Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Annual Photo Book Tradition

I will be the first to admit that I am horrible about sending the extended family pictures of our family. (Lisa is awesome at this.) But one thing I have done that I think works pretty well is our annual photo book. I do it online (at Shutterfly), and my favorite part about it is that I can order multiple, identical copies, even years later if I want. Every year, I order one copy for Aaron and I, one copy for his parents, one copy for my parents, and one copy for C (since, of course, this will be one of his prized possessions-- or maybe that is just my wishful thinking). And with each subsequent kid, I can go back and reorder "back issues" so that each child will have a complete set. It's one of my favorite family traditions in our pretty new family, and I hope to keep doing it for a really long time. At least until we're empty-nesters-- maybe until we die (but that would take a lot of shelf space).

Here's my process for making them.

1. Take pictures! I was anti-smart phone for a long time, but Lisa was the one who finally convinced me to cave when she sold me on the feature of always having a camera in your pocket. Whatever camera you use, just make sure it's accessible.

2. Upload the pictures. Am I the only one that seriously struggles with this step? As in, this was the sole reason I would never update my personal blog-- I could never seem to get around to uploading the pictures. I know, I know-- it doesn't take that long. But sometimes, you have to work with your weaknesses. So I upgraded my Dropbox account one level to have enough space to store pictures, and set up my phone to wirelessly and automatically upload my photos to my dropbox account. Life changing. I know they were giving out memory cards like these during one NPR fundraiser that wirelessly upload pictures too. I was seriously tempted to pledge just to get one of those (Ira Glass, don't get mad if I didn't donate that year-- I'll make up for it, I promise)! And, actually, when I looked these up to link them, they are way cheaper than I thought. If you use a camera with a memory card that is a great option. Whatever system or method you choose, just make sure it's one that you can and will do regularly.

Also, we're not trying to make it look like C is wearing a dress in these pictures, we were trying to do a cute announcement that we're having a girl in March! 

3. Organize the pictures. This is one of those things (like brushing your teeth or cleaning the bathroom) that is best done as you go along. Not at the end of the year. All of my pictures are automatically uploaded into a folder called "Camera Uploads." From there, I just cut and paste them into the appropriate folder. My system is pretty easy. I have a "Photos" folder with subfolders for each year, and subfolders within each year for each month. That's it. I strictly use dates-- I find it much easier to be consistent than by using event-driven folders (e.g., Summer vacation, Graduation, etc.) It's super fast since each picture has the date automatically embedded in the title, and the batch I move is generally all from the same month anyway.

Look how nice and clean that is! And so easy to maintain.
4. Edit the pictures. You can either do this as you go, or all at once at the end. I don't think it matters a ton. Select a few, maybe five to ten, pictures for each month (or more if you want to do a super long book-- and my definition of "super long" is more than 20 pages, since after that you have to pay about $1 per additional page). I use Picasa, which is free from Google. Click here for a list of other free photo editing software. Or if you really want to get fancy and pay for software you can check out this list.

5. Upload the pictures to Shutterfly (or whatever photobook service you're using-- I've heard good things about Mixbook).

6. Create your book. In my experience, this task can take as much or as little time as you're willing to give it. But at least all the pictures are ready to go.

7. Order it! Honestly, these can get a little expensive, especially if you're going to do a larger size or a longer book. I do 8x8 books usually around 30 pages, and the price ends up being around $40 with shipping per book. When you're ordering multiples, that gets expensive. But, as Aaron says, I'm Shutterfly's best and worst customer since I always wait to order a book until I get some sort of deal. I can't remember the last time I've paid full price for one. In fact, I usually get a coupon for a completely free book (I pay shipping) at least once or twice a year. The catch is that they expire quickly, so most people aren't able to put together a photo book in a few days, but if you have one already created, it's simple to order it as soon as you get the code.

I love having these books to look back on. And the accountant in me loves that they are all the same size and slightly matchy matchy.

Share -- How do you display your pictures?


  1. Nice! Can I ask how much it costs to do the auto-upload option with DropBox?

    1. Nice! So how much do you pay for how much storage? (Sorry if this is getting personal, I'm just curious about how much I might need).

    2. $9.99/month-- I can't remember exactly how much storage that gets you, but I have ALL our pictures/video on there and have a ton of space left.


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