In my family, we have a few unshakable traditions. No matter how life evolves, my siblings and I always ensure that we get together on three occasions: the winter holidays, during the summer at the Jersey shore, and in early November, when a few of us have birthdays. Ever since my niece Abby and nephew Jack were born–both times expanding the family’s November birthday club–this need to routinely be together has only grown more important.
Of course, life doesn’t always happen as planned. This year, once I realized that our time-honored November birthday get-together wasn't going to be feasible, I racked my brain for the perfect gift to send to Abby and Jack. As the de facto family photographer, it didn't take long to decide on Aura, a smart digital photo frame that can help us stay connected, get nostalgic, and have a laugh all year–even when we can't be together physically.
One of the nice things about Aura frames is their ability to display an unlimited number of photos. Despite this feature, I decided to send the kids a frame with a specific, curated purpose: Sharing and showing photos taken during family visits to the shore. For decades, my family has had a tradition of visiting Ocean City, New Jersey during the summer and partaking in classic seashore rituals like devouring treats on the boardwalk and losing track of time on the beach. It’s a family tradition going back to when our mother was a little girl–and there are lots of photos to prove it.
How To Give Aura: A Personalized Gift, Sent Simply
After settling on the seashore theme and digging up some fitting family photos, I was ready to order an Aura frame for the kids.
After clicking 'Gift Aura' on the website, I was well on my way to selecting a frame model, uploading some photos, and writing a short, personalized message that the kids would see on the screen when they first set up their new Aura frame–in this case, wishing them both a happy birthday and inviting the kids and their parents to contribute their own favorite family shore photos. You can also add a video if you prefer to greet the recipient in your own voice.
After browsing the available smart frames, I chose the Carver model with a charcoal frame. Unlike the Mason, Mason Luxe, or Smith frames that can stand in both portrait or landscape, Carver and the all-new Carver Luxe's 10-inch Full HD screen only sits in landscape orientation, but that doesn't mean your vertical shots will be left out of the mix, thanks to clever feature: Carver's Intelligent Photo Pairing feature will automatically pair two portrait-orientation shots and display them side-by-side in the frame.
Without the "in person" part happening this year, Aura was a savior. By choosing to ship the frame to the recipient (rather than to myself, which is also an option), I was able to do almost everything necessary to prepare the frame directly from the Aura website.
The real magic happens in the Aura mobile app, where I was able to easily select and add photos from my phone. From classic family beach shots I have stored on Google Photos to more recent photos still sitting in my phone's camera roll, the Aura app makes it effortlessly easy to upload photos to the frame. You can even email photos directly.
For my purposes there were countless images to choose from. Photos of the kids building sand castles on the beach. Photos of my siblings and I doing the very same thing years earlier. Action shots from the boardwalk amusement rides. Messy ice cream cone shots. Group selfies from the old school boardwalk photo booth. Pouring through the summertime photo archives was a delight, and I had a feeling that other family members would feel the same way seeing the images on their new Aura frame.
Curating a collection of family photos like this is sure to offer some surprises. Often, the family archives contain images that few people, if any, have ever seen before. The newer stuff can be a treat as well; Thanks to the Aura app, the photos and videos I had just taken recently of the kids goofing off on the boardwalk were just a few taps away from being included on their new Aura frame–even before it was packaged up and loaded onto the truck for shipment.
Digital Delight: The Magic of Receiving An Aura Frame
A few short days later, a box arrived at my brother's house in Massachusetts. Knowing that it was the surprise gift I had ordered, he called me on video chat so I could be there virtually while they unboxed their Aura frame. After a quick and painless setup process, the frame was powered on and cycling through photos documenting years of family fun at the Jersey shore.
As each photo passed across the screen of the frame–which happens automatically, although it didn't take long for the kids to figure out its intuitive touch controls–a new, boisterously excited conversation erupted about this memory or that memory, occasionally punctuated by a curious question about a photo taken before their time.
The beauty of a gift like Aura is that the unboxing moment is just the beginning of the experience. With the frame in their hands and their parents added as contributors on the app, the entire family can add new photos and even interact with one another by commenting and liking photos from within the Aura app. And who knows? Maybe next summer the kids will upload their own photos to Aura right from the beach so they're there when they get home.
The seashore theme seemed to be a hit with my family, but you can populate Aura however you like. If you're giving Aura as a gift, you can simply pre-load it with a few photos you think they'll like and then leave it up to them–or stay connected to the frame and surprise them with new images from time to time. It's up to you.
However you populate the photos on Aura, it's a gift that's guaranteed to delight them–and help you feel more connected, regardless of where you are in your lives or in the world.
John Paul Titlow is a freelance journalist, writer, and film photographer based in Philadelphia. You can read more of his work here.