Tips for Designing Your Own Family Photo Album

January 5, 2012

in Photography Creative Team, Photography Tips, Susan Keller

Making Your Own Family Photo Album - Photography Tips via iHeartFaces.com


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.

Family Photo 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.

Family Photo Albums

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).

Family Photo Albums

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.

Family Photo Albums

Family Photo Albums

Family Photo Albums

Family Photo Albums

 

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.

Family Photo Albums

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 Photo Albums

Be sure to check up Susan’s follow-up post:  Family Photo Album Design Tips

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.

 

 

Susan Keller for I Heart Faces Susan Keller is an Orange County, California baby, child & family photographer. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Facebook for tips, specials and client sneak peeks.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Johanna December 28, 2012

Not sure if I love you Susan, or I hate you Susan. Honestly maybe a little of both? One thing for sure – I KNOW you are absolutely right and wanting to help us do what we will one day thank you for, if not today. Thank you, I think. 😉 Encourage, shame into, what’s the difference? Now to find some spices that work well with elephant…would that be in the sweet or savory category?

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patti February 29, 2012

I’m a Fotofusion avid user, too! — so I was so glad to hear that you use that software, too. As I was scrolling through your layouts, it had the Fotofusion collage “look”. Thanks for the inspiration as I, like you, have tons of pictures. I love your simplistic look.

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Sara Liliensiek February 28, 2012

These ideas are so inspirational. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. I would love to see my own yearly photobooks and need to get those wedding photos from 2005 into something someday….yikes!

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Kari February 2, 2012

Love theses ideas! Have been trying to figure out how I want to get my thousands of pictures into albums and you just helped to organize my thoughts! I’m going to start on this years tomorrow!

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Nicole January 24, 2012

Thank you so much for this encoragement! I’ve gotten a few photobooks done in the last couple of years but fell off the wagon… so, thank you for the post. I’ve used mixbook in the past – have you ever had a chance to compare it to mypublisher? If so, what do you think?

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Spring January 18, 2012

Id love some ideas! Im just about finished with my 2009 using my publisher (never used them before) I wish I could share and get feedback before moving on.

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Stacey January 18, 2012

This is a great post. I prepare an annual photo book each year of our family. I think it is so important to document our lives and get our photos off our hard drives! I offer tips on book design layouts and photo book suggestions if anyone needs inspiration!

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images by stephanie rose January 17, 2012

I just created for my grandmom a book of all these old family photos I had. It was a HIT and she loved it. I used WHCC for my printing and desinged it all in photoshop myself. I had to do this before for school with BLURB and its so much nicer doing it yourself with your own background and not the cheesy backgrounds or styles,

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Jen January 7, 2012

Thank you for this post! I always want to do photo books but can never come up with a “theme” for them. An annual photo album is EXACTLY what I need to do and I’m starting today : )

Thanks for inspiring me!

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Celeste@meetonoght January 7, 2012

This is a perfectly timed post, because the best place to start is now..I really like all the photo you shared..

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Kat January 6, 2012

Love this post because I want to attempt making one this year, but where does one get them printed?

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spring January 6, 2012

Thanks! Why level 10 and not the 12? Just wondering. How would I do the layout? Certain size?

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skeller January 6, 2012

Spring –
if it were me … I would start my 2012 album and KEEP CURRENT. if there’s time left over, I would tackle/finish the 2009 album. yes, you can certainly design your layouts in PS9 (export the pages as level 10 jpgs, 300 dpi) and then upload to MP.

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spring January 6, 2012

I have done digi scrapping in the past but I haven’t worked on it since 2009. Do you suggest getting 2009 finished first? Continue from there or should I start on THIS years book?

I have elements 9. Could I do my layouts in that and then plop them into the MY PUBLISHER?

THANKS SO MUCH!
Spring

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Skeller January 6, 2012

Maryna –
I just do an annual FAMILY book. But I have boys. Boys that I’m pretty sure don’t want to be saddled with 20 books of themselves down the road ;-).

Darlene – 300 dpi isn’t the problem (300 dpi is actually more than adequate). There will always be a quality difference between a consumer level press-printed product (which is what each of the companies you listed makes) and an actual photograph. That said … and this is only my *personal opinion* … I think MyPublisher is just much nicer quality than the Snapfish & Shutterfly albums I’ve seen.

