9 Easy Steps to Designing a Themed Photo Album

Designing and creating a photo album can be a daunting task. There are ways to keep it simple and manageable. A themed album can help to keep it to a reasonable project and with this approach, you can get an album finished in no time.

Canvas album cover sampleStep One – Select your theme

What’s the topic or reason for this album? Keep the focus narrow such as Our Hawaii Vacation rather than Every Vacation I’ve Ever Taken in My Life.
If you try to do too much you will feel overwhelmed.
Then what felt easy becomes impossible.
You’ll find yourself devoting your efforts and attention to everything but completing the album!

Step Two – Choose the album type & size

Scrapbook or digital album? My preference is digital because it’s faster, you can duplicate your efforts and easier to achieve. Choosing the album size is an important decision at this point in the process because it is tied to the number of photos to be used. Some common sizes are 8×8, 11×8 and 12×12. There are many photo book sites where you can create and publish your own album. Some of our favorites are Picaboo & Mixbook. Pick the best quality album you can afford.

Step Three – Select the photos

If this is your first attempt, think small and manageable. The optimum quantity is about 100 photos. Plan on putting 4-5 photos onto a page. If you want to do a collage, we suggest no more than 9 photos on a page.
The more photos on a side, the smaller each will need to be. You want each photo to be noticed so the page doesn’t appear too busy. Look for photos that tell the story. Capture people looking their best – be kind!

Step Four – Layout

Use sub-themes to plan the sequencing of your album and its layout.
For example, if you were making a Christmas album, the main theme would be the year and sub-theme is the activity such as opening presents, dinner and decorations.

Step Five – Designing and Production

Drag photos into the pages using pre-designed templates. Don’t let perfectionism get hold. Just get pictures onto the pages. You will feel a huge sense of accomplishment from just getting this part done! Then you can tidy up the pages later.

Step Six – Captions and Stories

This is where you can get friends and family involved. You could have them email their stories to you.

Then just cut and paste the text into your album. Upload photos to a sharing site like Flickr so they can look at them and add comments. A caption can be as simple as just identifying the year, the person or the event. Or you can add a catchy phrase – but only if that’s your personality. If not, don’t fret about it. Remember this is your story and if writing isn’t your thing – just add quick captions and dates if you can!

Step Seven – Drafts

Plan to do this in drafts. Remember when you were in school and wrote drafts of that English paper? This is loads more fun – because it’s your story. You’ll be thanking yourself for doing that second pass through, especially when you inevitably find those typos you missed on the first one. Step back from this project for a bit and return to it after a few days. You’ll be surprised by what you find and the clarity you gain with some breathing room.

Step Eight – Pretty and Tidy

It’s time to take a look at some details. Once I’ve selected my favorite photos I can’t enjoy how they look on the album page if the margins aren’t neat and balanced. That’s my preference for a timeless design. But I’ll admit this is where my perfectionism can slow things down. If that’s not you (or you truly don’t care), then pay no attention to me! But if you have customized the page layouts and you’re picky, then you’ll be glad you spent the extra time to make it right. And in keeping with the clean and tidy concept, I prefer a background that’s simple so it doesn’t detract from the photos I’ve so carefully selected.

Step Nine – Place the Order!

Congrats! You’ve worked hard & now have a beautiful album to be enjoyed by generations. Consider ordering extra copies for family and friends. And if your album design software allows, save a copy on your computer and another copy on a backup drive. Then if something happens to the original copy you can order it again. This album style could be a template for future albums!

Making an album should be fun! If you are feeling overwhelmed, I’m here to help. Email me today and I’m happy to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.



Are Your Photos Safe from Disaster?

If you were faced with evacuating your home because of an impending natural disaster, what would be the most important items to take with you? Experts recommend thinking of the 4 P’s: People, Pets, Papers and Photos. For most people just taking care of the people, creatures and pets is more than they can fathom. Then planning for how to evacuate their photo collection is just overwhelming. With a plan, your precious family photos could be safely secured and out of harms way. Your collection could be organized, digitized and safely secured. But what if the thought of accomplishing this goal seems overwhelming? Don’t despair; help is in your neighborhood through Save Your Photos Day,  “Save Your Photos Day is dedicated to offering individuals the opportunity to connect through local community events, activities and resources that highlight what they can do to safeguard their photos and treasured memorabilia before disasters or accidents occur. “

A Colorado member of the Save Your Photos Alliance, Picture This Organized is participating in a free community event on September 27, held at 2 locations in the Denver Metro area, that includes workshops and free on-site scanning. For details on this event, click here for press release. “The planning and organizing that goes into these preservation activities actually allows people to enjoy their photos and other memorabilia in the process of preparing the preservation plan-it’s a win-win” says Colorado SYPA member Deena Coutant of DigiDeena Consulting.

For our Denver-based readers, if you’re feeling anxious about the safety of your photo collection, stop by the Save Your Photos Alliance event on September 27. You’ll go home inspired and encouraged with a plan to protect your photos and memorabilia.  If you live outside the Denver area, visit SaveYourPhotos.org to find the community event nearest you.


Keeping With Tradition

Mom taking picture of family holiday dinner.
Holiday dinner.

Have you put all your decorations away and untrimmed your house for 2014? I know some people take their tree down the day after Christmas while others keep it up through the new year to maximize their enjoyment of the festive holiday season. Whether you do it early or late, now is a great time to jot down your favorite traditions!

