January 19, 2012

Making Family Photo Albums - Organization & Creation Tips

Please.  Don’t let your family photos merely live in your computer.  I know we’re living in a digital age, but I still believe that there is just something special about a printed picture.  Or a whole bunch of printed photos all combined together.  In a book.  That tells a story.  That documents YOUR FAMILY.   My goal today is a simple one:  I want to encourage you to make family photo albums.  And PRINT THEM.

4 years' albums

I make an annual photo album for my family.  I just completed my 6th year’s album and am excitedly awaiting its delivery.  It was compiled from my 10,000 (!!) photos from 2011, which I culled down to my favorite 800, and spread over 100 pages.  If I can do it, so can you.  I promise.  I know it seems like a daunting task …

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

For me, that means I start working on my annual family album … Jan 1st.  Yup, you read that right.  It’s a brand new year.  Get started on this year’s album NOW.

I start with a file structure, and I keep it super simple.  My parent folder is named “2012 Photography”.  My sub-folders are simply the months of the year.

file structure

I use Lightroom to catalog, key word, chronologically organize, sort, cull, and edit my photos.  I export edited pics from LR directly to a folder for my album.  (So I have one folder for the year with my 800 most beloved pictures.  Tip:  This is the one folder that I am sure to burn to a disk to keep in addition to my other photo backup systems).

Lightroom as an organizer

I begin creating photo album pages at the end of January.  My family album pages typically fall into 3 main categories:  1) simple chronological progression; 2) a specific activity; and 3) roadtrip/travel excursions.

merchant of venice
summer roadtrip hike
summer roadtrip hike2

In a perfect world, I would work often on my album and keep totally current.  The reality is, I usually sit down and power out two or three months at a time.  The important part for me is not to fall too awfully far behind.  Because then the task seems too big.  I need “one-bite” portions.

Which brings me to a super important part of being successful in completing this annual photo album project.  I need to remove mental roadblocks that might hinder my progress and keep me from finishing my project. What I mean by this – a specific example:  I wish I was a journal-er type person; that my family albums included thoughtful commentary about our daily life and keen, insightful notes about my amazing kids/husband.  But, I’ve got to be realistic.  I’m not that person.  I don’t like putting words together.  If my album creation depended on me writing words to perfectly accompany my pictures, my annual family albums would. NEVER. happen.   So I don’t write much.  And I’m ok with that.  (I feel a Stuart Smalley mirror moment coming on, because, “I’m good enough.  I’m smart enough.  And goshdarnit, people like me…”  grin).

So figure out what your “roadblocks” are and eliminate them.  If you hate editing everything, then stop feeling like you can only print an edited photo.  If page design is not your thing, then find a book publisher that has ready made templates that you can simply drag & drop your photos into.   I’m sure you get the idea.  Figure out the part of the process that you don’t like, and find a way around it, a way to “let it go.”

Ok, on to actually making this album…

I design all my pages using Fotofusion software.  I’ve saved all my past pages as templates, so now I can pretty much drag & drop to my heart’s content.  Of course, YOU don’t need to generate pages this way.  Most publishers have free templates for their books.  Or you can use Photoshop or Elements or Gimp or any scrapbooking software.  You can even design pages directly in Lightroom.   Just pick whatever works best for YOU.   Organizationally, the key for me is to have a simple chronological progression (usually a double-page spread per month) and fit activity pages & travel pages into their proper chronological place.
snipit of fotofusion

I export all my designed pages to a new folder (“completed album pages” – I know, I’m so creative in my naming) as I complete them.  I make sure to duplicate this folder on my backup hard drive, because, yes, I have had my computer crash and I’ve lost all my work.  Talk about a roadblock!  These “completed album pages” are the jpgs I upload to the publisher/printer at the end of the year.  MyPublisher is the printer I use (and love!), but there are many consumer level album printers that you can choose from:  Blurb, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kodak, iPhoto … Pick whatever works best for YOU!

The last step of the process:  after I upload and pay, I tap my feet unceasingly & impatiently until my album arrives on my front door step.   And when it does arrive, I squeal with immense joy as I flip thru those pages, because … I’ve eaten an elephant, bite by bite, and it tastes ever so good.

family portrait 2page spread
P.S.  If you would like to see other examples of my family photo album pages, you can find more on my blog, here and here.

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