Holiday photo cards: A procrastinator's guide

Here are the services you want to hit if you still haven't sent out your holiday photo greeting cards.

For some reason, I was put in charge of putting together and sending out our family holiday photo cards this year. This was a huge mistake.

CardStore.com

I am a procrastinator, so just about everything I do gets done with some amount of stress and anxiety and usually costs me more money than it should. And while I vowed this project would be different, here I am three months later on December 12 putting together a photo card for the holidays.

Have you ever done a Web search for "photo greeting cards"? There are a lot of options. Too many. It's one of those things where you wonder how they all stay in business. Anyway, I picked over some of the leaders to see which ones offered the best options for people like me who waited just a little too long.

On the upside, it seems the services offer sizable discounts for the next few days, so dealing with the stress of waiting till the last minute might pay off for you. Of course, you may lose money on the express shipping and other little details that go into making sure you don't look like a complete slacker. The important date to keep in mind is December 20; you'll need to get your cards, address, and ship them to potentially arrive in time for Christmas. After that, I recommend my favorite option, the "Happy New Year" card.

Hopefully, you're not in charge of putting together your holiday greetings. But if you're in my position and under the gun, here's what I've found. If you have any suggestions that I've missed, please leave them in the comments. Happy holidays.

Snapfish
What it offers: If you're clueless where to start, Snapfish has a nice Card Studio feature with design and photo tips, suggested greetings, and you can browse styles. Designs can be narrowed by number of photos, by price, orientation, card format, color, and design style. There are lots of designs including branded content from Dr. Seuss and Nickelodeon. You can choose from photo paper or 100-pound or 130-pound card stock. There are also options for 3D and animated cards as well as those printed on 130-pound recycled paper.

Time saver: Snapfish offers flat photo cards available for same-day pickup at retail including Duane Reade, Meijer, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart.

Special holiday cause cards: Snapfish offers Make a Wish Foundation, military, and breast cancer awareness themed cards. As part of its cause partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Snapfish will donate a portion of the sale from every card to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (up to $25,000) through December 31.

Minimum order: Orders are done by packs of 20. If you opt for photo paper, prices are less than 80 cents per card. In-store prices can be even less, though.

Deadlines: Again, cards done on photo paper can be picked up at a store. Printing on stationary takes a few days, but if you order by December 15 and get overnight shipping you should be in the clear.


Kodak Gallery
What it offers: While Kodak Gallery doesn't have the expansive design collection of other sites, its print options are plentiful and reasonably priced. You can get everything from small note cards to 6x8-inch photo paper cards.

Time saver: Photo-paper cards can be ordered online and picked up locally at Target stores. But for the ultimate procrastinator, you can roll into a store with Kodak Kiosks and create your cards on the spot, pulling shots from Facebook, Picasa Web albums, and Kodak Gallery.

Special holiday cause cards: Stationary designer Bonnie Marcus teamed with Angie Harmon, Marcia Cross, and Molly Sims for a Kodak's Celebrity Cards for a Cause campaign. Available at Kodak Kiosks, the designs created with each celebrity benefit Children's Institute Inc., The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Friends of El Faro, respectively.

Minimum order: Kodak offers several options depending on the type of paper and card you're getting. That includes a single, folded stationary card for $2.49 to 10-card sets on photo paper for $8.99 a set.

Deadlines: Kodak has a full listing of shipping dates, but basically if you want them in time you'll either need to order by December 15 and pay extra for fast shipping or you'll want to do in-store pickup or hit the kiosk.


Shutterfly
What it offers: Basics, but in a good way. There's not a lot of paper or printing options; you can pick card stock or photo paper. It does have options for back-of-card printing and you can fully customize text, font, size, and color. And it brought in new designers for this holiday season including Oscar & Emma, Prints Charming, and Stacey Day. There are some nice multiphoto cards, too, allowing you to add up to 14 shots. This is a particularly good option for those using lower-resolution shots that might not look good blown up for a full card photo.

Time saver: A new address book tool lets you import from e-mail contacts or Facebook. Along with that, Shutterfly will send you pre-addressed envelopes to allow you to add a personal note or signature on your cards or it'll address envelopes and send cards directly for you.

Special holiday cause cards: None that I could find.

Minimum order: You can buy just one card on premium card stock starting around $2. Photo paper cards start at a 12 pack for about 70 cents a card. More than that can be purchased in 25-card increments.

Deadlines: It comes down to what type of cards you're getting, but if you elect to have Shutterfly handle addressing and shipping, you'll need to order by December 18 to get them to your recipients by December 23.


Tiny Prints
What it offers: A professional designer performs up to four rounds of quality checks for everything from photo editing to etiquette. Cards are customized--front, back, and inside--using a streamlined editor, so photos and text can be quickly adjusted. Photos can be pulled from your accounts with Shutterfly, Picasa, SmugMug, Facebook, and Flickr, or straight from your computer. You also get a free Web site for sharing additional photos or a newsletter.

Time saver: You can get your cards addressed, stamped, and shipped directly from Tiny Prints.

Special holiday cause cards: Celebrity-designed holiday card collection that benefits Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation (EBMRF), an organization dedicated to preventing and helping children with the drastic skin condition of epidermolysis bullosa.

Minimum order: Orders start at 10 cards, but go up in five-card increments. Photo card prices start at $1.79 per card, but there are bulk discounts.

Deadlines: If you want Tiny Prints to stamp and send your cards, you have until December 16. For them to arrive by December 17, you'll need to order by the 14th and it'll cost you $19.95.


Minted
What it offers: This service's cards are created by indie designers from all over the world and the Minted community votes on what to sell. Pick a card, customize it, and a professional designer will then produce a digital proof and send it to you for approval. Its basic paper starts out at 120-pound (heavier than most sites) and there are 100 percent recycled paper and pearlescent papers, too. Along with flat and folded card options, there are cool storyboard and timeline formats (a good way to use photos from throughout the year instead of your misguided attempts at "holiday" photos).

Time saver: The site's Find It Fast feature lets you upload a photo and see how it'll look in a lot of designs all at once.

Special holiday cause cards: Jenna Lyons, executive creative director and president of J.Crew, selected her favorite card from Minted's 2011 holiday card challenge. Buy this card and 15 percent of gross profit from the sales will be donated to Teach For America, an organization moving to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort.

Minimum order: Orders start at 25 cards and go up in 25-card increments. Photo card prices start at $2.56 per card, but there are bulk discounts.

Deadlines: To receive your cards by December 20 (just enough time to address the cards and send them), you'll need to order by December 14 and get overnight FedEx shipping for $34.95. (As of the 12th, Minted was offering a free upgrade for two-day shipping, though.)


Card Store
What it offers: A massive selection from more than 50 greeting card brands including American Greetings, Papyrus, and Someecards, most printed on 130-pound matte recycled card stock and shipped within two business days. (Unfortunately, the site is somewhat poorly organized making the selection process a bit of a pain.)

Time saver: Like Shutterfly and Tiny Prints, Card Store will address and send your cards to your recipients. However, it also gives you the option to upload your own signature and sign any greeting card. You can even do it from an iPhone or iPad app.

Special holiday cause cards: Pink Christmas cards supporting breast cancer awareness and research. Card Store and its artists will donate 40 percent of card sales to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Minimum order: One card and prices start just north of a buck.

Deadlines: There's free standard shipping on everything, but it looks like today, December 12, is the last day to get them by December 20. There are other shipping options, though.


 

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