Monday, December 8, 2014

Digital Family Yearbook

I have wanted to make a family yearbook for several years now. Because I have saved close to 10,000 pictures each year (2011-2014), I knew it would be a huge project. I've researched various photo book companies and followed their promotions for several months. The cheapest, highest quality book I could find was MyPublisher when they had the "FreeExtraPages" offer. Using their promo code, a 20 page book would cost the same as a 100 page book. After all was said and done, our yearbook still cost nearly $60 with the free pages.
If I was only reviewing MyPublisher software, I would never use the company again. Unlike most companies, the creation process is done offline. You have to install MyPublisher software onto your computer. I didn't have any problems initially, but the program constantly froze beyond the first twenty pages.
Another complaint was that I wanted to make the photo book feel more like a scrapbook, but there were very few options to use. Only the most basic colors and patterns were available as backgrounds, and there were only a few dozen embellishments to add. Most of those were wedding related, which was not applicable for my project. Most programs such as Shutterfly and Mixbook have a wide range of preset templates, but those are not available with MyPublisher. You can choose to have your photographs automatically filled into a book, or you can make a custom book where you design the layout of each page. This is a screenshot of the software while I was working on our yearbook.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough how frustratingly slow it was to move pages around, change backgrounds, or add more pictures. It literally took me 16+ hours to create my book. In the end, our 2013 Family Yearbook was 96 pages and included roughly 350 pictures.
One of the few aspects I appreciated about the software is that it outlined a picture in red if the photo resolution was not high quality. Some of my pictures looked great on the screen, but would become blurry if they had filled the 11.25" x 8.75" background like I wanted. Because of this feature, each of the 300+ photos in our yearbook look clear and sharp.
Once the project is complete, you have to login to your account and upload the book to the website. My computer was stuck on the "upload in progress" screen for over an hour!

I ordered the book on November 24. It arrived today, via FedEx, exactly two weeks later.
I ordered a "Classic Hardcover with Photo Finish". The photo finish cost an addition $6 as opposed to the free linen option. The photo finish also displays the title on the spine of the book.

I also paid extra for the super gloss. I don't know how well you can tell in this picture, but the top book is the MyPublisher book with "super gloss" pages and the bottom book is a standard Shutterfly book. It looks like a magazine but the pages are weighted so it almost feels like they've been laminated.

The pictures really are amazing quality! All my other photo books like dull and muted in comparison.
Another comparison: the top book is super gloss.
As you can see, I did not pay extra for the popular "lay flat" pages. I could not justify the additional $25 fee just so my pages could lay flat.
Now, time to show off our 2013 Family Yearbook! (It was hard to take pictures of the pages since the pages are so glossy.)
The first page is a vellum protector page. I chose to make my title page a text-only page with a list of the most memorable moments from each month.

I originally planned to make a divider page for each month with a full page photo. However, the promo code was only good for 100 pages and I didn't have 12 pages to spare. I just added a header with the month and continued inserting photos in chronological order. 

Most of the layouts had 2-4 pictures per page. I added captions when necessary.
In addition to regular photographs, I scanned various memorabilia to include if I felt like it enhanced the page.
It was difficult to narrow down photos and make sure that all family members were equally represented.
Here is another example with a scanned invitation:

I did not include text on every page. Many pages were full collages or one full page photo.

I heavily relied on old blog posts to keep things in order and provide descriptions.

In addition to pictures, programs, and invitations, I took screenshots of several Facebook posts. I think it will be a lot of fun for the kids to go back and read through some of the posts.

While most pages had a few images, there were certain months that were so busy I made collages with several pictures. This particular layout was the last few weeks of pregnancy when Jesse was out of school and we tried to do as much as possible with Jackson.

The only time I strayed from short captions was when I wrote the triplets' birth story (which I copy and pasted from the blog).

August was another busy month with lots of pictures! When I went through my file folders, I had one picture of Jackson for every ten pictures I had of the trio. Of course, I took twenty pictures of the babies sleeping on their stomachs, thirty pictures of the babies sleeping in the pack-n-play, and so on. I tried to be very intentional of including a wide range of activities so the kids would have a better sense of this time in their lives.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures and memories from 2013:

Katie, can you guess why I included a picture of car keys on the opposite page?
One of the things I struggled with was how many details to include that weren't strictly related to the kids. It was hard to draw the line between what impacted me personally vs what was appropriate for a family yearbook. I only included school related activities if it was relevant to the whole family (i.e. students throwing me a goodbye party since I was going on leave or Jesse taking Jackson to sporting events). I tried to spotlight Jesse and I whenever possible, though the majority of the book revolved around the kids.
I used the same traditional format for every page except the last full layout. The final layout was a funky collage of some of my favorite outtakes from the year. I struggled with whether or not I should include the less attractive moments in our family yearbook. My compromise was to make a spread of outtakes at the end of the book.

And here is the final page:

I love how sleek and thin the photo book is in comparison to a standard photo album. Our yearbook includes more pictures than the traditional photo album can hold.

Unlike using old, bulky photo albums, I love that I can include captions and emphasize certain events by making the pictures different sizes. The only disadvantage is that there is no way to split up and distribute pictures from the digital books. I guess if the kids really want a copy, they can order their own later.

I've got a lot of catching up to do! Based on the number of pictures I have, my goal is to make a college photo book (2004-2008), another photo book for 2009-10 and individual books for 2011 and 2012. The 2014 yearbook is already under way since I already purchased a voucher for an 80 page book with lay-flat pages. I'll update as each book is completed.

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