a photo book

Nearly two years after returning from Guatemala, I finally made a book from some of the pictures. I used to—years ago—make photo albums, but that felt overwhelming. Then I saw Amanda’s post on personalized photo books, and a seed was planted.

I’ve known that these books are A Thing, but I never gave them any serious consideration. I was afraid the process would be cumbersome, the pictures would look stupid in print, no one in the family would appreciate the book, and it’d end up being a colossal waste of money. But then I realized that I’d never know if it would work or not if I didn’t ever give it a try. So I took the plunge.

It took me a while to ready the book, and I never did quite figured out how to maneuver my way through the options. Thanks to my ineptitude, it was probably harder than it needed to be. Also, I got a little stressed out over all the printing options, the hundreds of pictures to choose from, and trying to organize my photos into chronological order. So I reined in my perfectionist tendencies and focused on trying to imagine what the children would like and then selecting photos that would jog their memories. The best I could, I lumped photos into categories—food, work, people, school—but I eventually quit trying to keep everything in order. Case in point: the photo on the front cover was taken in Nicaragua. Whatever.

A couple days after I submitted the book for printing, I had the sickening realization that all the photos I used had been taken from my export folders, and all the photos in my export photos had been downsized. The quality was going to be terrible! But it was too late. There was nothing I could do. The worst that could happen was the book would arrive and go straight into the trash and I would’ve wasted fifty dollars. Oh well.

And then the book arrived and it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it was kind of neat!

Sure, the photos weren’t crystal clear and I hadn’t sized some of them to fit the page as neatly as I could have. In retrospect, I could have done without some of the photos and used more of others, especially of the children doing their thing. But it was my first book. It wouldn’t be fair to expect it to be perfect.

As for the rest of the family, they were all quite taken with the book. The children fought over who had dibs on taking it to church to show off to friends. My daughter took it to work to show her boss. My husband keeps picking it up, turning the pages, and sighing wistfully.

When my mom came to visit, the children crowded around, all talking at once. As she slowly paged through the book, stories and memories poured from the children. It was like a spigot had been turned on full force. And then it dawned on me that while I had done a lot of processing and sharing through the blog, my children had never gotten the chance to show-and-tell their stories. Their excitement was gratifying, but it also broke my heart a little. I wish I had provided them with a way to process the experience a whole lot earlier than this.

But oh well. My imperfect book is here now, and we love it to bits. That’s good enough for me.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.9.14), last Sunday morning, the quotidian (6.10.13), fresh tomatillo sauce, and white chocolate and dried cherry scones,


  • Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen

    I love the shutterfly books too. I don't have any kids but when my family was all here for Christmas a couple of years ago, we took a day trip to NASA. (Best thing to do in Florida, by the way. By FAR my favorite touristy thing I've done in the 10 years I've lived here.) I was the only one taking photos and a lot of those were on my iPhone. I made photo books of our trip and everyone loved them. My 80 year old dad still takes his to show to people who are coming to Florida. My mom has alzheimers and these photos really help her to remember what we did and various family events. I'm a big fan. (Although I admit mine took hours to make too!)

  • Elaine

    In 2012 I won an all expenses paid trip to the Galapagos Islands on a 100 ft yacht. My husband and I had never travelled by air anywhere together and we had the trip of a life time!! It was incredible, when we returned I made a book through Shutterfly that I adore! It takes me back immediately to our adventure:)

  • jennifer

    I used to make more of those, then I had more kids. Time has since gotten away from me, and my youngest tends to pull these books out the most frequently…the catch is that there are only 2 books she is in and one is off limits unless I help her because it has been loved so much the binding is breaking. I need to make more of them. While we don't get out of the country often, we love National Parks. It is fun to hear them say "remember when we went….."

  • Mavis

    I love that you did this. I've always wanted to make a book but never had. I bet the kids will treasure it forever.

  • melodie davis

    I have tried 3-4 different companies and ended up ordering books only through 2, Blurb and Mixbook. (Not LuLu or Snapfish) Some allow more text than others. They all work about the same once you learn the ropes. They will bombard you will specials from now on, but whatever. Watch for some good deals! Thanks for the tip on not loading pics you've sized for Internet to the book. Hmm. I've only recently begun even paying attention to resizing my pics. Always more to learn. I made a 50 year history book for Trinity needing to place a lot of text and one worked better for that. It is neat that it is helping turn on the spigot of memories for your kids, but sometimes it is only with time that kids can actually process all that. Interesting.

  • Camille

    SO glad you did that!! I have never ordered one of those, but, you sharing your experience is giving me a little push in the right direction. I am going to put that on my *to do* list. I think it's wonderful that your children have been sharing their experiences via the photo memory-jogs…how wonderful!! That last photo with your Mom is priceless. Hugs, Camille

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