Photo Books: One Year at a Time

Back in the day when film was king, I found myself regularly visiting my well-organized boxes and albums full of photographs. They were easy to peruse, and my friends and I would often flip through them. Now that I primarily shoot digitally and only process an occasional roll of film, I find that it's much less often that I browse through my photos! Here's my solution to what I considered to be a problem.

I take a lot of photos. Currently, I have over 25,000 images on my computer (backed up, of course) in a seemingly endless directory of photos. Even though they are not all "keepers" I can't muster up the will to pare them down to only the best. What if I want that photo later for some reason I don't even know yet!?! The sheer number of images, though, makes it much less convenient to just browse through them.

I struggled for a long time to come up with a way to bring my photos out into the real world. Printing them all would cost a pretty penny, and then I'd still have to buy albums, sort them, and catalog them somehow. It just didn't seem like the right solution. Then I discovered the photo book option. I could assemble my photos into books, print them out, and have them out on my bookshelves and coffee table! I still faced a problem, though, as I didn't know how to organize them.

Printing a different book for every occasion was cost-prohibitive. I would end up with hundreds of books after a few years! But then I figured it out. I could create a book for each year of images! I could include my favorite 20 photos from an event, as well as stand-alone photos that didn't really "go" with other sets. Because they would be organized chronologically, they didn't need to have further categorization.

I now have a book for each year that I've been shooting digitally. I can pick up 2008 and begin with my best friend's birthday, and end with the family photos from the holidays, and see the best images and highlights from that year. It took me a while to go through the year's photos and select the ones to include, but that task was much more manageable then tackling my whole library at once. Now, I have a cohesive set of books that represent the best images I've taken.

I chose to use iPhoto to create my first book, which Gregory gave a great synopsis of here, primarily because my photos already lived in the program. At the time, there were only a couple of options for printing these sorts of books, but by now there are many to choose from. I'm very happy with the ease and quality of my Apple books, but I've heard great things about the following companies, and they often have unique options that iPhoto doesn't offer.

• Apple's iPhoto books are extremely easy to create if you're already using the program. I've enjoyed the quality and size options they offer, and the pricing seems to be competitive with other programs.
Lulu is a self-publishing program that allows you to purchase one book, or to utilize their resources for selling your book online! This is a great tool if you just want a single book for yourself, or if you are interested in bringing your book (any type) to the world.
Snapfish began as a resource for uploading digital image and ordering prints. They now offer great book printing options, as well.
MyPublisher offers great printing options, as well, and features a very attractive "lay flat" option that makes the books very reader-friendly.
Blurb was one of the first big online publishers, and touts "bookstore quality" books. Many of my fine-art photographer buddies sing the praises of this option.

Have you used any of these companies? How did you like the quality? Any that aren't listed?

I love the fact that my photographs are once again a part of my home landscape, ready and easy to peruse. As someone who is a stickler for organization and cohesiveness, sorting my images by year allowed me to wrap my head around my vast library of images. Perhaps this idea will inspire you to revisit your images and bring them back to the analog world in some way!

Images: 1. Flickr image by cotero70s 2. Dear Lulu project, via Drawn 3. Snapfish 4. MyPublisher 5. Blurb