Want to start doing something with your photos? Easily? Consistently? Photo books are NOT the best answer! [Part 1]

I’ll almost bet that you have more than a thousand photos in your pocket or purse right now. Many of you probably have more than 5,000 — maybe even 10,000.

Those of us who love taking photos of our kids, friends, families and ourselves should be in photo heaven during this time of technological instant gratification! We are rarely far away from our smartphones, and therefore we can snap a photo as soon as the urge strikes.

And we do.

We take a LOT of photos!

And yet, this cruel paradox exists: The more photos we take, the less likely we are to fully enjoy them.

Can you relate?

When was the last time you looked at photos you took five years ago? Could you quickly find a cute or memorable photo of your first child that was taken when he or she was 3 years old? Would you have to search a device of some kind, scrolling endlessly to find it?

Most of us would have to sheepishly bow our heads and admit that we are guilty of not doing something that makes enjoying our photos — especially ones that were taken more than a month ago — easy and fast!

And as soon as we realize this, panic sets in:

“Oh my gosh,” we think. “I have to do something NOW, or my photos will be lost in the technology abyss forever! What if my computer/hard drive/phone crashes, and I lose my all of my digital photos? What if I never print any of these photos, and my kids have nothing to look back on? What if all I have to share with my grandkids is an ancient social media account that I might not even be able to access by then?”

Then we’ll try to find the fastest solution out there.

And we’ll land on a photo-book website like Shutterfly or Snapfish. This is the answer, we think. We might even create a book or two.

And then we’ll carry on, taking thousands more photos—photos that continue to be buried deep inside our camera rolls—before the urge strikes again.

But here’s the truth: Photo books are not the best — or even the easiest — solution to our photo-enjoyment problem.

Problem #1 — the biggest limitation: Photo books require a beginning and an end.

The biggest problem with printing photo books is this innate requirement of hardbound books: They need a clear beginning and a clear ending.

For a vacation or a single event (like a wedding), the beginning and end are obvious. So creating a photo book might make perfect sense. You know that once the vacation or event is over, your photo-taking is done, too.

But for capturing everyday-life kinds of photos taken on your smartphone or a traditional camera, creating a photo book will force you into making limiting decisions, like:

  • What will be the date of the first photo I include? Will it be Jan. 1 of last year? Will I end the book on Dec. 31 of last year? 
  • What if I lose steam when I get to photos from October? What if I’m tired of looking at October 2019 photos because it’s now October 2021? What if I don’t want to finish the album? What if I never actually print the album, because it’s not done? 
  • Do I have too many photos to include a full year in a single book? Do I want to include all of the photos from last year? 
  • What if I decide to only do my favorite photos from last year, but then, after I print the book, I find that my husband had an awesome photo on his phone from last year that I wished I would have included? What would I do with that photo? Just ignore it? Forget I ever saw it? Include it in the next year’s album, out of order?  
  • What if, 10 years from now, I find a photo of myself with my kids that I chose not to include in that year’s book (my hair was a mess, after all), but with the benefit of time passing, now I realize I love it (aw, look at my little guy’s sweet little baby face!)?  
  • What if I want to create a book of my favorite photos of Child #2? Do I start that book of her when she was a baby and go through, what, her graduation? Whoa…18 years. Can I do that in a single book? Do I have all of her photos sorted, organized and selected so that I can do start and finish that entire book before I get tired of working on it? Do I include adorable baby pictures of her with her toddler brother in her album, her brother’s album or a family album?

You get the idea.

If you want to create and publish a photo book, from start to finish, in a relatively short amount of time, you’ll need to know exactly how you want to start and end the book — and be prepared to never revisit the topic once it’s done.

Problem #2: The photo-book format naturally forces us into feeling the need to capture our photos chronologically, so we don’t miss anything important or precious. 

But this, by itself, is a limitation that can make us stop doing something with our photos before we even get started.

(Even if you decide you will find a home for that adorable photo of you and your kids that you chose not to include 10 years ago, let’s be honest: Will you ever go back and do it? Or will you consistently be working on getting “caught up” with your yearly albums? Will you get so far “behind” that you never again even want to try to do anything with your photos?)

That’s a lot of pressure. And inconvenience.

There are other significant problems and limitations, too.

While I believe that the limitation of needing a beginning and an end to every finished book is enough to keep me from creating photo books, there are a lot of other limitations to using photo books, too.

