Digital Photography Help Desk

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Gifted photos & unique designs

Photo paper isn’t the only material your snapshots can be printed on. Online photo services will emblazon your photos on just about anything you can imagine. Here are a few favorites of Macworld ’s editors.

Calendar

$20; www.kodakgallery.com

While almost all of the online photo services we looked at let you put together a calendar with your favorite photos, Kodak EasyShare Gallery offered the greatest amount of flexibility. You can choose from eight designs and four different layouts for each month. You can also tweak the photo’s placement in the frame.

Making a calendar is much more labor-intensive than other gift options—it’s like designing a photo book. And creating it online proved to be particularly frustrating. Even with high-speed DSL, we often had significant waits while previews downloaded. Worst of all, the previews stopped working altogether near the end. (If this happens to you, the help desk at Kodak EasyShare suggests that you empty your Web browser’s cache.)

Diaper bag and bib

diaper bag, $60; bib, $10; www.snapfish.com

For the new parent on your shopping list, Snapfish offers a great selection of baby gear, including diaper bags and bibs. The handsome black diaper bag has a fold-out changing pad, black-and-white checkered lining, and many compartments. The bib looks nice and is a fun addition. However, the thin fabric felt a little flimsy to the parents on our staff.

Unfortunately, Snapfish doesn’t show you a preview of your photo gift as it does when you order framed photos. If you order the diaper bag, pay close attention to your image’s resolution. The bag requires a somewhat oddly sized photo: 2,350 by 1,950 pixels. To crop your image to this size in iPhoto, switch to Edit mode, set the Constrain menu to Custom, and type

1950 px
and
2350 px
in the blank fields.

If you’re giving the diaper bag as a baby-shower gift, consider using a good ultrasound photo. Some imaging labs now offer to put the photo on a CD.

Photo canvas

11-by-14-inch canvas, $74; www.canvasondemand.com

Want to turn your favorite photo into a work of art? Several places will print a digital image on stretched canvas so it resembles a painting. We chose Canvas On Demand because it offered the widest selection of sizes and retouching options. You can choose to frame the canvas or to have the photo wrap around the sides of the canvas. For an additional fee, you can have Canvas On Demand take some artistic license with your photo—to make it look like a traditional oil painting, correct scratches and other imperfections, or add additional effects.

Coasters

$20; www.shutterfly.com

Everybody needs coasters. So why not give a set that can also serve as a conversation piece? Shutterfly’s coasters come in a set of four; they have a hard, glossy surface and sturdy cork backing. And unlike some other services, which make you use the same photo for each coaster, Shutterfly lets you use a different photo for each coaster. The coasters are 3.75 inches square.

Keepsake box

$30; www.shutterfly.com

This attractive and well-crafted wooden box makes a nice home for small valuables and mementos. The box is 5 by 5 by 2.75 inches, and it’s lined in soft tan felt. Your photo appears on a plastic tile embedded in the top of the lid. Shutterfly recommends using a photo with a resolution of 1,350 by 1,350 pixels. However, our photo was slightly smaller (1,200 by 1,200 pixels), and we were still pleased with the results.

In the cards

Whether you’re sending a holiday greeting, a heartfelt thank you, or a simple hello, online photo services make it easy to turn your photos into cards.

Unique designs

Looking for something different? PhotoWorks offers a unique collection, including cards that fold up like a petal, cards with the word Joy cut out of the front, and cards that fold out to reveal multiple messages. You pay a premium for these cards (a single card can cost $4 or $5, depending on the style, and you’ll have to use additional postage for the square envelopes) but you’ll definitely make a statement. Unfortunately, you’ll need to have an abundance of patience when designing the cards. The process was surprisingly difficult, with an unintuitive interface and an annoying bug that kept erasing my latest changes. But the final results were lovely.

Going traditional

If you’re sending out a lot of cards at once, flat 4-by-8-inch prints are an economical way to go. You can buy cards like these at just about any photo service. Sony ImageStation offers a particularly nice selection of templates for just about every occasion—with attractive modern designs that won’t make you wince. This set of 20 baby announcements (which cost $11) looked great and came with a spare envelope.

Nice packages

If you like to keep a stack of note cards around for quick letters and greetings, check out Shutterfly’s attractive set of 3.5-by-5-inch cards. You get 12 cards and envelopes for $10. And everything comes in a handy pouch for easy storage. Shutterfly makes it easy to print borderless photos and even lets you place a small caption over your full-frame image—a nice touch. The site also had one of the easiest, most intuitive processes for ordering cards that I’ve seen.

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