I've enjoyed reading the responses! It seems like the number one takeaway is to know your audience, and I agree.
Here's the story that prompted the question. We spent Christmas with my in-laws, including my husband's brother (Josh), his wife (Jane), and their child (Jacob). In the exchange of gifts, my husband and I received a framed photo of their family.
We don't display photos of people in our home (the only photo we display is a framed photo of us from our wedding), and the frame is not our taste. Additionally, as we attended several other events with the Js and saw photos on Facebook of their gift exchange with others, we saw that everyone (parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews) all received an identical frame with an identical family photo. For the majority of people, it was the only Christmas present they received from the Js.
I have two issues with this - first, we went to a great deal of effort to find things that were specific to each of them as individuals and that we knew they would love. While the items were not necessarily expensive, they were incredibly personal, so to receive in return a present that was exactly the same as they got for everyone else was a little... off-putting. And I found it rather self-absorbed.
However, I don't get along well with the Js, and so I recognize that, from someone else, I might not have been as annoyed.
I understand how you feel about their gift, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with how you feel. However, your relatives decided that a framed photo of their family would make a good gift for all members of the family and probably thought that if was very much a nice, personal gift. They probably wouldn't give this kind of gift to friends, co-workers or secret Santa partners. In addition, most people would not get different poses done so that each gift recipient would have a more 'personalized' photo from them. That would be really expensive and well, most people just don't do it ... one for two poses during a photo session is usually it.
In addition, maybe they thought that the majority of the family would like these photos. They probably don't know how every family member displaces pictures or how their taste in frames runs. I think it would have been even odder if they had given the majority of the family framed photos and only one or two family members a different type of gift. Who knows, those family members might then be upset that they didn't get a photo.
I really don't find giving family portraits as gifts to be odd. We've done this in our family ... but it is not a yearly thing ... more like a five - seven year thing. I do find it a bit odd to be given as a Christmas gift though. I'm guessing that is why they were framed ... to dress up the gift a bit. In our family, members just hand out pictures to other families when they've had them done professionally, which is not often. A kind of "anyday" gift. They are not usually framed either ... that is up to the recipient.
I guess I would only find this odd if they do it every year. If I were you, I would just add the picture to a photo album, since you don't display photos, and either donate the frame or store it away for a time when you might need a frame for something. You could spray paint it to make it more to your taste.
I pretty much agree with all of this with the exception that I find it neither odd nor probablamitic to give family photos as Christmas gift. I can understand that the gift and the frame wasn't to your liking, and that's fine, but that doesn't make it rude or thoughtless or impersonal. The J's likely thought it was a great gift to give to their family. They missed the mark on you, but they didn't do anything wrong in my opinion.
Instances where I've given photos as gifts:
1. My grandmother, who needs nothing, only ever wants pictures of the great grandchildren. So, I've given her framed pictures of my DD. One year, we had all the great grandchildren photographed together and presented a framed protrait of them to my grandmother for Christmas. She still says that was the best gift she's ever been given.
2. My mother had been talking to years about getting a good family portrait done of our entire extended family. I arranged for this to happen (a lot of coordination and work) and paid for the session. For her birthday (a few weeks later), I give her the framed family portrait she really wanted. She hung it over her fireplace.
3. My best friend had been dreaming of going to a specific vacation spot. She had a trip booked and then got into an accident that prevented her from going. She was pretty depressed about the whole thing, so I talked to a few people and found out that a photographer friend of mine had been to this place and taken several pictures. I purchased one and had it framed and gave it to my friend (this was not a gift for a special occasion, but a gift none-the-less).
I know that in all these instances, I knew for a fact that the people wanted and would appreciate these gifts, but I really think that when it comes to gift giving for many friends and extended family it really can be a guessing game. What one person would appreciate others wouldn't. I was once given a family portrait of my cousin's family for Christmas. It was in a cheap plastic frame, but I knew that the family was on a limited income and spent a lot to have formal pictures taken. While the frame wasn't to my taste and I don't make a habit of displaying pictures of cousins, aunts, and uncles, I knew that my cousin thought it was a good gift and that's really all that mattered. I even added it to my family picture wall and it doesn't bother me at all that it's there.
I've also received gifts that I have never used or never displayed. Gifts from people who know me well and still somehow missed the mark. They didn't do it to be rude or slight me or be lazy or unthoughtful. They just didn't do well with the gift. Just like I'm sure that some gifts I've given, despite my efforts to get something that will be liked, wanted and useful, didn't go over as well as I thought they would (though no one has ever been rude and told me anything but thank you). So, unless the J's really are the type of people that who a purposely thoughtless when it comes to gift giving, I would just chalk it up to them not doing well with the gifts for everyone. There are probably family members who really appreciated getting the photo.