Do you wish you could have a stack of completed albums like this?

Melissa Shanhun

I started scrapbooking with grand plans for many albums – just like you did. Two years later I finally dared to print my first pages, and held my first completed album in my hands, and I was so thrilled. In the following two years, I finished 5 albums and a stack of other layouts. Seeing my husband excited to show them to our friends and my little girl leafing through the pages inspires me to do more.

Today I’m going to share with you the methods that I’ve used to get my albums finished. Some of these are gleaned from my own experience and some I’ve gathered from inspiring scrapbookers including Noell Hyman, Katie Nelson and Liz Tamanaha over the years.


At first glance, starting an album seems easy. But how you start can make the difference between completing the album or having it sit unfinished in the cupboard.

I am creating a book for my daughter, about her 2nd year, focusing on her developing speech and the cute little ways she has of saying things. My main motivation for this album is to document *her* at this precious stage of life. What motivates you? Frame your album with this in mind and keep it front and centre while you complete the album.

Planning my album is always secondary to finding my motivation for it. I find this way I only start on albums that are really important to me.


Get a head start by gathering what you have. Start where you are. What do you already have that is ready for the album? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Do you have photos you want to showcase? Select the ones you love and copy them into a folder on your desktop where you can’t miss them!

Choose as many of your photos as you can at the start of the process, and keep them all together so then you don’t have to hunt for them when you have a few spare moments to scrap.

Paper scrappers – print out all of your photos. Are you happy with 4×6? Great! If you want a variety of sizes with minimum fuss – see Noell’s tips on choosing and printing unusual sizes.

I usual scrapbook digitally, so I put my photos into an album in Picasa.


Do you have a story to tell? Collect the words for your story. In my case I flicked through my Memory Logbook and stuck a post it note on relevant pages.

Other ways to collect words you’ve already written could include

  • Starring relevant emails in Gmail or flag them in Outlook
  • G through your Evernote, OhLife or Memento notes.
  • Look at the captions in your photo metadata
  • Look through your diary, notebook or the backs of receipts in your handbag

Decide if you want one story per page or if you want to break it up over multiple pages. If you are including lots of stories in one album you could scrap the first page of each story with more detail and embellishment and use divided page protectors for the follow up pages as Melissa Stinson does.

Do you have a stash of memorabilia you want to include? Gather it together and plan your pages around them.

If you are a digiscrapper, there are two main options:

  1. Decide if you want to scan or photograph the items and add them to a layout or
  2. Add a couple of pages with coordinating papers and just stick them in the album next to your digital pages after the book is printed. I recommend this option if you have a place to store the items until the album is finished. It saves the time it takes to scan them.

Do you want to use certain supplies for your album?

Collect them all together, whether they be digital supplies, paper products or whatever. I suggest storing everything in one container so you easily work on your album, if you are all digital, just copy and paste everything in one folder.

Most scrappers have plenty of supplies, so when hunting through your stash, give yourself a time limit – use the kitchen timer and quickly look through your inspiration folder, kit previews etc.

Move on

Once you have all the bits for one category, go onto another category and pull together those parts of the album. You are on your way! As Mary Poppins (or Aristotle) says: “Well begun is half done!”

Here’s my temporary storage for everything to do with Emily’s Words album. For my album I’ve followed the words-first approach, and for photos I used what I had and captured a couple of still frames from some videos I’d taken of her.


Get out your box of goodies and play! You’ve now got the bulk of things in one place, words, photos, supplies. If you are feeling inspired to just start – go for it!

If you are like me and need a jumping off point, why not try some…

Templates or sketches are a time-saving starting point for scrapbook pages. Three of my albums used either quick pages or templates as their base. But don’t run to the stores looking for an album. Remember that Project365 set you bought last year, the baby album you used for nephew’s first birthday? You can get started now with something you already have! Why not re-purpose a page design you created yourself?

The album template pack I’ve chosen is an 8×8 Shutterfly-ready template pack from Amy Pearson, called Gigglewords. It was released back in September 2008, and I’m only just using it now! (this product is no longer available).

Don’t like to use templates? Noell Hyman recently wrote about her technique where she uses the dominance of the photos to determine the layout for her photo heavy mini-book.

Make it easy
I have learned over time that done is better than perfect! I am learning to use Katie Nelson’s great idea about thin slicing which basically means not over-thinking every decision. To make it easy on myself – I’ve decided to have minimal embellishments, with some Kitchsy Digitals fabric flowers I’ve been longing to use and some textured white cardstock for the background of every page.


Now we are that that point of having our pages started and all the goodies collected, we just need to complete everything. Sounds easy right?

Staying inspired to work on you album is the most challenging part. Having the first few pages of the album come together in a short time can give you some motivation. I find that a deadline also spurs me into action. Even if it’s just setting a timer for 15 minutes and trying to finish one page by concentrating on it fully for that period of time.

Cutting out the distractions can help. Turn off the phone, shut the door and close your email and twitter and just scrap! Enjoy it!

Remember it’s fun. If the idea of a deadline isnít your thing, remember how you enjoy the feeling of scrapbooking and how it does make you happier.

Think back to what motivated you to start this album, and how much you’ll love looking through it when it’s done. Knowing Emily loves looking at her little collection of scrapbooks helps me.

Why not ask for help? In my case, my husband takes our daughter to swimming lessons on Saturday so I have about an hour of peace and quiet for scrapbooking.

Have you made a couple of attempts at this album and have a hodge podge of un-coordinated pages? Why not try Liz Tamanaha’s deliciously simple solution: put a full size image on the facing page. I used this technique in Emily’s first year album.

Even Lain Ehmann, the queen of simple and speedy scrapbooking, bit off more that she could chew with last year’s December Daily album. But this July Lain decided to breathe some life into the project by finishing the pages she’d started and re-purposing the rest of her album.

For a digital scrapbooker like me there’s one final hurdle. Printing.

There are lots of photobook printers, or you can print pages individually, once you’ve chosen a printer you still have decide on a size, cover typer and more! Decisions, decisions. If you want some unbiased reviews The Daily Digi provides several great posts.

I on the other hand have a very scientific method for choosing photobook printers. I just go with whoever gives me the best deal at the time. Often that’s Shutterfly (but is has to be a GREAT deal as the postage to Australia is $13.99), and I’ve also been happy with the results I’ve had from MyPicTales and Snapfish Australia. I printed my first album at 8×8 due to the lower cost, and I liked it so I kept going with it. My 12×12 albums also seem a little more intimidating to pull out when your friends come over for coffee. I told you it was scientific!

Before you print, it’s great to get someone else to proof your album. I find that uploading your layouts up on your blog, Flickr or Facebook make it easy to send through some links to your family and friends. Having someone else look at it is great way to find spelling errors, etc. Why not send your Mum an email and ask her to look through it. I’m sure she’d love a sneak peek!

I recommend using Wendyzine’s actions to get your photobook printed perfectly. I’ve used her actions for photobooks printed by Shutterfly and MyPictales and I’ve been thrilled with the results. Wendy explains more at the Daily Digi. You can also check the printer specifications on their websites. Working them out may make your head spin, which is why I love Wendy’s actions!

When you’ve come to the end of the project and your album is in your hands, take some time to enjoy it. It is a great accomplishment, and you now have tactile proof of your scrapbooking. Well done!

You can see my album here:

Click here to view this photo book larger

What’s your tip for fuss-free albums? You can share them in the comments below.

Melissa is a scrapbooking educator, specialising in live online and in-person training. She loves scrapbooking and shares her passion through inspiration and training at