FlourishAnyway is a psychologist with a special interest in crafts as a way to relax, create, and connect with others.
Don't Let Those Old Photos Just Collect Dust
If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of your old photos calling your name. Muffled, from the back of your closet or (the innards of your computer) where you haven't touched them in years, they beckon to be enjoyed once more.
There's the old photo of your little brother dressed up as Batman, pictures that tout your '80s "big hair," snapshots of that trip to Disney World, and the ones of dear relatives and treasured pets who have long since passed. Those photos yearn to be rediscovered. What are you waiting for?
Dig them out from the closet and print the newer ones off from your computer. Don't let them sit any longer, neglected and unused. Let's do something fun with them!
A Collage of Family Memories
Project Idea #1: Photo Gift Wrap
What better way to celebrate a loved one's birthday, Mother's Day, or another personal milestone than to cover a gift in photo-themed wrapping paper? It's so easy to create, and it will lovingly remind them of their life's journey.
Use All Those Great Cat Photos!
Here are two creative ways that I've used the photo gift wrap:
Mother's Day Gift Wrap
I selected family photos of my mom's three kids at different stages, plus those of her grandchildren, several other relatives, and snapshots of her and my dad over the years.
I then wrapped her Mother's Day gifts in sheets of gift wrap that featured all of her favorite people and memories. What more appropriate way to recognize her?
"Older Than Dirt" Box of Gag Gifts
I also used the photo gift wrap when my brother turned 40. However, I added a twist. I selected photos of my brother at various stages of his life. I then wrapped both a shoe box lid and its bottom separately.
The box was filled with "Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's 40" gag gifts. Examples included a:
- magnifying glass
- a package of prunes
- men's hair dye
- an ear/nose hair trimmer
I also composed a little rhyme about my brother being "older than dirt" and enclosed a ziploc bag of crushed Oreos (minus the creme middle) with gummy worms. I don't know who loved it more—his kids or him!
Materials Needed for Photo Gift Wrap
Photos (10-15 photos per 11"x17" sheet)
Clear Scotch Tape
11"x17" piece of white paper
Instructions for Making Gift Wrap
Making photo gift wrap is easy. Here's how:
- Gather older and more recent photos of various sizes. Steer clear of images larger than 5"x7". Also avoid photos with a copyright, unless you've obtained proper permissions. Mix candid and posed shots, and include both color and black and white, if you have them. As long as the photos are personally meaningful and of reasonably good quality, differences in film quality over the years simply add to the effect.
- Arrange the images on an 11"x17" (or other large) piece of white paper, creating a collage effect. There is no need to cut photos. Simply overlap them strategically. Temporarily secure your photos to the paper using small pieces of double-sided tape or backward-rolled Scotch tape.
- Have a copy center run off several color copies of your collage using regular white 11"x17" copy paper. (Important: Make sure they do not use photo paper. You want wrapping paper that is easy to fold.) Order more copies than you think you might need due to the custom nature of your project.
- Piece together several 11"x17" photocopied sheets. Make sure to line up the patterns at an appropriate point before taping. Secure sheets on both sides with a long strand of clear tape.
- Wrap your gift as you normally would.
Project #2: Photo-Embellished Journal
Transform a basic composition book into a prized personal keepsake with your photos. These hardcover notebooks (9 3/4" x 7 1/2") are inexpensive and contain blank pages. You can find them in ruled, unruled, or even grid-lined varieties. (If you're lucky, you can pick them up for $1 or less during back-to-school sales.) Use your finished creation as a travel journal, diary, or one-of-a-kind school notebook.
A One-Of-A-Kind Composition Notebook
Adopting this as a weekend craft idea, I found it to be an enjoyable way to connect with my teen. While I embellished my composition book with family photos, she designed one of her own, using photos of school friends and selfies. She also incorporated a few photo magazine clippings of her favorite sports stars and singers. Finally, she added her name using large text cut from assorted magazines.
Here are ideas for how you could use this journal.
A "Welcome to the World" Pregnancy/Early Childhood Journal
Fill the pages with your experiences during pregnancy while you wait for your bundle of joy. Include special messages about what you wish for your child. You could document:
- family traditions
- current trends and world events
- memories of your own childhood, and
- important lessons learned from your own life.
