People desire lives full of meaning, adventures, and great memories. We look forward to travel, visits with family, and any chance to escape from the daily grind. But once those short days are gone, it’s almost like they barely happened.
Now that most of us carry a fantastic camera in our pockets in the form of our smartphones, we “capture” more memories than ever before. But most people don’t turn those recorded moments into anything more than a quick post on social media and they are lost to the ever-refreshing timeline of our feeds.
There’s an incredibly simple way to make all those moments more meaningful and to keep them accessible so they can warm our hearts: make a photo album.
Memories of memories.
You guys remember flipping through those old 12×12 albums at your Gram’s house on holidays, right? My cousins and I would laugh at mom’s tinted glasses and that pale blue tux dad sported on their wedding day. We would watch Gram and Pa age from young, nearly unrecognizable adults taking picnic dates and wearing swimming suits (is Gram in a bikini?!?) and looking like black and white movie stars into parents on road trips in fantastic old cars and eventually into grandparents holding tiny versions of ourselves. The photos would progress from grayscale and black and white to that lovely red/brown tint of the 70s and early 80s and finally to full color.
Guess what? Actual physical paper photo albums still exist! Shocking, I know. Best of all, they are incredibly easy to create. You don’t need to raid your lady’s craft area for special paper and glitter in order to make them. You don’t need to spend long hours on this project either. You can simply pick your favorite pics right from your little pocket computer, upload them, and voila, photo album. It’s like magic.
A photo album is an incredible gift – for yourself or your loved ones.
The amazing thing is that making a proper physical photo album feels incredible. Like, instant rock star. And, guys? Sending a photo album you made to someone you shared your trip with is a touching, thoughtful, and lovely gift.
When my mom made a small album of our trip to Bald Head Island last spring and mailed it to us, my surprise upon opening it was surpassed only by my delight. It now is on permanent display on a bookshelf in my living room. Every now and then as I pass, I pause to pick it up, run my hands over the cover, and flip through its pages. I’m instantly transported back to those precious days sharing my favorite place with some of my favorite people. It makes me smile. It lifts my heart. It connects me to my family through distance, space, and time. Magic.
Whether you are making it for yourself or for someone else the act of creating a physical photo album solidifies those beautiful moments in your memory in a way that posting them to your feed can never match.
You may find that you approach your photo taking opportunities a little more deliberately because you’ll want to capture everyday moments in better detail. You’ll realize that the veggies and cutting board left on the counter by the glass of wine for a moment make a perfect still life that captures some of the essence of your brother-in-law. Or the bag of toys half spilled on the living room floor when the kids bolted is a depiction of how you all wiled away a rainy afternoon. Or you’ll notice the teenage cousins sitting together quietly to watch the sunset. Or the book and reading glasses your mom left on the side table by that chair in the corner seem almost like a shrine. Or maybe you’ll catch your Gram in a quiet moment. These moments, these vignettes, may end up being the most beautiful pictures in your collection.
How to create a photo album.
1. Curate your photos .
Don’t simply upload every single photo you took on your long weekend or weeklong family vacation. Take 10 minutes and go through to pick the best ones. Delete any that are out of focus. If you have several similar shots, choose the best one. In one way, this part IS like an Instagram post: pick the best pictures you have.
2. Edit the photos you’ve chosen.
This step is really optional. If you don’t care to get in the weeds with editing, it honestly doesn’t matter. If you do want to refine things a little, set a timer and go quickly through your photos to make edits. Remember to keep this part brief. It is so easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of editing and making everything just perfect. But the reality is that the editing process often delays things. We can get so focused on the editing that the whole project stalls and before you know it a month has passed and you are still in the “editing” phase. This step is the most likely to trip you up with procrastination. So, if you edit, do it quickly, and move on. This isn’t a National Geographic magazine you’re putting together.
3. Decide how to organize the album.
Obviously the easiest option is chronological. Photos progress from the beginning to the end of the trip. Simple.
If you feel you need a more creative approach, try grouping shots of all your meals on one page, candids on another, and group shots together. Again, just don’t get stuck. Keep it moving.
4. Upload your pictures.
I’ve tried several of the DIY photo album options over the past few years. Most make it easy and affordable to upload and arrange your photos. I most often use Snapfish because they have great sales. Other good options are Walgreens, Google Photos, Apple Photos, and Shutterfly. I even used Blurb once to make a photo album that I interspersed with text heavy pages. Give some of them a try and see which format you like best.
That’s it. It really is that easy. You’ve made your memories more permanent in your own mind by doing this project. You’ve created a simple yet touching gift for a loved one. And it probably took less than an hour.
Creating a photo album gives a different weight to your memories. It’s not quite culture you can heft (because it’s not culture) but it does share some similar attributes. It’s tactile, it opens conversations when others see it, it’s easily shared, it doesn’t get buried in the cloud and forgotten completely. It’s somehow so much more meaningful than a digital album. It has a presence. It actually becomes more of a portal through time the longer it’s around.
Making an actual photobook doesn’t just make your memories sweeter after the fact. It actually causes you to focus and be more present on your trip or with your family. You’ll find yourself paying attention to small moments, looking for ways to capture just the right shot so you can include it. This is a different type of presence, but one that is even more meaningful: it’s the gift of actually experiencing your life.