Saturday, January 19, 2008

Get Crafty: Photo Alternatives for the Non-Scrapbooker

I do not scrapbook. People seem surprised by that fact, but it has really never appealed to me. Even I am surprised sometimes as I pass through aisles of beautiful paper, stamps, resist pads, paint markers, hole punches, corner punches, stickers, embellishments and everything conceivable that one might adhere to the aforementioned beautiful paper... Oh, there we go. Now I remember why I don't do it. I think it's just too much for me to handle in the visual department. I would rather do something else with the paper and all the little embellishments.

But you see, I have these little kids and there is a certain large amount of guilt that comes if one does not properly document all those cute moments that moms of teenagers are forever reminiscing about at the grocery store to moms with tots in tow ("Just you wait till they're teenagers. Then they'll never listen to you."). Unfortunately, the guilt of doing nothing is less than or equal to the guilt of doing something only to quit after a year or two because you just can't keep up the ruse. Scrapbooking can be an attractive option for those who are willing to make the commitment to be indefinitely behind on at least one scrapbook at all times, but if you're an overload-phobe like me, you might prefer a different route to the same ultimate goal of archiving your precious memories. My path of choice is to create a photobook using an online merchant, order it, and have it show up on my doorstep without a single papercut involved. Tendonitis, perhaps, but that's a different matter.

I should mention here that photobooks come in all shapes and sizes, all price ranges and from oh-so-many places. You can get all sorts of covers - leather or linen in every color of the rainbow, photo opening, embossed titles, etc. The inside pages can have text, titles, any imaginable pattern or design, or even look scrapbooked if you like the idea but would rather do it this way. A few of the places I have used or considered at various times in the past 4 years include KodakGallery, Snapfish, Winkflash, Shutterfly, Clark Color Labs and Sam's Club. I use different sites for different things.

Right now I am ordering prints and a soft bound 5"x7" photobook from KodakGallery and a hardbound 8"x10" photobook from Winkflash. The small photobook is the next installment in a series about each kid at various age ranges. I find it's pretty easy to pick the best 20-25 pictures from each 6 months period when they're very young, or 50 for each year. That covers my bases in the kid-picture arena. The large photobook details all the shenanigans that go on at the up-north cottage belonging to my in-laws who graciously lend it to us for vacations. I have made some books in the past as thank you gifts and birthday presents, and they have all been well received. I have been very impressed with the results, especially with the hardbound books.

It's worth looking at various websites for four main reasons:

  • Price comparison. Prices can vary quite a bit between sites while quality doesn't, at least as far as the non-professional photographer is concerned. Some sites have sales that you won't know about unless you check their site everyday or sign up for emails.

  • Ease of use. Each website has their own software for uploading batches of pictures and their own interface for creating the photobooks, some easier than others. I tend to use Winkflash because they are less expensive, but their software for creating the photobooks is not the easiest (read: "pain in the neck") and can be quite frustrating even for the most computer savvy non-scrapbooker.

  • Photo sharing. Without ordering anything, just about all of these websites will let you upload photos, then email "albums" to your friends and family. It makes sense for them because then Grandma can order pictures of the kids if she wants, and she has to use the website that's storing your pictures. I love seeing my friends' pictures this way... it's a really efficient way to show off a lot of pictures at once, in all their full file-size glory.

  • Online photo storage. Photobooks aside, it really is worth something to have your pictures online in case, God forbid, your computer blows up and you lose the photos you love so much. We try to burn DVDs of our pictures and movies every so often and keep them with relatives. If that's not an option for you though, I know there are ways of getting your original file-size photos back from these online merchants, for a fee of course. Having that sort of a backup should be a real consideration if you are not currently archiving outside your own home. Computers are great, but they die hard.

Happy Photobooking!

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