I shared a few photos of our annual books on Instagram, and I received a flood of questions about which companies I use and how I went about the process. Several people told me how overwhelming it seemed to go through that many images each year. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you organize your personal photos:
Better to Start Now
If you’re looking at the thousands of images you’ve taken over the past seven years and feel overwhelmed, start with now. At minimum, you can start with the year you’re in (or last year) and begin a tradition of keeping up with your photos once a year. If you ever have free time in the future, you can always revisit printing photos from the past.
Add Photos to your Annual Budget
Another barrier is cost for printing photo books. Even as a photographer who has access to a hundred different album companies, it is still expensive to print. However, photos matter to us. I would rather set aside money in our budget for these books that will become a part of my family’s legacy than buy a few new pieces of clothing that will end up at Goodwill by fall. This is also why it helps to print these books once a year so that is more affordable, rather than trying to print five years worth of books at once.
My Favorite Print Companies
I want to preface this by stating that the quality of books I now offer for my clients FAR exceeds the companies I’m about to recommend. The wedding albums + books that I offer are printed through a professional lab with much more attention to detail. However, as someone who likes to print several books a year, I cannot afford luxury books on a regular basis. We splurged on our wedding album, and occasionally we will spend extra on higher quality albums when we have professional photos taken. But, we don’t break the bank for our annual books that have iPhone images.
I use AU’s hardcover books for our annual prints. When I had to catch up on past years, I printed with the softcover option to save on cost. If we had any professional photos taken that year, then I will use their album option. I could list a slew of issues I have with AU, but I feel like their quality is the best I’ve found for the consumer market.
I print my client welcome guides through Blurb, and I think their quality is great for those. I haven’t actually tried Blurb books, but several of my photographer friends rave about them, especially the fact that their books fit more than 200 pages.
I’ve never personally printed through Chatbooks, but I’ve flipped through several different friends’ books. Their print quality is on par with AU, and they are incredibly affordable. However, I don’t like that the design is not customizable, which is why I’ve stuck with AU. This would be a great option for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time or money on their books.
How To Organize
It can be overwhelming going through thousands of photos taken in a year. I use Photo Mechanic to cull/edit through the files and tag the ones that I want to keep. While I would love to print every photo, I try to curate so that each page only has 1-4 photos per page. I want to make sure the images are visible and can be appreciated. When there are too many photos on a page, it becomes visually overwhelming.
I also try to only choose 1-2 images in a series (i.e. from a family selfie, I will only choose one of the four that were taken). As you sit with each photo, think about the memories that you (and your family) will want to remember. You don’t need 10 images to tell the story of one day. A few of the best moments will be enough.
I started adding captions this year to our books. When I look through my grandparents’ albums and photos, I usually don’t know who is who nor where the photo was taken. Their handwritten captions are everything for preserving those memories.
I take so many photos of Kitt, and I felt like printing one book with our SLR photos and another with our iPhone photos per year was as edited as I could be. Our SLR book has less pages, and the images are more selective. Because these are higher quality photos, I want them to shine. So, I will try to limit to 1-2 images per page.
For the iPhone book, I try to narrow down to about 200-350 images. It’s a challenge. This book tends to have more images on a page, but sometimes the photo quality is lacking and can’t be printed larger regardless.
When we invest in professional photos, I print an album to showcase those photos. Like the SLR book, I want these photos to shine, so I only select about 30-50 images for the album.