St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Travel makes our lives better. When we see and experience other cultures and get to know people in other places, it deepens our worldview, teaches us flexibility, shows us the beauty of other cultures, and lets us rest and recharge.
Sharing our travel experiences through a photo album helps keep our memories vivid, provides a record of the people and places we’ve seen, documents the experiences we’ve had, and provides a legacy of stories to pass on to our family members.
The problem is that when we come back from our trips, our photos often get digitally buried with the rest of our day-to-day images. You may not know how to translate the images you’ve taken on your trip into an attractive album that documents your experience.
If you need some guidance on how create your own travel album, we’re here to help! This post will give you advice on how to take helpful notes during your trip, show you how to get organized before you create your album, and give you the technical tools and advice you’ll need to create your album.
Let’s dig in!
Documenting Your Travel Experience While You’re Still on the Road
To help keep your album organized and make the design process easier and more efficient, I recommend keeping a written record of your travel.
We gave some tips on this process in some of our previous posts, so you can check out these articles for help with your documentation efforts:
- How to document the stories of your trip
- Keeping a written record of your group vacation
- How to organize your vacation photos while you’re still on vacation
A little prep work while you’re still on the road can make your album creation process a lot easier…and I promise, it doesn’t have to take a long time or take away from the fun of your trip!
The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album
Step One: Do Your Prep Work
Once you’ve returned and settled back in, it’s time to do the prep work to create your album.
I recommend starting by creating a written list of the things you’d like to include in your album. Your list could include any (or all) of the following:
- The places you visited.
- Your favorite stories from the trip (including things that didn’t go according to plan!).
- The people you traveling with, or met along the way.
- The food you ate.
- The activities and adventures of the trip.
Once you’ve created your list, it’s time to organize your photos. Start by selecting the very best photos for your album, then edit the images you’ve chosen to remove red eye, straighten the images, adjust angles, improve lighting, etc..
Be careful about the resolution size of your images when you’re working with your photos. In general, use the largest photo you can. If you use a small photo, you will be limited by how much the photo can be enlarged in the album tool.
Most album designing sites will alert you if your photo does not meet the required number of pixels for the finished size you want to include in the album. If you ignore the warning, you’re going to have a photo that is blurry or grainy in your album, because it was enlarged more that the resolution of the image could handle!
I also recommend adding memorabilia to your album! Printed plane, train or museum tickets are becoming obsolete in these days of electronic ticketing, so if you have them, include them in your album pages. You can also take photos or scan printed items, and use those in the album as reminders of the trip
Once you’ve got your photos and memorabilia picked out and edited, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step Two: Pick Your Album Tool
You’ll need an online service to create and print your final album. Here are the ones I recommend for individuals who are creating their own albums:
- Mixbook: Their books are a little on the pricier side, but they provide loads of options and the finish on the pages is high quality.
- Shutterfly: Their software is easy to use, but some of their templates have varied spacing between photos. Be sure to choose a template with consistent spacing/gaps.
- Apple Photo: If you’re a Mac user, you can create a photo album in your Photos App. To begin, Click File>Create>Book.
- MPix: This service doesn’t offer quite as many album size options, but their print quality is excellent.
Once you’ve chosen the tool you’re going to work with, break up the project into manageable pieces so you can keep track of what you’ve already done, and work on a little bit at a time. I recommend creating a project folder on your computer, to copy your selected photos to. Then within that main folder, create sub-folders by theme and design one sub-folder at a time when you’re working on your album.
Step Three: Design Your Album
Now it’s time for the fun part: Designing your album! Here’s my recommended process for laying out your travel album:
Select your album size. Typical sizes for albums are 12×12, 10×10 or 11x 8. Choose a size that fits your trip, and fits the purpose of the album. Some online sites have limited size availability, so feel free to go back to Step Two if you need to pick a new tool.
Choose your paper and finish. Semi-gloss is my go-to paper finish for client projects, and it will work in most situations. Some sites offer premium finishes (like “Pearl”) for an additional fee.
