4 Steps to take before designing a photo book

Photo Book Tips

I want you to think of designing a photo book as a new ‘photo-finishing’ option. When you took photos using film it was never a second thought that you would have them developed. That same thought should apply to your best digital photos. I am not referring to printing photographs, which is part of the definition of photo-finishing, but instead to use photo book design software to print your photos within a story book fashion. The result is a hard-copy book with your favorite photos combined with your choice of text (no more writing on the back of photos) and a personal way to share your memories with your family and friends.

Here are 4 steps in preparation to designing your photo book:

  1. Identify a specific theme – a milestone birthday, a family reunion, a vacation, an annual yearbook capturing your favorite memories from a specific year.  The list could go on and on, but the key thing to remember is to pick a theme that is memorable and personal to you.
  2. Identify your photos – once you choose your theme you will want to identify the photos to include in the book.  A standard photo book allows you to have 20 pages for a set price (you can add more but the price will increase per page added). With this in mind I suggest identifying about 110 photos.  This is an average of about five photos per page, but it also gives you some leeway if you decide not to use a certain photo or you have picked a couple that are more similar than you originally thought.  It is much easier to over identify photos then to have to go back and find more after you have started designing your book.
  3.  Edit your photos –  I always recommend editing your photos in your software versus the book software.  Most book software provide you the option to fix a photos brightness, contrast, saturation and opacity. However, their core competency lies in their software design and not in editing, so use your own design software to make needed adjustments to your photos.  Some options are Picasa, Lightroom, and Adobe Elements.
  4. Select your photo book software – There are many companies who provide FREE photo book software.  I have been using picaboo since 2007 and have always been very pleased with their book quality and customer service.  You might also visit this site Photo Book Girl.  She provides a good review of photo books along with their features and benefits.  My vendors of choice can be found here – Rita’s Recommendations.

I design about four personal photo books a year.  It is my favorite way of sharing my family memories.  The best part however, is when I find the kids (sitting together) looking at the books from the past years.  That is a memory that I have as a child (sitting together looking at photos) and I am happy that even with all the changes in technology I can give this same memory to my children.

Photo Inspiration: Acceptance

Photo Organizing Inspiration and Ideas

Today is the first of a series of inspiration tips and quotes.  We are all in different stages of organizing or managing our photos.  My advice is to simply accept where you are at with your photos and build a system and process that allows you and your family to enjoy them.  Every day is a photo day for most people and with technology so convenient we snap photos of really anything and everything.

It is estimated that 380 billion images were taken last year, most with a camera phone. Over 380 million photos are uploaded on Facebook every day. Instagram is growing exponentially and had four billion photos uploaded as of July 2012. James Estrin

With numbers like this we need to practice some discipline in how we manage our photos.  Accept that you have more photos than you probably know what to do with and aspire to actually hold and physically share your most precious ones.

Have you ever actually thought it was necessary to write down why you take photos?  Try it

  1. Write down the reason(s) why you take photos on a post it note
  2. Post this list by your computer
  3. Congratulate yourself that you are fulfilling the things you wrote down in step 1

This might seem silly , but really think about it, we spend a lot of time feeling guilty about the massive amount of photos that we have, let’s shift that thought and celebrate it, and then accept that to hold and enjoy our photos we will need to embrace a system to manage them.  That can be a discussion for another day – right now make your list!

Four steps to prepare your VHS tapes for transfer to DVD





The other day a wonderful woman contacted me. She shared some fabulous stories about producing musical performances in the ballroom at The Benson Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon. Fifteen years had passed too quickly and she was missing the music and the familiar faces of her past.  She was concerned about the quality of her tapes and wanted to know if I could convert them so she could watch the performances with some of her girlfriends. I shared with her the following steps to prepare her tapes:

  1. Gather together all of your old VHS tapes (all sizes) and put in one place. Having all your tapes in one place allows you to see your collection in a new light. The box full of tapes is a box full of priceless memories of your children, holiday celebrations, birthday parties, family reunions, etc..and they are in danger of being lost forever.
  2. Clearly label tapes with date and events if possible. Tapes generally have some information scribbled on the label.  In addition, use your knowledge of your camera equipment to help determine the dates or timeframe (if unknown).
  3. Prioritize conversion based on oldest tapes first.  Videotapes lose their magnetic signal over time.  The quality and color of your memories deteriorate due to the friction between the VCR head and tape, and the tape grows brittle and eventually breaks – even when sitting on a shelf!
  4. Decide if you want copies made for back-up or if your will copy yourself. DVDs can be duplicated by copying or burning them. I highly advise making a copy of your DVD collection in case of damage or theft. If your computer has a DVD burner you can make copies on your own.  Remember to label and store your copied version in a different location.

