Every January, I take time to cull, edit, design, and print our annual, family album. While I love being a professional family photographer, I never forget why I started my photography journey: to document my own family in natural, artistic way. I do a little bit of steps 1 & 2 throughout the year, but somehow time gets away from me, and I try to cram it all in one month all the while resolving to do better next year. 😉 I thought I would share my process with you since I know many of my clients also print family albums and have asked about my own process.
I am pretty good about loading all of my images into my main editing program, Lightroom. What I love about this software is that it is also a catalogue. I can organize my images throughout the year right in the library module making it easier to sort come January.
- The first thing I do is import all of my photos into monthly folders. While importing, I try to cull through my images: I delete the ones that are technically crummy and mark my favorites with a 5 star. This is probably the most time consuming part. It is so hard to choose favorites, but I must. At the end of the year, I usually end up with 3000-4000 images to sort through. I try to narrow it down to 300-400 for my album. I try to do this quickly and not give myself any time to second guess my choices. I focus on expressions, moments I never want to forget, and how unique the image is. Meaning, if I take 50 images of my daughter’s bday party, I will try to pick my top 10 because how many images do you really need of her opening gifts? I also like to think about each event (big or small) as a story and only include the elements of the story. So for a birthday party I make sure I have the who: a single image of just my daughter, and an image that includes all of the guests; the events: images of kids playing, blowing out candles, and opening gifts. Again, I focus on my favorites. Thanks to digital photography, we can record every second, but we probably can’t afford to print every second. 😉
2. Once I have all my 5 star images, I edit. Being able to rate my images means that at the end of the year, within Lightroom, I can filter and just pull up my 5 star images. I do not spend a lot of time editing my personal photos, but a couple of simple tricks like making sure photos are level, creating a pleasing crop, adding a little sharpening and contrast, and I’m done.
3. I now export all of the images and save as jpegs to a folder on my desktop. Originally, my images are stored on my external hard drive as dngs and raw files. Saving them to my desktop’s hardrive gives added protection as well as automatic backup to my offsite system, Crashplan. Once this is done, I now have my images on an EHD, desktop HD, and offsite cloud storage. This gives me a big sigh of relief.
4. Now that my digital images are backed up, it’s time for the ultimate archival system–printing! I first import my jpegs into an album design software, albumstomp, to create the layout. Upload spreads and print. Some of my favorite consumer labs for making photo books include mpix.com and blurb.com. Now that I have invested in professional gear and have spent a lot of time getting color and clarity right in camera, I print even my everyday images at a professional lab. It just doesn’t get any better than that. : )
I hope these tips help you get organized and inspire you to get your personal photos off your hard drive and to create a lasting keepsake for your family. We have yet to figure out how to make digital files archival, but quality prints can last for generations.