words to share stories from your personal perspective.

Print Organizing Part 3: Securing Your Photos

Once you have selected the prints you want to keep, they should be stored in archive quality, lignin free containers. They should also be kept in a location that’s temperate – not too dry or humid and with a moderate temperature – not too hot or too cold. Photos and memorabilia can deteriorate if not kept in the right conditions.


When you are ready to scan, decide whether you’ll be doing the scanning or if you will be outsourcing it. If you’re going to outsource, it helps to communicate your preferences and system to the person or company doing the scanning. Then when you upload your digitized photos onto your computer, the system you’ve spent so much time creating is kept intact. You’ll want to ask your scanner to name the photos according to the categories you’ve created. You’ll sometimes be charged an extra fee for this but it will save you time in the future. For example if you have organized a year’s worth of photos into monthly divisions, give that information to your scanner so the photos are named accordingly.

With the sorting boxes and index divider system, photos are grouped and named according to each section. Some scanning companies prefer that you use envelopes or zip lock bags to keep photo groups sealed and separated from each other. Ask your scanning company for their preference so that you are getting the outcome you expect for your scanned images. If you are doing the scanning, then keep each category together and then name the images by the category. This will help to group your photos together.

Congratulations. Before you know it you’ll be enjoying and sharing those memories with family and friends.  To speed up the process, you can contact us to help you.  For more information on how we can help you secure your photos, go to our Services page.


Print Organizing Part 2: Selecting Your Favorites

As you think about which photos to keep, you’re likely thinking about sharing them with family and friends. While you can share the extra copies, we prefer sharing digital copies.  This means your prints will need to be digitized.  Since this is a bit of an investment, you have some things to consider: Scan now, select and organize later or Organize now and then scan the best ones. We like to organize before scanning because it’s easier to build upon this system and use it for all digital photos. And you avoid the cost of scanning photos you don’t want to keep – especially those duplicates and blurry shots.

Organized stacks

Getting Picky – What’s Worth Keeping?

If you’re like most people, your photo collection includes some great shots, duplicates, a few blurry pictures and the ones that tell a story.  Using the ABC’S as our acronym, this will be our guide for how to select our favorites. The “A” photos are the ones you like the best – typically the ones that you liked so much you ordered reprints of them. You may even have them in an album. These are the ones you want to highlight, preserve and share with family and friends.

If you have photos in albums, you will need to consider whether to keep them in place or remove them from the album.  If the pages of the album are the old, magnetic sticky sheets, then it’s best to remove them from the album to avoid further deterioration.  Since someone spent the time to carefully group photos together, you’ll want to pay attention to this and keep them in the same sequence. However, if you cannot remove the photos from the album, they can be scanned while still adhered to the album.

2002-03_Sam_2nd Grade_00001A
A treasured note from the teacher!

Memorabilia can and should be scanned for safe keeping.  Include this in your organizing system so that when the digital versions are uploaded to your computer, you can easily locate them following the same system.

The “B” photos are those shots that are close to the same quality as the Album-worthy shots, but you don’t think they are as important to showcase. You should still digitize these for safe keeping so include them in your “To be Scanned” box. An example of a “B” photo might be a look-alike version of a pose – might not be the best one but still good for preserving.

The “C” photos are usually an easy decision. These are the blurry or under/over exposed shots.  Or they may be photos of people you don’t remember! No need to scan a picture of a stranger – unless it’s an heirloom photo! Discard similar shots of the same view or pose. Then use a genealogist to help you identify it! If they are duplicates you can consider passing them along to family/friends or putting them aside to use for craft projects.

Telling the Story

Sometimes the story-worthy photos aren’t the best quality shots but the only copy you have to commemorate that event. You’ll want to keep this in mind as you select your photos to be digitized. As you think about how to group/categorize your photos, think about your preferences – chronological, themes, people and special events.

If you’re creating a life book or showcasing eras, organizing chronologically is typically the way to go. If you want to showcase interests, traditions or events then theme-based organizing works well. There’s no right or wrong way to group your photos – keep in mind how you remember events and traditions. Some folks are great at recalling dates, while others work better with themes!

As you find or recall important details such as the date, event name and location, document these on the index cards.  Or you can create a spreadsheet to list them in chronological order.  This is especially helpful when you are ready to put together a photo album or a slideshow.  Then the process of telling the story is easier because all the pieces are organized together.

Selecting photos can feel like a huge responsibility. If tackling this on your own seems daunting, send me an email. We have a keen eye for recognizing those important story telling details.

Next Step – Securing your Photos