When I was young, my mom had a point and shoot film camera. She’d buy a 24 exposure roll of film and it would last her half a year, sometimes more. She’d pull it out to document small moments in our childhood: a birthday party, a picnic with friends, a trip to the beach. After all 24 photos were taken, she’d roll up the film, put it into its tiny cylindrical container and drop it off at the local photo lab. A week and a few dollars later, she’d get her photos back and we’d eagerly pull the stack of 4×6 prints out of the envelope to look through it all. It was pure joy, and we cherished re-living the last few months through those prints.

My childhood’s story and its moments would be most remembered by the photos my mom took. If something wasn’t documented in a photo, my memories of it are very foggy. 

I’m a very nostalgic person and one of my favourite things to do is to flip through old photo albums. Back in the film days, you didn’t have photos without prints. Inevitably, physical photo albums were always being made.

Enter in the digital age. It’s so easy to take photos. In fact, we are drowning in opportunities for capturing memories. Our phones live in our back pockets and they can take unlimited photos. 

But are we printing them? Are photo albums being made?

For me, I would get so overwhelmed by my iPhone camera roll that I would just ignore the task. Years would go by, and hardly any photos of my kids would get printed.

But that has changed! I finally realized that I needed to develop an easy system so that printing would become second nature. We now have family photos albums on our shelf in the living room, and it’s SO valued to us.

It comes down to basic photo habits. No organizational apps required! It’s easy. Here’s what I do!

STEP 1 – First off, I make sure to bring my iPhone everywhere so that I never miss a moment to take a photo, especially candid moments. Get into the habit of always taking a photo whenever you feel an inkling to capture a moment.

STEP 2 – Every few weeks, I go through my camera roll and I “heart” all my favourite photos, especially the ones that capture the story of our family’s life. As the weeks go by, your “favourites” album on your iPhone will grow with a curated collection of all your important photos.

STEP 3 – Whenever you’re hearting new photos, take the time to edit them right away. (Don’t wait until the end of the year, otherwise you’ll be tempted to skip this step!) You can use any photo editing app, but my favourite is Adobe’s free Lightroom Mobile app. Here are some quick and simple editing tips:

 – import your photos into Lightroom. Edit them with these tools:

 – adjust the exposure slider to get better brightness

 – use the contrast tools to make your photos pop

 – adjust the colour tools to correct for any harsh colour saturation

 – use the texture and clarity tools if your photos need a bit of extra “crunchiness”

 – add a bit of sharpening and noise reduction to finish off the photo

(If you’d like to learn how to use the Lightroom app, check out my Mobile Phone Photography courses here.)

STEP 4 – Once your photo is edited in the Lightroom app, export it as a JPG and select “Largest Available Dimensions”. Organize all those exported high-res jpg photos into one album (or folder) on your phone so that they are stored in a single, easy place to find.

STEP 5 – Continue steps 1 – 4 for twelve months. At the end of the year, go to PosterJack.ca and upload all your final edited photos into their photo book layout editor. Place your images in their pre-made layouts in chronological order. You can also add captions to the photos if you’d like.

I aim to have 250 final edited photos per book and I choose the 8×10 horizontal softcover book with 120 pages.

(Side note: as much as I love taking iPhone photos of my family, I always make sure to book a professional photographer to take photos of our family once a year. Those photos are generally the ones I use for the book cover and inside the album as well.)

STEP 6 – When the layout is done, I triple check everything (layout, design, typos, accidental duplicates, etc.). Once it’s good, I submit it for print!

STEP 7 – On top of printing an annual photo book, I also print and frame four 12” x 12” family photos for our living room walls once a year. I rotate them out every time we get professional photos taken. My favourite place to print our professional family photos on our walls is at Photo Central. They have an easy online ordering system and their print quality is fantastic.

This whole process does take some time, but you will never regret the energy you spent to print your family photos!

It’s never too late to start. If you feel overwhelmed by the backlog of photos from years past, don’t let it stop you from taking baby steps. Start with the most recent year, print that album, and the excitement of receiving it in your hands will motivate you to chip away at the previous years.

Soon enough, your shelf will be filled with photo albums that I promise your kids (and grandkids!) will love looking through for years to come.

Photos only grow in value the more time passes!

PS: none of the printers I mentioned above are sponsoring this blog post – I just love them and share their links because they’re awesome!