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If I’m being totally honest, I’m kinda sick of buying things just to buy things.  Presents that don’t mean much and will quickly be forgotten.  Gifts for my kids, my husband, my family, my friends.  I’d much rather give them something that they’ll care about.  Something useful.  Something they’ll want to hold on to.  Something I won’t regret buying and they won’t regret getting (who else is insanely tired of clutter?).

So in the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share a few ideas of meaningful gifts you can give to those you love using Photographs.  Because who doesn’t love photos?!  It’s one of the rare things on this earth everyone loves to look at and something people want to hang on to.


We’ve really tried to cut back on buying our kids things just to buy them things.  They don’t need much and honestly, they don’t ask for much these days (maybe because I never take them to the store and toy commercials are a thing of the past–sweet mercy).  Now each year for Christmas, we give them a stack of photos and supplies to make their own photo albums.  Or you can make the albums together.

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You can read all of the details of how we pull this together HERE.

This year I’m going to do it a little different for my girls and get them these “All About Me” books they can fill out and mix in photos with the pages.



Parent gifts can be tricky.  And I try real hard to think of things that will matter to them.  If we can make my mom cry, we know we did good.  A few years ago for Christmas, I had all my siblings print off 150-200 photos of their family, we combined all the photos and made a few photo albums for my parents.  They rarely get to see the day-to-day photos we take of our families or even the vacations we take so this was a fun way for them to get to enjoy those photos.

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You can read all the details of how we pulled this all together HERE.

These ended up being really fun for the whole family to look through.  And it’s a gift that can continue through the years and just add more photos and albums each year.



I love these mini-clipboard calendars from Persnickety Prints.  They’re different.  They’re small so you could put them anywhere in your home or office.  And they’re cute.  You could use photos you have, screenshot photos from a friends or family members Instagram account or take some from Facebook and use those.

(photo credit–Persnickety Prints)

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Make a quick photo book for a friend or family member from a vacation you went on together or an event you participated in (or they participated in).  A race, a one-day adventure, a birthday party, etc.

I ran the Spartan race with my husband and several friends and put together this Photobook using Snapfish.  I let the software auto-fill the photos so it didn’t take very long and used a coupon code to get a huge discount on the book.

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You could also make a small Photo Book through Persnickety Prints with photos from an event (or any photos for that matter):

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Take a screenshot of a friends photos on Instagram and make them a little album, book, or prints.

A small 4×4 album filled with square prints:

(photo credit Beckyhiggins.com)

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A set of square prints from Artifact Uprising to keep in a little box and display:

(photo credit Artifactuprising.com)

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Or make them a display with the photos to put on their wall (details on how to do this HERE):

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Give the gift of Chatbooks.  If someone has an Instagram account and isn’t using Chatbooks, this is a GREAT gift. But.  You don’t have to have Instagram to use this service.  You can link it to your “favorite” photos in your photo albums and once you hit 60 photos, the book comes to you automatically.

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You can read all about Chatbooks HERE or visit their website here.



This isn’t exactly photos (but you take photos to create it so….), but a book with all your favorite recipes would be a great gift!

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All the details on how to create this are HERE.



If your kids or someone you’re gifting to have an Instax Mini Camera(or you’re getting them one), these albums and accessories for Instax photos are AWESOME!!  They take the Instax photos, then they can slip them right in these albums and use the Instax Project Life cards to finish the album off.

(photo credit Beckyhiggins.com)

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Some of these will obviously take a little work, but anything worth doing usually takes some effort.  I am not sponsored in any way for any of these products.  These are just things I personally do and think make excellent gifts.


**If you want some ideas for the person in your life who loves taking photos (aka the photographer in your life), you can find some ideas HERE.

**If you’re interested in improving your photography with your phone OR your dSLR, definitely check out THIS!!!  (This would also make a great gift for someone wanting to make their photos better).

**Want to display more photos in your home?  Here are some photo display ideas I’ve done in my home.


If you haven’t already, come find me on Instagram (@ltross)!  I share lots of stuff there too.