I picked up my client’s tapes and returned them a week later. They are converted to DVD and labeled with the title, date and run-time. When I arrived at her house she was very excited and was planning to watch the DVD’s as soon as she got back from her hair appointment.

If you are struggling with a gift idea for Father’s Day or an upcoming birthday – think about converting some of your old videos – I guarantee it will be a most memorable gift.

5 Steps for Organizing Your Printed Photo Collection


Sometimes in business we find that we are our own clients. Just because I am a photo organizer does not mean my photos are perfectly sorted, organized, and backed-up. Nor does it mean that how I manage my photos is a perfect solution for my clients. However, I have found that taking these steps is a good starting place when you are ready to tackle your photos.

1. Gather all your printed photos into one place. Once you start looking for your photos you will find them in the attic, the basement, drawers, cupboards, the garage and all sorts of places you never imagined. Be sure to address the photos in the basement, garage and attic first; the temperature fluctuations will negatively affect the longevity of the photo.

2. Identify a room or a space that the photos can be stored. Do not pick your bedroom. Photos can be overwhelming and your bedroom is a place to relax. Pick a space that is away from household traffic. The goal is for you to be able to sort through your photos and not have to box them up every time you start to make progress. Some ideal locations are an extra bedroom, the dining room, or a craft room.

3. Identify a goal. If you have a goal it is much easier to stay motivated as you sort through your photos. Goal ideas: a photo book for a milestone event (a 70th birthday or a 50th wedding anniversary), a video slide show for a family reunion or a family vacation, a digital photo frame, or a collage. When you have a goal the sorting process is simplified. You can focus on your goal and set the other photos to the side. It is a good idea to write down your goal on a piece of paper and have it posted in your working space.

4. Set a timer. While sorting through the photos put on a CD and work until the CD is complete or in 30 minute intervals. Keep focused on your goal and set other photos to the side. Consider having sticky notes with you as you sort. Tag the back of photos with names, dates, or stories this will very useful when you scan the photos. Take a break if you are finding your emotions are taking a toll on you. You are looking at a lot of family history and the memories and the stories can be overwhelming.

5. Celebrate! Be sure to celebrate your accomplishments after each sorting session. You are creating a photo legacy for your family to share and enjoy, now and for many future generations. Congratulations on your commitment to share stories and build memories!

Photographers’ Rights – Just in case you were wondering!

I hosted a presentation the other day on photo organizing and afterwards an attendee asked me about his rights as a photographer.  He mentioned he was told by a police officer that he could not be taking photos in a public place.  He knew he could but he did not want to make a scene.  If I get this question again I will recommend a set of Photographers’ Rights Cards.  Please keep in mind these are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.

1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.    e.g. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.

2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.   e.g. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.

3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.

4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.   e.g. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.

5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:

* accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities
* children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
* bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities
* residential, commercial, and industrial buildings

6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.

7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.

8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.

9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.

10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

Remember – these are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.

Cat’s Cradle

Sharing PhotosDoes this look familiar?  This is Jacob’s Ladder, a creation from a single piece of string.  String pictures have been used to help in the telling of stories and legends.  Before photos this was one way people communicated and shared stories.

I too grew up playing  Cat’s Cradle and it thrilled me that I actually had to show my daughter how to complete some of the figures.  At 13, apparently she does not know everything!  Some of the figures that we created were Eiffel Tower, Cup & Saucer and Witch’s Broom. I love spending time with my kids especially when a screen is not involved. Yes – I have played games on the iPad and the Xbox with them but it is not really my thing and besides I always lose – which really is not a whole lot of fun.

In this highly electronic world I felt compelled to capture this moment.  I am not sure when she will ‘grow out’ of this type of play – maybe never – but regardless I have captured a moment in time that will probably always mean a lot more to me than to her. Remember to take time to capture moments like this – that are unique to you and your family. After you take your photos be sure to upload and categorize in your photo organizing software.  If you need help with that send me an email and I will gladly answer your questions.








Happy Birthday, Mom

Photo Organizing Services Portland OregonHappy Birthday Mom!  This photo brings back wonderful memories of an unexpected vacation.  This photo was taken on a family vacation that included my mom, older brother and younger sister.  It was the summer and we went to Sunriver, Oregon.  The memories that this photo brings back include: warm sunny weather, laughter, the house with the spiral staircase, swimming, board games, horse back riding, bike rides and an overall great time.  One of my favorite vacations as a teen.

I love the smile on my mom’s face.  She is happy and enjoying the time away from home.  She is enjoying being a mom and a kid.  As a parent sometimes we forget to just be in the moment and enjoy life.  Thank you mom, for enjoying this vacation with just us kids (who had a history of beating each other up – a lot).  Thank you for being healthy and active and a present part of your grand-children’s lives.  Thank you for being supportive and interested in all of your kid’s lives and for being a wonderful mom.

