I have always loved printed photos, loved that thrill of anticipation when a packet came in the mail full of blurry photos from the disposable camera I took to summer camp, each almost identical and infinitely precious. My family loves photo albums. Rather than one big album, my mom updated individual ones for each child, so that each of us has a series of books detailing our childhood. We used to pull them out often, paging through former years and reliving moments. The era of every photo equaling a print resulted in us cherishing our images and memories instead of just spreading them around.
I spend a lot of time and energy (and words) reflecting on how to remember life, how to create a physical trail of artifacts and tokens that my kids and grand-kids can treasure. During my grandmother’s last months, we read all the old letters we found that she had written to her own parents, recreating my mother’s entire childhood. We flipped through slides and turned pages in albums, holding family history in our hands.
I want my grand-kids to have more than just a link to a feed of pretty doors and coffee cups. I want more for them than unsmiling faces half obscured by hair and cute shoes on good tile.
So, while I love social media and enjoy digital archiving, I also try to move beyond that, which brings me to a command that will enrich your life: Print your photos.
Tuck them in albums, hang them on your walls, cram then in your bookshelves. Let there be traces of people and places you have loved around your house, and take time to turn the pages in albums and relive happy memories. Don’t let the past fade, and don’t only capture it for masses to like, but rather for an intimate few to love. I love having giant black and white prints of vistas we saw hiking in the Canadian Rockies on our honeymoon in our bedroom, and I love having pictures from our European trip scattered about the living room. I love having scenes of our adventures around the world grace the walls of our home.
I wanted to share some of the ways I print and use photos, as I have done a lot of trial and error over the years and have found some things that work. I would also love to hear what you do to sort, store, and display photos. I know a lot of people use these albums, and I recently saw someone sharing about this digital scrapebook builder that has me very intrigued. Obviously, back up your photos somewhere secure, but I think too many people just leave them safe on a cloud, but never actually where they can see them.
For albums and prints you will frame: Mpix, forever and ever amen. In my experience, Mpix is the best quality printing you will find for a low to moderate budget. I haven’t done canvas prints or anything super fancy with them, but I use them for all prints I plan on framing, and I have printed pretty large scale with them without problems. For albums, I made an album of our first 4 years of marriage last summer and then swore to do it annually. I just got my 2016 album in the mail (really it should be called “Year of Henry”) and it is stunning. I always get the premium panoramic books. They have thick, lay-flat pages, and have hands-down the best layouts for people who want to customize them and add lots of photos. Yes, you could be trendy and pay lots more for these albums everyone loves, but you will be forced into a minimal aesthetic and can only have very limited pictures per page. That’s great, but I needed to share approximately a million pictures of Henry in bear suits, so that wasn’t an option. There are always Mpix sales, so I design an album, put it in my cart, then just wait till a 30% off coupon shows up and order. Note: I used to totally design all my pages in Mpix, and it is possible and you can have a million photos. But then I got lazy, and now I actually use a collage making script I run in Photoshop to prepare the collage and then upload it as one photo. This is faster for me, but you could totally still do it in the Mpix interface and achieve the same result, as all photo boxes can be dragged and sized to manually create a collage. Just wanted to add that note in case you went to make a spread like the one below and didn’t see it as an option. Of course, if you have Photoshop and make collages often, the script is totally worth purchasing!For fun prints to share outside of frames: Social Print Studios. I love their photo strip prints, and I also ordered some of their postcard prints to give to grandparents, because they look just a little bit snazzier stuck on a fridge or standing up beside a computer. They have all sorts of fun photo gifts too that I haven’t tried.
For keeping your mom satisfied with pictures of your baby: Postal Pics. My mom is always wanting new pictures of Henry to keep in her purse and thrust on people she meets. She doesn’t need crazy high quality prints, just frequent photo updates that aren’t on her phone. I downloaded this app and periodically just have some new pictures shipped to the grandparents.
Things to help you actually print your photos:
- If you have photos professionally done and if it is financially possible, book someone who includes prints as part of the cost. Otherwise you will have just another CD to toss in the back of a drawer. If not, set yourself a date whereby you MUST choose and print some.
- Organize your photos. When you upload them, edit keepers and delete duplicates/bad ones immediately and save them in a uniform format. I have a folder for each season, saving any new pictures as Summer2017_62 etc.
- Make printing/album-making/scrapbooking a routine ritual. My brother has given my mom a photo album of all our photos on her birthday the past couple years, and as I mentioned above, my goal is making an album for each year. It has taken me till June to get last year’s album up, but it happened.
- Streamline scrapbooking. The beauty of digital stuff is you can include photos or scans of documents that are important. On the last page of our annual albums for instance, we include a digital copy of the front and back of our Christmas card, as it sums up the year.
- Look at your photos. Get those albums off the shelf and look through them, reliving memories and retelling stories. Make reflection a part of your family culture, not just a digital impulse.
- Actually take photos all year. I wrote here about what camera I use, how I edit, and how I shoot, in case you want more tips on actually taking photos.
How do you print and use photos?