When we adopted our daughter as a 12-month old from a Chinese orphanage back in 1998, we had very little information about her background, and just a handful of photos. I decided that I would compensate for that by making her the most well-documented child in New York City history.
Throughout my life, I had always made photo albums of my pictures, but I knew that I needed to take it to a higher level. Fortuitously, through a well-placed brochure at the pediatrician’s office, I discovered Creative Memories. They are a manufacturer of archival quality scrapbooking materials, and at that time they only sold their products via consultants. I made the connection, and embarked on a new hobby.
For many years, I indulged my creativity by creating fun pages that showcased photos, ephemera, greeting cards, and embellishments such as stickers or drawings. A typical page (like the one pictured for my daughter’s 14th birthday party at a circus school) included a title, dates, captions, and memories – a process known as journaling. Every play date, every vacation, every family gathering, every snowman was photographed, chronicled, and archived for posterity.
When she was little, I created two albums per year. As she got older, I took fewer photos and made only one album per year. The year she turned 18, I realized that once she went to college, I would not have enough material to warrant the time-consuming effort of creating scrapbooks and maintaining the inventory of supplies. I decided that 2015 would be my last scrapbook. After all, it would be silly to create a 32-page album of photos of nothing but my dog (cute as he is). It was time to take a new approach.
Towards the end of last year, I decided to create my 2016 photo album on-line, and then have it printed out as a book. First,I went through the same process that I did when I scrapbooked my physical photos. I had to organize all the digital photos, decide which ones were the best, and crop them to show them to their best advantage. Then I uploaded them to Snapfish, which is the site I had been using for years to print my photos. I decided to make a 12 x 12 album, which is the same size as my scrapbooks.
It took me a while to get comfortable with the page layout tool, but eventually I got the hang of it and it became almost as easy as doing it manually. I used the same techniques that I used when doing my scrapbooks: titles, captions, journaling, and the occasional embellishment. I had fun selecting the photos, arranging them on the pages, and adding the captions. With the digital album, it was easy to shift pages around, rearrange photos, and change colors and fonts. My family enjoyed watching it come together.
Creating my physical scrapbooks was time-consuming because it required me to pull out all my supplies and take over the dining room table. I tended not to do it unless I had a large block of time available and the table wasn’t needed for a meal anytime soon. As a result, I didn’t work on it as often as I would have liked. I didn’t finish my 2015 album until late in 2016. By contrast, the digital album could be worked on in short bursts of time since all I needed to do was sit down at my computer and pick up where I left off.
Shortly after the new year, I finished the album and ordered it. I was very excited to receive it, and thus very disappointed when it arrived and didn’t match my expectations. Although I thought I followed the instructions, some of my photos ran right up against the edge of the page. I stewed about it for a while, then a couple of weeks ago, I wrote to Snapfish to complain. Their customer service rep was so helpful. She told me what I needed to do to prevent this from happening again. Then she credited my account for the full cost of the album so that I could make the corrections and order it again. I told her that Snapfish had earned a customer for life. The new album arrived this morning, and I am very happy with it.
I’m pleased that I have found a 21st century way of handling my photos without sacrificing the enjoyment that we get from looking at our family albums. Having our photos in digital format is such a gift. It provides us with the flexibility of sharing them however we want. However, we shouldn’t neglect sharing them with ourselves.