Ah, photo albums. Those much-loved records of our years together, invokers of good memory, and such a pleasure to peruse the pages of. And also...dare I say....sometimes impossibly hard to keep up with. Especially these days in the age of just so many photos at our fingertips, and days so full. I've been working on getting caught up - and staying on top of - our photographs a lot this past year, and as I've shared snippets of that here and on Instagram, always get so many questions about the process I'm using. And so, today...the nitty gritty details of how I do it. I do hope there is something helpful here to someone and that I am not just boring you to tears today with this talk! (And of course there are a million ways and a gazillion products, so this is just me and what's working for my little system of photo preservation here.)
It all starts, I suppose on the camera, yes? I take very few photographs that I'd want to print with my iPhone, so it's all coming off my SLR (I'm shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III these days), and headed directly onto external hard drives (which get backed up regularly by Carbonite). From there, I use Lightroom to sort, tag, rate, and edit images....as well as to delete them! Deleting ruthlessly has been a huge help for me in not feeling overwhelmed by so many digital images to sort through. Though they are adorable, I do not need all forty of the shots I took of Annabel sleeping (or whatever the case may be). Sometimes too much is too much - and can turn into a burden and a sea of images in which you can't find the one you really want.
I do a bit of tagging and rating of the photos at each upload, but at the end of every month is when it really happens. I fine-tune my ratings and tags, and delete even more. And then, using my rating system (two stars means print!), export a batch of photos for that month. Those get uploaded to an online printing service (I've been using Adoramapix of late), where I print them all as 4x6 images, matte finish, with white borders. Though it changes based on the time of year, I'm printing an average of eighty to a hundred and fifty photographs per month.
Once home, the prints go into the albums. I've fallen quite in love with the ease and look of the American Crafts 12x12 D-Ring cloth album, as well as the durability to frequent handling by little hands. Inside, I'm using We R Memory Keepers 6 up page protectors. After years of stickers falling off the cloth albums, I finally started using Martha Stewart adhesive metal bookplates on the albums to identify the year on the binding, and those are working wonderfully. These albums are our 'family' albums - meaning that I envision them staying with Steve and I in our house long after the kids have ventured out on their own. And though some years I've gone over, my goal really is to just do one album per year. So I try to be selective as I'm putting images in the albums, sorted by month and then by event or activity. Sometimes I'll add in a 4x6 piece of paper or note about what's going on if there are some words I want to accompany the images. About one half of the printed images make their way into this family album, and the rest get sorted out amongst the kids. For now, those are put inside an envelope labeled with the month/year, and stored in their individual photo boxes. My hope, of course, is to make them each their own albums at some point, but for now, I feel satisfied with labeling and storing.
There was a bit of catch-up that I had to do with some of our images. Somehow the years 2010 and 2011 were entirely not printed. Imagine that! Moving into a new farm, having a fifth baby and I couldn't keep up with the photo albums? (wink, wink) So getting caught up took a bit of work, and I found that creating a spreadsheet (yes!) was essential. By month with a checklist of whether images were edited, backed up, printed, and albumed (it's a word). And I just plugged away at it, one month at a time, until caught up.
I have to say, it feels so good to have a system that is working well for me. I treasure our photographs and believe them to be so important in keeping - and visiting - the story of our family. But I know that keeping up with all of that can sometimes feel overwhelming and even burdensome. And the plethora of products and tools out there to memory-keep can both inspire and intimidate! Finding what works for me, being realistic about the time and energy I want to dedicate to this project, and keeping things organized and simple has helped enormously in finding my rhythm with these photographs. And perhaps most importantly - letting go of any expectation or pressure that I print/save/see "every" image I take of these babes of mine. I want them to have so many photographs of their childhood, but not so many that they feel burdened by the thousands of them that will likely exist by the time they reach adulthood. And not so many that they aren't stretched once in a while to summon an image in their minds - to try and remember something that we just don't have a photograph for.
And that, my friends, is the very long story of how we keep our story.