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Darlene January 5, 2012

Susan, thank you for the motivation. I am two years behind. I have a question. I have used Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Winkflash, but all print at 300 dpi. I’ve not been quite thrilled with the finished product because the print resolution simply doesn’t compare to a printed photo. Does MyPublisher print at a higher resolution? Do you know who does? Thanks so much.

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Melissa January 5, 2012

Thanks so much for all the tips! This year I will stay on top of my game & do it all through the year! I got married at the end of 2008, and i JUST did my wedding book last summer. I did it with kodak & it turned out SO beautiful, that I decided to do a book for each year. Only now I have 2009, 2010 & 2011 to do. EEK! I’m a little encouraged after reading this, though. My pics are organized, but it’s still going to take forever. :) I’ll get there! LOVE your books! Great post!

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Jen@GarageSaleDiaries January 5, 2012

This is an absolutely fabulous post! I love your detail! I use Memory Mixer software for creating my layouts and it works great for me! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the inspiration! I agree – a family album is a LARGE task and its tough to stay up to date with my photos. I order multiple copies of our annual family album and give it to the grandparents as their Christmas gift, so THAT is MY incentive to stay on top of my photo organization!! The most important thing to remember is to TAKE THE PHOTOS. Otherwise at the end of the year – you have nothing to organize!
:-)

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Shanny U January 5, 2012

Thank you so much for sharing. I found this to be very inspirational and easy enough to follow through. I’ve been wanting to start to print them for 6 years now…thank you!

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Angie January 5, 2012

Amazing tips from Susan Keller via @iheartfaces on how she puts together her yearly family photo albums…LOVE this! http://t.co/IsKr6wPL

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Tracey January 5, 2012

Nice sharing…I want to try this also…I might find some of our photo..

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Sprittibee January 5, 2012

EUREKA!!! http://t.co/agoBEoLw #photographyepiphany

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Maryna January 5, 2012

And so they question I was trying to ask was how you guys approach this?

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Maryna January 5, 2012

I have a quick question…
So I have debated with myself for ever on this topic: should I be making annual family books OR annual book for each child (I have two kids). My heart lies towards annual family book since it is just one book you have to work one and since it includes not just kids pictures and childhood they will remember but also some trips of just mom and dad..and may be some of mom’s getaways pictures =)
But then if I make this one annual book I certainly do not plan separating with it when time comes for kids to leave the family nest and to have their own families…so then do I make a copy of this family book for each child?..and if I do decide to make a copy should I do it now?

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Skeller January 5, 2012

yikes, Karli – what you’re describing is NOT normal. I’ve not had grid lines in any of my images (not ones from my 5d, or Rebel, cheapie p&s, or phone pics), not from the full page jps I submit, or the individual pictures I originally uploaded in my first books when using MP’s layouts. I hope they help you figure out what’s going on! Just out of curiosity, what LR export print settings are you using in addition to the 3600px length?

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Wendys Hat January 5, 2012

Great ideas! Thanks for the tips. My niece also chooses a few from each month and makes a calendar out of it and gives it to family for Christmas every year.

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Karli January 5, 2012

This is just the post I needed to read to push me to get my books done! So funny…. I do everything almost identical to the way you described; down to organizing in LR, etc. A quick question if you don’t mind. I’ve always used MyPublisher too (it’s so easy for someone who does NOT enjoy photo book making like me – LOL!)…but do you notice the little grid marks across your photos? (I think they’re called raster lines)? I always hear great things about MyPublisher….so I’m wondering if it’s just me? I shoot with the 5D Mark II, and the files are pretty large. MyPub said the files need to be about 3600 px on the long size, so I resized EVERY single picture and had the book reprinted. SAME grid-like lines. Ugh! Their customer service is FANTASTIC, and I really want to use them. Just curious if you’ve noticed this too?

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Erica January 5, 2012

I totally agree with this post!!!! I make it a habit every couple months to go through my pics and get them printed, I take the photos, and make sure I put each kids photos in an album, and then i take extras and make each kid a scrapbook each year…..It is a lot of work, but I know when I look at them it is all worth it and when my kids are older they can have them and they can see all the memories, or just day to day stuff, we have made!!!!!!

