documenting your life// from photo albums to dvd

one of the many sometimes tedious tasks of life that I am passionate about, is documenting the life of my family. i've always adored photography and the unique aspect of capturing moments and expressions through image, however when it comes to documenting my own family, i desire both those well taken images as well as the possibly terrible photos that show a great detail of our life aka phone pictures [yay for the iphone = not so terrible pictures!]. i've had quite the journey figuring out which documenting method works for me and i think after several years, i finally have a handle on it.
my first method was collecting several flimsy binders with clear page protectors. why flimsy binders opposed to hard? i've found that when you have 20 photo albums like i do, the flimsy are lighter, thinner, and pack more easily, however, once filled with pages, they only stand up on a shelf if in between 2 other books, so, it's personal preference really. after writing dates on small labels and placing on the books, with the result of the labels being ripped off or falling off, i kept it simple and wrote the dates of pages enclosed directly on the binder.

because i was printing quick photos for around the house at my local walmart, i found that they had a photo collage option which seemed easy enough for compiling numerous photos with a title. it automatically places the photos for you, but you are able to adjust them as needed. the collage pages print on photo paper and you can pick up at the photo counter. i did this for quite some time but soon tired of the few design options as well as the fact that journaling, which is an important aspect of documenting your life, was not an option. their is a short word limit on each collage page.
i was then given a cd program called memory mixer. i loved this program. it was easy to figure out, offered the option to flourish your page as much or little as you desired, and you could ultimately design the layout, picture size, and amount of journaling. i saved my pages to jpeg on my jump drive and took to my local copy center where i printed full color pages and then placed in my clear page protectors as before. if doing something of this sort, it is easier to go print a stockpile of pages and wait the 30 minutes or so for a bunch of pages opposed to just printing a few at a time, but you have to be ready for a hefty bill. i found a printer for .22 per page plus a discount if i printed over 100 pages. most printers are more in the .40 per page range but their are constantly discounts if you keep your ears open.
in the back of my binders, i also include one or two empty page protectors where i can place notes, cards, or paper keepsakes from the year.

another great way to keep record of your life and especially the little details which are the most important to me, is to keep the pages or print outs of your calendar in the front of your photo album. we have a lot more going on now than we did back in 2009 as you can tell from this calendar, and so it's fun to flip through the pages and see what we were up to. when a month ends, i simply put that months page in my binder and then staple them all together at the end of the year.

i also love the idea of keeping a calendar for specific events. i did this when steve and i were dating as well as throughout my pregnancy and the first year of our first child. i printed out a whole years worth of pages and kept them easily accessible so that when the day ended, i could write a short blurb about that day or an event that occurred. the whole point is to keep it short and simple and so the small squares on a calendar are perfect.
as you might have guessed, i slowly veered from memory mixer because i wanted to simplify my documenting process even more. my printed pages were cute and all, but i finally realized that i wanted the picture(s) and words to speak for themselves. this is when i switched over to my current process of a private blog through i set up a simple unpretentious blog where i can post pictures/journal on the day of or weeks later but still connect the correct date to the event. the great part is that i can share the blog with family & friends so that they can follow our journey too. the main difference between this and memory mixer is that i am familiar with blogger and am most often online anyway. with memory mixer, i had to wait for the program to load and had so many options, it was a bit overwhelming. i am more prone to quickly pull up my blog and type out a cute phrase said by our little gal than i am to pull up a program and wait to create my page before i can even type.
once i began documenting through my blog, i found a site called blog2print that allowed me to with a click of a button, load desired pages onto their site and print into a hard bound or soft bound book which was mailed to me. it was only a little bit more than my old copy center printing process and was much less work on my part. not to mention, if you follow their facebook page or sign up for their emails, they often send out discount codes for 10-20% off your order. i saved my book in their system and then as soon as a discount code became available, i pushed print!
however, one slight problem. because i take so many pictures and have a difficult time narrowing them down, i often create collages through picasa and post all pictures in one jpeg on a blog post. you can see what the collage jpeg's look like above. on my review of my blog2print book, the collages didn't look so small but when i received the book, i was greatly disappointed that many of the pictures are almost too small to see. the book did arrive quickly and was well done, but i'm pretty keen on my collage pictures and so i plan to continue documenting through my blog and printing like i did before at my local copy center. the latter printing route also allows me to print as i go instead of waiting until the end of the year to create a book. the worrier in me can't wait that long, i'm too afraid of a computer or hard drive crashing and losing all my pictures.
as if a calendar and photo album aren't enough documentation, another way to keep track of the daily details is to jot small notes in a dated book. steve designed this simple book which i love for writing quick statements on the go. it's good for keeping in your bag when you're out and about. the journal lover in me comes to peace with the not so much time for a journal anymore me with this handy book.
after all the posting of pictures is said and done, the preserving of photos comes up. i simply save my photos in dated/titled folders on my hard drive and at the end of the year, i burn those folders to cd. because i often go back looking for photos for this or that, i have found it easier to label the cd's in detail up front opposed to just labeling with the year. i get overwhelmed by too many cd cases hanging around and so i store all of the cd's in a small cd book.

lastly, videos to dvd. we take a lot of videos. maybe its updated technology, maybe it's the fact that we have a child? we hardly have any videos in the beginning of our marriage but we have a ton now. one of my goals for this year was to organize all of our family videos [which lets face it are mostly of the little one] onto dvd's. we love to watch these when complete and you won't believe how much your child(ren) enjoy them even more than the beloved yo-gabba-gabba. because i'm a mac user, i chose to use idvd. i had no knowledge of the program before using but figured it out quickly. i uploaded my pictures into the slideshow option via iphoto and the file > import option [which i imported from my hard drive], and once complete, chose file > burn dvd [if you don't have a dvd writable computer, you will need to file > archive your video and then save to your hard drive to transfer to a dvd writable computer. beware, if you make a full 80 minute dvd, the burning process can take anywhere from 3-4 hours.

lessons learned:
depending on how many pictures you take in a week, determine a time each week or every other week or every month to upload your photos & post [to your blog, or into a photo program, or send directly to a printer] and then organize them into dated folders. this seems like a lot of work but just do it! if you wait until you have tons and tons of pictures, you won't remember the correct date or even have the energy to begin.

this also applies to journaling. journal while the memory is fresh. if i even wait a couple of weeks after an event, i don't really have much desire left to explain what happened. i don't normally write too much either, anywhere from a sentence to a couple of paragraphs. a couple of times a month for my daughter, i post several pictures and then write 1-10 depending on the number of pictures and then attach a title or description with the number and photo.

videos can get quite out of order and make the dvd process difficult if you don't rename them with a date or letter or number that automatically organizes them in dated order. i just went through this process and it was a headache going through all the videos and figuring out the correct order.

other good photo book options are, blurb, mix book, and shutterfly. creates a great journaling on the go book here

when it comes right down to it, this can be a trial and error process but find how much or how little works for you and enjoy it. i sometimes wonder why i invest time in documenting our experiences but then when we sit down and flip through our albums or watch one of our dvd's, i am reminded why i do it. i can only imagine how much my children will love them in the future.

hopefully this inspires you to document your life and track the details for the future. i'd love to hear how you have begun or simplified your documenting process.


M.B. Captured :

I love, love love all of this. Such a groegous way to keep your memories. Like a great story book/an interesting way to document your life, not just a boring photo album or images in a computer.

Michelle :

Thanks M.B.! You said it perfectly, it's all about finding what works for you and making the end result beautiful.


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