Documenting our World in Pictures: what works for me

I have promised several people I would post this, finally getting to it.



Part 1:  What Works for Me


It’s taken me several years to get to a place where I feel that I am documenting our life as it happens.  I will be honest in saying that I really wondered if I would ever be able to do that because I take SO MANY photos. I can easily take 2000 photos in one month depending on what’s going on and yet there are other months (usually January) where  I might take less and that’s ok.  I think that’s part of trying to keep a balance. 


With so many photos in the year, you’d think there might be a lot of those that aren’t important or are duplicates.  Sometimes that’s the case, but I usually find that at least 70% of them I find show something important to me at least. 

So how and what do I do with so many photos, in a way that I can digest and keep up with?  


The truth is that I started out with high aspirations of being on top of my scrapbooking and photo storage and I did well until I think Delaney turned 2 and from there it all went downhill real fast.  I don’t even have any great excuses other than I’m human and normal and just pretty much like everyone else except that maybe a take a few more photos than the average mom.  


But I found myself becoming more and more unhappy with the fact that I didn’t have a method for documenting our lives in a way that was working well, in my opinion and it’s been said I’m a bit of a perfectionist at times


When I began to think about what I wanted and compared that to what I was doing….BLECH!  Definitely not a match.   So I knew I needed to change that or this “internal” disgust was just going to grow and grow.  So I set out to  decide what it was I wanted and that’s where the process started to change for me. 


It took me some time to figure out

a) what I wanted (and that’s constantly changing, which is ok)  

b) how I was going to get there and

c) how to start to work at it slowly in a way that I could keep up with it and stay current, something I certainly wasn’t doing 5 years ago.  




More than anything, I LOVE photos.  I hoard them, feel the most happy when shooting pictures of things that make me happy) and that is just who I am, it will never change.  I’m not the best at deleting all the photos that maybe I should, which makes for an even more interesting organizational challenge.  But I found over the past 10 years that if I’m not interacting with my photos in some way, I’m not happy.  However, I am not a fast scrapbooker and I have learned that I like to have projects with consistancy from year to year rather than a range of projects that happen to be what I felt like making on that particular day….know what I mean?   I wanted a system, one that made sense, but was a match to ME and my style of ‘getting it done.”   I wanted projects that allow consistancy and flow from year to year, with basic structure, but yet I also with so many photos, I wanted something that allowed me the ability to utilize a lot of photos in a easy format.  I wanted to be creative yet, not have my creative process slow down my “efficiency” of documenting our lives.


So finding a process that matched my desires has taken me some time to figure out (not that I’m totally there, but I am a heck of a lot closer and on my way) and I’m constantly changing it and adding to it as I’m able to stay current with what I’ve implemented.  


Sharing different pieces of this process in the next few weeks here on my blog.




Digital Books:


So a few years back I started making these digital “year in review” books for each of the girls.  Each month is a double page spread, with other special activities, such as birthdays, dance recitals, vacations, Christmas etc getting their own separate page.   I stumbled across this process just by trying it as a Christmas gift and realized quickly how this started to become a key piece in documenting life as it happened.  But more importantly, I loved the process and it was something I could easily keep up with no matter how crazy and intense life became.  I have kept up with this now for 3 years while I’m continuing to add additional pieces to accomplish my “big picture” goals.


I get a lot of questions about how this affects my love for scrapbooking.  What’s interesting is that this part of my process (making yearly digital books) has liberated my time for scrapbooking and my love for the process more than anything ever has before.  I have all my favorite photos for each child archived in a book so if I want to take an afternoon or 2 months to work on an “over the top” creative project about our vacation or any other topic, I am virtually guiltless in doing so.  My creative time can now be just that. 


I will share more about my other scrapbooking projects (notice I say other because I consider these books scrapbooking) and how that relates to these books in follow up posts to this topic.


Specifics about these books:


As I said before, I first did these as Christmas gifts and now I do them at the end of the year after Christmas. I start creating the book in December right after New Years for the last month and then print.  I have discovered lots of coupons in January as “post holiday” retailers are working hard to get your business.  So I can find good deals then as well as being able to add in the end of the year to each book.   I have considered starting the books and working on them through the year and then decided that I enjoy it so much at the end of the year looking back, that I didn’t want to change that.  I also like having the perspective of time that helps me see things differently.  Photos and events that at current might not be special to me, later on have more meaning or sometimes less meaning.  I often find that a photo that I thought was less than stellar or lacked much value, 6-8 months later has a lot more impact on me.  Just another thing I love about making these books.


