Tips for Keeping a Family or Couple's Yearbook

by - Friday, August 15, 2014

One of my favorite parts of our anniversary is pulling out our photo books from previous years and reflecting on the year we have just had. I think we will always look at the one I made for our wedding on our wedding anniversary, but that whole week (our wedding anniversary is the 25th and our anniversary is the 29th), we pull out old books to reflect. A few weeks later, our new book will come in that orange shutterfly box  (I know other people use Blurb, but my Shutterfly loyalty currently runs pretty deep).

I started making us year books as an anniversary gift way back around year 4 of our relationship (I don't count it as a gift anymore, because it is as much for me as for the Boy). For me, these books are a huge part of maintaining our own little family culture and preserving our history in a way we can manage, much easier to navigate than the THOUSANDS of pictures I take every year.

 As I look at them lined up like that, it seems narcissistic, and honestly, maybe it is, but I think it will continue to transform as our immediate family grows, and I am glad the early years of our relationship are captured for us to remember. The books serve as a good reminder that the years or days don't always have to be the most exciting or eventful to be important to you. It just goes back to treating your life and your relationship like they are meaningful, and that attitude encourages more meaningful events. It's true!

I know people have the intention to do this kind of thing, but sometimes it can be hard to keep up with. After seven years of doing it, I have a few tips that may help:

-Take pictures! Not just with your phone! Though the convenience of camera phones certainly appeals, the problem is you end up with relatively low quality images that don't print that well. They drive me crazy when I have to use them for family calendars, because no matter how great they are, they have to be teeny tiny.

You don't have to have a massive camera, just keep a point and shoot with you when you go out and (maybe more important) out and available when you are home! It can be hard to make it part of your routine, but the more everyone gets on board with it, the more you will be glad you did.

-Steal other people's pictures of the memories you share with them- I have mostly stopped posting our personal pictures on facebook, but I still try to post our times with family in case family members want that picture as well. Stealing others pictures can give you a more full picture of holidays (and if you are like me, might be the only chance to prove you were actually there!) Repeat after me; Right click- Save Picture As- Put a Date as the title- Save.

- Organize your photographs (by Date and Subject) as you upload them- I don't have a good reputation for being organized (and rightly so) but I keep my photo archive meticulous. When I upload my pictures, I label them like this: "7-4-2014 Fourth of July" or "4-25-2014 Boring Week with Hats." Go through them right away and throw away anything that is blurry/ not great.

- Pick a start date that is meaningful to you.
January is actually a tough place to start because you have just established a bunch of new goals plus not much is going on. December is an even more difficult time to finish, because life is crazy around the holidays (not to mention, if you are like me, you have a bunch of other photo gifts to make that time of year).

 I love using our anniversary as a start and end date. I love it even more as our family starts to expand, because I don't want to forget that our relationship was the start and should remain one of the centers of our family. If you have kids, you could also do it around the school year. Or start it at the beginning of every summer? Don't feel tied to the calendar year.

-Pick your photos at least once a month- I make a new folder "Year # Book", and I put my favorite pictures from each event, the ones I would want in our book, into that folder. Even if I don't make the actual pages until weeks or months after the event, it is so much simpler than trying to make those choices and upload at the same time.

-And while you are at it, just make the book as you go- I love Shutterfly because you can save your projects on their website and just keep coming back to it. This can be a big project, but I think it is better to think of it as a long commitment. You put a little bit of time in a couple of times over 12 months rather than trying to organize your whole life once a year. Plus, if you do it as you go, you don't have trouble remembering why you took that picture.

I usually dig in to making pages after big events. I usually do the majority of the fall before Thanksgiving, because I know I will have a lot more pictures to go through after the holidays, and I tackle all of that later in January when things calm down. Doing it all at once would be a daunting task, but if you start putting things together as you go, it becomes a half hour- hour commitment every so often instead. 

-Pick a style that feels good at the time- The choices you make, no matter what they are, will be fine as long as you are telling your story. As you go, you will come up with strategies you like, and your style will change a lot (for us, the pages are more complex, and the book is both bigger and longer than when we started)! The first book is from 2009, and the second is 2013, so you can see how much I have changed. I think my books are getting better, but not really that much better, just different. I can't imagine how many styles we will go though by 20 years or 50!

-If you love the picture, make it big! Even if you don't have tons of pictures, you can still fill up a book with a few key pictures. Christmas can be a 2 page spread, or it can take up 10 pages. It doesn't even have to be chronological! No one makes the rules but you. Shutterfly standard books are 20 pages long, but you can add up to 90 pages. I usually use almost all of them, but you should pace it however makes sense for you.

-Remember to capture everyday life too- I saw this great idea on someone else's blog. Crown one day a "regular day" and capture it from start to finish, so you can give a more clear picture of what life looked like when it wasn't a holiday or special event. It can be easy to forget that low key times matter too, but sometimes the best moments happen when life is a little more laid back!

-Write some text to explain what is going on, what was said, what the joke is- I see lots of these books on pinterest that look really design-y and cool, but I just think that you may be forfeiting more than you realize. You don't think you will forget now, but you will. Write the stories. I use three fonts- a 30-60 size fonts for headings, a 20-30 size font for sub-headings, and usually something around 12 for captions (because I figure our eyes will get worse). Shutterfly and other stores have pre-set styles if you want to just pick one and keep it simple. But trust me, you want text.

-Pick your favorite moments- One of my favorite pages is the very last one I make, where the Boy and I talk about our favorite moments from the year. We just started doing this since we got married. We list 10-12 times that were especially meaningful or fun, and I think it will bring a lot of joy in the future to go just through those pages.

- Enjoy it- This is a task that should be fun, so don't agonize over it. After all, I think it is so fun and exciting to reflect. It's a great exercise in gratitude!

- Wait for sales! If you are going to use Shutterfly, know that they put everything on sale OFTEN, so you don't have to order it the second you finish it. Keep an eye out for a good sale on photobooks AND extra pages (if you are like me and end up using a ton), and order it once you find a price you like.

I hope this helps you feel like this is a totally achievable goal! If you have any advice or questions for me, feel free to ask!

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