For the last several years, I have been keeping my digital photos organized on my hard drive by year and month. Although it’s nice being able to find my photos when I need them, I would like even more to to have hard copies of them to show off.
She created albums with our family and individual photos over the years for each of us kids. When I moved out, she gave me my set of albums.
I love being able to open the albums and quickly show my children baby photos, my great grandmother, each year’s birthday, Halloween, and Christmas pictures, and of all the fun memories I have growing up with my parents and siblings.
I’m currently working to scan all the photos in my albums so that I have them digitally as well. When it comes down to it, I would like to have hard and digital copies of all my photos! The more places I preserve my photos, the less likely they will be lost over time.
The albums that my mother made are wonderful yet simple. I would create albums the same way she did, but I don’t want to print several copies of each photo, buy an album and plastic photo protectors, then put each photo into it’s slot. I’d rather make a book online and then be able to purchase as many copies as I need, when I need them.
For my first attempt at printing our family’s photos into a book, I decided to use Blurb. I’ve used them in the past and their books are high quality and easy to make.
(This post contains affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission but it doesn’t change the price of the item. Blurb gave me the book I created for this post for free as an affiliate gift).
1. Decide on a Project Size
I haven’t made any albums with all my photos since my Freshman year of college – so that means I have over ten years of photos to make into books. The prospect of taking on this large of a project was overwhelming – which is part of the reason I hadn’t started yet. I decided to break up the project into smaller projects and make one family yearbook for each year.
To make this first attempt easy, I chose 2015 as my starting project. I know I have all the photos for this year and won’t need to search for and consolidate as many photos as I will for previous years when my photos are located on different computers and CDs.
At this point, you might also want to choose which book size and type you’re going to create. At Blurb you can compare the pricing for all the different kinds of photo books. I chose an image wrap hardcover in standard 8×10 portrait size. You can also choose whether or not to download Blurb’s bookmaking software, or simply create your book online without downloading anything. This option is perfect for creating a book using your Facebook and Instagram photos, in addition to those saved to your computer.
The next step was to combine photos from our different cameras to the appropriate month folders in for 2015. I had already done this for one of our cameras, and now needed to do so with our phone cameras.
My husband and I both use google photos to backup the photos and videos we take with our phones. As soon as we take a photo, the full sized photo is uploaded to our google photos accounts and we can access them online. (We pay a little extra for the full size to be uploaded. If you just want the standard size uploaded, it’s free).
I went through our google photo streams and downloaded the all photos we took each month. Sometimes I transfer photos directly from my phone to my computer’s hard drive. Either method works well.
Next I deleted duplicates and low quality photos. Many were blurry, poorly lit, or were just plain junk photos that were taken of the ceiling by my kids. I deleted several that were the same pose but with eyes closed or moving arms. When I had two photos of basically the same thing that were equally good, I deleted one. I really wanted to prune down the amount of photos to make it more manageable.
4. Choose Your Favorite Photos
After getting rid of the blurry and duplicate photos, I picked my favorite photos to include in the book. I tried to choose one or two photos to represent each important event. If I printed every single photo for the year, the book would be enormous, more costly, and more time consuming. My goal for the book was to keep it at about 2-3 pages for each month. After all, if we want to look at all the photos, we can just sit down at the computer or use my phone to check out google photos.
As I selected photos to include in the book, I copied them to a new folder in the 2015 directory, “yearbook.” I created a folder within my “yearbook” folder for each month. After I copied my favorites into that folder, I pruned it down one more time.
These first four steps took more time than actually making the book! To make it smoother next time, I’m going to keep up with these digital photo organization habits to make next year’s book easier. Here’s a FamilySearch blog article with some suggestions for photo organization habits.
5. Design Your Book
Finally it was time to open the book making software and start designing my book. I used the Blurb BookWright software. It’s intuitive to use and has many helpful features including pre-designed templates, customizable layouts, and text tools like reflowable containers.
I made the first page into a simple title page them jumped right into creating the January pages. I added all the photos from my January Yearbook folder, which were organized by the date they were taken, and started plugging them into one of the pre-designed layouts with 4-5 photos per page. I wanted to include as many photos as possible on each page without making them too small.
Next time, I will do slightly less photos per page, about 3-4, so they will be larger. Also, I opted not to add scrap-booking features to my book. I knew this would consume a lot of time and although it would look cute, that wasn’t my main purpose for the book. I wanted to get it done more than I wanted it to have stickers, special fonts, and colorful backgrounds. I chose one font and size for the month titles and another font for event titles within the month, i.e. “Dyer Reunion.” The last font I had was for photo captions.
I didn’t add a caption to every photo. For example, on the Dyer reunion page, I captioned one of the photos from the USS Midway Museum, which would clue us in that the other three were also from that location. When adding meta data to the original digital files, I will include captions and photo titles for every single photo. In the book, I didn’t feel this was as necessary.
Lastly, I chose my favorite photos of the year for the front and back covers.
6. Print the Book
When you’re done designing the book, you can review anything that’s not right. The BookWright software notifies you if any photos are going to look pixelated or if the text is too close to the edge. After fixing any problems, you’re ready to print the book.
As I mentioned, one of my favorite things about creating a book online is that you can print as many copies as you want, whenever. I printed just one copy for now to make sure it turned out how I wanted it to. Then when I’m ready to print copies for each of my kids, I can make edits if needed and purchase more from my Blurb account where all the books I’ve created are saved. If any other family members want to order their own, I can send them a link to purchase their own.
My children were delighted with the book. They looked back at our memories from last year with so much excitement. While looking at our Christmas photos at Grandma’s house, my 3 year old told me over and over that she wanted to “go there!”
This is such a wonderful gift for grandparents. My husband’s parents live out of state and every Christmas he’ll ask me if I plan to do another “yearbook” for Christmas because his mother is looking forward to it. I’ve been printing digital scrapbooks of our family adventures for about eight years, though not always consistently, but the family loves it when they get one.
I’ve also started putting some of my research of our various family lines into books and printing them as well. I’ve even sold probably a dozen copies (at cost, as they aren’t cheap and I’m just sharing) of my Jenkins research to other Jenkins cousins. It’s a great way to share you research of your family history.
I’ve used different digital scrapbooking companies and by far I like http://www.mixbook.com for cost, quality, scrapbooking designs and elements and easy of use of software. Just another option if you’ve not heard about it.
Oh great! I’ve heard of MixBook but I haven’t tried it yet. Thanks for the tip! My grandmother also loves the books that I make. I’ve made some with family history research as well. It’s so delightful to be able to publish all the wonderful stories and photos of our family’s past and present.