We’re all taking photos.  And my guess is we’d like our photos to look as good as we can.  But sometimes improving our photos can feel incredibly overwhelming.

I try to provide a lot of content on here about photography, improving your photography, taking better every day photos with my Every Day Photos Guide, and what to do with the photos once you’ve taken them–the backend of photography.

I continue to get a lot of people asking if I teach a course on how to take better photos.  Or how to use their dSLR camera better.  Or their phone camera better.  I used to teach an all day course but have found there are a lot of resources out there to improve photography.  But there aren’t a lot of resources out there for the backend of photography (what to do with and how to manage the photos once we’ve taken them).  So I still do some posts and content on improving photography, but I’ve really switched my focus to helping people with what to do with the photos after we take them.

But.  I still HIGHLY encourage people to try to improve their photography.  Telling stories through our photos is, in my opinion, one of the best things we can do for our family and for generations to come.

Because there are so many options out there for learning to improve, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to look for information or what course would be a good fit.  Some can be really confusing.  Some are super expensive.  Some just aren’t that good.

I’ve finally got one I feel I can recommend 100%.  It’s called Snapshop by Ashley Ann from the Under the Sycamore blog.  Ashley is an incredible photographer but she really focuses on telling stories with photographs and capturing the every day moments of our lives.  The ones that make up the bulk of our existence and our stories.

Learn to Capture Your Days

Ashley has an online membership course.  I know the course is good because I paid for the course and worked my way through the entire course.  I’m already a photographer.  I know how to shoot in manual.  And I know the “rules” of photography, but I still learned a lot from the course.  She has a unique way of looking at things through her lens.  She also has an incredible talent for simplifying the explanations.  And I love that her focus is on capturing the every day moments and stories of our lives.

If you want to take better photos of your kids, better every day photos, learn your dSLR camera better, take better photos with your phone, and/or learn new ways of telling your story, this class is for sure worth it.

The cost of the class, for what you get, is WAY under-priced (way way under-priced).  Small one-time payment and then just $5 a month to keep access to the class and the new lessons that are added each month.  For the content that is in there, she easily could charge hundreds of dollars and it would still be worth the price.  Once you pay the registration fee, you get access to ALL the material in the course.  And you can cancel at anytime.

I’ve been following Ashley’s blog for a long-time now (the only blog I read on a consistent basis) and though I don’t know her personally, we’ve communicated a few times.  And I’ve taken her course.

If you want to learn your camera, take better photos, this is the course for you.  You won’t regret it.

To sign up or get more details, CLICK THIS LINK.

If you’re interested in learning more about photography, check out all the photography related posts I’ve done in the “Photography” tab above or by clicking HERE.




(This link is an affiliate link–helps keep this blog going.  I only recommend this product because I’ve personally paid for it and been through the entire course.  I ONLY recommend things I’ve used, tried, and LOVED.)


  • Thank you Lindsay for enrolling in the SnapShop courses and sharing it here with your readers! One of these days I am going to make it back to Lake Powell and experience it with your crew!ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      The ONLY way to do Powell is on a speedboat. Your kids would LOVE it!!! Let’s do it!ReplyCancel

If you’ve been around here much, you know by now my heart bleeds for the homeless.  I don’t care what someone did or didn’t do to become homeless.  No one should be without a home.  No one.

Last year I took a tour of our local homeless shelter (so interesting and I learned SO much–especially about the families that live in the shelter).

And I’ve written about the period of time my own brother was homeless (and whether or not we should give money to people begging on the streets).

And I’ve done clothing drives for the homeless shelter in the past.

It’s my husbands 40th birthday this week and my birthday at the end of the week as well.  And it’s Thanksgiving.  So for birthday/Thanksgiving week, we thought it would be the perfect time to do another drive for the Homeless shelter.  Best birthday gift anyone could give me.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE if any of you would be willing to participate.  If you don’t live by me, I would so appreciate if you take things to your local homeless shelter and e-mail me to let me know or leave a comment (most shelters have a list of things most needed on their website).