Have other family members add their own messages. Embellish the cover with photos of family, pets, your home, the ultrasound, etc. Continue the journal with memories of your child's early development.
A Grandparenting Journal
Add images of old family snapshots to the cover, including small ones and larger ones, those in color as well as snapshots in sepia or black and white. Then ask a grandparent to document his or her life story in the journal. Consider providing Grandpa a written list of questions as writing prompts. For example: "Describe your religious life as a child," and "How did you first meet Grandma, and how did you know she was 'the one?'"
A One-Of-A-Kind School Notebook
Get crafty alongside your tween or teen and let them design their own notebook for school.
Materials Needed for Photo-Embellished Composition Notebook
color photocopies of photographs
black & write marbled composition book
1" wide foam paint brush
patterned Duct Tape
glitter glue (optional)
Instructions for Making the Photo-Embellished Composition Notebook
To create your photo-covered journal, follow these easy steps:
- Select a variety of personal photos. Also consider cutting out a few images and text from magazines. For example, clip out letters of different sizes, fonts, and colors to spell out your name or "Journal."
- Obtain color photocopies of your images on white copy paper. Do not overlap your images when you copy them. I chose to photocopy any magazine clippings I used, too, so their look and feel would be similar to my snapshots.
- Cut out the photocopied images and arrange them as desired on the front cover of the composition book. Overlap them slightly. Use Mod PodgeTM glue to secure each photo to the composition book in a collage arrangement. Make sure the photos entirely cover the composition book and extend precisely to its borders, with the exception of the left-hand side. Do not extend the photos past the composition book's black binding tape. Ensure that the images have no loose edges or wrinkles. Allow the glue to dry.
- Apply several coats of ModPodgeTMon top of your collage, allowing the glue to dry between coats. The glue can appear opaque when first applied, but it becomes transparent when dried. If you want to get truly fancy, before applying the last layer of ModPodgeTM, use glitter glue to accent small portions of your collage. Permit your work to completely dry before adding a final sealing layer of ModPodgeTM.
- When the front side is complete, repeat the process with the back cover.
- When both sides of the composition book have been embellished, cut a piece of patterned duct tape the length of the binding. Apply the duct tape to the completed notebook, placing it on top of the black binding. It will overlap with your photos slightly. (See the photos above for the great zebra print that I used.)
Memories Outside, Treasures Inside
Project 3: Keepsake Box
Store treasured mementos in a one-of-a-kind keepsake box. Add your photos to a kraft plain paper mache box and you have a customized work of art. Paper mache boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including round, oval, hexagon, rectangle, square, and heart-shaped.
Stroll through the aisle of your local craft store or search Amazon.com. You'll find that paper mache boxes have been specially designed to meet a variety of functional purposes: recipe boxes, tissue boxes, jewelry boxes, and a even a box purse.
Think of all the possibilities!
color photocopies of photographs
kraft paper mache box
1" wide foam paint brush
Instructions for the Keepsake Box
- Choose a variety of personal photos based on the size of your box. I have found that using square and rectangular paper mache boxes are easiest to work with, especially for beginners.
- Obtain color photocopies of your images on regular white copy paper.
- Cut out your photocopied images. Use ModPodgeTM glue to secure them to the surface of the box in a collage formation. Make sure there are no rough edges. Allow the ModPodgeTM to dry. Work on the base and lid separately. For the lid, gently fold the photos over the edge of the box and glue the loose edge to the inside. If you are using a box with curved edges (e.g., round, oval), reduce the chance of creases in your final product by working with smaller images and avoiding the use of excess glue under the photos.
- Apply several protective coats of ModPodgeTMon top of your collage. Allow the glue to dry between coats. (Note: The glue can appear opaque when first applied, but it dries clear.)
- When the sides are dry, repeat the process with the bottom of the box.
I gave this photo-embellished keepsake box to my grandmother when she was recovering from heart surgery, filling it with small snacks, tissues, an emergy board, hand cream, and other items she needed in the hospital. Even years later, she still keeps it handy.
Another favorite use of this box is for care packages for college students or military members away from home.
Now, Tell Us How You Did
Hopefully these projects have inspired you to make practical use of your photos. Photos were meant to be seen and enjoyed, so don't hide them.
