| Written by Ronnie |
Having spent the last couple of weeks working on something super special behind the scenes, it feels great to dive back into some regular blogging. It's wonderful to have you guys here, and I hope you enjoy all the posts we've prepared for the next few weeks. Rest assured that there's heaps of memory keeping goodness coming your way!
Today, I wanted to kick things off with a big picture overview of my creative process when it comes to story books because whenever we hold a workshop, people are always drawn to them. They love the concept and essence of a story book - something tangible, something standalone, something you can hold with one hand, something that tells a story, something that can be flipped through and read over and over again. I totally get it. I love the story books that I've made. They are utterly precious to me, and because of that, I intend to keep making them. Forever and ever.
The big picture
Whenever I make a story book, I always starts with the bigger picture. In other words - where does the story book fit in with my overall memory keeping framework? This then helps me to work out my approach to the journaling/text and also what criteria I will be using to select my images. It also helps me determine from the outset what format my story book will be in, ie. large or small, vertical or horizontal.
To me, journaling is a big part of the story book process. Words are so powerful. Whilst in the past I may have opted for visuals over the written word, I now believe that both are essential for documenting this life of ours. How I journal for a particular story book depends on the book itself and whether or not it fits within my pre-existing framework. For example, for our family holiday story books and for our Remember December story books, I journal at the end of each day over the period of time that the story book covers using the Simplenote app on my computer. When I am too tired to write, Rick does it instead of me. Mainly, we write simple narrative in the present tense, and we do so in the first person. Because I know that the story book template is flexible in terms of the amount of text that appears on each page, we don't need to worry about word count: in other words, we can write as little or as much as we want each day.
On the other hand, if I wanted to create a story book that showcases all the road trips that we've taken as a family over the last five years (or perhaps one that looks at all the places that we've explored together), then I would first select the appropriate imagery, lay up the story book with some placeholder text, and journaling becomes the last step in the entire process as I retrospectively recall details from the past to accompany the imagery. The amount of text that I write is then dependent on the layout of the book that I have created.
All the story books that I've created up till now use photos that I took on my iPhone 4S. Which goes to show - you don't need to own the most fabulous camera equipment to create powerful imagery that is meaningful to you and your family. Nowadays, I shoot with my Fujifilm x100s, but my approach to photography is still the same: I try to capture frames that move me and moments that I want to remember forever. As much as possible, I try not to snap as many photos as I can simply for the purpose of filling up pages in a story book. I would much prefer to have just a handful of meaningful photos than a volume of images that don't tell a story.
Image selection is almost as important as the process of taking photographs itself, because the images that I choose more or less determine the look and feel of my story book. The natural temptation is always to include as many photos as possible. However, in my experience, less is always more. Because all my photos are tagged with keywords in Aperture, it is easy to search and find the photos that I want to use in a particular story book. From there, I use colour labels to select the photos for my first shortlist, my second shortlist, my third shortlist, etc. until I've culled the images down to the right number - the right number being largely determined by the maximum number of pages my story book can have.
Once the final images are chosen, I edit them using VSCO Film and then export them as high resolution JPEG files to a project folder on my hard drive.
Design & layout
Adobe InDesign is my weapon of choice when it comes to making story books. All the story book templates in our shop are based on the designs that I've created for myself. My style is very clean and minimalist, as I prefer to let the words and the images shine. I tend to stick to the classic fonts, and I like to make use of white space. All of this lends a certain timeless feel to my story books, which is important to me, as I wouldn't want them to look dated in ten years' time.
When I am putting together a story book, I either select the relevant template to use, or I choose the template that's 'closest' to what I'm looking to create, and I make adjustments from there to create a design template that I'm happy with. Once that's done, it's simply a matter of dropping in my images and copying and pasting in my journaling/text, duplicating page layouts as I go. If a certain image doesn't work, it's easy for me to go back into Aperture to choose another one since I've saved each round of my culling as a separate album.
The beauty of InDesign is that it is perfectly geared towards long, multipage documents, which means that a 200-page story book can be designed, built, and housed in the one single file. I always save this file in the same project folder which holds the exported JPEG files.
So far, I've been printing all my story books with Artifact Uprising. To load my final story book design into their system, I export every single page as a JPEG file. I then place these final JPEG files as full-page images using Artifact Uprising's web editor. (You can watch a mini tutorial that shows you how to do this here.) Once I've loaded up all my pages, I save my project and then wait until I have several story books to print before placing my order, so that I can save on shipping costs.
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And that's it! That's essentially my story book process in a snapshot. I do hope this has been helpful, especially for those of you who are visiting here for the first time. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away in the comments below.