Here’s what we’re looking for specifically (but we’ll take just about anything)–these are the current URGENT needs at the Road Home in Salt Lake City and Midvale, Utah:

Pillows (new)
Coats & Jackets (all sizes)
Jeans & Warm clothing (all sizes)
Boots & Shoes (all sizes)
Socks (all sizes)
Underwear (new, all sizes)
Blankets (twin, full, & queen)
Diapers (sizes 3-5)
Baby Bottles & Formula

Please make sure anything you donate is in GOOD condition.  It doesn’t have to be new, just make sure it’s still wearable and something people could use.

The Road Home also has a program called “Candy Cane Corner” that is stocked full of NEW things so parents can “shop” for their kids for Christmas.  This is a list of things they need for Candy Cane Corner:  Click this link for the list.  If you donate new things for the Candy Cane Corner, please put a note on the outside of your bag so I know that’s what it’s for.  This would be a good opportunity to take your kids to the store and have them pick out a few new things to donate to the homeless shelter kids.  When I took a tour last year, there were 50 families and close to 200 kids living in the shelter.  I can’t.even.imagine.


We will be taking donations starting today, November 21st until Monday, November 30th.  We’ll be taking the things to the homeless shelter with our kids on December 1st to participate in the Worldwide Day of service (all the details in the video below):


If you know where I live, you can drop your donations on my porch.  If you don’t live by me, please consider donating to your local homeless shelter.

Most of the people living at the shelter are NOT the people you see on the side of the road begging for money.  Many of them have had incredibly difficult lives filled with circumstances and decisions I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  My guess is most people reading this have things in their home they aren’t using.  Clothes they’ve outgrown.  Towels and blankets that collect dust in our closets.  Toys our kids no longer care about.

Will you please take 30-60 minutes sometime this week and go through your home, pull out anything you can spare, and donate it to those who don’t have a home?  Or take a quick trip to the store and buy a few new things that would make an incredible difference in someone’s life?  Or a monetary donation would be a great as well (you can give the money to me or pay online).  It would mean a lot to me.  It will mean even more to them.  Everyone wins.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes and one I think of often by my girl, Jen Hatmaker:

“It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, “God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.”

I guess that’s why “love people” is the second command next to “love God.” And since God’s reputation is hopelessly linked to His followers’ behavior, I suspect He wouldn’t be stuck with his current rap if we spent our time loving others and stocking their cabinets.” Jen Hatmaker

I’ve had death on the mind a lot the past month.  Morbid, I know, but true.  A year ago one of my friends (who nearly died herself) dad died in a tragic accident at work.  I’ve watched how the family has responded and spoken of him since then.  My uncle Jim also passed away a year ago on November 22nd and I think of him every single day (and my 4 year old prays for him every night to come back alive).

And now my neighbor, who has been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, just passed away this week after a pretty rough year.  I’m so incredibly grateful for the knowledge death isn’t the end.  There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll all see each other again after we die.

Living next door to a friend who has been told he has limited time on earth, I’ve had the rare opportunity to watch how this has unfolded with the people he loves.  His friends.  His family.  His coworkers.  His wife.  His neighbors.

Cars roll in.  Cars roll out.  People come. People go.  Friends, neighbors, strangers drop everything they’re doing to see him one last time.  To serve their family.  To DO things for them regardless of the busy schedules they may have.  And I watch.  And I found myself wondering…..

What would life be like, what would the world be like, if we treated people every.single.day the way we would treat them if we knew they would die soon.  Today.  Tomorrow.  In the immediate future.

Vulnerability comes out.  Walls go down.  People say things they otherwise wouldn’t say and do things they maybe otherwise wouldn’t do because we generally seem to be afraid to open up and let someone in like that.  To tell people how we really feel.  To tell people, every day, how much we appreciate and value them.  How much we love them.

I wonder what the world would be like if we didn’t wait until we knew someone was dying to DO the nice things we think of doing and SAY the nice things we think of saying. Instead of thinking it and not acting. And thinking it and not saying it. The world would change I think. People would change. And life would maybe feel a little bit easier.