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MamaBear January 5, 2012

Beautiful layouts Susan! This was a very inspiring post and very timely as I need some motivation to tackle the 5 YEARS of albums I’m behind on. I make books for a living so I have a hard time justifying putting the time in on my own projects when clients are waiting. But I’m going to be taking the summer off and hope to be able to plow through a few of my own blog books then. I will definitely take your advice to heart and get past my road blocks!

One thing I wanted to throw out there to other reader is something I teach in my bookmaking classes and that is to pick a portion of the year to make an album for if the whole year seems too overwhelming. I have made books for each summer since we moved into our current home that happens to be inside a park. I find that since we live where it’s super cold in the winter my better photos are from the summer so that’s the time frame for my books. They are strictly photobooks where my other neglected albums are blog books with gobs of text.

Anyway…thanks for a great post!

Carrie

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Susan Keller January 5, 2012

Yay – I will be so happy if this post encourages even just one person to get that album printed!

Michelle – the very first album I printed back in 2006 was MyPublisher’s Classic book (pages are roughly 8.5×11″). I’ve just made all the rest match the first :-). 12×12 is awesome, tho – I am quite partial to that size when creating client albums…

Emily – I have the extreme version (I justified the cost because I use it extensively for my client work – designing custom albums, wall galleries, and large collages, etc.). You could certainly use the scrapbook or enhanced versions to design your albums, but it would have to be one page at a time. I actually really like MyPublisher’s software/layouts – especially “just photos” and “bestseller”). If I didn’t already have Fotofusion for work stuff, I would use MP’s layouts. (one advantage of designing in FF instead of MP is that my 100page album ends up being about a 50mB upload. if instead I just dragged & dropped photos into MP’s layouts, my upload ends up being closer to 1Gb, which with my slow internet makes for a really LONG upload).

Lea – keep going!!! you won’t regret it!

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Lea January 5, 2012

I literally took a break from trying to create a 2011 album to read this post. I was about ready to give up due to feeling completely overwhelmed, but you’ve inspired me to keep trucking along!

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Sprittibee January 5, 2012

I want to marry this post.

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Emily M. January 5, 2012

wonderful post, THANK YOU! in the past i have used blurb for my photo books, and have not been at all happy with the quality. don’t like the layouts for mpix books…am trying My Publisher ASAP! i am really interested in the FotoFusion software you spoke of. i’ve been to their website, and not being too tech savvy, am not sure if i should get the enhanced or extreme version (big price difference!). am i reading their description correctly-i need the extreme version for making photo books? Which to you use/recommend? and why do you use FotoFusion instead of the layouts provided by by My Publisher??? thank you!

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Jen January 5, 2012

THANK YOU for this, Susan! I seriously love you for your detailed description of your process. I saw your recent post on your blog and I was going to comment and ask you how you do it. Thank you!

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Janneke M January 5, 2012

Thank you for the inspiration and motivation! I am going to get my pictures printed, one way or another this year. I don’t want to lose 5 years of our lives!

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Tracy P. January 5, 2012

YES! We love our photo books! This is a perfectly timed post, because the best place to start is now. In a perfect world we could catch up, but starting now for this year is what’s manageable. Great advice, Susan!

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Ali B. January 5, 2012

I love this idea and feel like this is a really good year to start – thanks for all the tips and inspiration!!!

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Michelle January 5, 2012

Thank you! I SOOOO needed to read this. I am new to creating photobooks but I know it’s important so I’m sticking with it.

Just wanted to ask you if you stick with a particular size? I was thinking of 12×12 in order to showcase the photos the best…

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Michelle Serrano January 5, 2012

Thank you for this push. My husband (then boyfriend) gave me my DSLR five years ago. Guess when my last photo album ends? Right when I stopped using film. All those untouched photos became so overwhelming to me last year that I hardly took any new photos. This year I’ve decided that even if I don’t have time to do anything with those old photos yet, I need to start a habit of working with the new ones from this year. Thank you for some practical tips and a well timed push. (Maybe you can remind us in another month or two as well)

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