| Written by Ronnie |
I spent a large part of my weekend sorting through two weeks worth of photos from January and whipping up pages for our family life albums using the images and the journaling that Rick and I had written during the month. At first, I felt rather weighed down and overwhelmed by the task of having to whittle down thousands of photos to a few spreads in an album. But as I waded through all the photos - culling, sorting, tagging, rating, and editing - page layouts began to materialise of their own accord in my mind, and before long, I found myself enjoying the process and, bam, just like that, my mojo was back. Yippee!!
Anyway, today I've decided to rewrite an old blog post of mine for those of you who might be interested in starting a life album of your own. If this is something that you've been contemplating, hopefully this post will help answer some of the questions that you have. Please note that for the purposes of this post, I'll be focusing solely on life albums like mine which use digital templates. (If you prefer to play with paper and/or to hand write your journaling, Becky Higgins' Project Life website would be the best place for you to start.)
Things you’ll need
In a nutshell, here are the bare bones that you will need to start a 12x12 life album:
- A 12 inch x 12 inch binder. I like this one and this one.
- Page protectors to go inside the binder. I know there are lots of other designs you can consider but in my opinion this one by Becky Higgins is the most versatile design and once you get into the swing of using it, doing your spreads each week will get easier and easier.
- One of our signature card sets, which contains a total of nine 6x4 templates and six 3x4 templates and includes a weekly title card, a weekly summary card, a quotation card, journaling cards, and various photo templates. This means that you'll be able to create page layouts like the ones that you see here on the blog. The beauty of the templates lie in all the typesetting detail, and there are three classic versions that you can choose from: The Serif Edition, The Sans Serif Edition, and The Rockwell Edition.
- A computer with Adobe InDesign installed. You can download a trial copy of the software here, or you can read our Software page for more information about subscribing to the Adobe Creative Cloud. There are mini video tutorials here to help you use your InDesign templates, and of course, I also an online class for those of you interested in learning more. If you already own InDesign CS4, then that will be fine as our templates come with CS4 versions.
- A simple app like Simplenote to record your journaling notes. I use Simplenote for all my journaling, and I love it to death because it is so easy-to-use and I can access it from my phone, my desktop, and from any web browser.
- A camera (or camera phone) to take photos with.
In terms of photos, you can obviously get yours processed by a vendor or print your own. This is a matter of personal preference. I personally have the Canon Pixma MG6360 at home, which allows me to print standard 6x4 photos as well as bigger formats like 8x8, 6x12, and 8x10 (I print these on A4 photo paper then trim it down). I can’t express enough how much I love the convenience of having my own printer. It means I can print photos as I go when I’m working on my life albums, rather than having to wait and do them in batches. I love the flexibility of being able to print all sorts of different sizes. It also means I can easily print title pages or dividers or anything else I fancy when it comes to memory keeping.
In terms of printing quality, I’ve been very impressed with the Pixma. It produces professional quality photos when you use the right photo paper. I used to buy Kodak and Canon photo paper but about half a year ago, my friend Liz introduced me to the Kirkland brand from Costco. The quality is amazing, and it is three times cheaper. I just wish I'd discovered it two years earlier!
Apart from the basic materials and the ability to print photos, the other thing you’ll need is time. Realistically speaking, the first life album that you do will probably take anything up to three to four hours. The reason for this is because it can be quite daunting as you try to work out what photos you want to include, how you want to include your journalling and how you want to lay out the whole page. The important thing is to take your time with your first spread and to not let it put you off the project. I can almost guarantee that you will become quicker at it, and with each week that you do, the task becomes less daunting and more enjoyable.
On an ongoing basis, I would recommend setting aside at least two hours every week. Decide on a time that works for you (e.g. in the evening after the kids are in bed) and commit to using that time every week to work on your life album. For me, I spend about an hour sorting through my photos from the previous week on Monday evenings and then Wednesday evenings are spent working on our family life album. If I’m focused and not distracted by reading blogs or watching television, the entire process takes me about an hour. and a half. This includes selecting and processing photos, inserting photos into the templates, editing the templates, exporting the layouts as individual JPG files,, printing the JPGs out, trimming the 3×4 photos, deciding on the arrangement of the page, and of course slipping everything into the page protectors.
Apart from making a time commitment, I think it’s important to make a personal commitment to the project as well, otherwise it’s just not going to stick. You need to decide that it’s definitely something you want to embark on. You need to decide that it’s something worth doing for you and for your family. You need to decide it’s not going to become a chore. You need to commit to taking some notes throughout the week. You need to commit to taking photos.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes it takes me an hour or more to get into the headspace of starting my weekly life album spread. But the moment I do, I love the process of choosing photos and working out what text to add. More importantly, I love it when the photos are printed and slipped into their pockets. I love seeing the finished result each week. I love that every week is captured and documented, even weeks that have been plain boring, stressful or exhausting. I love that there is always something beautiful to look back on. I love that our boys and our parents have the joy of flipping through the album. I love that in years to come, these life albums will surely become some of our most precious family keepsakes.
If you're interested in reading more, here's an introduction to life albums and here's my big picture perspective of how my life albums fit into my overall framework of memory keeping.
If you would like to share some of your recent life album pages, feel free to leave a link below.
For those of you who are experienced, is there anything you'd like to add?
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