That’s the whole point anyway.  Learning to GIVE Love and BE Loved.  Not because we are dying but because we are living.  That alone would change the world.


Thank you for sharing this journey with all of us Mel.  You have no idea how much your unwavering faith and grace has helped those around you.

  • So beautifully said. LOVE! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Thank you Catherine!! Thanks for taking time to read it and taking time to comment. I really appreciate it!ReplyCancel

  • Mel

    So grateful you and Mike and the kids have been here in the trenches with us. Good, solid friends. God is good.ReplyCancel

Here’s some things I hear people say (and e-mails I get) all.the.time:

“My photos are a complete mess.”

“I’m not printing anything.”

“My photos aren’t backed up and I’m so afraid I’ll lose them.”

“I don’t even know where to begin”

“How do I get caught up?”

And on. And on.  And on.

This whole digital photo age, something that should have made managing our photos easier, has seemingly made it harder.  So many photos.  So little time.  And one big hot mess of memories we want to preserve but don’t know how to get caught up, where to start, or where to go from here.

It’s something I’ve recently tackled myself (I currently have 80,000 plus personal photos in my Photos library).  I’ve learned a LOT through this process and have made it a huge priority lately to help people get control over this part of their lives and their stories.  We’re all taking photos.  We want to preserve the stories.  But the BACKend of photography can be incredibly overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be.

There ARE ways to manage our photos.  There ARE ways to get control over what we already have and be more mindful of how we approach preserving memories in the future.  There ARE systems we can put in place to relieve the anxiety, stress, and overwhelm many of us feel when it comes to managing our photos.


In preparation for the launch of the online photo course, Tell Your Story, I’ve been laboring on for quite some time now, I’m going to be teaching a LIVE Tell Your Story class on Saturday, November 5th in Lehi, Utah.  This will be an in person, full day class.

The purpose of the class–to manage your digital photos in a way that works for YOU.  This is not a one size fits all system.  This is a “what works for you and your family” system.  And there IS a system for every person out there.  And I want to help you find it.

In the class, we’ll work through four stages of the backend of photography:

**Loading your photos.  Getting them all in one place and in one system so you can manage them.

**Backing up your photos.  Making sure you have a SOLID back up strategy so you never lose any of those photos you’re taking and stories you’re trying to preserve.  My computer hard drive has failed THREE times in the past year.  And I didn’t lose a single photo.  It was a complete headache restoring things the first time because I wasn’t doing everything in the best way possible.  The second time was not nearly as stressful as I had a solid backup strategy in place.  Making sure you have this in place is so so so important.

**Organizing your photos.  This seems to be a huge hangup for people.  What’s the best way to organize them?  And HOW do you go about doing that?  We’ll talk in depth about this and we’ll actually physically do the organizing while we’re in class so when you leave at the end of the day, your photos are organized and ready for the next phase (printing).  This isn’t as complicated as people sometimes make it.  Simple systems.  Huge results.

**Printing and displaying some of your photos.  Notice I didn’t say all of your photos.  Once you have your photos organized, my guess is you’re waaaaaay behind in printing anything.  Most people I talk to haven’t printed anything in years and years and years.  Which is OKAY.  There are ways to “catch up” (and that may not even be your end goal–something we’ll discuss for sure).  There are several things to consider when deciding how to do this.  What should be printed at this point?  What system works best?  So much to cover here and we’ll talk about all of it in the class.  When you leave the class, you’ll have a system in place for sharing the photos and not just hoarding them on your computer.  We’ll talk all about choosing the photos, how to edit them and get them print ready, where to print them, etc.


Some important things to know about the class (PLEASE read all of this before you choose to sign up):

**It will start at 9:00 am in Lehi, Utah.  My estimated finish time for the class is 4:30 or 5:00 but this will all depend on how many photos you have, how long it takes to organize them, etc.  Some of this process is just waiting while our computer does some work.  Some people may end earlier, some closer to 5.  I want to make sure you have your systems in place before you leave.  You may still have a little work to do when you leave (definitely some work with the printing part) but you’ll have the peace-of-mind of knowing how to go about all of it.  We’ll go over some things together, but some things will be a work at your own pace kind of thing.

