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 according.to.kim. 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).