For example:

  • You can’t rearrange the pages later. So don’t make any mistakes!
  • You can’t reuse the same page design over and over again without having to start each page from scratch.
  • You’re limited to using each layout in one book and one book only.
  • You can’t mix layouts you created with paper scrapbooking supplies with newer layouts you created digitally, in the same album. (In the photo below, on the left is a page I made with traditional paper supplies. It is a pocket page that includes memorabilia from my daughter’s preschool years. On the right is a page I created digitally. It’s her kindergarten page, and it is included in her general School Days album, shown here, as well as her School Portraits album. I used that layout design repeatedly in her School Portraits album – once for each year of elementary and middle school. If I had created the page in a photo book, I would have had to design the page from scratch every time!)
  • You are limited to a single printer for your books and pages — the printer whose software you used to create the book.
  • You are limited by the design elements offered by the photo-book printer. (This one is a HUGE limitations!)
  • You are at the mercy of the company’s technology.

I am not going to go into detail about each of these limitations in this blog post, because I want to get to my main point: The better, easier way to enjoy your photos!

(I do, however, go into detail about these limitations in my new course, releasing in July. Stay tuned!)

The better way is simple.

I whole-heartedly believe that the better way to make sure you’re documenting your photos and memories — and printing them for your enjoyment and the enjoyment of future generations — is to use Photoshop to design digital layouts, one page at a time.

If you take just one thing away from this blog post, let it be this: Designing in Photoshop will free you from the need to scrapbook in chronological order!

You will be far more productive and more likely to enjoy the process of scrapbooking if you allow yourself the freedom to choose the photos and topics of your pages one page at a time.

When you sit down to scrapbook using Photoshop instead of an online photo-book software, simply lean into whatever you’re feeling that day, and start creating. The year, the subject matter…they don’t matter. You can scrapbook whatever makes you happy — when it makes you happy.

  • Do you feel like doing a two-page layout of a soccer season that includes a dozen pictures?
  • Or do you only have the energy to do a one-photo layout on a single page?
  • Do you want to document a school photo or a crazy candid photo of your toddler?
  • Do you want to work on a layout of photos taken earlier this year…
  • …or one with photos taken when your now-teenager was an adorable toddler?

You can do any of those when you’re scrapbooking one page at a time using Photoshop!

Rather than forcing yourself to commit to doing an entire year of photos in chronological order (like a 2020 yearbook, for example) with online photo-book creation software, using Photoshop will give you the freedom to scroll through your camera roll or external hard drive (or both!) and choose a favorite photo, then create a page with it.

Maybe you will never get all of 2020 scrapbooked. That’s OK!

Maybe you will never finish your child’s first year. That’s OK, too.

It is far better to have two pages that capture a handful of photos of your child’s life at age 3 than it is to have none at all. 

Best of all, you’ll have a lot more fun creating those pages if you do them when you’re intentionally choosing the photos because they speak to you, than you would if you were simply forcing yourself to do the pages because they’re what comes next in chronological order.

Using online photo-book-creation software can not only make you feel like you need to scrapbook chronologically, it can also make you feel like you need to scrapbook every photo you have. After all, what if you miss one, and you never get a chance to go back to it? If you do this to yourself, you’ll quickly find that it’s a bit of a drag! You might get tired of your photos, and you’re likely to grow tired of the overall project (documenting your photos and memories), too.

By letting go of the need to scrapbook chronologically, you won’t have to wait until you finish all of 2020 before you can get started creating layouts using photos from 2021. And if an old photo brings you joy, you don’t have to wait until you work on an “old photos” album to scrapbook the photos that bring you joy today.

One of the most satisfying results of designing in Photoshop one page at a time is that you can immediately print your finished pages as 12”x12” photos and simply slip them into page protectors.

You can organize them in chronological order later, if you’d like. But there is no pressure to do so. And you can enjoy the pages as soon as you finish them — without having to wait until you have an entire book worth of layouts ready to go — in order.

And that adorable photo of your baby girl with her toddler brother? You can print it three times: One copy for her album, one for your son’s, and one for the family album.

Next week, in part 2 of this blog post, I’ll show you how you can make use of the work of professional designers to quickly create your own pages using Photoshop. Come back next Monday!

Photo books are not the answer!

1 thought on “Want to start doing something with your photos? Easily? Consistently? Photo books are NOT the best answer! [Part 1]”

  1. Pingback: Want to start doing something with your photos? Easily? Consistently? Photo books are not the answer — THIS is a better option! [Part 2] – Story Squad by CorComm Creative

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