Creating a Photo Book Gift

In these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to connect with family and friends. But in these days of banned gatherings and mandated social distancing, it has become increasingly challenging to stay in touch. Travels for family reunions have been canceled, vacations have been put on hold, and weekends pass by as if they’re just another weekday. 

How do you stay close with your loved ones? Many make phone calls, write letters (right, it’s back in style!), or schedule “family get-together” nights in front of a webcam. My way is to create photo books. I have developed albums to document the COVID time, to record the changes, to navigate this pandemic differently, with a personal flair, and I’ve sent the photo books to close relatives and friends. We have never in our lifetime had such an occurrence, and it is important to keep records from my own perspective and unique experience.

Apart from my daughter’s growth, there is certainly a lot that has changed in the world and in our own lives in the past months. Our work and work spaces; our mobility in urban life and shopping experiences; and our relationships, social life and habits regarding fitness and entertainment have all shifted dramatically. By instinct, I take lots of pictures to capture these changes. I personally find journaling to be therapeutic. I write down my feelings, focussing on the positive aspects and how this slowdown and pause in life has impacted me. I have limited the scope of my activities and have had to accept that I wouldn’t have any business during the lockdown. I used the “spare” time to learn German and completed the B2 exam, of which I am very proud.

I used the photos that tell the story of our “productive” and special year in the photobook. The cover always features my favourite model – my little one. Her photo has always been the most popular among all of the Christmas gift ideas for grandparents. We didn’t travel as much this year  – instead, we explored nature in our neighbourhood. Every single stream, bit of forest, even a simple tree, can serve as my favorite “landscape” background. We also experimented with the making of various breads and pastries at home and found it fun to document every step of the new trial. They became our new theme for the photobook next year, a Frenchinese (French-Chinese cuisine) recipe book.

Here’s my advice for making the photo book:

  • Find an online printing service and start making your yearbook. It no longer takes hours of crafting and attaching photos by hand, as we can outsource the hard work to software suppliers. So forget about the DIY photo scrapbooks of the past.
  • Once you’ve decided which online printer you’ll use, set a theme for the book based on its recipient, and write down the storyline.
  • Collect all of the photos that tell “the story,” and choose the style and colors that suit this theme.
  • Most software provides pre-designed layouts; arrange the photos by groups, and insert texts, dates and important information next to them.
  • Go through the slides and proofread.
  • Click print and order your book!

Simple! Perhaps many of you also took photos to record this special time? Then it’s time to get those photos off your hard drives and into your (and your families’) hands!

Article and photos by Cloudia Chen

Cloudia is a portrait photographer specializing in CV headshots and family and children photography. Before settling in Zurich, she lived in Mainland China, Hong Kong, London and South of France. Her photos and articles have been published in various social media and popular travel magazines in China. She has more than 10 years cross-cultural experience in marketing, event planning and business development in international companies.

She’s also a writer for magazines such as Newly Swissed. To contact her, please visit her website

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