I first order only 1 book, but later on in the year when there are great deals on photo books, I will then order a second one or order any books I need to get duplicates of (the great thing about a digital books is I can order more any time as the copy is kept online until I remove it.)  So the girls have their copy to keep forever and we have ours to keep at home.   






For me the process of replaying the year in photos while I’m working on them is as fun to me as anything.  I have done this enough times that I find I’m looking forward to it as soon as we have the last year’s printed. It offers me perspective and makes me enjoy the little things, something as a Mom, I want to do a heck of a lot more than laundry or dishes, right?    So this process is good for me in the scope of being a MOM as well as having a great finished product in the end.  


Most of the books I have made,  have between 250 and 300 photos of our favorite photos from the year, specific to that child.  I try to include photos that 5 and 10 years from now will mean something to each one. If I’m unsure, I will ask the girls about the photos while I’m working on their book, which btw, I can do on my laptop on the couch while we’re spending some family time together and they will help me.     I also am working on, notice I say “working on” being in more of our pictures.  As the one behind the camera usually, I might need a support group to change that one, but I’m trying.  I noticed just the other day in McK’s book I actually was in 5 photos on one open page.  Pretty sure that comes close to being a record for me.  One thing I’m always trying to make an effort to be aware of.   Some of our first books didn’t include as many photos of myself, but more of the girls.  But I have changed how I perceive what should go in to these books.   I try to include as many photos of mom & dad, family, etc where I can because I know as the girls look back, they will not want to see every photo of them, but see THE TIMES and  all their favorite people at that time in their life incuded, as hard as that is to put my face in there.  So while these books are about them and they are also about their world and the people in it.


The girls look forward to their books arriving and it’s pretty obvious they love them.  So do their friends. They are stored in a drawer in the living room (you can do this with these because they are so compact, something else I love about them) and when friends come over the books always seem to be out of the drawer (lots of friends make it in the books because they are in a lot of our photos.)   I know when the girls are in High School they will love looking back at who were their best friends and the craziness I managed to catch on film.    If I can keep up with just one system or process, let it be this one because when the girls leave home if they have this one book from every year, I would be happy. 

Related yet off topic funny story:  McKinley came home from school the other day and apparently needed something for show and tell.   She got a note in her book bag that it was her day to bring something.  She told me right away and she knew exactly what she wanted to bring.  She said she wanted a picture of “Sissy” on the toilet.”   I have learned with McK that you never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, but even this one, caught me off guard.  Then a few minutes later I realized that in her latest photo book was a photo of her just as she had mentioned.  She was wearing a mask and nightgown, sitting “you know where!”  

I believe she has been looking at her BOOK.


When I started making these books, I decided to let go of some of my “issues” I have with perfection, still working on that one too.  But doing so has been part of making this work for me.  I upload every photo I take  (more details on that process to come.)  If a photo happens to be post processed, then great.    But otherwise, I don’t fix photos or alter and apply actions to all the photos I’m using.  If I did, the reality would be that I would never be done with the books.   It’s not about perfection, it’s about making it work.


I include specific information about the month and details that I think will be important 5 years from now on the pages where I can add it in and then we go back to the final book and handwrite in details where we want them.  This is all a part of the final goal of  getting it done and not getting caught up in all the details, which is an important part of making this work for me.


I know there are a lot of different sources for making digital books including snapfish, shutterfly and kodak, evan but I have done all of my projects with Photo Works.  Nichol introduced me to their services several years ago and I have been hooked ever since.  You can use THIS LINK to sign up, totally free.  



I have 100% of my 2007 photos uploaded and archived off site on Photoworks and also on disk, in addition to our at home archiving we do.  It’s all a part of triple protection so that we never lose our photos.   This is another part of the process that has evolved for me as I have experimented and learned.  I now upload my photos throughout the year, month by month.  So by the end of the year, I don’t have to go back and spend the time doing this.  Makes this process work so much smoother AND even better I now have a second set of all my photos archived off site.  This past year that became even better when I discovered I could with the click of a button, have those burned to disk for me and printed in to 1 FAMILY PHOTO LIBRARY book.  More on that book later…

Here are  a few photos I pulled out of last year’s books:











 I questioned whether I really wanted to post a link to the girls books for safety reasons, but if you are interested in a web link where you can view our full books interactively page by page, just post a comment here and I will email you the link. 


