The Orange Slate

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Photo Organizing, Planning Creative Projects, and My System for a Project Life Baby Album

January 8, 2015

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

If you’ve been reading this blog (or following me on Instagram) for very long, you already know that I am obsessed with everyday photography. I love chronicling our adventures and everyday life. This year, one of my big-picture goals is to create (there’s my Word!) actual photo books with the thousands of pictures that exist only as digital archives.

I love Becky Higgins’ Project Life system and will definitely be using it this year as I turn digital pictures into hand-held memories. I’ll be blogging more about the specific books later on, but today’s post is about a breakthrough I experienced as I tried to plan Miles’ baby book.

Some people can simply sit down and create – photo collages, cards, quilts, whatever. Many kudos to them. I am not one of those people. I love to create, but for me to create effectively, I need specific parameters. How long? What’s the goal? What are the limits? What materials am I using? Endless options leave me utterly paralyzed.

So when I sat down to create Miles’ baby book, I froze. What should be included in a baby book? Where do you start? WHEN does it begin? How long should it be? What is the theme? How cohesive should the color and layout be? How many pictures should I include?

I created a note on my phone in an attempt to plan. And then I stared at it. While we waited for the plane from Kalamazoo to Chicago. While our plane was delayed from Kalamazoo to Chicago. While we waited in Chicago for our next flight. On the plane from Chicago to Dallas. I scoured blogs to glean some inspiration from other baby book plans. My brain started to race as I tried to figure out how to take my thousands of baby pictures and turn them into something usable, organized, beautiful, and enjoyable. Finally, last night while we watched Moneyball, I practically had a breakdown. I think Mark thought I was losing my mind. (Talk about #firstworldproblems.)

I had so many pictures and so many options that I was simply overwhelmed. I couldn’t simply keep staring at my thousands of photos and trying to plan each page one by one. I needed limits. I needed to know exactly what the parameters were before I could effectively begin to pull pictures and then I needed a clear system for sorting and organizing my photos.

So I did what I always do when I am struggling to write: I created an outline of sorts, a clear design for my vision.

The Layout

My Project Life baby book plan thus far is this:

I only plan to use Design A Pocket pages. There will be one large (4″ x 6″) and two small (4″ x 3″) journaling cards per page and five slots for pictures. Knowing that each full spread (a back and front pocket page) will include 10 pictures helps me immensely since I can choose pictures in multiples of five.

I’ll include 1 full-size cover photo and 1 full-size photo for each of his first 12 months. There will be spreads dedicated to each of my three baby showers (one full spread or two depending on whether ten or twenty pictures is more consistent with my selection of photo), spreads dedicated to immediate and extended family, and three spreads chronicling my pregnancy, Miles’ ultrasounds, etc. I also plan to dedicate three spreads to the birth story, delivery, and first few days in the hospital. Each month will have four or five spreads loosely based on the number of weeks in the month (although the books will be organized by month and not by week).

This added up to just under 80 full-spread pages and a clearly defined number of photos. Defining the number of photos and choosing to organize the book by month rather than by week was an enormous relief to me. Since it’s not clear to me (especially during the first few weeks) exactly which week a picture falls into, trying to sort the pictures by week would have been a terrible task. (If you are more organized and know exactly which week a picture falls into, kudos again to you!)

Sorting the Photos

Next I had to begin to sort through photos. I already have my photos archived outside of Photoshop by month. (There are also photos on various online accounts that my family took on various phones and cameras.)

I created a separate folder dedicated to the baby book and created a numbering system consistent with the 5-pictures-a-page approach. I assigned each page a number; for instance, my first baby shower will fall into pages 8-9, so the beginning of the file name is “8-9”, followed by an underscore and a number 1-10.

I copied and pasted (and downloaded) pictures that I selected and renamed them within the new folder. So, for instance, the pictures selected for the pages chronicling my first baby shower are titled “8-9_1,” “8-9_2,” all the way through “8-9_20”.

This naming system and my page number/title list helps me know exactly what pictures are missing, how many more pictures I need for an event, which events may require an extra spread or more careful culling, etc.

Suddenly, I have a clear plan and goal and I’m excited to start combing through my archives again. Instead of being overwhelmed, I’m inspired. Clear steps have a way of doing that.

I love this system and now I know exactly how I can begin with the other photo books I need to complete. I can create the folders and outlines now and begin culling photos and moving and renaming photo copies as I have time. I’ll be able to clearly track my progress, easily sort the photos into the appropriate pages, and motivate myself to work on projects that have, previously, been overwhelming.

I’m so excited to get to work! What kinds of systems do you use to organize your photos in a usable way? What album are you working on right now?

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  1. I either sort by month or for certain events/occasions if there are a couple hundred pictures from that time. Most of my pictures are stored on snapfish or shutterfly I’ve lost many pictures due to 2 computers and an external hard drive crashing…. so now they are stored mainly online so i don’t have to worry about losing them.
    I am working on Annabelles baby book and finishing Melindas 1st year book so i can start on year 2 🙂

    1. Megan,

      I asked for a backup drive for Christmas and plan to back my pictures up to that and to Snapfish. I would be devastated to lose my photos – that’s definitely one of my urgent to-dos for the beginning of the year! I would love to see pictures of your albums and hear about how you organized them. I got so overwhelmed trying to plan mine! Do you use Project Life?

      1. I’m not sure what project life is…. i currently do creative memory type books that’s just a blank white page…. then i print the pictures and create the page either by month or by month/event… occassionally I’ll do a snapfish or shutterfly book…. but i find it easier for me to layout the book etc in front of me and on paper so I can add as much our little writing as i want…. for me creating then online and having out printed and shipped too me is just too hard and i can’t be as creative as i want… 🙂 picture too cone of some of my photo albums…

  2. Oh my word… you’re organized. I make photo books for us (theoretically, since we only have one out of three), all the grandparents, and all the great grandparents every year. It was indeed a daunting task. So daunting, in fact, that I basically gave up. Each set of grandparents need pictures focusing more on their own children and grandchildren, and each set of great grandparents aren’t very interested in someone else’s children, so effectively I need to make three different photo books every year. One for each side of the family and one for us that includes everybody.

    Since I’m completely haphazard, my method (if you can call it that) was to choose my favorite pictures for a whole year, order them according to date, and auto-fill a book on snapfish. 😀 Then I went back and added the names of important events along with quotes from the boys at vaguely relevant times. Oh well, my projects will never be very thoroughly thought out, but I admire your ability to do it!

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