June 7th 2012
archived under: Crafts, Home & Garden, Organization, Step by Step Crafts


It’s easy to take hundreds, no, THOUSANDS, of digital photos. You’ve probably got at least an 8 GB memory card in your “real” camera, so you don’t have to worry about filling it up, and your phone’s built-in camera probably rivals most stand-alone point & shoot cameras available these days – and it’s almost always on your person. But these thousands of photos aren’t doing any good sitting on your hard drive, your camera’s memory card, or your phone. If you’re truly “capturing a memory” the point is to later…relive that memory. Am I right?

And no one seems to curl up with their loved ones in front of a computer monitor to laugh about that hilarious Halloween costume Aunt Madge wore 10 years ago, or to “awww” over their kindergarten graduation photos. Books are a much better medium for this.

You could scrapbook, printing out individual photos and storing them in files labeled by event and date, then scouring stores for the perfect papers, embellishments, and archival glue (and spending a fortune in the process), then blocking out time to painstakingly crop, round corners, arrange, and glue… and maybe in 3 hours you’ll have a beautiful 2-page spread about how Johnny lost his first tooth.

But if you spend so long documenting each little moment, how are you going to make new memories? In 10 years will you be making scrapbook pages about organizing your scrapbooking room? About how you learned to set eyelets and chalk edges of precision-ripped mulberry paper? About how you made that gorgeous “Johnny’s first visit from the tooth fairy!” page?

Personally, I think there are better ways to use that time (and money).

There are many companies out there now that will let you digitally create a photo book, and then print and professionally bind it and send it to you. This post isn’t about the different companies. But there are lots. Some let you control every minute aspect of layout. Others have a “make the book for me!” option, where all you do is upload your photos and suddenly they’re arranged in a book, complete with backgrounds, borders, and a consistent color scheme. There’s everything in between, too.

And these are books that will take up MUCH less space than scrapbooks, be much more fun to look through than computer files, and – in the case of disaster (fire, flood, a toddler who tears pages or colors with sharpie) – can be printed again and again.

Are you convinced yet? It’s time to move to digitally-created photo books.

Here are 10 tips to help you get started.

1. Narrow it down.

A while ago, I asked on twitter, “How often do you go through your digital photos and delete the not-as-good ones?” Guess what. Some people NEVER delete a single photo. Other people keep up with it regularly. For some people, deleting not-as-good photos means saving the top 4 photos from any event. For others, it means narrowing down 2000 photos to 200.

Whatever your version is, DO IT. You’re never going to enjoy 400 photos of your baby sleeping on a blanket. But 3 or 4 with different facial expressions might be worth keeping.

2. Decide on your book’s “theme.”

Will you be making a family “yearbook” with your photos in roughly-chronological order? Or a more focused book, like one all about your trip to New Zealand? Maybe you’ll make one that has a theme, like “Jamie’s School Field Trips” or “A Year of Breakfasts.” All you have to do is decide. Pick ONE. Start there. You can do ALL the others later. But just choose which one you’re going to do FIRST. That’s how you start this journey.

3. Binding matters.

Make sure you can label your book’s spine. Most companies allow this, but some types of books (often soft-cover) don’t have this option. But when your books are on a shelf together, you want to be able to pull out the one you want to flip through. Label it in a way that will remind you what’s inside.


4. A killer cover.

Choose some stand-out photos for your cover. This is what will show when the book is sitting on the coffee table. Hopefully it’ll invite visitors or family members to pick it up and flip through the pages. Make it count.


5. Highlight your favorites.

You’ll want to include lots of pictures to tell stories, or show the details of events or gatherings, but for the photos you really LOVE on their own, allow them to shine. Give them a full-page spread and you can linger over them when you are revisiting your book.


6. Don’t get long-winded.

While you do want to share your experiences, memories, and stories… no one – including you – will want to look through 15 pages of Christmas Day. It’s okay to cram a bunch of pictures onto a few pages, if you want. Just make sure you’ve narrowed it down (Tip 1) so you don’t end up with 40 pictures of Suzie smiling and holding up a different gift.


7. Include what YOU want to remember.

As I was making these books, I thought a few times, “How silly – who would want to look at a picture of ___?” But if the answer is “I would.” that’s reason enough. On the spread below, you can see I included a photo of Anneliese’s video baby monitor – which has since been replaced by my homemade iPhone video baby monitor.

I remember the first nights she started in her bed, and how I would stare at the monitor, watching her sleep, almost afraid to fall asleep myself. I remember MISSING her while she was in the next room. I remember opening my eyes in the middle of the night because of the tiniest sound, just to check on her. Also? I think it’ll be fun to look at our clunky old technology in 35 years.

I also included before and after pictures of room makeovers, “tours” of rooms, and so forth. As a military family, we’ve moved a lot, and it’s fun to look back on old houses of ours.


8. Treat photo series as one.

If you have a collection of a few very similar photos, don’t feel like you have to just choose one. If they’re different enough to enjoy each one, go ahead an put them all in. Just make sure they look good in the book. This is similar to Tip 5 – Highlight your favorites. Feel free to take an entire page, or 2-page spread to include a photo series. Don’t scatter them among other photos across several pages. Arrange the photos so they relate to each other and your eye can flow through them easily.


9. Don’t feel pressured to use text.

Do what you want! If you’re not a journaler, you don’t have to have an explanation of every picture (and we all know a picture is worth 1000 words, and redundancy is …well…repetitive). You can use text to mark the beginnings of months, title memorable events, or signify special days if you’d like. You can include a favorite family recipe alongside your Thanksgiving photos, or chronicle memories you don’t want to forget, in great detail. It’s up to you. But don’t feel like you HAVE to write anything, if you don’t want to. It’ll only hold you back.


10. Just do it.

Instead of planning every detail of every photo book you ever hope to make, painstakingly researching every book printing company, and fretting over how to proceed, just do it. Did you see a Groupon for a great photo book deal? Snag it and use it. Has a company sent you a promotional email or postcard, awarding you a free 20-page book? Go ahead and pop some of your favorite recent pictures into a premade template. A few dollars in shipping and you’ll have a fun book to look through! Even if it’s not perfect, it’s better than having your photos rotting on your hard drive, forgotten.


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