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Be Prepared to Scrapbook at Any Moment

When your free time is in short supply or fragmented, use these 3 Bs to help you get scrapbooking done:

  1. Be prepared,
  2. Break down the process into smaller steps, and
  3. Be focused on each step.

Kim Byrns

The second and third Bs, Break down the process and Be focused, work together, and they are the foundation of my service, Bite-sized Scrapbooking.

Today, I want to talk to you about the first B, Be prepared, because I think it’s extremely helpful no matter how you approach your memory keeping.

How to Be Prepared

If your scrapbooking time is extremely limited, you need to be able to lay your hands (or eyes) on usable photos very quickly. This means you need to take care of your photos ahead of time. Here’s what I do and suggest for your photo-care tasks:

On a regular basis, upload photos from your camera to computer, and take a few seconds to delete the totally unusable shots (no thought required!).

On a monthly basis…

1. Select your best photos from all the photos you took in the previous month.

Your best photos are those that:

  • You love and definitely want to scrapbook or display;
  • You might want to scrapbook in some way (though, right now, you have no specific plans in mind);
  • You would be happy if they eventually ended up in a captioned photo album or photo book;
  • You would enjoy seeing them as your computer’s screen saver, or in a digital photo frame; AND
  • You would be satisfied if a disaster occurred and they were the only photos you had left.

When a new month begins, get going on this task right away and work on it in short bits of time, at least once a day, until it’s done. (Make sure you know where you’ve stopped each time.)

Tip: Set up an automated email reminder to arrive in your inbox on the first of every month.

Choose ONE method (one keyword, for example) to identify your best photos. Make sure your method is very quick and easy to apply. I firmly believe that if you’re short on time, you don’t need to do a bunch of tagging or rating. You may want to do this someday, but for now, do NOT worry about it!

Go through your pictures one by one, and:

  • Delete the bad photos and duplicates. If you can’t decide quickly, move on!
  • Identify your best photos with your preferred method. Remember, not every photo you choose needs to be technically stellar; it just needs to mean something to you. (Don’t agonize over these decisions. If you like it, choose it!)
  • Try to choose a variety of orientations: horizontal and vertical (a.k.a., landscape and portrait). If you find you have very few vertical shots, you may want to quickly crop some of your photos into vertical orientation. This will help you later when scrapbooking.
  • Do your basic quick edits (to your best photos only) such as auto enhance/auto levels (if that’s something you like to do), cropping, and any other fixes you require, but don’t spend too much time on this. (If you’re able to do batch edits, then by all means, do that when you can.)

2. Create a folder or smart album where you can view your best photos exclusively. Label your folder with the month and year, and copy your best photos into that folder.

3. Back up your best photos. Every month, be sure to upload your best photos to an online photo service such as Flickr, Shutterfly, or Costco, where you’ll always have access to them. You may also want to copy them to a memory stick or EHD (remember to label your device).

4. If you’re a digital scrapbooker or you prefer to print only as needed, your best-photos folder(s) will be your best friend. When it’s time to do scrapbooking, you can go straight to these photos and avoid getting bogged down in the bulk of your photo archives.

If you use standard prints for scrapbooking and/or simply enjoy having prints to look at: get your best photos printed immediately. It’s very satisfying to get that stack of prints in your hands after you’ve accomplished the steps above!

Then, as soon as possible, slip them into a photo album or storage binder labeled with the month and year. (Put multiple months in the same album/binder, and to save space, you may slip similar photos into the same sleeve.) Later, when you’re looking for photos to scrapbook, it’s much easier to flip through an album than it is to look through a stack of photos.

Now, your photos are ready when you are! When you have a moment to scrapbook, you’ll be able to find your best photos and use them on your layouts, quickly and easily.

Do you take care of your photos on a regular basis? I’d love to hear if this is an area in which you struggle or shine. Let me know in the comments!

Kim Byrns is a wife, mother of 3 girls, technical writer, scrapbooker, prolific photo taker, and founder of Bite-sized Scrapbooking, an email-based service for time-strapped scraplifters (say that 3 times fast!). She’s been scrapbooking for 10 years, saving and sharing memories at for 7 years, tweeting @kkbyrns for quite a bit less time, and has 84 months worth of her best digital photos saved online and printed. Kim’s approach to handling photos was influenced by Stacy Julian’s Library of Memories system (a.k.a., Finding Photo Freedom).

