How to make a simple annual family photo book

UPDATE 2018: Apple no longer creates these specific albums, once I have found a decent replacement I will update this blogpost.

It’s time to get those photos off your hard drives and into your hands!


How long have your precious memories been sleeping on your hard drives and in your iPhones? Can you locate a photo from 2011?  Do you even remember the photos that you took in 2011?

I used to be a scrapbooker and have lots of layouts from when the kids were little, but the books are big and difficult to go through. So in 2011 I decided to ditch scrapbooking and go digital.

It was a little overwhelming at first with so many options and I put off making a decision on exactly how to do it for months.

Then I decided to stop concentrating on “how” to do it, but rather “what” to do.  Just by changing my thought process I got a flash of inspiration one day and decided to make ONE family photo album per year. That didn't seem to daunting, and I was easily able to take the steps to get that done.

I’m happy to now share with you how I create our family photo albums.

(You can read more about how to pare down photos here and how to back them up here). 



The Program I Use

I decided to use Photos (previously known as iPhoto) on my Apple computer to make my albums.  I know myself well, and realized that I needed to make this as easy as possible otherwise it would just not get done.

I chose Photos because I wanted to avoid pre choosing my photos and then having to  upload to a separate server before getting started. I also wanted to be able to work on this in small increments throughout the year. 

Ordering through Apple isn’t the cheapest - but I am willing to invest 120chf per year on 1 album. For me the amount is worth the hassle free experience of making the book. 


My Process

Simplicity is important not just when choosing a program, but also in the process of making the album. My life is busy. So by keeping the process as simple as possible increases my chances of getting this task checked off my to do list. 


1. Size

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Every year I choose the same type and size. I go for the Classic Album (33x25cm) which is a hardcover book complete with a photo-wrapped cover and a matching dust jacket. It also comes in a protective cardboard sleeve that we end up throwing away after the first week.  Simplicity, remember?


2. Organization

As I make my albums throughout the year I organise as I go. The pages are organised by month or by season. The album starts off with January and moves onto our Winter Sports holiday which usually includes snow and then it moves organically throughout the year.

I try to keep the process as simple as possible and know that only a small majority of photos will make the cut.

The cover always features my favourite landscape scene I have taken during the year.


3. Layout

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Each page in every album can hold either 1 photo or 13 photos. This makes the decision process easy, and I can get a lot of photos onto one page. My usual set up is the single photo on the left side and the 13 photos on the right side - but if we have been on holidays and there are a lot of photos in a particular month I may choose two pages of 13. 


4. Getting to work

As my photos are already well organised on my computer, It's easy enough to choose my favourites.  If the photos I want to use aren't already in the programme "Photos" I will import them quickly. 

(I don't tend to store my photos in Apple's Photos as I find the programme a little disorganised. SmugMug is my back up, but I keep my photos on my hard drive in a separate folder for the entire year. Once I make my album and back up a second time, I feel ok to delete them off my computer - see here for more info.)

I then next make a folder in Photos called "2017 Photo Album" and drop in my favourites from the month.  

From there I start to add photos to my album and move photos around and see what works.

Ideally I like to work monthly throughout the year on this book, but I have been known to skip working on it a couple of months. One year I didn’t work on it the entire year (hello newborn!) and then spent the grey days of January going through my photos and making the album.

As my aim isn't to get as many photos into the album as possible, but just some highlights, it doesn't take me too long to put together. I try to keep it as simple as possible. 


5. Upload

Once everything has been placed into the album I upload it to Apple. It takes a bit of time, but once uploaded I can order the book, and it is usually sent to our home withiin 2-4 days. I’m always amazed at how quickly it arrives. 



6. Go back to past years

I have every intention to go back to prior years and make yearly albums from 2003-2009, but at this stage it is still a dream. I didn’t do as good a job of organising back in those days, so I know it will take me more time to do. One day! But I am happy I didn't let not having a whole collection hold me back from starting. 

Even if you start with 2018, it is better than nothing! 


7. Enjoy your hard work

Our yearly albums have pride of place in our lounge room. and we page through them often when we have visitors. And our family also loves to look at them.  Z’s favourite thing to do is to look through old photos. I never finished her baby album, but because I have this family album, she can see herself as a newborn and even what life was like before she was around.


These are our among our most treasured possessions, and I am so happy that I’ve begun the tradition of making them. 

Don't let what seems like a daunting task stop you from getting your photos off your hard rive and into your hands. Keep it simple. Every photo you take won't be used, but the small selection you do choose will become a treasured item for years to come. 

How do you get your photos off your computer and into your hands?