These books are one of the ongoing projects that I have discovered work for me, but along the way I have stumbled across a few other systems and projects, more on those to come:

  • family photo library
  • digital photo library backup
  • personal photo journals for the girls
  • family photo journal
  • other scrapbooking related projects
  • photo related gifts


If you have questions, just comment and I will try to answer those in my follow up post.

44 Responses to “Documenting our World in Pictures: what works for me”

  1. Sharla says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I just created photo books for my brother, sister and parents using old
    pictures from when we were growing up. They are in the mail now and I can’t wait to get their reaction.
    Can you share the link to your photo books? And, do you print the photos regular or just have them in
    the books?


  2. Becky says:

    Danelle — I LOVE these books and would love to see more pages. Would you mind emailing me your link? I also really like the white background/ plain black text — it really keeps the photos the focus. Thanks for sharing your great idea!


  3. Melinda W says:

    You are such a wonderful person for posting this!!! I am a big photo person also and I am always the one at all the family functions that is behind the camera and also gets the call when someone needs a picture of someone. I haven’t completed one of the online books but I have been looking at them. I love to scrapbook and have TONS of supplies but I get the feeling of being overwhelmed at just trying to get things completed. (I definately have way too much stuff sitting here right now) I am very organized when it comes to my photos and I do have backups just in case but they are all sitting on computers, backup drives or disks. I want to give this a try and since I have my pictures already organized by date, I think it will be very easy to go back and do some of the prior years. I would love to see your photo books and would love to see your answer to the prior question and also how do you print the pictures you want to scrapbook. Thanks!

  4. Annette Rose says:

    Your creativity is beautiful Danielle. (and very professional too)

  5. Shawn Wenrich says:

    I also have guilt issues with my scrapbooking. Like you I am a perfectionist and can spend weeks on a project. The idea of annual photo books really appeals to me. Would you mind sharing the web link with me, I’d really like to get a closer look at how you set up and designed the pages. This really might work for me, thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Ann says:

    Danelle – I absolutely LOVE this idea of doing one book per year per child. Could you please email me your link so I could view more? Also, what size book do you get? And what are the books “Notes From Mom”? Are those like handwritten journals for each child? You have great ideas!!

  7. Shaquanna says:

    Hi Danelle,
    Thank you so much for sharing your photo books/process. I cannot wait to learn more about the ONE cd and more about your memory keeping process. Would you mind sharing your journals? Also, would you send me an email to see more of your photo books? Thank you again!

  8. Kris says:

    I saw this idea when you presented at Scrap Etc event in Nashville and lovedit. I have
    made a few of their books as a gifts for people. This December I am going to make my \
    year in review books for our family.

    Please continue to post and show us more of your books and ideas–would love to see
    a close up of some of your journaling.


  9. Ann (again!) says:

    Hi Danelle – I am new to your blog and am loving the ideas.
    Would you mind sharing how you get the “vintage” look in the family photo on your blog?
    I have been looking at one action online, but you have to have Photoshop CS for it to work and I do not have it.
    I was hoping you had another method. Thanks again for sharing so much good stuff!

  10. Debi says:

    Love, love, LOVE this idea!!! I made a photo book on my son’s wedding day and LOVE it, and have been planning on doing an end of the year book with digi LO’s as a Christmas gift for them this year. Problem is, if it’s a Christmas gift, that means Christmas won’t be in the book. Love your idea of having them printed after the New Year. LOVE the look of the covers!!! I now have 2 grandaughters that I’m trying to keep up with, and I think that this is the answer. SOOOO glad you shared this with us! Now… Could you please send me the link to your books so I can take a peek? Thanks so much!

  11. angietorres says:

    please email me a link to view your albums…they are a great idea to keep photos in books rather than in bulky album pocket books..thanks

  12. tara pollard pakosta says:

    these are awesome danelle!
    and i think i finally met my match on
    someone who thinks breathes and lives photos!
    i NEEd to make one of those books, or SEVERAL!
    i did the same thing, keeping up on albums til my youngest was 2 and
    after that NOTHING! i think it’s cause i went digital! and took so many more photos!
    thanks for sharing these!

  13. KT says:

    Oh please will you send it to me. I am really liking this idea!!

  14. Oh my goodness. love this idea..I too keep looking at these books online and thinking “maybe”..I too stuggle with too many pictures and difficulty narrowing them down..and guilt for not keeping up…intrigued by this idea! Would love the link to your albums to see how you’ve laid them out…thanks so much for typing all this up to share! I’m emailing the link to this post to all of my non scrapbooking friends who are missing out..maybe this will appeal to them! :) Thanks!

