2011 was a really spectacular year for me as a photographer. It was my first full year working as freelance photographer in St. Louis, and with the purchase of a downtown loft over the summer it was the first year time in my career that I have had dedicated studio space. In addition, I was lucky enough to wok on some super fun projects, many of which were assignments that I was awarded by my truly awesome clients. As my client list continues to grow, I had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of new people, as well as the friends and colleagues that I have worked with for years.
As a thank you to my clients I wanted to send them something special for the holidays. There are tons of photographers in the market today, and I want my clients to know that I appreciate it when they choose me for their projects. And it’s not just about the work either. My clients are people who are creative and fun, many of whom have become my friends, and I want to make sure they know that they are more to me than just a paycheck.
So then comes the question of what is a good gift to send. It would have been easy to find a good bottle of wine and send that off to everyone, or maybe a gift card – I’ve received both of those things from vendors over the years and certainly appreciated them. But those types of things don’t go much further than face value. I wanted to find gifts that relate directly to my business and use the opportunity to showcase my photography as well.
Food gifts seemed like the logical choice. But instead of just going out an buying some good food, I decided to go 100% home-made. I spent a lot of time looking online for recipes. The key things I was looking for were foods that could be made in advance, foods that could be shipped, and foods that would still be tasty and edible when they arrive. I finally ended up with five items: spicy hot cocoa mix, granola, a spice rub, cookies, and caramel corn.
Packaging ended up being pretty easy, I went with simple white boxes, mason jars and tins. But then another challenge surfaced when I realized I would have to label each package. Most home-made gifts come with cutesy hand-written labels. My handwriting is atrocious – I’ve never been good with handwritten thank you notes, let alone food product labels. So to get around this particular problem I designed a fictional logo for each food product to pair up with the unique food photography image that I photographed.
The key for this holiday gift project was to get started well in advance. I started brainstorming the recipes, logos and packaging back in early November. This gave me enough time to perfect the recipes, shoot the food photography, design the packaging, and then of course to make all of the food before mid-December. Things like the spice rub were easy to do in bulk, while the caramel corn, for example, was pretty labor intensive. My goal was to ship the gifts by December 15th, to make sure that each client received their package before heading off for the holiday vacation.
It was a whole lot of hard work, but the feedback I got from sending the snacks was excellent. I’m definitely going to try to continue the tradition next year.
Food Gift Ideas
You can find the recipes for all five of my food gift ideas for self promotion over at my food blog, Shoot To Cook.