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LIFE:CAPTURED began in August 2013 when we held our first full-day workshop at RAW Space in Sydney, Australia. Our mission is to help people document their stories and create tangible keepsakes to be treasured for generations to come. We offer intensive design, photography, and memory keeping workshops, as well as interactive online classes. We are advocates of honest photography, minimalist design, and memory keeping that's simple, beautiful, and tangible. We are the pioneers of the story book, and we offer flexible templates that enable everybody to tell their story. We believe that life is worth remembering and that it is never too early or too late to start documenting yours. LIFE:CAPTURED was founded by Rhonda Mason (of the Pink Ronnie blog) and Trish Chong (of Tealily Photography).

The blog

The official blog of LIFE:CAPTURED Inc, the modern school of memory keeping. We believe that life is worth remembering and that it is never too early or too late to start documenting yours. We blog about design, photography, and how you can preserve your story with timeless, tangible keepsakes.

Story books: Ten tips for choosing photos


Story books: Ten tips for choosing photos - A blog post by Rhonda Mason for LIFE:CAPTURED Inc (The modern school of memory keeping)

| Written by Ronnie |

Thinking we have too many photos to choose from is often one of the biggest barriers to actually starting (and finishing) a photo book or story book. People are always telling me: “I’m too overwhelmed” or “I started one but I never got around to finishing it.” And you know what? I totally get it. I really do. Choosing photos for our photo books is the hardest part of the process for me. The process of gathering, organising, and then culling thousands of photos down to a select few is a hard one. And it can definitely be overwhelming. Procrastinating is immensely easier. As is browsing Facebook (if you ever see me on Facebook, chances are I’m meant to be culling photos). But friends, neither of those two activities is conducive to memory keeping, so today I’m going to share with you ten tips when it comes to choosing photos for your photo books to help ‘debunk’ the process and make it less intimidating.

1) Organise your photos.

I say this all the time, but I’ll say it again: Having your photos organised and catalogued properly is the main key to turning your photos into tangible keepsakes. I cannot stress this enough. If all your photos were imported, organised, filed, tagged, and rated properly each week, then not only would your photos be easily accessible to you, you would be able to search for photos based on any criteria you wish. For example, if you wanted to make a photo book for one of your children, you could easily type in your child’s name and pull up every single photo of him/her. If you wanted to then narrow it down  to just your ‘favourite’ photos of that child, you could do that easily with just a couple of keystrokes. The best way to organise your photos is to buy Lightroom and learn how to use it properly to catalogue your photos. 

2) Set yourself a criteria for the particular photo book that you’re working on.

With all my memory keeping projects, I like to define the scope of each project by setting boundaries. Within these boundaries, I always allow myself room for flexibility but by defining the broad scope of a project at the very beginning, it helps to prevent the project from ‘blowing out.’ 

When it comes to photo books, I suggest setting the criteria for the photos that go into that particular book from the very beginning. Perhaps you only want to include photos taken on your DSLR. Or perhaps only photos taken on your iPhone. Or perhaps you want to only use photos that look really good. Or perhaps you want to only use photos that capture your favourite moments - that make you feel good. (Personally, I think that photo books look the best when the images included throughout reflect a consistent look and style, giving each photo book a unique voice.)

3) Set yourself an upper limit.

This could be an upper limit in terms of the number of photos. Or an upper limit in terms of the number of pages you want your photo book to have. Set your limit, then force yourself to stick to it!

4) Imagine your photos on a spread.

When I’m choosing my photos in Aperture, I like to imagine how they’ll appear in my photo book. For most of my spreads, I like to have a full-page image on one side and then one or more smaller image(s) on the other side. So if I come across a dozen photos that are part of the same sequence of actions, I know that I need to choose one to be used as the full-page image and then up to a handful of other ones to be used as the smaller images on the other page. 

5) Break it down.

Break your entire sample of photos into smaller chunks and then approach each batch separately. What do I mean by this? Say you have a year’s worth of photos for a particular child that you want to condense into a photo book. One way to approach this would be to choose a certain number of photos for every month. So instead of wading through an entire year’s worth of photos all at once, you can start with January’s photos and edit those down. Then move onto February, then move onto March, etc. It might end up taking just as long, but psychologically, it makes a huge difference to know that you’re working with a few hundred photos compared to a few thousand photos. 

6) Allow for a few rounds of culling.

Another approach is to allow yourself several rounds of culling. So if you start with a few thousand photos, you might want to go through and allow yourself the freedom to choose a thousand photos the first time round. Then, go through those one thousand photos and set yourself a goal of cutting the number of photos down by half. Then go through and cut it down by half again. And so on and so forth until you’ve reached your final goal.

7) Remember that photo books look best when they don’t look cluttered.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘I want to squeeze in as many photos as I possibly can into this one book.’ However, the honest truth is that the best-looking photo books are the ones that are beautifully curated with ample breathing space surrounding every photo. In this sense, less is definitely more.

8) Remember the story you want to tell.

With every photo book, you are essentially crafting a story. A story for you to look back on in ten year’s time. Consider the ingredients you need to tell the story.

9) Cull, cull, cull.

I know I’m sounding a bit like a broken record, but really, this is what it comes down to. You have to learn to be brutal and to curate your photos. Remember the criteria that you’ve set and stick to the upper limit you’ve given yourself. Just keep culling until you get there.

10) There is no right or wrong.

One of the hardest aspects of the photo selection process is worrying that you’re somehow going to get it wrong and stuff it up. But you know what? You can’t actually get it wrong, because it is your story and you can choose to tell it however you wish. 

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I hope these were helpful! If you have any further tips to share, fire away.

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