Guest Post: Picking Photos

Please welcome our guest blogger, Contributing Editor Polly Maly, as she shares her process and tips for picking photos to print and scrapbook.

One would think, after having been a scrapbooker for ten years, that my process for choosing photos to print or scrapbook would’ve been well established long before now. Think again. Having finally diagnosed myself as a “Perfectionist Messy” (according to the awesome book, The Messies Manual), I finally got some insight into why I was always swimming in thousands of photos, too many ideas, and too few finished albums.

While I certainly did take a boat-load of photos, and have filled many albums over the years with layouts, I was continually overwhelmed with the volume of photos and never-ending list of stories to be told through my scrapbook pages. The problem was, I couldn’t decide which way would be best to deal with it, so by default, I decided not to decide. Not very productive.

And then, over the Christmas 2008 holiday break….an epiphany. (Pun intended.)

I may not scrapbook all the time, but I look at my photos constantly. Daily. I love them. I collect them. I cherish them. But as I lounged on the couch while the kids watched movies, I realized that while I liked all my photos, I was only really crazy about some of them. Maybe, since some shots stood out as favorites, I just didn’t need 75 more photos from any given event to make me happy. 10? Maybe 14? Perhaps. But sometimes, it was just a single photo that caught my eye, and was quite enough all by itself.

That day I decided to create twelve new folders to hold the copies for only my very favorite photos from each month. I went through each and every folder from the month I was working on, and copied and pasted only the photos that made me happiest into the new folder.

Fave folder

When I came to a folder from an event that seemed too big to pick just a few, or that I definitely felt had a story brewing, I knew I had a topic to add to the to-do list of scrapbook pages I decided to keep in a Word document. (I was already in the habit of putting photos from really big events like Christmas or vacations into their own Shutterfly photobooks.)

I found I easily had the attention span to look through a month’s worth of photos at a time, which took about the same amount of time as watching a DVD. Finishing a month felt like an accomplishment, and one that was so much fun.

This process gave me a focus for dealing with my photos I hadn’t had before. It was so exciting! Suddenly, the process seemed so much more manageable than it had before. Granted, I’d taken a LOT of pictures in the years since I went digital, but I always advise scrapbookers to start where they are, and work backwards if they choose. I took my own advice.

The only thing that’s changed since then is that now, once I have all the photos from a month added to a folder, I open up each of the winners in Photoshop Elements, edit if necessary, resize to a 4x6”, and add simple journaling (a name, a date, or sometimes a little more) right onto the photo. (Mind you, I’m working with a copy of the original file which is still stored safely in two places. I may never go back to it, but its there if I need it.)


While I’m working on a particular month, if there’s a group of photos I want to scrapbook, I either print off a set of photos in various sizes for a traditional page, or create a collage using the Quick Collage templates found at This isn’t just a plug for the SBE website…I use these ALL the time to manage big groups of photos for a page.


When all those photos come back from the developer, I put them all in We R Memory Keeper photo pages, and slide the groups of shots or collages to be scrapbooked in 12×12″ page protectors. It’s made preparing for crops so much easier! Everything’s in order, and I can see what I had in mind just by opening my photo album.

Is my system perfect? Of course not. But its so much better than the way I was doing things before, which was haphazard at best. Though I may not always be working on the current month, I’m not too far behind at any given time, and it never takes too long to catch up. This Christmas, you can be sure, I’ll be snuggled under my favorite chenille throw, sorting photos again.

Enjoy your holiday!


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4 Responses to “Guest Post: Picking Photos”

  1. Admittedly your system would confuses the heck out of me, but I can see how it works for you. I am a predominately paper scrapper with an occasional digital layout or project thrown in there. What works best for me is to upload everything to on on line print & Storage site, and then pick & choose what i want or think I want to scrap from there. That way they are all backed up some where other then at home, (I also have a DVD copy of everything at my husbands office just in case)and i can send them strait to be printed from there. I may not scrap every picture i print, but that way my boys have a printed pictures from many different times in their lives if they ever need them. Once they are in my home they go in 2 photo boxes that are organized chronologically which is the order in which i scrap. It is a precess, but for me it works, i am more likely to get them scrapped if they are here, in order and ready to go. I use post it notes to jot down important memories that may fade before i get them scrapped and just stick them to the photos! I try to keep “up to date” with in a year of the days date so as to not have things sitting around un finished, as well as because i don’t want to store a million boxes of unprinted photos!!

  2. Great article. Thanks for the great ideas. When using the collages do you print them yourself or have them printed elsewhere?

  3. Thanks for the ideas!! I’m still searching for “my system”. My unorganized ways have left me with way too many photos printed (sometimes, duplicates of the same photos!) & not enough pages scrapped.

  4. Thanks for your comments! Amber…you’re right, what makes sense to me certainly might confuse someone else. I loved hearing how you handle your photos. I’m always learning from my other scrapbookers how to improve my system. You’re also smart to have the double backups of all your photos elsewhere. My husband’s my personal geek squad and has stuff on DVDs and and enormous external hard drives, but it’s a great point to have those DVDs at another location. Stefani…I send my collages online to print at my local Sam’s Club. I get the best results when I click the option to “turn off in-store color correction” before ordering them. Traci…I know you’ll find a system that works for you. If I can do it, so can you. Good luck!