Let us hear from you if you've been able to use these ideas. We'd love to learn about:
- your experience with the project(s)
- others' reactions to your work of art
- any fun twists that you added
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 FlourishAnyway
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 13, 2020:
Peggy - I appreciate that. It gets a lot of positive reaction to see loved ones and yourself on gift wrap.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 13, 2020:
People who are at home because of the pandemic might be looking for ideas such as the ones you shared here to make future gifts, or the innovative wrapping paper for gifts. I'll pin this to my crafts board.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 27, 2018:
Peggy - Thank you! I've used the wrapping paper as an idea for several landmark birthdays, and am using the box idea again for an upcoming graduation. Have a wonderful weekend!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 27, 2018:
There are some great ideas here for using old photos. I once made a photo album for my mother and my mother-in-law as a Christmas gift using old photos. They both loved it! I like your gift box ideas as well as wrapping paper ideas.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 17, 2015:
Susan - Thank you for the kind kudos. I do hope you are able to try it. It always gets a huge reaction from the receivers.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 16, 2015:
Heidi - Thanks so much! It was a BIG surprise to me. Have a great week.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on December 15, 2015:
Love these family photo gift ideas! I wouldn't have thought to print pictures that way on regular paper so it could be used on craft items. Great examples! Congrats on today's Hub of the Day!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 15, 2015:
Heidi - Thank you! It was a big surprise!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 15, 2015:
Such a cool idea for the holidays! BIG congrats on Hub of the Day. Well deserved. Sharing on Twitter, too. Cheers!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 15, 2015:
Kristen- There are so many things that can be done with those photos! I made my grandmother a family photo quilt, for example.
Sorry to hear about your mother. You may not have photos, but you have the memories.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on December 15, 2015:
Flourish, my friend, this was a terrific and thoughtful idea on using old photos for crafty ideas on so many special occasions. I love them all! I wish I kept my mother's photo albums last year before I threw them away after she died. I did know she did make shadow boxes, which was close enough to keepsake boxes. Congrats on HOTD!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 15, 2015:
ChitrangadaSharan - I didn't know until your comment! Thanks for stopping by and for the alert. Have a great week!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 15, 2015:
Congratulations for the HOTD!
These are brilliant ideas and so creative. I have always loved clicking pictures and thus I have so many rare, old and lovely photographs of my family. Due to the digital cameras we hardly go back to our paper photos.
Thanks for the reminder and I am going to try some of your suggestions.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on December 12, 2013:
Anna - It's a fun and personal way to let someone know you care. People really love to see themselves in these photo craft projects. Thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment!
Anna Haven from Scotland on December 12, 2013:
These are great ideas. Inexpensive, personal and very creative. I think I will give the wrapping paper a try, simple to make and it looks great.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 13, 2013:
Mariewj - I'm glad you found this useful for all those photos! I hope you get a chance to try the projects out.
mariewj on November 13, 2013:
I was actually looking for ideas on what to do with photos for some thoughtful Christmas gifts and here I found a whole lots of inspiration. Thank you.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 15, 2013:
Crafty - People love to see photos of themselves and loved ones on practical items (gift wrap, the memory box, journal). When my grandmother was in the hospital a few months ago, I gave her the memory box pictured, and it was quite the conversation starter with every nurse, visitor, doctor and cleaning person who entered her room. She was undergoing major heart surgery then rehabilitation afterwards and was especially fond of seeing photos of her own daddy and mama. Thanks for reading and commenting!
CraftytotheCore on October 15, 2013:
What fun and creative ways to use old photos! I have a ton in a bag in my closet that I was going to scrapbook with, but I can see how these ideas would make great gifts!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 02, 2013:
Dolores - Placemats are a great idea. I could see using them for kids who do not see grandparents and other far-away relatives all that often (or just for displaying photos of the kids' younger selves). Great idea. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 01, 2013:
I like the keepsake box the best - it's lovely! I once made a couple of place mats from family photographs. I had them blown up and laminated!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 18, 2013:
Au fait - Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. Your idea of a photo tag is a cute idea!
C E Clark from North Texas on August 18, 2013:
I love crafting but there is so little time for everything I have to do even before considering them. I do find time on rare occasions, or more accurately, take time.
You present some great ideas here and those people who like to make thing for Christmas need to get started pretty soon if they're going to be done in time. This hub has great ideas for gifts.