Wishing you a memorable birthday and many more to come. I love you.

Four Key Tips for Making a Photo Collage Using Picasa

photo collage using picasaAre you looking for a creative way to share your photos?  A photo collage is a wonderful way to share a small sequence of photos – for example photos taken from a group hike, a birthday party, or a school field trip.   In Picasa, a photo organizing, editing and sharing tool, making a collage is easy and fun.  You have total artistic control over your collage content and layout.

When completed, the collage can be shared on-line privately with your friends, shared through email, or printed and given as a gift.

When using Picasa, here are four key things to remember when designing your collage:

  1. Identify the photos that you want to use for your collage before selecting the ‘create collage’ menu item in the top tool bar. This will eliminate you having to toggle back and forth between your library of photos and the collage builder.
  2. Edit your photos in the library before you start your collage because you cannot edit in the collage tool.
  3. Know and select the size that you want for your collage. The tool allows many options along with custom ones.
  4. When you like how the collage looks select the ‘create collage‘ button.  This starts the saving process which depending on the number of photos used can take up to four to five minutes.

The collage displayed was made by selecting the 8×10 size, medium-low grid spacing, solid color background option, and the frame mosaic design option.  When I selected the photos for this collage I actually selected too many.  Within the collage builder you can easily eliminate unwanted photos and the tool reshuffles the remaining photos to maintain the college look.

Enjoy making your own collage and surprising a friend or family member with a wonderful keepsake or make some for yourself and update your current photo displays.

Old Home Movies

img_453Where are your old home movies?

Approximately 10 years ago this is what my kids were doing with VHS movie covers.  Apparently I thought it was funny since I have a least a dozen printed photos of this display.  When I came across this photo it did make me a bit nostalgic.  My son loved Thomas the Train.  He knew every train’s name and every adventure that Thomas and Percy encountered.  He would spend hours recreating the scenarios on his own train set.  My daughter loved the Busy People series and the books.  I must have read those books a thousand times over to my kids.  This got me thinking, that was 10 years ago – where are our home movies. Movies about the kids when they were babies, toddlers, their first steps, ect….

So I started digging through the drawers and cupboards – you guessed it – this part of my memorabilia is not well organized.  What I found was dozens of miniDV tapes with dates of years 1997 – 2003.   I am so excited to get these movies converted to DVD and in fact think I will do this for my husband for a Father’s Day gift.  This gives me a date and motivation – but the gift will really be for our whole family including the grandparents.

Do you have some old movies that you need converted?  Is there a special birthday coming up or a family event in the near future where it would be a nice surprise to share your old home movies?  Whatever the reason this is a key component to your photo legacy and the tapes of the past are not doing much good in that desk drawer or the cupboard.  Give me a call or send an email and let me know if I can help you with this project.  Photovation can convert all old tape styles and film too!  Just a side note – the Thomas Train and the Busy People tapes are long gone, but believe it or not we still have the train table and the Busy People books – I am not ready to let go of those.


Childrens Memorabilia

My son, now 15, used to love to read. As a teenager he reads assigned books and periodically he will read a book of choice but nothing like when he was younger. I miss those days of seeing his head buried in a book and his excitement and pleas to get him the next book in a series or to take him to the library.

The above book report, however, allows me to reminisce about those days.  Erin Hunter, the author of the Warriors (a series of books about cats, their territories and clans) was at one time my son’s favorite author. He read every one of her books and when we found out she was going to be at a local book store he was thrilled. Along with three friends we went to the reading and then waited in a long line for her autograph.

My son’s turn finally arrived and he asked Erin Hunter to sign his book report.  She was the most gracious author, reading the report, telling him how much she enjoyed it, and then signing it at the bottom.  It is hard to see, but on the bottom right hand corner she signed his report “This is a great assignment” Erin Hunter.  My son was beyond thrilled and had a smile from ear to ear on his face.   The photo I took of this moment is gone.  I have no idea what happened to it but I cannot find it anywhere.   It makes me sad because the sheer joy in his eyes and reflected in his smile was precious.

What I do have is the book report.  It shows his personality, handwriting and artistic creativity.  It helps me remember my son at age eight differently than a photo would and  I am thankful for this piece of memorabilia.

Do you have some memorabilia filed away in storage bins, don’t forget that some of it tells a story that needs to be captured and preserved – just like your photos.

"People are taking pictures at a record pace, but many are discovering they lack the time to sort, organize and print these images. The need for the services of a personal photo organizer has evolved as consumers seek out effective solutions for preserving and enjoying their precious memories." - The Association of Personal Photo Orangizers