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37 Responses to Be Prepared to Scrapbook at Any Moment

  1. Mel H August 22, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    I’m definitely going to give this a try…I have too many photos living only as JPEGs and my kids would love to be able to see and enjoy them. I can surely find time to do this once a month!

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 10:18 am #

      My computer screen saver shows my best photos from the current year as a slideshow, and my kids will often sit down for a few minutes and watch the photos. They also enjoy the prints in albums. It is worthwhile!

  2. Tara S. August 22, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    I tend to take too many pics (like 400 at a time! Literally! LOL!). I star my favorite pics and then put them in a folder called “to be edited” and try to get to that when I have free time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great tips here!

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks! I can certainly identify with taking too many pics! I find that “free time” never seems to show up, so I give myself a firm deadline: I must take care of last month’s photos before next month arrives.

  3. Cindy August 22, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    I definitely struggle to organize my photos – I also take hundreds of pics a month and since they are mostly of my kids, I have a very hard time deleting! I know it’s better time-wise to do an immediate deletion, but I have found it easier emotionally to delete when some time has passed…now that my kids are older, I can look back on those baby photos and realize that out of the photos taken during the first couple months, the 10 shots taken every 5 seconds could use some editing! Thanks for the reminder on labeling – I’m doing more of this and find it’s helpful!

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

      You’re welcome! I think if deleting is a challenge for you, then feel free to skip that step and really focus on choosing your best photos. It’s better to spend your time taking care of your favourites than on making decisions about what to delete. It’s also easier to enjoy, share, and back up a smaller number of photos! You can still revisit your large photo archive as long as it’s available.

  4. Nathalie August 22, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I don’t have any specific method to organize my photos but I wanted to also add that Be prepared for me means having a clean space to scrap ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      Yes, I agree! Thanks for adding this!

  5. TracyBzz August 22, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I use the same method Kim talks about and love it! My piece of advice is to embrace imperfection. Realize you will never be able to edit and scrapbook every photo. Be content with the memories you get document. Your family will love whatever you do. No one will say “Wow, Mom sure took a crappy photo! Why didn’t she crop it and boost the colour, and improve the sharpness? These photos are useless now.” Think of the heritage photos you treasure – the few and the imperfect.

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      Great advice, Tracy! It’s true — photo editing can be a major time sucker and it’s not required. For those short on time, I would definitely prioritize this behind choosing your best photos and ensuring they’re backed up. Better to have a nice selection of unedited photos you can easily access and share, than to have thousands of photos no one will ever see.

      • TracyBzz August 22, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

        Good point. I guess an alternative for thosee who feel they have to edit is that they could just edit one favourite from each set/group/event of photos. This could be the one shingin star of your layout. This could be the one that pulls at your heart.

  6. coffeebabs August 22, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    I know its stupid, but I have to get over the “if I delete this photo, I’m deleting a part of their life” attitude. Thanks for breaking down what photo’s to keep. It seems like I work better if I have guidelines!

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      Please see my reply to you below!

  7. Neda August 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    I also take a lot of photos at the same time, so I have piles and piles of photos living in my computer waiting to be sorted. I think it’s a great idea to make a “Best Photos” folder to keep things simple. I usually delete the mess-ups as soon as I upload them into my computer, but after that it’s really hard to decide which to keep and which to delete since they’re mostly of my son and family. I usually organize my photos by month, so maybe I’ll start putting the best ones in a subfolder in each month…or maybe a Best of the Year folder to put all the good ones in as the year progresses.
    Thanks for sharing your organizing tips ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      I think it helps to know that when you’re selecting your best photos, the photos you didn’t select will still be there. Perhaps you won’t delete any of those ones (since you’ve already deleted the mess-ups, as you said). Ultimately, your best photos will receive more attention than the ones you didn’t choose, but that’s okay! None of us have time to give equal treatment to all of the photos we take. I think if you create a Best of the Year folder, or subfolders, you’ll really enjoy viewing the smaller number of photos. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Kim August 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    You’re welcome! I’m glad you like my guidelines for what to keep. The more you practice choosing your best photos, the easier it gets. Also, as I said to Cindy above, if deleting is a roadblock for you, don’t worry about that side of it. Focus more on selecting and taking care of your favourites. Good luck!

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      Oops! This comment was supposed to be a reply to coffeebabs.

