6 steps for making a milestone album for someone special

I’m sharing these popular instructions again — reprinted from two years ago — for photo album makers thinking of making a meaningful gift this year.

As you look to the year ahead, think about whether the most important people in your life may be celebrating a milestone.

Is your mother turning 60?

Are your sister and your brother-in-law celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary?

Is your father finally retiring?

If someone special is celebrating a milestone in the near future, it’s time to think about making Special Someone an album.

Such a gift requires a little bit of planning, a lot of cooperation from Special Someone’s friends and a few hours to assemble an album, but the result will be worth every bit of effort.

I made such an album recently for my mother-in-law when she turned 70. My husband and his brother hosted an open house for about 60 of her friends and family, and I made her a beautiful keepsake full of memories and birthday wishes for her to enjoy until her next milestone birthday.

Nina album cover

Cover

Here’s how I did it:

1. Plan ahead. Three months in advance, we sent “save the date” cards to everyone in Special Someone’s address book (we had my mother-in-law participation, but you could do this on the sly if you’re a good detective or if you have an inside man). The cards included this message:

We’re creating a memory album for Special Someone to present to her at her birthday party. Please share a memory and/or photo of Special Someone so we can include it in the book.

What to contribute: Send a message (a story, memory or birthday wishes) and/or photo(s) to Special Someone’s daughter-in-law, Album Creator. Email or snail mail accepted. If you can’t bear to part with a printed picture, mail it, we’ll scan it and send it back to you.

Don’t delay! Send your message right now, while it’s fresh in your mind.

Include your email and mailing address.

About 15 invitees sent me something during the next 8 weeks.

2. Remind: We sent invitations six weeks in advance. Included in the invitation was this message:

Don’t forget! If you want to contribute a memory, good wishes or a photo to Special Someone’s memory album, send it NO LATER THAN DATE to EMAIL or ADDRESS. Thanks to all those who’ve already contributed.

A couple dozen more people responded, including my mother-in-law’s brother who had an abundance of photos. In my situation, the only people I had to bug to contribute were my mother-in-law’s 20something grandchildren.

Typed and handwritten messages side by side.

Typed and handwritten messages side by side.

3. Decide format: I scanned all hard copies (including handwritten notes) so I could create a digital photo book. I chose to print with Shutterfly because of its fast service (when complete, the album was delivered within a week).

album black and white

4. Select a design: One theme throughout a book ties different subjects together, so I recommend sticking to one color scheme or coordinating designs. Here, using a classic background, black and white images blended beautifully with color images on other pages.

Early years

Early years

5. Organize: I used a roughly chronological approach to the album, so friends from high school (with pictures of high school) went in the beginning, messages from her card club friends in her current life went in the middle and messages from her grandchildren went at the end. It wasn’t perfectly chronological though; images of she and her brother were near the beginning, whether they were toddlers or retirees at the time.

I tried to put similar people together on the same pages (co-workers, for example, and aunts).

Album Chris

I got a lot of family reunion photos (because, of course, that’s one of the places Special Someone often sees those who contribute to such an album, so I grouped them together here with an image in the background of South Dakota, where many relatives live(d).

6. Print and present: We put my mother-in-law’s album on display at her party so all the contributors could see their own contributions and others’ in print. But we presented the album to her a couple of days before so she could absorb all the wonderful things people said about her and remain composed at the party.

In the end, her book was 50 pages long and covered almost every important achievement and person in her life. One life. One book. Amazing.

album wedding

I sprinkled appropriate quotes and titles throughout the book, but the theme I used was sewing because my mother-in-law is an accomplished seamstress (she sewed the gown I wore to marry her son and many contributors mentioned her talents and gifts). One of my favorite quotes was this:

Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Easy gifts using unusual images

Optimally, this post would have appeared a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day, in time to inspire you, Dear Reader, to create something amazing for dear old Mom.

But my mother and sometimes my mother-in-law read this blog, so I’m sharing these ideas after the fact, in hopes they’ll inspire you for other gift-giving occasions (possibly Father’s Day?).

Let’s begin with this premise: Photos make fabulous, appreciated gifts. Who doesn’t love a one-of-kind, made-just-for-you present to make you feel special and loved?

Today’s personalized gift ideas are created from a piece of memorabilia and a handful of photos, both easy pieces to gather. No difficult composition necessary.

Curt Drawing Low-Res

By Curtis Wallgren

No. 1: Wall Panel

A wall panel fuses an image to hardboard without the glare of glass. Photos are a great option, but I used a piece of art. I can imagine a lot of school art projects in this form. My deceased brother left behind several notebooks of drawings in all kinds of mediums; his pencil drawings were sometimes abstract, sometimes beautiful, but after 20 years, all of them were showing some wear. I scanned this image of the Fargo, N.D., countryside to create an 8-by-10 wall hanging for my mom. It wasn’t signed, but I found his signature elsewhere in the notebook and used Photoshop to finish the work. Viola! A permanent reproduction. Mom loved it.

