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Time Out With Tanya

5 Photo Valentine Ideas Using Props You Have at Home

By Tanya Goodall Smith on January 19th 2014


Preparing Valentine cards for your kids’ class party used to be such a cinch, right? Run on down to the grocery store and pick up a box of cartoon themed cards for 98 cents, fill each little envelope with conversation hearts and lick the seal. Then tape it shut because the cheap glue didn’t stick… Now, thanks to the likes of Martha Stewart, the mom blogosphere and Pinterest, we’re expected to create elaborate custom photo Valentine cards. Most involve the use of expensive craft supplies, the creation of complicated photo backdrops and incorporation of toys or candy in a clever way.

Being a sucker for inventive design and paper goods myself, I could very easily fall into the “gotta have a totally over-the-top custom Valentine card” trap. But, I don’t have time for that these days. Plus, I think the kids should be involved somehow in the creative process. So, I set out to create Valentine cards that 1) didn’t require me to spend a lot of money, 2) could be made quickly and easily, and 3) involved the kids in the creative process. I let them choose some of their favorite toys and dress up props from our play room. We brainstormed some cute sayings that might go with each item. The cheesier the better!

[Rewind: HOW TO CREATE A LIGHT PAINTING IN 3 EASY STEPS] The kids are still begging to make light paintings again…

The Set Up

I set up a little seamless white backdrop in our living room. You don’t need an expensive Backdrop Stand for this (although they are nice to have!) I just used a little masking tape to secure a small roll of paper to the mantle of my fireplace and, voilà! Instant backdrop.


I have a large window on camera left and used a small LED Video Light inside a Westcott 43 inch Apollo Orb light modifier as a fill light. A reflector or off camera flash would also work. These were shot using a Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens on my Canon 5D Mark III. I literally spent no more than 10 minutes with each kid and we had a fun time goofing around with all the little props and toys.

Post Processing

After our mini photo shoot, I imported the photos into Adobe Lightroom and applied the Standard Color preset from the SLR Lounge Lightroom Presets System. Then, I opened my favorites in Photoshop and added text. I had to extend the background on a few, which is easy to do with the plain white background. I’ll have these printed as 4×6 prints and let the kids stuff them into colored A6 Envelopes after signing the back. Maybe I’ll include candy. Maybe not…

Valentine, You’re a Doll!

You Rock My World, Valentine

I Only Have Eyes for You, Valentine!

You’re a Dino-Mite Valentine!

I Dig You, Valentine

Which is your favorite? What additional props and sayings would you use? Do your kids even exchange Valentine’s at school anymore????

CREDITS: All photographs by Tanya Smith are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

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Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at

Q&A Discussions

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  1. tara pittman

    I love these ideas! Next time I take pictures I will try this

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  2. tanya

    Thanks everyone!

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  3. Megan Kennedy

    Love this, Tanya, very creative and such a fun way to get the kiddos invested in their own valentines (more than picking out a box at the store, anyway)! Such cuties, too.

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  4. Alex

    Very Smart idea! love it. excellent work.

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  5. Tyeanna

    I love the ‘I only have eyes for you’. I especially love the models. Super super cute. I didn’t know valentines day has become so elaborate. I guess I’ll get more into this in a few more months. My kids already love valentines day and they’re not in school.

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  6. Rachelle

    I freaking love this!! Seriously, such a great idea! Your kids are adorable by the way and I love how willing they are to be your models.

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    • tanya

      Yes, they are pretty willing. The key is to get everything set up and ready before they are expected to smile for the camera because they lose interest pretty quickly.

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