Yearly Family Albums: How?

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Yesterday I uncovered the purposes behind our yearly photo books. Today I’ll share some tips and thoughts I’ve had along the way.

1. Services

My first book was through iPhoto because I didn’t know what other services were out there. Then I discovered Shutterfly. I was happy with Shutterfly (especially their 50% deals and free books), but some people complain that the quality of the photos is not top-notch. Our 2013 book was designed through Artifact Uprising. What finally made me switch is a longing for more flexibility in book design. I loved the page texture; it was definitely an upgrade (though pricier). I’ve started working on our book for this year in Blurb because Blurb (using their BookSmart software) allows you to copy copious amounts of text and save your layouts so you can use them again. Blurb allows you to access your iPhoto library through the offline software. I’ve loved working with it so far, but I’ll keep you posted. I’ve also heard good things about My Publisher.

My one regret this year is not splurging for the hardcover. I love the feel and look of softcover, but it doesn’t hold up as well, and I can see it looking dirty over time from being handled.

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I’ve always done a landscape style 8.5 X 11. It works best for the orientation of our pictures. I like the way they fit on the shelf too. I’ve debated making the switch to 12 X 12, but right now I like keeping it consistent.

2. Theme

One thing I learned along the way is the importance of having a theme. It gives the book a direction and provides cohesion, holding it all together. For our 2011 book, the theme was New. I featured this theme on many pages by using the same font throughout the book. By the way, in 2011 we graduated, got married, moved to a new city, took new jobs, had a new niece, and well, I think that’s enough.

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In 2012, I played off of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. It felt like we were stepping off the sidewalk–the familiar–by becoming parents. My crudely drawn cover mimics his book. I was in the last weeks of pregnancy when I finished this book, and so the minimal text made it much easier to finish the book. Most pages have simple poems and/or minimal text and lots of black and white to replicate Silverstein.

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For 2013, I focused on the fact that we added a new member to our family. Though I didn’t have a specific theme, I love that Artifact Uprising is simple, so the design is cohesive.

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3. What to Include

In the past, I’ve focused on major events. I try to include snapshots from family vacations, daily life,  and significant days. I generally divide the book seasonally. For example, here are the spreads in this year’s book (except for the intro and recap, a spread means two pages). There are 52 pages total:

Introduction | New Year’s and my birthday | announcing the news and a few belly shots | finding out we were having a boy | early spring and school | late spring and a graduation | family beach trip: candid | family beach trip: planned pictures | moving | baby shower | waiting on baby (a due date picture and the night my water broke) | hospital | delivery | newly born | hospital visitors | our first day at home | home visitors | early days | August | September: Jon’s birthday and some snapshots | September: family gathering and new nephew | October | November: Thanksgiving | Fall family photos and holiday intro | Christmas Eve and morning | Christmas Day | Recap

You may have noticed that at the end, I like to include a recap. One year this meant putting significant things on our coffee table and taking a picture (letters we wrote the day of our wedding, rings, keys to our apartment, menus from restaurants we ate at on our honeymoon, to name a few).

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This year, I included a page of our favorite restaurants, a playlist of 2013, our favorite meals to cook, stats for the year, and our favorite movies. Quotes would also be fun to include. I asked my husband his word for the year, and I also included mine. I have seen people include a page at the end simply for lots of Instagram or smaller pictures, and I plan on doing this in the future.

For 2014, I’m working on a book along the lines of Project Life, so I add a page or two every week. I’m including more day-to-day rather than just major events. Having a baby has meant a lot more pictures (you know that’s an understatement!), so it has made it harder to know what to include (i.e. every picture or just the best).

Pictures: I usually make an iPhoto album called JHBook2013 (or whatever year I’m working on). I don’t add pictures throughout the year. Rather, I add them at the end. I’m fairly over-zealous when choosing which pictures to include. I like to have lots to work with, so I overfill the album and then narrow it down. I like to have some spreads with lots of smaller pictures to remember the little details. I’ve done spreads with 12 pictures in the past throughout the book. This year, I was more selective and included only my favorite pictures.

Text: Words are really important to me in telling our story, so I add text as a supplement. I want the book to work without text, but I also love being able to read the details. If you want to include text, don’t overthink it. Write out what you remember (I often use a Word document). Just try to get it down, however cheesy it may be. Then edit. Proofread it, add it to your book, and proofread again. I don’t add captions to each photo, and I don’t include text on every page; sometimes a paragraph of text covers the next couple of spreads. One year, I also included a few paragraphs overviewing our first six months of marriage at the end.

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4. Audience: I write our books for us and for our own little family. I like sharing them with other family members, but I include the details we remember. This was hard for me at first, but a photo album isn’t public like sharing on social media. You can choose to do twelve pages on your child’s birthday and one for the extended family vacation. It’s your book. Creating a book that tells your story is personal. For example, I don’t edit most of our photos; I love the look when people do, but I just don’t.

5. Just do it: I cannot be  a perfectionist about these books. I do proofread them so many times before clicking “order” but even then, there are generally things I wish I had done differently or a typo I find. At some point, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be finished. There’s always a picture I wish I had added or something I should have mentioned.

Worst case scenario: I completed the back cover of our 2011 book, and I couldn’t put my finger on what looked funny. Even after it came, neither of us noticed the problem. Then it hit me:

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The best part is we always had this joke about how I couldn’t spell Jon’s name. This extra “a” gave some credit to the joke.

If you have questions,  leave them in the comments. Here are three blogs I’ve read recently that deal with family photo albums. I’ve gained inspiration from all of them.

Young House Love: I love the way the keep their covers consistent each year, wrapping a color from the cover around the back.

Mara Wolff: You can look through her beautiful albums. As a photographer, her albums are especially gorgeous.

Ashley Ann Photography: I’m pretty sure I’m drooling over her huge albums! They are gorgeous, and the pictures of her kids looking at them are adorable.

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