No. 2: Wall Calendar

calendar compressedWho says calendars begin in January? When you make your own on Picaboo, you can start your calendar with any month of the year. The designs are sleek, and the software is intuitive. I created mine in about an hour, including tracking down the digital images. Plus, you can add special occasions and even pictures to the calendar itself.

For my mother-in-law, I chose photos taken during the past year, including this selfie of my husband and stepson on vacation in the Caribbean. While it’s kind of quirky and might not make the permanent display, it’s perfect for one month of the year. Mom-in-law liked it so much, she sent me a handwritten thank-you note!

 

Location as a theme: A clever idea for your next gift album

Another gift-giving season is upon us. But wait! Before you think I’ve lost my mind (and my calendar), spring and early summer are big gift-giving seasons. There’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, of course. Wedding showers. First communion and confirmation. Graduations of all sorts and kinds. And Mom’s birthday (well, if your mom, like mine, was born in April, that is).

Photo books make great gifts for people of all ages, and an easy way to choose and organize pictures is by location. Forget chronology or even subject — dig through your collection of photos looking for all the photos taken in one location — a house, a school, a church, a garden, Disney World, the baseball diamond, a vacation home — you get the picture (pun intended, heh, heh).

I’m on vacation this week at an undisclosed (but fabulous) location, but if you’re looking for some inspiration for a location-themed album, please enjoy this Clickago Storywerks post from a couple of years ago…

Photos of the lake — or anywhere else — transport the viewer

Choosing a place for the theme of a digital photo album is an excellent way to organize one’s photos — and it might make a fine coffee table book, too.

My sister lives on a lake in Minnesota, and a good friend of hers recently gave her a beautiful photo album illustrated with years of photos of their families’ exploits on the lake.

Read more of this post

Here’s how to make a special photo book for a milestone event this year

As you look to the year ahead, think about whether the most important people in your life may be celebrating a milestone.

Is your mother turning 60?

Are your sister and your brother-in-law celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary?

Is your father finally retiring?

If someone special is celebrating a milestone in the near future, it’s time to think about making Special Someone an album.

Such a gift requires a little bit of planning, a lot of cooperation from Special Someone’s friends and a few hours to assemble an album, but the result will be worth every bit of effort.

I made such an album last year for my mother-in-law, who turned 70. My husband and his brother hosted an open house for about 60 of her friends and family, and I made her a beautiful keepsake full of memories and birthday wishes for her to enjoy until her next milestone birthday.

Nina album cover

Cover

Here’s how I did it:

1. Plan ahead. Three months in advance, we sent “save the date” cards to everyone in Special Someone’s address book (we had my mother-in-law participation, but you could do this on the sly if you’re a good detective or if you have an inside man). The cards included this message:

We’re creating a memory album for Special Someone to present to her at her birthday party. Please share a memory and/or photo of Special Someone so we can include it in the book.

What to contribute: Send a message (a story, memory or birthday wishes) and/or photo(s) to Special Someone’s daughter-in-law, Album Creator. Email or snail mail accepted. If you can’t bear to part with a printed picture, mail it, we’ll scan it and send it back to you.

Don’t delay! Send your message right now, while it’s fresh in your mind.

Include your email and mailing address.

About 15 invitees sent me something during the next 8 weeks.

2. Remind: We sent invitations six weeks in advance. Included in the invitation was this message:

Don’t forget! If you want to contribute a memory, good wishes or a photo to Special Someone’s memory album, send it NO LATER THAN DATE to EMAIL or ADDRESS. Thanks to all those who’ve already contributed.

A couple dozen more people responded, including my mother-in-law’s brother who had an abundance of photos. In my situation, the only people I had to bug to contribute were my mother-in-law’s 20something grandchildren.

Typed and handwritten messages side by side.

Typed and handwritten messages side by side.

3. Decide format: I scanned all hard copies (including handwritten notes) so I could create a digital photo book. I chose to print with Shutterfly because of its fast service (when complete, the album was delivered within a week).

album black and white

4. Select a design: One theme throughout a book ties different subjects together, so I recommend sticking to one color scheme or coordinating designs. Here, using a classic background, black and white images blended beautifully with color images on other pages.

Early years

Early years

5. Organize: I used a roughly chronological approach to the album, so friends from high school (with pictures of high school) went in the beginning, messages from her card club friends in her current life went in the middle and messages from her grandchildren went at the end. It wasn’t perfectly chronological though; images of she and her brother were near the beginning, whether they were toddlers or retirees at the time.

I tried to put similar people together on the same pages (co-workers, for example, and aunts).

Album Chris

I got a lot of family reunion photos (because, of course, that’s one of the places Special Someone often sees those who contribute to such an album, so I grouped them together here with an image in the background of South Dakota, where many relatives live(d).

6. Print and present: We put my mother-in-law’s album on display at her party so all the contributors could see their own contributions and others’ in print. But we presented the album to her a couple of days before so she could absorb all the wonderful things people said about her and remain composed at the party.

