If you are procrastinating on sending out christmas cards or don’t know what gifts to get for your family members, I recommend a photo book or calendar. iPhoto offers a pretty good way to create high quality photo books. (Non Mac users should skip to the end)
We created two different books during last year and sent them to some of our family members. I really like the quality of the products that Apple prints. There are some cheaper options out there, but the layout tools included in iPhoto if you have a Mac are usable and efficient.
To get started, open iPhoto. Make sure you have all the latest photos imported from your camera or sync’d from your iPhones. I like copy everything from iCloud photos into my Library, then go through my library and Flag (Cmd+.) the best ones, or give them a rating using (Cmd+5) for five stars or (Cmd+4) for four stars. If you need more granularity than a simple flag. Assigning stars can also be done using the right-click menu on each photo thumbnail. Getting any more detailed than 5 or 4 stars won’t gain you much, because when it comes time to place photos on a page it will become visually clear which photos are best in the context of a page.
Select a few photos you know you want, then click File > New Photo Book
Then add start choosing your options, sizes, base color, style. Hard cover for really premium gifts, but soft cover is still a truly excellent product. This book will look nice sitting on a grandparent’s photo shelf at the medium or large sizes.
Then you can start dragging photos on to pages. Remember that most operations in iPhoto and on a Mac in general are accomplished quickly using drag and drop. In your library view you can add aditional photos to your book project by dragging them onto the book in the left side bar.
You can auto-layout the photos or manually drag them onto a page or spread from the right sidebar.
After you have every page filled, check to see that you didn’t add too many extra pages, which increases the price quickly. Also, go in and tweak the placement of individual photos. You can zoom them in and change the position of photos to acheive a more pleasant crop. You can also take this opportunity to correct problems with lighting and red-eye as much as possible. You will probably start getting annoyed that you didn’t take better pictures this year and you can promise yourself that this next year you will take more family photos!
After all is said and done, click Buy Book and order them. If you wan’t Apple to ship multiple copies to multiple addresses you will have to go through the Buy Book process once for each destination. Different shipping speed are avaialable.
If you don’t have a Mac, an option to consider is Shutterfly they have many products including calendars and Photo Books. The prices seem similar to Apple’s. Some products are a bit more expensive. Click into Design Studio to get started. Walmart.com has a photo product designer too, but I thought it was ugly and hard to use.