Sending holiday cards used to mean choosing a few boxes from the drugstore and sitting down to sign and stamp. But with the growth of Internet photo sites like Shutterfly, Minted and Tinyprints, creating a flawless card has become easier, but also can seem like a competitive and all-consuming sport.
Each season, mailboxes are deluged with family missives that look more like fashion magazine shoots than favorite snapshots.
“People in general are taking much more care about how they do their cards,” says Minted founder and CEO Mariam Naficy. “They are putting out so little mail that they want that once piece of mail they send to friends and family to be very unique and express their style. Nobody wants to feel cookie-cutter.”
But with holiday cards, unique teeters into terrible with alarming ease. Fourteen photos on one card? Everyone sporting neon scarves? Too many choices can lead to trouble. But with this advice from expert designers and photographers, creating a card worthy of being displayed until Valentine’s Day is easier than shopping for the in-laws.
“When people plan it ahead of time, it’s really stunning,” Carmel says. You may want to spend some time exploring some of the holiday card websites to start brainstorming about size, shapes and formats that are available this year. That may inspire you to try something different from previous years.
Minted’s Naficy says a new line of cards with gold and silver embossed foil over the photos is popular on her site, as well as effects such as ombre and watercolor. She adds that she is seeing flat cards win out over more traditional folded ones because they are better suited for many of the new designs, and make less use of photo paper cards, which don’t have the quality feel of matte paper.
“It adds a lot more to the image when people are wearing things they normally wear and like to wear,” adds local photographer Lisa Smiley. She says that it’s also important to make sure everyone is comfortable in what they have on. “It comes across in their expressions when they are uncomfortable, especially in kids and men,” she warns.
With that investment, going this route often means getting more than a card out of the deal. Experts advise using the opportunity to have a family portrait done, with the holiday card as a secondary benefit. Carmel also advises clients to get hair and makeup done professionally. “The difference is so big,” she says. Smiley agrees, adding that it “helps to relax moms” when they know everyone is looking their best.