You may also be able to also choose a “lay-flat” option for your album. When you choose this option, the album will get printed on sturdier, single sheet spreads that lay flat when the book is open, and your photos and text won’t get lost in the “gutters” of the pages.
Pick a template. The online sites listed above all offer a variety of design templates. You need to make sure your template doesn’t overwhelm your photos and stories, so I recommend choosing one with a simple background without embellishments, or creating a blank book and adding a muted background color.
When you go with a simple template, it also keeps the look timeless, ensuring that your album won’t look dated in a few years.
Group your photos together and start laying out your album. Go through the photos you chose in Step One, and group events together on the same “spread.”
When you view an album with photos on both the left and right side, that’s called a spread. It’s more cohesive to design spreads with a single theme, versus one theme on the left side and a different one on the right side.
If you want to limit the album to a certain number of pages, then combining themes on a spread is okay. In that case, I recommend having a clear separation between each theme, so the navigation is obvious to the viewer.
When you’re designing your album, remember that less is more. Don’t repeat photos of the same item or event, unless those photos are part of a series that tells a story (like a sunset, time lapse, moving item, or a reaction to a moment).
Choose the photos that tell a story. A chronological timeline is most common for travel albums (meaning you start at the beginning of your trip on the first page of your album, and end with the last part of your trip). You can also organized the album based on events, locations or architecture.
Here are some quick tech tips to help with the album layout process:
- Keep events together on the same spread.
- Limit the number of photos in a spread to 8 to 10 (depending on your album and spread size).
- If a picture extends over the center seam, adjust the placement so the page crease doesn’t run through a person’s face (whenever possible).
- If you modify photo frames, make sure the gaps between photos stay consistent. Most album software tools will allow you to customize templates, so you can modify a template or create your own. If they do that, they’ll need to make sure the photos are aligned within the frame. Check to be sure the gaps between photos are consistent, and take a look at the margins (including top, bottom, left, right margins, and the space between sides in the spread). Any inconsistencies will become an undesired focal point in your album.
Keep it interesting and personal. If possible, Include candid photos of people experiencing something new or different. Buildings can be interesting to put in albums – especially when the architecture is unique – but sometimes a lot of photos of objects can make your album feel less personal. It helps to include shots of people in front of buildings every now and then, to break things up and keep your album interesting.
Of course, if the theme of your album is architecture or animals, that’s different! For example, in this Africa trip, this series of gorilla shots gives you a sense of the experience of being among a gorilla family.
Add captions or story text blocks. You want to make sure your album tells a story, especially for future generations, so include captions and stories in your album. This includes first and last names of the people in your photos!
Keep your font type and point size consistent throughout the entire album, and be careful not to put text over the center of a photo or across someone’s face.
Step Four: Print Your Album
When you are ready to print, I recommend previewing the album just to be sure it’s 100% ready to go.
Look for spelling mistakes, inconsistent photo alignment, margins, gaps between photos, point size on captions and titles. Also make sure there aren’t any resolution warnings of photos that need to be adjusted.
With so many things to check, I recommend checking for one at a time. For example, first check the album for text problems, and fix any issues you spot. Then go through the album again, focusing on alignment of photos and text. Finally, check that the template is centered within the spread, so that top and bottom margins are the same, and left and right margins are the same. When you focus on checking one thing at a time, you (hopefully) won’t getting distracted and miss problems.
For example, the photo below shows a spread with a date heading, narrative, labels and 9 photos. Everything is lined up and centered, so your eye isn’t distracted by a misaligned photo edge. The labels of the animals or locations are lined up across each line of photos, and they are in white to make them easily readable. There’s a lot on this spread to check, which is why I recommend going through and checking one element at a time when you do your final look before printing.
Everything You Need to Create an Album You Can Enjoy Today and Pass On Tomorrow
Here’s my most important tip for creating your own travel photo album: Have fun with this process!
Creating your own travel should be fun, not stressful. Take things a little bit at a time, if that feels easier, and use this process to help you revisit the best memories of your trip.
If you decide you’d like some help with an album, we frequently create them for our clients. You can see how we create albums and view some samples of our albums right here. We would be happy to discuss album design and print options with you – contact us for your free, no-obligation consultation.