Sharing how I took years of photos and organized them into yearly photobooks for my family to enjoy. Tips on organizing your photos and printing them with a modern aesthetic.
You guys! I am SO excited to be sharing this today. Not only because the photobooks are rad but because this task has been in the back of my mind for YEARS!
I’m sure I’m not the only one that has way more photos on their hard drive than they’ll ever enjoy. And as soon as I became a mom I knew I wanted to document those kids the best I could so they could have something to look back on the same way that I have something to look back on- I mean, who doesn’t love looking through baby photos. My dad is a photo lover so I think I have WAY more than most people my age, but I am so grateful for that. But even though I had these great intentions… I have never managed to get it together enough to make a scrapbook or album or anything. I made an engagement photo book… and a wedding photobook… and then I never did another thing again.
And every time we got photos printed, my kids would pick them up and carry them around and love on them and kiss them and spend so much time looking at them… I was reminded that I NEEDED to get my digital photo collection under control so my family could actually enjoy all those memories that I’d documented. I totally take after my dad in loving photos so between that click happy attitude and blogging I have two external hard drives and over 2 million files. 2 million, you guys. That’s crazy pants.
So today I’m not only going to talk about how I printed up my photo books with Mixbook (
and I’ve got a MAJOR discount for you at the bottom of this post!) but I’m also going to talk about how I sorted through the mass amount of photos from the past four years (I just went back to babies being born) and organized them to easily make them into yearly photo books. I promise you- if I can do it, you can too. I did this in two weeks just a bit of time in the evenings- from collecting all my photos to hitting order on the photo books. I’m SO proud of getting this done for my family- I’ve been letting it stay in the back of my mind for years and now that’s GONE. This is a bit of a beast of a post, it has all my tips so I’ve broken it down into headlines to make it easy for you to find the tips you need.
Why yearly books
The first thing I did was decide that I wanted to stick with a yearly photo book- just one per year. I remember reading about yearly photo books a few years back and thinking it was the perfect way to limit how much time and how many photos you poured into a book. I remember when I was younger and started scrapbooking (that was a short lived time), I would make a few pages for each special event but didn’t know what to do with those every day photos. My mom always gets a photo book printed from her vacations. I love these ways of documenting life but the thought of all those scrapbooks and photobooks stacking up over the years made me think they would never get opened- how could you ever look through them all? Plus it gives me a definite timeline to work with. I know that once a year now, I can look back through my photos, make a book and move on.
And because I have printed wedding and engagement books in the past, I knew exactly what I didn’t want to have on my bookshelves. I really wanted standard sized books so they could hang out on my bookshelves and look classy and not stick out too far or be bright flashy colors (my engagement one is a weird long skinny size and the cover is a suede orange- I’m not even kidding). Is that picky of me? Probably, but I just spent hours of my life styling a giant bookshelf ;)
So let’s start with how I organized these MASS amounts of photos.
I’m not sure I’ve accurately explained what a disaster my photokeeping situation has been. I’ve gone through 3! computers since getting married. Well, I had one when we got married and when it died, I bought my dad’s off him and that one died a year and a half ago. So everything lives on external hard drives in back ups.
What I do have going for me is that a few years ago, I started dumping all my camera photos into monthly folders instead of individual event named folders. Then as I edit them (blog), I make a folder for my ‘picks’ and put the ones I want to keep (family wise) in there. So I had those for 2/ 4 years. If you’re looking for a way to organize your photos from here on out… I’d totally suggest this.
How I gathered my photos
SO The first thing I did was make folders for each year’s photo album. I added those to my finder sidebar so they would be easy to copy photos into. Then I started working my way through each folder one by one and copying photos I loved and pasting them into the appropriate year. That’s easy to do when photos are organized by year to start with. But if you’re anything like me- so many of the photos you treasure are on mobile. And they don’t get neatly organized into yearly folders.
