A Gift Guide for the Family Documentarian

Can you believe it's that time of year again? It feels like school just started and already the holidays are upon us! 

I know many of you out there are passionate about recording your family's memories, and so for that reason, I put together this "Gift Guide for the Family Documentarian". Use it as a wish list for yourself, or as inspiration for gifts that might make another documentarian in your life happy!


Board Book from Pinhole Press - An awesome gift for the little people in your life. Pinhole offers a few different templates for this book. All are made with durable board book pages, perfect for small hands.

Story Starter Memory Book from Pinhole Press -This is another customizable photo book for kids. Build the book around a vacation or life event and let your child fill in their memories around the photos with words and drawings.

Wall Calendar from Pinhole Press - Enjoy your family photographs year round in this beautiful press-printed calendar (I get one of these for each set of grandparents every year).

Wooden Photo Ledge from Artifact Uprising - AU has a number of different display options for prints. This wooden ledge is my favorite. It would be perfect for displaying press-printed photographs.

Nixplay Edge Frame - I am dying to get one of these digital frames that displays both photos and video. The best part about them: they have a wireless connection so you can load new images/videos onto them remotely! A perfect grandparent gift!

IKEA Photo Frames - Our house is covered in framed photographs - and all the frames are from IKEA! Their plain black Ribba frames are my favorite, but I also recently picked up two different collage style frames from there which I am excited to get up on the wall!

Hanging Photo Display - I love getting press prints from Artifact Uprising and displaying them around our home in various ways. I have three different strings of these photos in my office and guest room, hung with clothespins. This hanging display would be a great option for hanging press prints or polaroids!


A Year of Mornings - Written and photographed by Stephanie Congdon Barnes and Maria Alexandra Vettese, this began as a photography project on a collaborative blog. Each weekday for a year, these two friends would take a photograph of their morning and then post them together as a diptych on their blog. The pairings are fascinating and are a perfect reminder of recognizing beauty in the ordinary.

A Year Between Friends - This is the latest project by Stephanie Congdon Barnes and Maria Alexandra Vettese. In this book, the friends record their year by monthly letters to each other. The book is peppered with beautiful photographs, recipes and crafts.

Humans of New York Stories - This is the follow up to the popular book "Humans of New York", and delves more deeply into the stories of the people photographed on the streets of New York. I was so inspired by the commonalities in the human experience after reading this book. There is a lot to be learned by knowing the stories of others.

A Photographer's Life by Annie Leibovitz. This book is filled with Annie Leibovitz's famous celebrity portraits throughout the 1990's, but what I love most about it are the candid photographs of her family - her mother and father, her partner Susan, and her children. The way she captures both life and death is nothing short of inspiring.

Linda McCartney: Life in Photographs - Like Leibovitz's book, this one also has its fair share of celebrity portraits, but it is the behind-the-scenes images, and documentary images of McCartney's family that completely captivate me.

Your Family in Pictures: The Parents' Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life by Me Ra Koh. I have not read this book (or the others in Me Ra Koh's series), but they come highly regarded as a great guide for parents wanting to photograph their children in an authentic way.

Elevate the Everyday by Tracey Clark. This book by the founder of The Shutter Sisters is another great guide for parents wanting to photograph their children. Tracey focuses on finding the beauty in the everyday and gives you helpful tips on how best to capture your life, and your children in photographs.

The Unforgettable Photograph: 228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life by George Lange. In this instructional guide, Lange focuses on photographing how a moment feels, not how it looks. Packed with lots and lots of information and inspiration on how to document your life. 

An American Family: Three Decades with the McCarvey's - This photography project by Pam Spaulding spanned 1977-2007, documenting the daily life a family in rural Kentucky. It is a fascinating portrait of family life and perhaps one of the very first examples of "family photojournalism".


A great idea for the grandparents in your life is to create an album with highlights of your year to share with them. I also love the idea of "hope chest albums" - smaller copies of your family albums to save for your children so that they have copies to take with them when they are grown!

Some of my favorite consumer album companies are listed below.

Pinhole Press

Artifact Uprising

Blurb Books 

Chatbooks - the automatic instagram photobooks are fantastic and a no-brainer way to get those images off your phone and into print! Instructions on purchasing a Chatbooks gift card can be found here.


LegacyBox - This is a service that will scan your old photographs and negatives, or digitize home movies. A wonderful way to preserve these old memories!


Letters to My Daughter - This is a keepsake book with prompts for parents to write letters to their daughter for her to keep for years to come. There are also similar books for grandchildren, mom, baby and others.

Heritage Quilt - This is something I plan on doing with some of my favorite baby clothes from both my kids. You send clothes, linens or other fabrics to Vintage Giggles, and they make a beautiful quilt out of them for you!

Modern Family Tree Art - I LOVE the modern take on the family tree available in prints from this store. I think this one is so cool. Gift cards are available!

The Story of You (Baby Book)  - This is an interesting new take on the Baby Book by Artifact Uprising. The books is meant to be an easy, meaningful way to record your child's milestones as well as ordinary moments. If you register your book you will be sent photo tips, ideas for making the most of your book, and a complimentary set of Everyday Prints to get you started.

Our Family Recipes - This is a journal, perfect for recording all those famous family recipes along with what makes them meaningful to you.

Memory Box - There are lots of lots of options for beautiful memory boxes out there on Etsy and other sites. I especially liked the look of these handcrafted wooden ones. A place to stash special cards, letters, and mementos from special moments in your life.

Hope Chest - This is sort of an antiquated idea, but I still love it. A place for your child to store items for their life ahead, or to keep special keepsakes. I have one at home that is filled with scrapbooks!

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I hope some of these ideas sparked some inspiration and help you with your shopping this season! 

collect beautiful moments

Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer or lifestyle videographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family, small business or event, please contact her for more information.