Family Album 2013

Family Album 2013: Organization + Process + Design Tools

This post is part of a series where I explain in detail how I approached and built my 2013 family album that was printed  by Blurb. In a hurry? View the completed photobook, now.

I am a digital memory keeper. I make photobooks. I like the symmetry of factory-cut pages and the precision of a single, professional printer generating the colors of my layouts. There's also something mystical that happens when I take something that I have only worked with digitally and am suddenly holding it in my physical hands.

And, for me, expense is an issue. I can buy or create a digital template or stamp and reuse it infinitely.   Once a piece of paper is cut, there's no going back. Stamp ink runs dry, has to be replaced. A sticker gets used once and it's done. Physical product always has to be replaced. Albums can only hold so much content and take up a certain amount of room. Photobooks are simply smaller than an equivalently sized album. And I love that I can easily have a version printed for my family and another printed to send to extended family.

I experimented for a month with Project Life®, and quickly became overwhelmed for a number of reasons I won't dive into here. Although I loved seeing pocket scrapbooks from others, I eventually realized that what makes my heart sing are large images, full bleed, 2-pages spreads whenever possible. I also realized that what I really loved were photos and words.

I like images and image series that tell a compelling story. And I like filling in the blanks of a story when an image doesn't say enough. I decided to give myself permission to write my family's story in a way that worked for me: through photography, some journaling and captions, and not much else.

8x10 Blurb photo book | annual family album |

Layout Template

For the bulk of the album I used the Photobook Frenzy templates from Nettio Designs. These were originally designed for a Week in the Life™ album, and I adapted them to tell my longer story. The number one reason I used these templates is because of their emphasis on large images. I also liked that they were designed for my favorite photobook size, which is the standard portrait photobook from Blurb (size 8x10). I have made books this size for clients in the past and the scale feels just-right. And, maybe it's because I spent so many years in school, the 8x10 reminds me of a textbook. I have made square albums in the past and I just never like them as much as I have liked this more rectangular layout. It just feels right.

Organizing by Seasons

Sample template page with all tabs showing.

I decided  to organize my album by seasons versus weeks or months. Since I started my album in late summer, I had several months of photos and memorabilia to sift through. I immediately noticed that while we had done quite a bit and I had taken a lot of pictures during the summer, the spring had far fewer, and the beginning of the year (late winter) was even more skimpy.

I tend to start the year a little uninspired and burnt out from the frenzy of the holidays. At any time I may take 300 photos on a single day at a single event. I may also go weeks or months without feeling any desire to capture my life in images. I used to get hypercritical about times when I didn’t want to shoot, now I have come to accept it as part of my cycle. I ride it and watch what happens when I come out on the other side.

Rather than let my lack of photographs from any one month keep me from getting anything done, I decided to simply let our album reflect a kind of poetic reality: our lives are different in different seasons. We live differently in the summer than we do in fall. Our traditions are different. Our pace is different. It’s okay for our album to reflect that.

However, I was flexible in my interpretation of "seasons." For instance, my daughter's school starts in mid-August, which literally falls in the season of summer. But our perception is that summer is over when school begins. And while winter may not literally start until late December 21st, my internal sense is that the Christmas season falls in winter and Thanksgiving signals the end of Fall. This is arbitrary and it makes sense for my family. There are no photobook police and it's okay to be creative with your sense of time if that makes sense for you.

Digital Tools  + Process

I subscribe to the photography plan of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. At $10 per month it is more than worth it to me to have access to the very latest capabilities in Photoshop and Lightroom. If I used a more stripped-down tool like iPhoto or Photoshop Elements, I know I would quickly become frustrated.

I shoot in RAW and use Lightroom to process my images. On only the rarest occasions do bring my images into Photoshop for processing. I do, however, love using Photoshop for building my layouts and finished pages. You can build photobooks in Lightroom without ever going into Photoshop, and I have built two books using this method in the past. However, since I had opted to use the Photobook Frenzy templates, this is what my workflow looked like:

  1. Process Images in Lightroom
  2. Export groups of images a JPEGs
  3. Build pages in Photoshop
  4. Save the PSD file in a folder by season
  5. Save a JPEG copy of the file to Ready to Upload folder
  6. Import the Ready to Upload folder into Lightroom
  7. Open the Book Module
  8. Drag drop the images onto the layout pages
  9. Export the book from Lightroom to Blurb

I’ll be going over the workflow in more detail in future posts in this series. But if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

More About This Project

  • Want to know why I decided to make a 2013 family album? Check this out.
  • Curious about the cool navigation technique I added to the fore edge of my book? Want to know what the heck a fore edge is? Coming right up!