  9. Marcy August 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Really enjoyed the article and the idea of the Smart Folder which is something I plan on using.

  10. Kim August 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Thanks! I’m glad you like the smart folder idea. It works well!

  11. rebecca.k August 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I have taken Stacy Julian’s ‘Library of Memories’, so I am familiar with the concept of ‘triage’ when it comes to digital photos. However, I am horrible at keeping up with it! I need to start setting aside 15 minutes each day to start tackling it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kim August 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

      It IS challenging to work with photos on a regular basis — but that’s also what keeps me from becoming overwhelmed! I really use the calendar as a firm deadline (I must deal with last month’s photos before next month arrives), and I don’t always use a time limit like 15 minutes. For example, I might plan to work on just two days worth of photos. It helps me get started anyway!

  12. cate August 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    I’ve just taken FPF, but upgraded to PSE9 and a new computer in the middle, so it fell by the wayside… I’m trying to be good about tagging in some way as I upload photos from the camera, but haven’t quite got around to “best photos” and printing yet, so these tips will help. thanks.

    • Kim August 23, 2011 at 7:40 am #

      You’re welcome! When I started printing my digital photos, I had a four-year backlog. I got through them by doing the same steps as above, alternating between my most recent photos (last month) with the oldest photos in my backlog (one month at a time). It was fun to finally get prints from photos I had taken so long ago. You can do it! Good luck!

  13. Susie Westervelt August 23, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    I have so many photos on my EHD that you’ve inspired me to start printing them and catch up.

    • Kim August 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      I’m glad. Enjoy your prints!

  14. Mandy August 23, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    This is a great step-by-step approach. I like the idea of putting them in photo albums to pull from visually, but I am a print when ready kinda gal. Thanks for the reminder to backup/upload!

    • Kim August 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      You’re welcome! I always feel relieved when I know my best photos are backed up and safe. It’s a good habit to get into!

  15. JenRay August 23, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    So glad you Facebooked about this article and that I came to read it! I haven’t been doing much scrapbooking lately, as I have been focusing my undivided attention on something else. My LOM system breaks down when it comes to keeping up with my photos like this. (iPhoto makes it too easy to find photos to scrapbook without keeping up with triage.) I really need to adopt your method for doing this once a month and staying current – working backward when I make the time. I also need to get moving on BSS again! Thanks for the kick!

    • Kim August 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

      Hi Jennifer! I’m glad you saw it on Facebook and clicked over! ๐Ÿ™‚ Staying current with photos is tough sometimes; there’s no doubt about it. Once I got through my backlog, I was thrilled to have only the past month of photos to deal with. Not wanting to face a backlog again keeps me motivated to stay on top of it!

  16. KittenJen August 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Thanks so much for this article! I really need to follow the first rule of being prepared, keeping just the best photos. I find myself bogged down trying to include too many pictures on a page.

  17. Kim August 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    You’re welcome! I’m glad you like the idea of choosing your best photos. I hope you try it!

  18. Nicky Hurt August 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    Great tips!

    • Kim August 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks! I’m glad you like them.

  19. Terra August 29, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Thanks so much for the helpful tips. I have way too many photos and often find that this stops me from scrapbooking because I just don’t know where to start. I am going to attempt to organize my photos this week because I know I have many that I want to scrap, I just need to get organized.

  20. Lynea Ford August 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Wonderful ideas. Thank you for them. It’s hard to balance everything I want to do. With a bit of planning, I can accomplish more!

  21. Vicki August 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    This is definitely something I need to work on, thanks for the wonderful tips!

  22. Julie September 6, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    Thank you for your tips! I get sidetracked so easily that it’s hard for me to accomplish one goal after another. I might start on renaming digital photos and deleting the not so great ones and eventually find myself downloading digital freebies without even remembering how I got to that point. I just want to clarify- You copy the photo and move it to your Best Photos folder, leaving the original in your main folder with the rest that didn’t make the cut, right? Do you back up both of those folders still, not just the favorites?
    I’m not sure how to keep track of the various edits of a photo that I end up with. I can have the original pic off the camera or scanner, an edit for red-eye, etc., a 4×6 or 5×7 crop of it, a web size copy to email or put online, then possibly another in PSD format that I’m trying to edit better. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! I think I’m making this just a little more complicated than it needs to be!
    I’m going to try your method where I at least put all my absolute favorites in one folder and then figure out that other stuff… hopefully..

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