The task of creating family photo albums has been on my to do list for nearly five years now. Once Audrey turned one, I knew I wanted to compile all of the digital images we had taken that year and create an album. Three months later and I became pregnant with Ben and before I knew it Adeline was a year and a half old and the photo library had ballooned to over 37,000 images! But, this year, I have dedicated myself to finishing ALL of the albums. I have always been inspired by AshleyAnn and her beautiful family albums. Putting together each album has been a little easier than the last - mostly from learning a few lessons the hard way. I've compiled my thoughts on the process below in an effort to pass on these tips:
Given the overwhelming amount of images I had and the number of albums I wanted to make, I gave myself one week to work on each one to keep me from letting another six years slip by. Every person's timeline will be different, but I recommend setting a few goals and trying your best to stick to them. The deadlines kept me on track and were easier than I thought to meet. If you'd like a little encouragement along the way, just let me know and I'll be happy to cheer you on and answer any questions I can.
Gather ALL of the images.
Downloading and importing all of the possible images into one place was a HUGE help. I have been using iPhoto, but there are plenty of great options. I also called upon friends and family for a few pictures that would better help tell the stories I knew I wanted to include. Siblings and grandparents are great resources to ask for pictures from family gatherings. It's nice to incorporate different perspectives and you may actually be in a few of the pictures, added bonus!
Organize photo library.
Depending on the album I am designing (yearly family album, vacation, etc.), I create separate events or folders in chronological order. For a yearly album I organized our images by month and special holidays/events. This gives me an overall look at the pictures I have for the month and makes it easier to choose which stories I want to tell while keeping an eye on the number of images that I will ultimately end up with. Here is a screen shot of what my monthly photo events look like in iPhoto.
Cull and delete unwanted images.
One of the more painful and tedious undertakings for me was sorting through all of the images and trimming the fat. Since I hadn't deleted unwanted images throughout the years, my photo library was rife with duplicates, blurry photos, or seven shots that were virtually the same. It's an important part of the process, but not a very fun one. Not only did it clean up my library, it was a "first look" at that album's potential content. It served as a preview for which stories could be told and a reminder of my favorite images from that time period. I tried to stay motivated by watching the number of images in the trash start to pile up!
Choose album software and printer.
THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT STEP to do before you moving onto image selection. Many printers have limits on page number and or sizes that will ultimately effect how many images that will fit into an album. I prefer to use Artifact Uprising but if you are looking for an album larger than 11 inches I'd suggest using Blurb. Each printer has it's own software and design process. If you plan on making a rather large album, you may want to try a dry run with setting up a smaller album with the printer you choose.
UPDATED: I have used both hardcover and softcover artifact uprising albums and adore them both. I prefer the hardcover for the family albums. I love the classic linen exterior in almost every color option. I keep them stored in our safe, so I don't worry about loosing them or the linen collecting dust. The soft cover books have been great for vacation and instagram albums. As far as the size for our family albums, the larger the better in my opinion. I prefer the look of the square albums, but keep in mind if the majority of your images are of the landscape orientation (like those in our Iraq and Belize 11x8.25 albums) you will maximize the page space and image size by choosing a complimentary album. Using a landscape picture on a square page layout will leave blank margins above and below the image as oppose to a full bleed option of a square image, as you can see in the page layout below.
When choosing the album dimensions, take a look at your images and think ahead on how you'd like to arrange and display them on the majority of the pages.
I try to create well-curated visual storybooks of the year instead of a random assortment of cute pictures of the kids. When choosing images in to include, I asked myself two questions: "Does it tell a story I want to remember?" or "Is it a good image?" Since all of the images had been organized and culled into events, I am left with all of the best images making it easier to choose which ones will end up in the album.
It helped that I was looking at them again with fresh eyes. Josh was also incredibly helpful to help make the final cut when I was on the fence on a few. We collaborated on which stories we thought were important to tell. Since I am primarily the family photographer, I can often get caught up in the emotions associated with an event as well as the quality of the image, but some hard choices need to be made and its awfully helpful to seek the opinion of a friend or family member. It helped us to have many years perspective on which memories remained important and those that faded and didn't need to be included. That's a BIG BONUS for all of my fellow procrastinators!
Since we have moved so often I tried to include many details about the home we were living in, so the kids will be able to look back and see a fuller story. Pictures of the neighborhood, home decor and favorite spots all help to make the visual storybook richer and more meaningful. Rethink excluding images you think have 'distracting elements' like cars in the background. In thirty years when we look back through the albums it will help to tell the story of 'the old days.'
I created a separate folder for each year to drag the image for the album into. This also helps to get a quick over view of how many pictures you have for each possible page layout.
Now for the fun part! Most of the hard work is done and I was left with the collection of images I use to design page layouts and that would ultimately make the final cut. Using iPhoto, Lightroom or Photoshop, I then crop, straighten and visually enhance each image. **Be careful not to crop too tightly images that may be used for a full bleed page, since a percentage of the image will not appear after printing. I can't tell you how many times, I had to re-edit and reimport an image after deciding it was worthy of a full page. If you look carefully the grey shading that borders the image represent what will be lost with printing and binding. Here I didn't mind that part of the top would be cropped, but often times it makes a difference.
Design page layouts.
I tried my best to keep each 'story' to a one or two page spread. Choosing the best image as the center stage and including smaller images for supporting details. This process went much faster after I had designed a few albums and I knew roughly what the page layout options were. I choose to use the simple page layout design templates provided by Artifact Uprising to speed up the process, however it is possible to customize the layouts. During our trip to Belize we happened to walk past a local school and I included my favorite pictures of the students playing jumprope at recess.
It was incredibly helpful to take a break after the rough draft and revise a few more times before printing. There were several times, I caught mistakes and even missed one and printed a duplicate image in an album. It's not worth rushing to press print and regretting it later.
Share and enjoy!!
My favorite part of the process it seeing the box arrive on my doorstep and watching the kids delight as they pour over the pages. We like to 'read' them for bedtime stories and talk about the beautiful memories that were made. Even better, Artifact Uprising allows you to share the digital album with friends and family. You can check out a few examples of our albums by clicking on any of the album covers below:
Hopefully, a few of these tips will help. I found that starting was often the hardest part. So take it one month at a time and before you know it you will be crossing that dreaded task off your list!
Please feel free to share ideas, comments, company reviews, questions or tips of your own in the comment sections. I'd love if we can collaborate and encourage one another along the way!