One thing I would add -- using photos on name tags instead of names. Crafted in the right way, the name tag could become a keepsake and even an ornament on the Christmas tree -- an additional little tie on to the main gift.
Enjoyed reading this hub!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 19, 2013:
Happyboomernurse - Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing. We love to keep happy memories alive this way. I hope you are able to try these easy projects!
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on July 18, 2013:
Wow! These photo craft ideas are terrific.
I especially love the gift wrap and journal projects.
You did a great job putting this hub together and including so many suggestions on how to personalize gifts.
Thanks for sharing this info.
Voted up across the board except for funny, and shared.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 02, 2013:
btrbell - Glad you like these. They are fun and easy to make and are great reminders of loved ones near and far. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on July 01, 2013:
Cute idea! Thank you! This is one I will definitely do!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 29, 2013:
Thanks for the visit, Rebecca! I do hope you are able to try one of these fun projects.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 29, 2013:
I have loads of old photos and wondering what to do with them. Thanks for these cool ideas!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 24, 2013:
Thank you for the read, comment, and vote, moonlake! I appreciate the time that you took to stop by!
moonlake from America on May 24, 2013:
I love your ideas their so easy to do and I would think people really enjoy getting wrapping paper with family on it. Thanks so much for sharing. Voted up...
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 21, 2013:
Thank you, Rajan, for the read, comment and share. Rediscovering old memories tucked away can be fun and bring people together. Hope you have a chance to take a look at your old photos sometime soon.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 21, 2013:
Beautiful and so creative! I love these ideas for making personal gifts that are personal and bring back fond memories.
Voted up, useful and beautiful.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 17, 2013:
Thank you, livingsta, for the read, comment and vote! I hope you have an opportunity to try one of these. They are fun to make and get rave reviews from recipients. Thanks for stopping by!
livingsta from United Kingdom on May 17, 2013:
This is so beautiful. What a brilliant idea?!?! Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sure anyone will love such gifts! Thank you for sharing this with us. Voted up useful and interesting. Sharing!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 09, 2013:
DREAM ON, thank you for the nice comment. I gave the keepsake box to my grandmother who is recuperating from a heart operation in the hospital, and it was a huge hit. She absolutely loved seeing all the people who loved her most. I filled the box with hand lotion, homemade goodies, and other small items. It was a great pick-me up and conversation starter, and one of the nurses even wanted to make one for her own mother. Hope you can use the idea with your photos!
DREAM ON on May 09, 2013:
What a great idea.So helpful and now I have to pull out those dusty old pictures from under the bed and back of my clothes closet.I never heard of modge podge glue before.It makes everything so much nicer.Pictures are so much better shared than left to look at on a rainy day.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 06, 2013:
Glad you enjoyed these, Kathryn Stratford! I hope you get the chance to try them at some point. Thanks for the read and the follow!
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on May 06, 2013:
These are very creative projects! I would have never thought of having photos copied, and used as wrapping paper. How clever! I also like your "Over the Hill" gag gift. That is funny!
Thanks for sharing these with us. I am sure I will find use for these in the future!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 03, 2013:
Glad you enjoyed it. When I have used it, it has been a tremendous hit! Hope you're able to use the idea. Thanks for the read.
RTalloni on May 03, 2013:
I love the idea of family photo gift wrap for extra-special gifts!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 01, 2013:
Thank you, easylearningweb! I hope you'll be able to use these ideas. They were fun projects that got great reactions from the people in them as well as others who saw them.
Amelia Griggs from U.S. on May 01, 2013:
Great hub and wonderful ideas! I have made posters and collages in past, but I love your idea for the keepsake box. :-)
Voted up and useful!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2013:
Thank you, kidscrafts! We put goodies such as hand lotion and candy in the box and gave it to my grandmother as a gift. Didn't even need to wrap it. I appreciate your read and comment.
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on April 29, 2013:
Very nice hub FlourishAnyway! I did several montages of pictures when I was a teacher to celebrate the 10 years of the school.
I love the idea of the pictures on the box.... just brilliant! It makes a very special gift!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 28, 2013:
Thanks for the read and the encouraging comments, agusfanani. I hope you can put your old photos to great practical use.
agusfanani from Indonesia on April 28, 2013:
Very interesting and those projects look workable. I'd like to practice them so that I can make good use of my old photos . Thank you for sharing this beautiful, useful, interesting hub.