Traditions are defined by a group of related ideas that have lasted for a long time. They are important to remind us of where we came from and give us a sense of belonging. During the holidays our food, gifts, music and even our households showcase our spiritual beliefs, family history and are reminders of what’s important to us. Traditions are a part of our family legacy. They reflect our upbringing and provide opportunity to share and honor treasured relationships.

As you reflect upon this past holiday season, think about the traditions you enjoy and document them. Make that one of your resolutions for this new year. Jot down your favorites and take pictures of the memorabilia and keepsakes. Recipes, ticket stubs, holiday cards and letters from friends can all be useful to share these traditions.

Then make a themed slideshow or album to highlight them. Bob Green’s book, “To Our Children’s Children” has a chapter on holidays and celebrations. He shares some thought provoking questions to help initiate conversations with family and friends. Traditions become like habits to those continuing them. Sharing their origin and the stories of how they got started are important for passing along their role in family legacy. For example, one year our family decided to look at Christmas lights after church. We didn’t have any extended family and were looking for an activity to fill the time till bedtime. It was so much fun that we decided to continue the tradition and have been enjoying this tradition for several years.

Tell the stories of how your family traditions began. Are they from your childhood? Did you create new ones once you moved out on your own? Ask your children what their favorite traditions are. Reading these stories each year can become a new tradition for next Christmas! If you want some help getting started contact me. We can create a plan for sharing your traditions.

Holiday Photo Gifts from the Heart

Collage Calendar

  “The best gifts come from the heart, not the store.” ― Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

If you’ve ever received the gift of a drawing, a hand written poem, or framed photo from a special event, you know the truth of that statement first hand. As the year comes to a close, we spend time with family and friends reminiscing about our adventures together. What better way to enhance the sharing of those times than with a gift that remains a visual reminder of your time together?

Here are some ideas that may just fit perfectly with someone on your list:

  1. Wall Calendar: This personalized gift is a lasting reminder of special people and events from the the past. Use photos from the current year, or go back in time and pull memories from long ago to add to the nostalgia of the calendar. Leave notes of love and encouragement throughout the year by personalizing specific days. You can even add small photos to special days, like birthdays and anniversaries, or just to share more photos.
  2. Collage Calendar: Select a handful of photos to use as the background collage to be displayed all year. Pick a special event to commemorate or a celebrate the life of a loved one with a favorite picture from each decade.
  3. Themed Photo Album: Using 50 of your favorite photos, relive memories from a recent family reunion or milestone in a beautiful book. Remember to include memorabilia like ticket stubs, invitations, or pictures of small tokens collected during the event along with the stories that will really make the album come to life.
  4. Playing Cards: If you’re in a Bunco or poker group, surprise the host with a deck of cards sporting a group photo or pick their favorite mascot or motto and put that image on the deck.xmas playing cards - Page 001
  5. Water Bottles: Isn’t it amazing where you can put a photo anymore? Use this fun gift to encourage a special friend who has changed their life by incorporating daily exercise or give one with a family photo so your loved one can smile every day at the memory invoked by the photo.
  6. Coasters: Using no more than four photos, in just a few minutes you can create and order coasters to celebrate a newly married couple, a couple celebrating a milestone anniversary, a family welcoming a new addition, your child’s favorite teacher or coach, or a neighbor who coordinates the annual block party. If you like crafts, consider making some photo coasters out of ceramic tiles from your local hardware store. Check out my Pinterest page for some instructions.

Whichever idea you choose, there’s still time! Take advantage of seasonal discounts and create your personalized gifts this weekend! If you love the idea of giving something personal but you just can’t fit the creative piece of the project in to your already busy schedule, contact me. I’d be happy to help. Happy Holidays!

Giving Memorabilia for the Holidays

"Remembering Mary" collage
“Remembering Mary”
by artist Susan J. Maxwell

Webster defines memorabilia as “things that are remarkable and worthy of remembrance; things that stir recollection or are valued or collected for their association with a particular field or interest.” The hand-made card, note, child’s art project, these items that connect to our memories hold immense value. Throwing or giving them away can feel disrespectful and cold-hearted, so we save them, and save them…and save them. Our storage rooms and households become over-crowded and cluttered. So what’s a family to do?

Consider making a gift using your treasured items.

  • For three-dimensional items like trophies and awards, you can put them in a shadow box to be hung on the wall or use a decorative box purchased from a craft or gift store and given like a treasure box.  A quick search online reveals many shadow box sizes are ready-made and available. Be sure to measure your items carefully (height, width, and depth) to be sure they fit before ordering. Also, check the website return policy and save the shipping materials until you’re sure the shadow box will work for your items.
  • For documents, photos, and drawings, you can make a collage to be hung on the wall.  Scan the originals and use the copies for the collage.  Glue the items onto foam board and cover with decoupage to seal and protect it.
  • If you have artwork from your child, you can scan or photograph the masterpieces and put them into an album.  Label the artist and be sure to use the date.  A digital photo frame can be a quick way to review the artwork daily and make your child feel honored. Flip-Pal is a great mobile scanner for digitizing large and even 3D items, like large paintings and medals. You can purchase one online or through me. (Check with me as I may have a special price available!)

Be sure to take a picture before and after to document the construction of your gift! Contact me if you need additional tips or help.

Photo collage created by Susan J. Maxwell.