Melissa Gaston: Find The Light


How to Capture History: 5 Options for Making Photo Albums

Get your photos off your computer and into your hands

I'm going to confess something: in the past seven years, I've probably taken over 30,000 photographs. (It's really more like 40,000, but I'm getting better at culling my pictures.) Almost none of those photos are printed.

Our memories live in a digital box.

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We recently took a weekend trip and one of the perks that came with the room was a coupon for a free photo book. I actually used it once we got back and quickly made an 8 x 8 photo book of our time at the resort. The day it arrived, I was surprised by how much my kids loved the book. They loved seeing themselves in print (even though the photos were not that great) and read it repeatedly over the first few days. I'm embarrassed to say that other than the photo books of their (respective) first years, I have no photo albums that they can look through or that we can tell our family stories from.

So, my goal for 2015 is to document our family memories with a book for each year. I'm going to compile the 2015 book on a monthly basis, and I'd like to also create books for previous years, working my way backwards.

I'm still wavering on how to do this, but these are the options I'm considering:

1. Old school photo albums. Print out the photos and slide them into a pocket. I'm paranoid about backing up your stuff, so this makes me nervous for some reason. If anything happened to the photo album, I'd have to start the printing and sorting all over again.

2. Paper Scrapbooks. I used to be an avid scrapbooker. Then I had my second child and I realized I didn't have the time to painstakingly cut out letter titles and glue down photos and embellishments anymore. My time commitments have only become worse, so this option isn't going to work for me, either. 

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3. Digital Scrapbooking. This has potential; you begin by designing the pages in Photoshop/Photoshop Elements and then printing them out to slide into 12 x 12 pocket protectors in a binder/album. The other option is to save the layered template pages until the end of the year, and have them printed into a photobook at the end of each year (which is what I did with the books for my kids' first year). Want to get into digital scrapbooking? Check out It's so easy to learn. 

4. Project Life App. If you're familiar with the Project Life way of scrapbooking (which, in paper form, combines 1 and 2 above, or, in the digital realm, falls into number 3), it's meant to make your storytelling simple. Becky Higgins, creator of the Project Life system, has created an app for Apple devices. THIS IS SCRAPBOOKING FROM YOUR PHONE, PEOPLE! It's really easy to use. You could print the pages as you go, or save them all for the end of the year and have them printed into a photobook. Think of this as an easier version of number 3. 

5. Photobooks. I know I mentioned photo books in 3 and 4 above, but that's in the context of using another program first, and then printing those pages I create as a single-image page in a photobook from a source like Blurb or Shutterfly. As a standalone, though, each of the photobook services have their own easy-to-use templates and software that you can just drag photos into. Add a bit of text and have the book printed! (This is what I did with our wedding book, and our recent travel book.) 

Each of 3, 4 and 5 meet my backup criteria - there's always a digital version of the complete book or each page that can easily be reprinted. 

I suspect I'll probably use the Project Life App for my 2015 photos, since I can do it on the go and my current photos are already on my phone or in Dropbox. For previous years, I'm leaning towards using the photobook software from whichever printer I choose to use. While I'd like to spend more time on design, I think the drag-and-drop method is what is going to get these books completed. Done is better than perfect! 

Are you hoarding pictures on your computer? What's your solution for getting them onto paper?

Photo by Flicker CC by Iris