Looking to create a special photo album for someone’s milestone birthday? Consider making it a tribute album by including letters from friends and family of the birthday person. The ability to smoothly incorporate text is one of the advantages that photo books have over traditional photo albums. Ask each person to write something about the honoree and how he or she has touched their lives. It’s a beautiful way to show someone how deeply they matter to the people around them. And it almost guarantees they will cry when they read it!
This kind of project can easily spin out of control if you let it. Here are some tips on collecting letters to create this meaningful gift:
- Find Your Crew Where They Live – That is, don’t include Great-Grandma on your email blast and expect her to respond. Think about each of the people you are requesting a note from and address them in the way most likely to get results. That may mean an email to Mom, a Facebook post to your cousins, a phone call to Uncle Jim, and a trip to Grandma’s in person. It’s a little more work at the start, but your reply ratio will be much higher.
- Offer Examples and Starter Questions – This can be an intimidating request for some people, especially if they don’t write for fun very often. Include a couple of example stories to help them get thinking. Add some questions that will head them toward Memory Lane: What is the funniest thing Dad ever said to you? What is the best gift he ever gave you? Where did you go on your favorite trip together? What did he teach you? What time of year reminds you of him most?
- Pick a “Person” – This one is optional, but it can help with flow if everyone is writing from the same perspective. Is it, “Dear Dad, You were always there for me …”? Or, “My dad is the best guy I know…”? Whichever you pick, be careful of, “Your father is the best …”, because you want this album to speak to the honoree, not you.
- Give Deadlines and Reminders – Set a very generous deadline for final submissions (i.e., give yourself plenty of time to actually create the album), and then add 1-2 weeks for stragglers. Start your reminders weeks in advance.
- Be Specific about Format – If you don’t want a bunch of PDF’s with low-res pics and Comic Sans text (oh yes, I have seen it – not pretty, my friends), you need to be clear about how you would like people to respond. Should they reply directly to the email (that you have sent using BCC)? Attach a text document? Mail you a postcard? If you live with the honoree, get a partner in crime who can lend their mailing address to keep the album a surprise.
- Be Sensitive to Embarrassing Stories – Try to play it safe when it comes to inside jokes and teasing. Uncle Stan may think it’s funny to rib his little brother about that time he wet the bed, but this may not be the avenue for that story.
Good luck! If you find yourself exhausted by the time you have everything collected and have no more energy to make the album, give me a buzz and let me finish up that project for you 🙂