  15. laura vegas says:

    love hearing about your process … and can’t wait to hear more! i made my first digital book last year. i’m a daycare provider in my home … and have tons of photos for all my kids i watch. so i made a book that sums up the entire year of photos … with each child having their own section. LOVED the idea … and have made 2 other years since. that way i can still scrap the photos of them i want … but know that i have all these pics in a book on my shelf too.

    i’m still trying to figure out a system for my family photos though. lol! sad that i did the daycare kids first … and not my own girls. lol!

  16. Tracey says:

    What a fantastic Idea. I would love to see the full length versions. I understand about the stresses of scrapping I sometimes feel i am just making a huge mess of the table and not getting any work done. Its difficult between work, home and looking after a family.

  17. JoAnn Motta says:

    About how many pages are each of your books and around how much are they costing you? I did this for 2006 through Kodak (for the whole family) but it was quite pricey, and also a large sized book. I am loving the smaller size, and the making them child-specific, but I am wondering if it’s really just the same price in the end to make the one “family yearbook” as I had done. I am uploading some photos right now to photoworks to try out their prints and compare them with Kodak (whom I have been using for years, and have TONS backed up on). That cd feature just about trumps every service I have ever seen anywhere though, so I may have to convert!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    awesome! they look fabulous! thanks for the inspriation…to finally get off my hiney and DO it! I have been wanting to create one forever.. your photography is amazing too! off to check off that site too!

  19. Layle Koncar says:

    Such an inspiring post Danelle! I’m going to do this! Thanks for sharing it.

  20. Amy Jo says:

    Hi Danelle,
    These are wonderful. I have started many times but always deleted because I can’t figure out how to get so many pics on one page like you do. I noticed you have the same order on the pages that have so many on one page. Did you set that up in photoshop then copy it as one picture? or am I missing something on the website to drag and paste? Thanks a lot.

    Amy Jo

  21. Farrah Schambeau says:

    This is really awesome! Can you please send me a link to the full books?

  22. michelle maclellan says:

    please send me the link to view the books – they really look like so much fun!

  23. Debbie says:

    Hi Danelle,
    Thanks for sharing!! We just had a family reunion/vacation, I’ve been stressing on how I was going to be able to do scrapbooks for everyone in time for Christmas. The photobooks will make it so much easier. What size do you order? Also I noticed in your picture the book Notes from Mom – please share more on that, if you don’t mind. Thanks again! Deb

  24. Dana Simpson says:

    Danielle, Love your work. I would really like to see these books in there entirety. I have two children almost 6 and 9 and would love to go back and do this from birth. This would help me with the overwhelming feeling of not having to scrapbook every photo I take. And like many other people I take lots of pics – I don’t go anywhere with out it in my purse. You never know when a great photo op will happen. Thanks again, Dana :)

  25. emily says:

    Danelle: Been toying with doing one of these books myself. Okay, maybe more than just ONE book. I did a batch of calendars as gifts this year so this would be the “next step”, I guess. Would love the link, if you wouldn’t mind sending it.

  26. [...] October 3rd, 2008 at 6:39 pm eDanelle – I absolutely LOVE this idea of doing one book per year per child. Could you please [...]

  27. [...] calendar year wrapping up, I have been browsing  my photos from 2008 (over 20,000 of them) for a project I complete each January and it’s more than obvious to me I have so many photos that I am [...]

  28. [...] the stack is huge, I am glad to have them.  I decided a while back, when I started to develop a system that was right for documenting  our lives (which before wasn’t much honestly,) one of my issues was that the majority of my photos [...]

  29. Martha says:

    Love this idea! Do you use templates that you drop all your photos into or do you create your pages in Photoshop. Would love some information on how to do this. Are the links still available to your books? Thank you so much! Martha

  30. Karyn says:

    Wow! Finally someone put into words what I’ve been feeling for a long time!! I’ve felt that I have way too much money invested in all my scrapbooking supplies and I don’t really want to give that up. These digital books are fabulous and I love how you do a year in review for each child. I just found your blog today, but I’m sure I will be a frequent visitor. I love your ideas and your photography talent!

  31. Melanie L says:

    Hi Danelle, I love all the stuff you do. I was trying to find information on the family photo library spiral books you get from Photoworks. I can’t seem to find them on their site. Can you point me in the right direction of how to get something like this done? It sounds like it’s just a big index of all the photos for the year that you had also put on CD. Is that correct? Thanks!

