How-To Guide: Planning An Album or Photobook

I would like to welcome back Liz of Paislee Press and Audrey of Audacious Designs, this time as contributing writers! I have loved the idea of creating an album or photobook since I went digital several years ago, but I haven’t done it yet. I have scrapped many, many layouts with the intention of having them printed in book form, but I always get stuck. Actually creating a book is something that completely overwhelms me. I decided if I feel that way, then some of you probably do too.

We will be having a series of posts over the next few weeks all about albums, from planning, to uploading, through printing. We will even be including a thorough and honest review of various printers (for both layouts and books). True to THE DAILY DIGI style, the print reviews will be uncluttered by biases based on affiliates, coupons, freebies, or advertising agreements, so you can trust that you will be getting honest information.

Liz and Audrey have the first post in this mini-series, all about planning those albums/photobooks. We hope you enjoy it!


Putting together an album – whether it’s a random collection of favorite photos and quotations, a celebration of your grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, or a chronological documentation of an overseas trip – can be a daunting task. There’s the issue of organization, and figuring out where to begin, and what pictures to include, and which kind of album you should go with, and let’s not even think about where and how to store all of the pieces during the process. We’re overwhelmed just thinking about it.

But sometimes, just the right amount of flexible structure can take an overwhelming project like this and break it into more manageable pieces, pieces that add order and clarity to the process without being too rigid. It’s important to realize, right from the start, that this is not a list you have to follow step-by-step, nor do you have to follow it in the order presented. These steps are flexible and, more importantly, cyclical, depending on your own specific needs during a project like this.

Building an album is much like building a house. You start with a shell, a structure, and you add layers of materials and personal items until you’ve transformed it into a home. Here we’ve outlined a series of 8 steps, a blueprint if you will, to help you manage your album projects.

  1. Determine the focus of your album. Will it be event-based (a trip, a vacation, a birthday party, a holiday celebration like Christmas) or is it something more thematic and abstract (lessons I want to teach my children, things I’m grateful for)? This is much like choosing the style of house you want. Do you picture a 1930’s Arts and Crafts bungalow with stained glass or a three-story Victorian with gingerbread molding and a turret? That style of home will influence much of the way you proceed with building, just as your album’s theme will contribute to the overall structure and content.
  2. Brainstorm content: what are the essential features you must have? A separate dining room, built-in bookshelves, lots of windows? When thinking about this from an album point of view, ask yourself: what initial concepts for this album do I have in mind? Will it be something that primarily focuses on single photos and lengthy journaling, or will it be multi-photo with simple captions and memorabilia? Right now is the time to think about the things that you want to make sure you don’t overlook them as you create this project.
  3. At this point, you are ready to select a floorplan. Another way to look at floorplans is to consider them as the organizational style of the house you are creating. They tell you what goes where. The same is true for albums. What organizational style do you want to focus on? If this is an event, do you want the album to be chronological (day 1 of the trip, day 2, etc) or geographical (the first place we visited, the second place, etc)? Do you want to follow a timeline? Do you want to assign every aspect to a category (characteristics, personality traits, etc).
  • Decide how you will manage the process. Architects and construction crews stick to a tight plan during the building process, but they are flexible enough to realize that all plans must change. Still, as you work through an album project, you need to plan for all the major processes that will occur. Setting mini goals (today I will scan 25 photos, next week I will post process a batch of photos, etc.) will keep you on track and will keep the momentum going. It is also important to set up a filing system for all the files you will be working with: your photos, working files (layered psd files), completed pages (saved as jpeg for print), etc. You can read more about how to manage your project files on Liz’s blog HERE.
  • Raise the framework of your house. Now, logic might indicate that this is the step where you want to choose the layout and design of your album. But in this instance, the real framework of your album will be the photos. Take the time now to look through your photo albums or archives and gather the photos you’ll want to use. If you need to talk to other family members or friends to get additional files, do so now. If your album requires additional pieces of memorabilia, now is the time to make sure you have everything you need. Also, determine if you’ll be doing any post processing for your photos and gather the tools you’ll need for that.
  • Once a building’s frame has been raised, then construction moves on to fleshing out the rest of the floor plan by finishing the exterior portions. Developing the design and layout of your album will be similar to this stage as you find a place for everything – photos, journaling, titles, embellishments, and more. Perhaps you want to use a template or quick album (prefab houses or modular homes, right?) or you may choose to build yours from scratch. In addition, you need to make choices about your “building materials.” What colors will you use? What kit(s)? What embellishments? All of these choices should support the style decisions you made in Step 1 – do you want to be simple and minimalist or highly embellished?
  • At this point, the exterior of the home is complete and we can move indoors to focus on the interior – the wall colors, flooring, cabinetry. The interior details bring your house to life, just as your words + journaling bring your photos to life. Although this is one of the last stages, that doesn’t imply that journaling should always be last on the list. But once your photos and the overall design are in place, you can use your stories and your journaling to pull the whole project together. Audrey offers some great suggestions on pairing photos and words in this post, and she also offers a free journaling class on her blog here.The final step is adding the finish touches to the house. Prepping your files for print and the actual printing process (printing yourself or sending to a photo vendor to print) will be covered in detail later this week at TDD by the guru of all things print related – Wendyzine.Liz recently completed a 296 page album documenting the first three months of her daughter’s life. Her album is minimalist, photo-centric and organized in chronological order. Liz documented the album making process on her blog. You can read more about it HERE.
    Audrey switched to digital scrapbooking a few years ago but never printed any of her digital layouts, until just very recently. Read about her first printing experience HERE.


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    Audrey and Liz are currently collaborating on a series of blog posts that will address how to “build” an album. They are tentatively set to launch the series sometime next week. If you are interested in album planning, please consider adding their blogs to your reader and/or following them on twitter.

    audacious designs | paislee press designs
    follow audrey on twitter | follow liz on twitter

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