**Lunch will be included.  Somewhat tedious tasks combined with hangry women is no good.  We’ll be sure to have food on hand.

**You MUST have a MAC computer.  The computer you plan to manage your photos on has to be a MAC and you have to be able to bring the computer to the class (thankfully Mac’s are easy to transport).  It can be a desktop or a laptop.  Whatever computer you manage your photos on.  We’re going to be working with your photos and you obviously need your computer there to do that.  Not trying to be a snob on the type of computer, I just need everyone to have the same program so I can help everyone understand things at the same time.  I may do this for PC users some other time depending on demand.

**There will be some pre-work you need to be able to do before the class.  I will send more details on this once you sign up, but be aware, there will be a few things you’ll need to do before hand so we can all start at the same point.  I’ll tell you exactly what once you’re signed up.

**You may be asked to purchase an external hard-drive before the class.  Again, we’ll assess this upon signing up, but that may be something you’ll want to buy.

**The class size will be SMALL so I can give one-on-one help to each of you throughout the day.

**Please note we will not be going in to “tagging, key-wording, etc.”.  The organization part of this class will be a very simple and basic method for organizing.  But a very effective one.  I can talk individually to people about tagging and key-wording but that will not be a big portion of this class.

**I am NOT a tech expert.  But I don’t have to be.  I’ve gone through this process and want to show you only what you need to know to manage your photos.  No extra fluff or overly technical things that often leave people confused and frustrated.  If we run into an issue I can’t solve, I’ll make sure we find an answer.


This is basically me sitting by you, going through your computer, making sure your photos are really backed up, helping you get them organized in a way that makes sense for you, and making sure you have a system for sharing and preserving them (printing, etc.).  Instead of just telling you what to do, I’ll SHOW you what to do and we’ll actually do it right there so you know exactly what to do and how to do it.  And you can ask questions in real time so you don’t get hung up and give up.

When you leave, you will have a better understanding of what photos you even have, what to do with those photos once you take them, and how to create a system so you can print those photos and share the memories you’re so diligently trying to preserve.  You will feel so.much.better at the end of this class about the “health” of your digital photo mess.  It won’t be a mess anymore.  One Saturday.  Huge results.

Based on the amount of emails I get and the questions I’m asked, I know there is a huge need for this and I’m dedicated to helping you.


The cost for the course is $137.

That cost includes:

  • some pre-instruction and help before the class begins
  • an entire day of instruction and personal one-on-one help getting your digital photos in order
  • lunch
  • a happy computer full of photos and memories that are organized and ready to be shared
  • relief from the stress and overwhelm of digital photo hot-messness
  • and e-mail support after the class is over if you need some more guidance after you get home (I’m going to take care of you–promise)

So.  If you want in to this first ever live Tell Your Story course on the backend of your photography, here’s what you need to do.

Send an e-mail to ltross17@yahoo.com.  In the subject line of the e-mail please put “Tell Your Story class”.  In the e-mail tell me your name and e-mail address and I will send you instructions on how to pay and reserve your spot.  Your spot is not reserved until your payment is made.

The class is capped and will be filled based on the first people who e-mail me.  If it fills, I’ll post on here that it’s full.

If there are any questions, please e-mail me at ltross17@yahoo.com

Let’s make some use of the thousands and thousands of photos we’ve got stored and continue to take!!  You can do this!  You and your memories deserve it.

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  • Vicky Still

    I wish I lived in Utah right now!!! The class sounds amazing!
    When will the online Tell Your Story class be available for those of
    us living far away? I just purchased a mac computer and I don’t want to transfer
    or try to do any organizing until I can see you method to the madness!:)

    Super Excited!
    Vicky StillReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Hey Vicky,

      I’m hoping the online class will be ready to go by the beginning of January! Stay tuned!ReplyCancel