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December 27, 2014

A Creative Gift

December 27, 2014

This Christmas, I wanted to surprise my friends (and host family during my sabbatical) by making them something special. Something that would remind them of our time together, the inspiring places they showed me, and to thank them for helping to create so many life-long memories for me.

At first, I thought about writing a song for them, but then realized that I wanted it to be something more tangible, something they might save or even display. You may not know, but I consider myself to be something of an amateur photographer — so I decided to create one of those custom photo books, showcasing my best photographs from the hundreds that I shot during my stay in England.

I researched many of the custom photo book websites and apps out there to find the one best for my purposes. I use iPhoto and iCloud photo streams to organize and manage my personal photos, and I wanted to do the creation of the book itself on my iPad. I wanted options for truly highlighting various photo sizes and layouts (versus text) and I wanted the book itself to be of a higher quality (hard cover, museum quality photo paper, etc.) Also, I knew from having created these types of photo books before, that the actual book design/building part is often the most frustrating (uploading, selecting and layout of images while designing the book), so I wanted an app that would be as easy to use and intuitive as possible. I chose the iPad app Impressed.

Once I downloaded the app, creating my book was quite easy. The app easily accesses your photos from your iPad, iPhone, iPhoto, PC, Dropbox, Facebook, or Instagram (they even have some instagram-specific layout styles to maximize square photo formats). When designing a book, you first select the number of images you need (depends on the product and book size) and then you can either drag and drop your selected photos onto individual spots/pages manually, or you can ask their 'bot' to auto-magically layout your photos. I did the latter to make it easier, and then simply went through and edited image placements as I needed to. The drag and drop interface uses basic touch controls for zooming and cropping images within their various 'frames'. After I had my images in place, it was easy to preview my book before I placed my order.  

Altogether, it took me less than an hour to build, and a little over 2 weeks for the book to arrive, and I must say, as cliché as it sounds, I am impressed. It looks and feels like a museum-quality coffee-table book, a custom, creative gift that honors what they created for me — a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Today's prompt: "Time to show off your handiwork: what did you make this year? Share something personal, like a song or art. What inspired you? Was the finished work what you initially imagined? Or a work project – what was the process? The end result? Share your vision...and your work!"

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