Photobox’s resident gift guru, Matt James of Party-Ideas-by-a-Pro, is an award-winning party planner who’s produced birthdays, weddings, and events for A-list celebrities such as Stella McCartney, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sir Elton John. He shares his inspirational ideas for using Photobox products to create thoughtful and meaningful Christmas gifts.

 

Photographs often make the most meaningful gifts, allowing us to celebrate our relationships in a uniquely personal way. But they don’t really allow us to communicate our feelings towards someone – to speak from the heart.

Often it takes a special occasion for us to express what someone means to us. We tell dad we love him on Father’s Day or we remind a mate that she’s our best friend on her birthday (1am slurrings after several bottles of Prosecco don’t count). But the moment is fleeting. Being able to capture those sentiments in a photograph allows that person to be reminded of them over and over again. Sometimes you literally need to spell it out for them.

Heart and Sole combines the style of modern portrait photography – natural, relaxed, informal – with the opportunity to affirm relationships or express heartfelt feelings in a playful and creative manner. It avoids seeming cheesy.


1. How it works

There are two different ways to approach this idea. The first is to use it communicate a specific sentiment, such as ‘We Love You Nana’ or ‘You Are Our Hero’. Alternatively, you can use it to affirm a relationship, such as ‘Best Friends’, ‘Sisters’, or ‘Family’.

The beauty of this idea is its simplicity, so you want that to be reflected in the tone of the image. Aim for a relaxed, natural vibe, you don’t want it to look too posed or formal. Especially if you’re expressing sentiments, as you want everything to feel real and authentic.

To get the feet and faces in shot, you’ll need to get down and lay on the ground to get the angle right. Bear in mind, when you focus the camera lens on the feet, the faces won’t be perfectly sharp. This somewhat defies the traditional rules of portrait photography but as this is a modern, informal photo, don’t worry too much if faces are a little soft. The sentiment being communicated is far more important that ensuring everything looks perfect.

Of course, you don’t even need to have faces in the photo. You can create a more artistic image by fully or partially cropping out the faces; especially when it’s already obvious from the words written on their feet who is in the photo, for example ‘Sisters’ or ‘Cousins’. Leaving a little to the imagination can be a lot more captivating.

Check out my practical tips for taking photos from above at the end of this page.


2. Who it’s for

These Heart and Sole photos lend themselves well to family portraits and would make a touching Christmas or birthday gift for a grandparent. You could spell out a heartfelt message, the family name or even just the word ‘family’.

However, you don’t have to include the entire family for it to still make a thoughtful gift for a parent. Photographing just siblings together, spelling out ‘We Love You Mum/Dad’ or ‘Sisters’, would make a beautiful surprise gift for Mother/Father’s Day.

Alternatively, if you do want to include everyone in the photo, focus on making the actual gift – a Photobox Canvas or a Timeless Framed Print – the surprise element. Get everyone together to take the photo well in advance (and try not to let them see the final image). Hopefully they’ll have forgotten about it by the time the special occasion comes around.

Of course, this idea need not be limited just to family portraits. It would work equally well with either a best friend or a group of friends, perhaps for an 18th, 21st, 30th, or 40th birthday gift – or as a cunning gift for a girlfriend. You could secretly get all her besties together for a group shot without her knowing. It would make amazing surprise and I imagine she’d be pretty impressed by the effort you’d gone to. Or if it’s a friend’s wedding anniversary, you could reassemble all their bridesmaids to create a wonderfully nostalgic gift. There are lots of possibilities.

Alternatively, Heart and Sole would make a beautifully sentimental Christmas present for your own group of friends. While they’ll no doubt all want a copy of the photo following the shoot, instead, surprise them all by having it reproduced on one of Photobox’s many gift options, such as a canvas, throw cushion, phone case.


1. How to turn it into a gift

Heart and Sole is all about expressing affection and affirming relationships, so I recommend giving it in the form of a gift that they can display or use in their everyday life. That way, they’ll get more pleasure out of seeing it often.

Wall Art

Frame it, supersize it, or have it printed onto Canvas, this idea lends itself perfectly to a range of Photobox’s wall art gifts. You’ve got lots of different options – from Posters or Framed Prints to Wooden Wall Art – so your recipient can enjoy your creation every day.

Desktop gifts

Alternatively, your recipient might prefer taking their family/friends to work each day. Try putting your Heart and Sole portrait onto a Wooden Desk Print, freestanding Photo Block or Mug. Check out all the options here.

Everyday gifts

Photobox has numerous other small gifts, such as Phone/iPad cases, Cushions, Personalised Beach Towels, Jigsaws, and more – all of which you could customize with your Heart and Sole portrait.

Christmas cards

Finally, you could also use your Heart and Sole portrait to create a unique family Christmas cards to send out for the festive season.

Tips

Here are some of my pro tips for creating your Heart and Sole portrait.

1. Choose the gift

Before you set about creating the photograph, think about which gift from the Photobox range you want to apply it to. This might influence whether the portrait would work best as a square or landscape image, which in turn might affect how many people you include in your portrait.

For example, if it’s just two people in your portrait, this often works best as a square image. Whereas, for larger groups you often need the space you get from a landscape.

2. Photography tips

Whether you’re shooting all the photos yourself or asking people to take their own and send to you, be sure to communicate the following points:

  • Lighting: the simplicity of this type of photograph means it lends itself well to shooting outside in natural light. However, if you are shooting inside, you might want to consider using window light, which is typically soft and therefore perfect for portraits. Just Google ‘photography window light’ for lots of useful tips.
  • Ground / background: I think these types of images look best the more simple and less cluttered they are, so think about shooting up against a plain wall, on grass or on a textured stone floor. Try to avoid anything busy or patterned as it just distracts the eye.
  • Clothes: what type of clothes everyone should wear? Smart dress or are you happy with more casual jeans and t-shirts? Try to avoid a colour-coordinated, matchy-matchy approach, it just looks contrived.
  • Writing: don’t forget to source an appropriate type of pen to write on people’s feet. You can pick up ink skin markers, used for sporting events, on Amazon that are made with skin-safe cosmetics and come off with soap and water, or experiment with something like lipstick.
  • Angle: you’ll need to either lay down on the floor and shoot straight ahead or have everyone raised higher than the camera and shoot up.
  • Focus: play around with different points of focus to find the best balance between feet and faces. But you’ll probably want to make the feet the focus point, even if it does mean the faces aren’t perfectly sharp.
  • Expressions: try several different facial expressions, such as laughing or smiling, to see what looks best. Don’t forget to tell everyone where their eyes should look too. Often looking away from the camera can result in a more artistic photo.

Once you’re happy with your portrait, upload the image to Photobox and apply to your chosen gift.


Collage Canvas

Illustrations, layouts, background colours… Let your creativity run wild with a Collage Canvas.


Photo Coasters

Relive your best moments every time you have a drink – cheers!


Simple Mug

Put one of your favourite photos on a mug – plain and simple.


Collage posters

Put up all of your favourite shots in the spotlight with a supersized collage poster.


Box Framed Prints

Add depth to your creation with a 48 mm deep frame and make your snap take centre stage.


Wooden Photo Panels

Turn your best snaps into wooden works of art.


Acrylic Prints

Give your photos some serious wow-factor with an acrylic print that makes colours truly pop.


Aluminium Mounted Prints

Get your photos printed directly onto aluminium for a modern alternative to a traditional print.