  32. Cinthia H says:

    Hi Danielle,
    I love the idea of these books. I would love to have a link to them. I have made one photo book for each of my children, but it’s not a year in review like that (one is about colors, the other family, and the other the story of when we got our kitten). I am definitely going to do the year in review books. I love scrapbooking, but am soooooo behind that I find the idea of even getting started daunting. This would give me peace of mind knowing that our favorite photos are printed in a book, and it will free me up to scrap the ones that are the most important, and the most important events too. Thank you for sharing your ideas. I look forward to checking your blog more often.

  33. Joelle says:

    hi there! this is a great idea. i was wondering what size the albums are that you show. are they 8×8? i want to switch to digital, but i feel sooo guilty because of all the money i have spent on the supplies for the traditional scrapbooking. i feel like i should use up what i have. or maybe sell it? but i think digital books are the most practical for the long run and definitely time savers.

  34. Michelle says:

    I know you posted this a long time ago, but I found the link on Jessica Turner’s blog. I love this idea! What size book do you use?

    Is it still possible to get a link to your books?

    Thanks for your great ideas!

  35. Diane Herman says:

    Hi….I have just found a link to your blog and love what you have said here! I totally relate to this post and have been considering photobooks …you have convinced me this is a great way to keep on top of the 1000′s of photos I take.
    I was wondering what size these albums are too? It may be somewhere else…so sorry for asking if the answer is out there.
    I am going to have a look at the rest of your blog.
    Thanks for sharing your process.

  36. Melanie says:

    I realize this is an old post, but I found it today through a link on Ali Edwards’ blog. I have 2 children (11 and 5). My oldest has so many pages, but since my youngest was born, I just seem to take pictures (tons!) and buy supplies (lots!), and never actually scrapbook. This post has gotten me excited! I would love to see the links to the books, and am going to look through your blog now in hopes of finding more great ideas, like those you’ve mentioned “more on those later to come”. Thank you!

  37. Vicky says:

    Hi Danelle:

    Just found the link to your “Documenting our world in picutures” in the comments section of Ali Edward’s blog. Was wondering if it’s possible to read more the other posts you had planned on doing? Also, it is still possible to get a link to the other books? This sounds like such a great idea! Can’t wait to try. BTW what size books were they.

  38. Karyn says:

    I have come back to your blog often to check out your photobooks. I love how you create one each year for each child!! A friend and I are wanting to do the same with our families. The quality of some that I’ve used, snapfish, wolfcamera, are lacking to say the least. I have not yet ordered from photoworks.

    I would enjoy looking at more of what you’ve created if the link is still available..if not I’ll just keep enjoying your blog…creating my own blog is another thing I haven’t got around to doing yet!

    Thanks for your inspiration! And Merry Christmas!!

  39. Kristin says:

    Thank you so much for this great post! I was wondering which format & size of book you used? There are so many choices, it’s hard to know what would work the best.

  40. Belinda Yates says:

    I have just found the link to your blog and I am loving your approach to documenting your children’s lives. Basically all of my photos are still on the computer!!! I have managed to do 1 travel album through iphoto books. Is there a particular reason why you choose to use photo works for your digital books and not through Apple? Could you also email me the link to your digital albums, and journals if they are still available. Also could you please do an update on your blog of how you handle the whole scrapbooking process – I find it quite daunting. Are you still doing the year in review books for your children and the journal and the travel albums plus what other projects?? You have been an inspiration and a lifesaver – I will be following your blog. Thankyou so much. Belinda

  41. Michele says:

    The glimpses you shared are beautiful. I feel like you must know me really well because you just put into words how I feel about scrapbooking. I am a perfectionist and the number of pictures that I have just sitting on the computer waiting to be scrapbooked intimidates me. Could you share the link with me to see more?

  42. Lika says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Would you please send me the link to see one of the photo books? Thank you so much.

  43. Sarah says:

    Love hearing about your process as this is a project I would like to start this fall. Are the links to your books still available?

    You made note “but along the way I have stumbled across a few other systems and projects, more on those to come: » family photo library, » digital photo library backup, » personal photo journals for the girls, » family photo journal, » other scrapbooking related projects, » photo related gifts”.

    How can I search your blog for these additional posts?

  44. Sharon says:

    Hi there! I just stumbled upon your blog after Jessica Turner linked it to her blog. I have to tell you that I LOVE your idea of doing a book each year for your girls. They are absolutely beautiful and you are also an amazing photographer. Can I ask you a question? What size do you order for your books?? It’s kind of hard to tell on the computer how big they are :) If you could let me know I wold appreciate that. Thanks again for the wonderful idea. I’m going to start I think!

    Blessings! Sharon

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