This is maybe my favorite tip… and it’s not even something I did- it’s just that computers are so smart. My mobile photos folder had 1000s of photos from the past 6 years. SO I right clicked and hit sort by date. I’m not sure about PC, but I’m sure it’s similar… this is AMAZING. It sorted all my photos by year into little subheadings. With one click. Then I just went through and copied the ones I wanted to keep into the folders in my sidebar. This is the part that had intimidated me SO MUCH and it couldn’t have been easier. Why did I let it stress me out so much?
At this point… I’m not being all that selective. If a photo made me laugh or smile or reminded me of a time… I copied it into that folder. These folders are going to be the ones I really protect and back up, they’re EVERYTHING I love about that year. Let’s be honest… having them all in one place will be amazing in 20 years. I’m never going to say, what was that photo from the november the twins were born? And search through all the folders to find it. I’d say… oh there was a cute photo from the year the twins were born. Now they’re ALL IN ONE PLACE. I feel so good just having this done, let alone the photo books!
I made notes of key holidays/events that I wanted to make sure I tracked down photos for. Easter, Christmas, kids birthday parties… then I went through each year that I’d collected photos for to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. There were a few missing that I really had to dig through archives and back ups for. I’m so glad I made these notes to double check.
Once I had all my photos in those folders, I went through each year and put my favourites that I wanted in the albums in a ‘for the album’ sub-folder. It was way easier to pick from all the photos I’d already liked instead of every. single. photo. on. my. machine. I’m not going to lie- I selected a LOT of photos. I made some custom layouts that held a ton of photos on a page to make it easier to accommodate all of them without having 1000 pages in each book.
Editing! (edited to add)
Alright, one of the questions I got most often was… If you don’t have profesh photos for your book, how do you make them look awesome? And honestly… we get family photos done once a year and that’s IT. The rest are photos we’ve snapped, and a LOT of them are from our phones. I use Lightroom to edit even my phone photos before throwing them in here because it’s how I edit all my photos. And it’s the BEST for mass editing large batches of photos in a hurry. You can get a free 30 day trial of it to get all your photobooks done if you don’t have a need for it long term. For reference, the edits you’ll probably want to make are Exposure (brightness! You can specifically brighten just shadows or just lights as well), Crop/Straighten, and Contrast (make it pop!). You can probably ignore the rest!
Making the photo books
Next is the fun part- making the photo books! I partnered with Mixbook for this post and after using their service (I’ve used a few other ones in the past as well), I have to say that I’m so impressed! I chose to make all of them in the 8.5″x11″ format. I love how many options there were for themes that weren’t tacky. If you’ve been reading Lemon Thistle for a while now, you’ll know that I love black and white and minimal and that’s about it. No scrapbook paper backgrounds and very little writing and illustrations. I just love to let the photos shine.
I actually picked four different themes to showcase them for you guys but all four of them are white background loving BEAUTIFULLY minimal themes. The one (2013, Hand Painted Baby) has some black on white backgrounds that are super fun- perfect for the year the twins were born… but that’s it for fancy pants backgrounds for me. I should say- if your style is more bright and colorful they do have so many options for themes. The four themes I used were: Bold White Photo Album (shown above, my fave!), Everyday Modern Family, Hand Painted Baby, and White Grid.
The first thing I did was pick a theme to start. Once the editor opened up I added all the photos from my ‘for the album’ sub-folders for the year. I checked the box to hide photos that have been used already so I could see just the photos I still needed to add. I started by picking a fave photo for the cover and back, then the first page of each book I picked a photo that represented the year and wrote a few notes about the year. I really wanted to keep it simple so I didn’t spend hours stressing over what to say for each photo or event- I just wrote the basics, the memories that would sum up our year and bring back memories.
You can see our 2014 above, but last years (for example) was, “The year of so much laughter, more personalities, even more renovations, & so many snuggles” with a photo of my three kids laughing on my bed. These captions are so simple and they’re the only real thoughtful captions in the book. I’m of the camp, ‘A photo is worth 1000 words’. If you wanted to add more, you totally could- this just made it simple for me.
Next, I set out to creating the pages for my yearly photobooks. You could use the autofill function to fill all the template designed pages with your photos. Since I wanted to jam in as many photos as possible, and wanted them to follow a logical progression for the year (christmas at the end of the book), I did this manually.
