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Get a jump on your holiday cards

The holiday season is right around the corner—and with it comes the annual postal frenzy. This year, get a jump on the crowd with these photo-card tips.

Group think

If you’ll be taking a family photo for your holiday card, make sure you’re capturing everyone at their best. Try to schedule group shots for early or late in the day to take the best advantage of sweet light, or choose a slightly overcast day, which produces soft, diffused lighting. Group everyone as close together as possible, positioning some at a 45-degree angle to vary the composition. If you have some extra time at the end of the shoot, try at least one fun pose from an unusual angle or do a more-casual composition.

Pick a card

Although you can order photo cards right from iPhoto, you’ll get the best selection of holiday-themed borders and interesting card designs by going online. For cards that really stand out from the crowd, check out PhotoWorks. Its newest collection of holiday cards has a number of interesting designs, including some that fold out to reveal multiple photos.

Let them mail it for you

Not looking forward to addressing all of those envelopes by hand? Several online photo services offer to mail out greeting cards for you. Shutterfly goes one better—it’ll import your contacts from OS X’s Address Book, saving you a huge amount of time and effort. You can even personalize each recipient’s message so it doesn’t appear generic.

Customize your stamps

Stamps.com’s PhotoStamps application makes it easy to give your holiday cards that extra oomph. The program plugs directly into your iPhoto library, letting you work with images from any of your albums. You choose the stamp’s amount. With one click, your stamp is uploaded to the Stamps.com site for purchase. But be prepared to pay dearly for your personalized postage. A sheet of twenty 39-cent stamps costs $18.— Scholle Sawyer McFarland, Derrick Story, and Kelly Turner

Custom iPhoto layouts

What if you’d like to stick with the design tools built into iPhoto or Aperture but occasionally need a page design that doesn’t quite fit the mold—for example, if you want to overlap text and a photo, or want to add text in a layout that doesn’t accept text? If you have an image editor, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements (   ), you can create custom pages and then drop them into your iPhoto book.

In your image editor, create a page that is the same size as your photo book and set its resolution to 300 dpi. Design the page as you’d like, including text, photos, and other graphics. When you’re done, save the image as a full-quality JPEG, and then add the file to your iPhoto book project. Select the page where you’d like to use the image, and set the Page Type menu to One. Now drag the new image file onto the page. Your custom page design will fill the entire page and print at the same quality as the rest of your book.

[ Ben Long is a San Francisco–based writer and photographer. He is also the author of Getting Started with Camera Raw (Peachpit Press, 2006). ]

Go Crazy: Add a little fun to your holiday photo this year by shooting from an unusual angle. Choose an overcast day for the most-flattering light.
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