How to Make a Family Photo Calendar: A Great Gift From Your Kids
Are your kids going stir-crazy because of cold, wet weather?
Find your flip-flops and unfurl your beach umbrella. It’s time for a fun family photo shoot!
In this article, I’ll show you how to recreate each month of the year with your kids, take fantastic photos and produce a calendar that’s perfect for holiday gift-giving.
Why Make a Photo Calendar?
When you make a photo calendar, you’ll have a great afternoon of dress-up fun with your family and create a gift that you and your loved ones will enjoy throughout the year to come.
It’s also a nice way to review the year that’s passed and teach kids about the months and seasons, which is an important part of understanding the world around us.
On a cold, wet afternoon when you’re stuck indoors or a long school holiday when you’re searching for things to do, you can easily create a fun family experience to draw your kids away from the TV or video games.
Making a photo calendar isn’t just for fun and games. It will also help your children learn something about weather and seasons, develop their photo-editing skills (or maybe they’ll help develop yours!), stimulate creativity, practice generosity and share some memorable moments with you.
Making a calendar is a fun way to learn about the months and the weather we experience. If you plan ahead and start next year’s calendar now, you can also take a photograph each month to record how your family changes throughout the year.
You’ll have next year’s gift partially done. In an age where it can be impossible to find that perfect low-cost gift for aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, a personalized calendar will always be treasured.
And is there anything more rewarding for children (or any of us) than to see grown-up relatives open their gift and find something that really makes them smile—especially when it’s something your kids have made themselves?
Let’s get started!
#1: Brainstorm With Your Kids
Discuss what happens in each month. You can talk about the weather or events that occur in each month.
Talk about the weather. It teaches us about how things change and grow, as well as how they die and are regenerated. We can learn about the changing weather patterns and about the cycle of the year. It can also be a springboard for outdoor activities.
Think about props that represent the changing seasons in your photos: rain in the spring, leaves in the fall…
Talk about holidays or events that occur each month. Think of both widespread celebrations such as Christmas and personal events known only to your family such as birthdays or your annual ski trip in January. Identify icons or costumes that represent celebrations throughout the year.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Write down all of your ideas for props and costumes that represent each month. Be sure to include the kids’ ideas, too. You can use this planning sheet.
Think about the items you’ll be able to collect or purchase. What can you find right now to represent a holiday or event 6 months ago? Lack of availability may cause you to cross a few ideas off the list.
#2: Plan Your Calendar Theme and Gather Props
Wall calendars usually follow a theme (gardens, or kittens, or works by a famous artist) and maintain a consistent look through the images for all 12 months.
Look at your list of ideas for each month and see if a common theme becomes apparent.
The most obvious may be to dress the kids in costumes with props representing a holiday each month.
Another idea is to use things that your kids will grow out of by the following year. Capture a souvenir photo of favorite outfits before they find their way to the thrift store or yard sale.
You could take outdoor shots to represent the changing seasons.
Or capture the kids in action, playing a game or sport common to each month—baseball in the spring, soccer in the fall, camping in the summer…
Go small-scale and photograph your kids’ hands holding something to represent each month—a handful of Christmas baubles for December, colorful dried leaves for November, wearing mittens for January… This option keeps the mess to a minimum!
You could also do a monthly still-life scene. September might be a pile of school books. January might be a New Year’s resolution list.
How about a birthday calendar? Feature a family member whose birthday takes place in each month in your photos.
The ideas are endless. This project can be as full or minimalist as you like!
Choose a theme and gather props you’ll need for each month’s photo.
Make 12 piles for props—one for each month of the year. It’s a good idea to set a time limit on the gathering process and rules about tidiness. Trying to find 12 outfits and appropriate accessories can be messy!
#3: Hold Your Photo Shoot
Now that you have all of your clothes and props ready, it’s time to take your photos and make sure they capture each month as well as possible.
Here are a few photo-taking tips:
Find a good spot to take your photos. Stick to the same spot for each month so the photos don’t get too complex. Your props, costumes and poses will provide the variation from month to month and will keep the focus on the kids.
Minimize background distractions. Put up a white sheet or a dark blanket as a backdrop. I found it easiest to move a sofa and use a large, plain wall.
Dress the kids in neutral clothing—no characters or logos, minimal patterns. A plain, white t-shirt and jeans will coordinate with all of your monthly scenes and work under most costumes or accessories.
Make sure there’s plenty of light. Open the curtains and turn on all the lights. An outdoor space like porch steps can also work well. Indirect natural light is the best for beautiful photos.
Hold the camera still. If you have a tripod, use it.
Take lots of photos—more than you think you’ll need. It’s a lot easier to delete pictures you don’t need than to set up a scene a second time. Check them every few shots and adjust props or poses if necessary.
Have fun with it. Tell jokes, play music, talk about happy or funny things to get real smiles from your kids. Don’t expect perfection. Take a break when they start to lose interest.
Once you’re happy with your photo shoot, it’s time to make your calendar. Your kids can put the clothes and accessories away while you set up the technical stuff.
#4: Make Your Calendar
Upload photos to a large screen, if possible, and view them together as a family. Delete the bad ones and select the winning shot(s) for each month.
Use a photo-editing program to correct minor flaws, adjust lighting, crop your photos, add titles and create collages. You don’t have to be a Photoshop expert. Check out easy-to-use sites like PicMonkey, Pixlr or Canva and soon you’ll be able to turn amateur family snaps into something more professional.
Here, I used PicMonkey to make a collage from three photos.
I added a colored background to match my daughter’s jacket.
And I laid a title over the collage. Most programs also offer graphics to enhance your photos with (like the snowflakes I added to our December photo).
Or you can play around with text in one of the photo-editing sites mentioned above to design a calendar.
Many photo-printing sites offer calendars, too. Just drop the photos you select into their online templates and order a full-color photo calendar.
Congratulations! You created a professional-looking calendar with pictures of your own family that friends and relatives will love to receive as gifts.
Some Final Thoughts…
I’m sure you and the lucky recipients of your family photo calendar will enjoy looking at the fun photos from your shoot all year long.
There are many creative ways to display your calendar. Print each month as 4 x 6 photos and peg them onto a mini washing line, create a calendar mobile with postcard-sized images or even stick postcards onto a big sheet of poster board to make a giant calendar you can display in the office or kitchen.
After you’ve made one calendar, plan ahead to make one for next year. Decide on a theme and hold a photo shoot each month to record events as they occur.
Above all, have fun with your kids creating a photo calendar and enjoy the looks on their faces when grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends react to their gifts with glee.
What do you think? Have you ever planned a photo shoot or made your own calendar for friends and family? What creative ideas worked for you? Post your ideas and photos in the comments below.
Emma is a teacher, educational consultant and writer living in southwest France. She writes on a range of educational and lifestyle themes. Other posts by Emma-Jane Lee »