I just made two page spreads that I thought told a story together, then dragged those around to get them in the right order. So all our family session photos (we do once a year in the fall) I’d put in a two page spread, our fall adventuring got a two page spread, and all the beachy summer photos would get a two page spread (above). Then I would re-organize them once the spreads were complete to follow the seasons of the year (or the length of kids hair if I couldn’t remember! #truth).
I used some of the premade templates for photos (you can look under the layouts tab). But I customized a bunch of them. You can copy and paste parts of the layout to add more photos and line it up- there’s guidelines that pop up which help. You could also just drag images over and resize them to add more. The first book, this took me a while… but by number four, even though there were way more photos from that year, I got it done in NO time, I was on a roll.
The Mixbook platform is pretty similar to most editors which makes it easy to catch on to. You can use your keyboard shortcuts for copy/paste/delete and arrows to move things around. The one thing I’d point out is that some of the templates have white borders on photos (which you can’t see on white backgrounds) which makes the resizing look funny if you add new photos to the layout that don’t have a border. You can just turn off the border in the little options box that pops up and you’ll find it a lot easier to line everything up.
Giving yourself permission to create your own templates and edit the ones they provide you will make your photo books SO MUCH BETTER. Not because their templates aren’t rad, but because you have photos sized how you’ve sized them. Square from Instagram, or maybe you take a lot of horizontal shots or something like that. You don’t want to try squeeze a horizontal photo into a tall skinny space just because that’s what’s provided. Resize it and you’ll be a lot happier with how your photos look- promise ;)
I did add in some text for dates and such- like ’32 weeks’ for my maternity photos, or ‘1 year’ for birthdays, and I did put in the date/time/weight for all the kids’ births on those pages. And yes, you’re reading that photo above right. My maternity photos for the twins were done at 23 weeks pregnant. Haha I was huge!
One thing I WISH I did but totally didn’t figure out until I received the books… is write the years on the spine of the book. Since they’re a nice clean white, I’ll probably just write the years on with a black marker but next year I’m definitely typing it in ahead of time! It was a total face palm moment when I realized I missed that step. When you’re in the editor, there’s a skinny strip beside the cover page and that’s the spine. When you click into it you can type- I totally missed this when I was creating my books.
Embellish it… or not
So let’s talk about backgrounds and stickers- there’s tons of options to customize your books. The first one I did was 2013 and I chose the ‘Hand Painted Baby’ template. I love the black and white but I spent SO MUCH TIME picking the best backgrounds for each page and any stickers I wanted on there. And in the end… I don’t even like it that much more than the ones with NO backgrounds. I’m simple like that but if you’re stressed about how much time goes into making a photo book… maybe consider NO backgrounds like I did on my other three. It’s clean and simple and the focus is on your precious photos.
Just get started!
The biggest tip I can give you is to just get started. I’ve been letting this take up space in my brain for years without doing it, you guys. Now that I’ve done it, I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. It didn’t take too long at all once I got into a groove and my family has already gotten so much enjoyment out of these books.
Okay, so originally I had a coupon code. But this post is still so popular and that coupon code is expired. I’ve bought my last few photobooks myself and here’s what I do to save money… I make my book and I save it. If there’s no great sale on (you should be able to save 40% minimum!), then I sign up for their email list and I wait. You should see a great sale in the next month or two and unless you’re in a big rush (I never am!), you’ll be able to snag a sweet deal when it comes because you’re book is ready to hit ‘purchase’ while that sale is valid!
If you’re thinking you want to make yourself some family books too- I say GO for it. Mixbook was kind enough to provide a 40% off coupon code for Lemon Thistle readers (totally rad of them!) so there really is no better time to do it. All you have to do is enter the code LEMON40 at check out for 40% off site wide. This offer expires May 20, 2017. You can see all the books I used in this image below:
And if you are inspired by this and do get photo books done… you know I want you to share your books with me! Tag me on social @colleenpastoor or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll give you major e-high fives for getting it done!