In the end, her book was 50 pages long and covered almost every important achievement and person in her life. One life. One book. Amazing.

album wedding

I sprinkled appropriate quotes and titles throughout the book, but the theme I used was sewing because my mother-in-law is an accomplished seamstress (she sewed the gown I wore to marry her son and many contributors mentioned her talents and gifts). One of my favorite quotes was this:

Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Rub-a-dub-dub, 3 photos by the tub

My mother believes everything one hangs on the walls of one’s home should mean something.

Watercolor paintings I created in high school, wedding photos of all my grandparents and great-grandparents, pictures of my brother (who passed away in 1999) and handmade quilted wall hangings decorate her home.

Her tradition is a trend now. “Wall art spending has increased in even the past two years,” Joellyn Gray of Fujifilm recently told a room full of photo organizers.

So when I recently repainted my bathroom, I wanted something meaningful and photographic with which to decorate. Have you seen those photo montages of classic outhouses? Yeah, I was thinking of something like that, only not a tribute to the commode. Yes, the room is for … um, outhousing … but I decided to put the focus on a different function of the bathroom: The bathtub.

gallery blocks close

I tracked down photos of my stepchildren when they were young and frolicking in the tub and scanned them. I have only two stepchildren, and I know odd numbers are more pleasing in design so I took a photo of my adorable miniature schnauzer being bathed, too.

Photos with dimension.

Photos with dimension.

Being a scrapbooker at heart who loves adding a dimensional aspect to photos, I used a manufacturer who offers a concept called “gallery blocks.” A gallery block is a print laminated over a solid wood constructed box; my project is “The Triple,” which floats three inch-thick blocks on a backboard, but there are dozens of other design options, too.

The color theme of my bathroom is brown and aqua, so I converted the images to sepia tone and chose a backboard with aqua water droplets.

Tracking down and doctoring up the images was the most time-consuming part. Once they were ready, I simply uploaded them, proofed the layout and sent them off. A week later I had the finished product in my hands.

The finished gallery block arrived, by the way, with an easy-to-install hanging bracket and easy-to-follow instructions. Once he tracked down his electric screwdriver and level, my husband hung this in 30 seconds.

If you’re interested in creating a meaningful wall hanging like this one with your photos, contact me or another member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers who can take care of scanning, uploading and ordering for you.

Try 4EverBooks for quick, quality printing of digital images

Printing your digital photos in the form of a photo book counts as printing. Don’t be fooled into thinking a print only counts as a 4-by-6 on photo paper. A digital album is a great way to organize a bunch of photos and tell a story.

Hundreds of companies now print digital albums. I tried 4EverBooks recently with photos taken last Thanksgiving. My husband, stepson and I visited Puerto Vallarta for a week and enjoyed all kinds of food besides turkey plus a lot of beautiful weather.

Those digital images were languishing in my computer until I decided to try 4EverBooks.

The software to create a 4EverBook album is free. You download it to your computer (which I like because that way is generally faster than working over the internet). Versions for Windows, Mac and Linux exist; I used Windows and made an 8-by-8 softcover album which retails at $19.95. Options range from $12 to $80 and above.

4EverBooks’ software automatically chose a great image for the background to the cover of my album.

It was so easy to use! I loved the feature that added my photos to a book automatically. I moved a few things around, but generally, the photos appeared in logical order. The background designs were fairly simple (though I had the option to use my own photos as background, which was interesting and made me think I should take photos differently in the future. I didn’t add photo captions. In the space of about an hour, I created and ordered the album. It was so satisfying!

Once created, 4EverBooks gave me the option of sharing my album on Facebook.

My album arrived by mail in a couple of days — amazing. I also could have chosen to have my album delivered to a local photo store. On the softcover copy, the cover is the same paper as inside (which is the say, thin), but the binding is impressively stitched (which I prefer for longevity to glued bindings).

If you’re thinking about creating books as gifts for the holidays, 4EverBooks is a good option.

Now’s the time to think about that holiday photo project

The second best thing to getting a completed photo album as a gift is giving one.

Isn’t she adorable?

My stepdaughter celebrated her 23rd birthday last week, and she loved the photo book I made for her of photos from throughout her childhood. For a look inside the book, check out the post here that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

The lay-flat binding is brilliant!

It’s so rewarding to watch someone paging through an album all about her and knowing you’re responsible for this moment of joy. At the very least, I wanted her to have tangible evidence that she is loved. (I also was pleased I chose Creative Memories’ lay-flat binding so she didn’t have to twist and turn to read the captions near the spine.)

Coincidentally, the poem I used to organize the photos is one of her favorites; she showed me a dog-eared copy of the “Letter to My Daughter” in her journal.

Now is the perfect time of year to start thinking about the photo album project you simply must complete and give at the holidays (think of it as a gift to yourself, too!). While you could complete it in a matter of days, it’s easier to comprehend and complete in steps so begin now and avoid a rush at the end:

  1. Gather photos.
  2. Sort the photos into some sort of order.
  3. Scan the photos (if they’re printed).
  4. Design the photo book and write captions. (For me, this is the longest part of the effort, so you might want to tackle the book in pieces.)
  5. Print and wrap!

What photo album project is on your list?