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How To Make a Family Photo Album With A Whole Year’s Worth of Photos

What project does the close of a year bring to the front of your to do list?  For me, I’d love to get my yearly photobook cranked out.  It’ doesn’t always happen because, well, life.  But, if I lived in a world where I could just sit down and take about two full days to work on a photobook, I could get it done.  Of course, nothing else would get done, but at least I’d have my photobook.

Here’s how I’d do it.

  1. Take pictures all year long.  This is the hard part, really.  Putting photos together in a book is easy if you have the photos.  It’s difficult to continually take photos.  You get tired and you think you’ll just snap a pic with your phone.  That’s fine, but for me the photo isn’t the same.  I just haven’t mastered phone photography.  I do have years where I just don’t have the photos I wish I had.
  2. Continually download photos to one place.  I have a Diskstation Hard Drive that I download all my photos to.  In this day and age, though, you might have cloud storage.  Whatever you have, just back it up.
  3. Keep photos organized throughout the year.  Just have a system and stick to it.  When I download, I go to Import Photos in Lightroom and select my source which is usually my SD card and import to Diskstation and select the folder I want the photos to go in to.  On Diskstation I have a folder for Photos and inside that folder I have a folder for each year.  If I am downloading to 2017, I’d select that folder and then Lightroom would create a folder inside that folder and name it with the date the pictures were taken.  I used to rename my files at this point with a description of what was in the photos, but this made it harder to organize.  If you just let Lightroom create the name with the date, they will be organized in your library.  When I am editing photos, I’ll add that description to the file name after the date.  This way my photos stay in order of date and I can remember what’s in the file.  Lightroom LibraryHere’s what part of my Library from 2017 looks like.  As you can see, some of the folders I have added descriptions to and some of them I haven’t.  Eventually, I’ll go in and add a description to each folder, but I won’t bother the date and I’ll leave that at the beginning so my folders will stay in this order.
  4. Create a Collection or Collection Set in Lightroom.  I just have collections for each year, but you could do a Collections Set and then have a collection for each year.  Collections are a great tool to help you organize your photos.  It basically just allows you to group your photos in different ways. Lightroom CollectionsOnce you have your folder created, make it the Target Collection by hoovering over the folder, right clicking and then clicking on Set Target Collection.  A small plus sign will appear by that folder.  Now, every photo I select will go into this folder.
  5. Select your favorite photos. This is fun.  You’ll get to remember your whole year.  Go back to the Library and look in your master folder for that year.  If it’s 2017, look there and you’ll see your list of folders for each event or time you took photos.  Go to each folder, starting at the beginning and look at each photo.  If it’s a favorite, hit the “b” button on your keyboard to send it to your Collection folder.  Do this for the entire year.  It takes some time, and it helps if you have some ideas about what qualifies as a favorite or you’ll end up selecting way too many photos.  I’m not necessarily looking for a portfolio worthy photo here.  I’m looking for memories.  Does the photo make me feel something or bring back a memory.  Yes, if it’s a portfolio worthy photo it goes in the folder, but I don’t have a whole year’s worth of those.
  6. Do it again.  If you get to the end of a year and you have too few or too many photos for your book, you should do the process again.  If you have too few photos, you were too hard on yourself.  Go back through your year and hit that “b” a few more times.  If you have too many photos, create another Collection folder with a different name and make it the Target Collection.  Go through your first Collection folder and only hit the “b” when you really love the photo.  You can see in the screen shot above that I did this in 2012.  I have a folder called 2012 Selects with over 700 photos, so I made another folder called 2012 Favorites and ended up with 362 photos.  The process of selecting photos for me is easier than eliminating or deleting them.  I still have all my photos, but I’ve whittled my collection down to the best of the best.  I shoot for 360 to 400 photos per year.  I feel like that number is manageable and gives me a full book.
  7. Edit the photos.  Now that I have my photos in a collection, I can edit them at the same time.  This allows me to edit in a cohesive way.  I look at each photo and I edit the obvious things like white balance, noise, sharpness, etc.  I’ll leave a photo in color if I think the color adds to the photo.  I’ll edit the photo in black and white if I think the color distracts the viewer.  Obviously, lighting is different in almost every photo over a year’s time and it would be difficult to edit these as a batch, but I try to get each black and white edit to look the same.
  8. Export the edited photos as jpegs.  I shoot in RAW, so when I’m done editing I export the photos as jpegs.
  9. Choose your publisher and format.  I do a 12×12 with a leather cover and I order from a professional photographer’s site.   If you are not a professional photographer, you might can accomplish something similar on Shutterfly with their Premium Photobooks.   I prefer a simple backround on the page itself and I’m not really into extra graphics.  I want the photos to speak for themselves.  I also do not add a bunch of text because I always seem to mess that up.  I prefer a clean look with nothing but photos.  I don’t think I need to add dates because the same thing happens at the same time each year and you can tell by looking at the pictures what is happening.  I do the same thing for each year because I want them all to be the same.  My color theme is black, white, and gray.
  10. Place the photos in the book.  As I am placing my photos, I’ll look to see how many photos I have for an event and I’ll choose a page layout that allows me to keep all those photos together.  I mix in layouts with different amounts of photos and I spread out full bleed pages or pages with lots of photos.  I may mix together several events on a two page spread.  My photos flow in order they were taken, but not in exact order depending on how they fall with the layout.
  11. Review your book, order, and wait for it’s arrival.  When I am finished, it’s so tempting to just hit order and get it over with, but I make myself save it and come back to it the next day.  I look over it again and make sure everything is lined up and place where I want it and then I order.  It’s so frustrating to spend so much time on something and find an error when it’s already printed.  After you have looked at something for two days in a row, you probably won’t see your errors.  That’s why I take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes before I hit send.  Once I order, I can’t wait for it’s arrival.  It’s such a great feeling to have a whole year of photos in print.

Here is my album for 2013.

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Here is my album for 2014.

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To see my album for 2012 and my other photobooks, click here.

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