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Finding a Different Story to Tell

This is a guest post from team member Ronnie Crowley.

When I first started to scrapbook I was taught that I needed to always include who, what, where and when in my layouts. I would make sure I had this somewhere on the page and rarely would I include much more. There certainly weren’t any feelings.

10 years later many of my scrapbook heroes are actively encouraging us to go beyond this type of event scrapbooking and more towards telling the story. We’re pushed to include details beyond what is obvious from the picture and illustrate more what they remind us about.


For example, this photo is of my sister and I. I’m guessing it could be a first day of school picture. I don’t have a clue at all if that’s correct and there isn’t anyone left to ask who would know. I could scrap it with a generic layout about going back to school. I can guess the year cause of the school uniforms and the house we’re at. The problem is though that I don’t know much more.

The better story for this picture really has nothing to do with the girls on the door step and more to do with the cross on the wall. Looking at this picture from my past reminded me of something totally different than first-days-of-schools, it reminded me what it meant to our household to have that cross on the wall. This is the first house we lived in which wasn’t associated with a church.

When we lived in a Rectory or a Vicarage we would get regular visitors asking for a drink and something to eat. People knew that as the minister’s family we would always give them something. I’m sure that it was this cross, that my Dad put up on our new house, which meant we still got visitors asking for assistance. My Mum would never give money but there was always a hot cup of tea and a slice of bread and cheese. So when I scrapbook picture I will look beyond the two young girls ready for school and dig deeper to tell the story of a cross and what it meant in my life.

Discovering the Other Story

I urge you to dig deeper and a find a different story for your pictures. To find this alternate story I suggest you take the picture and start journaling on a piece of paper. Set a timer and try to write for 10 minutes about the picture. It doesn’t have to be perfect English and you can even use a tree diagram or a list to get thoughts organized.

Here’s another example of how I used this method of journaling to document the bloody consequence of playing on the compost heap.


If I had just used my old approach I would have just journaled about the house in this picture but digging deeper gave me a different story. In my view, going beyond the surface provides a much more interesting story to preserve and one that has a perfect home in my all about me album.

Editor’s Note: Share a comment with the last story you told that wasn’t a literal explanation of the pictured photo.

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Digital Scrapbooking Workflow Using Layered Templates

This is a guest post from team member Ronnie Crowley.

When I was a paper scrapper 90% of the time I would start with a sketch. I had several books and I would save binders of sketches by number of photos. When I started digital scrapbooking it wasn’t really a big change for me to use templates as a base of a layout. In actuality, it was even easier once you know how to clip papers to layers.

My work flow though doesn’t start with a template. I first have to choose the pictures I’m working with and the way I do this is a skill I learned in a class with Katie Nelson (aka Katie the Scrapbook Lady). Her class isn’t currently available but if it ever runs again I would highly recommend it. The class was called Power Scrapping – Digi Style. Power Scrapping was something I first came across in my early days as a paper scrapper with Creative Memories but it was never something I had done. Katie’s class was an eye opener. Now when I am working on a project with lots of photos, it is the method I use.

The basic idea is to collect your pictures into folders for each layout your planning on doing. For the Italy trip I’ve been working on recently, I have the following structure set up. (click photos to enlarge)

You can see I have separated my folders into the locations. Some of these have been divided even further when I wanted to do more than one layout for that place. You can also see some of the folder names have the word scrapped against them.This is how I record when I’m done.

When I have a moment to scrapbook I open a folder and see how many pictures I have. I then open the Elements Organizer. (I currently use Photoshop Elements to organize my supplies but you could do this is whatever system you use.) In my organization structure I have a tag for templates – so I can find just all my templates.

Under the template tag I have my templates tagged by number of pictures. I can drill down to the templates with the correct number of pictures.

I can then scan through these and find the template I want to use.

Once I have my template I add the pictures. (Editor’s Note: Here’s a video tutorial on using templates.) The rest of my work flow is pretty basic. I start with papers, selecting them using the colors from my pictures. The beauty with digital scrapbooking is I can switch paper in and out until I’m happy.

When I’m not scrapping for a specific designer I like to pick and choose from my whole collection of supplies, mixing and matching from different designers. If I decide I want a red paper I would search under my tag for red. Sometimes the selection of my papers will lead me to embellishments within a kit that I want to use, but other times when I’m ready to embellish I will look for them under my tags for color and type – say red buttons.

Once all my papers and embellishments are added, I have one final step before I save my layout for printing. I go through each layer of my layout and check the shadows. In my mind shadows are what make a digital layout and so this last step is very important. When I’m doing this I’m checking that the angles are all working and are consistent. I also check that the blend mode used is consistent.

Remember that any work flow is constantly a work in progress. As I develop and change as a scrapbooker I will tweak my work flow to develop it further. If you come back in twelve months I’m sure I’ll be doing something different. There is no right or wrong way; there is just the way that works for you.

Is your process similar to or different from Ronnie’s? Share in the comments.

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How to Add Memorabilia to Digital Scrapbook Pages

This is a guest post from Australia’s top digital scrapbooking educator Melissa Shanhun, owner of Digital Scrapbooking HQ.

Do you struggle to add memorabilia to your scrapbook pages?

As a digital scrapbooker, sometimes I’m not sure how to add all that life stuff to my pages. Sometimes I pop it one or two things into my photobooks, or bind it along with printed pages in a home made album, but what about getting those items into digital form?

In my video today, I’m going to share two simple ways to add memorabilia to a digital scrapbooking page.

RSS subscribers may need to visit Simple Scrapper to see the video. If you have a scanner or a camera and Photoshop Elements (or similar editing software) you can follow along.

My Memorabilia Process

  • Collect items and pop them in a plastic sleeve by approximate date to help me find it later.
  • Scan flat items to include on my page and save the file along with my photos from that event.
  • Photograph 3D items in natural light and save the photos along with event photos.
  • Extract them for use on a digital page.
  • Print and enjoy (and clear out some shelf space!).

Simple Memorabilia Tips

  • Photograph your memorabilia on a plain, contrasting background if you want to extract it for use in a layout.
  • Use a scanner to get clear text on flat memorabilia without messing with a tripod or photographer’s lighting set up.
  • Use the quick select tool to select and delete the background quickly.
  • Help memorabilia fit as embellishments on your page by recolouring or just choose a kit that goes with the memorabilia.
  • Don’t fuss! If the memorabilia is a little creased up, it just adds authenticity.

At Digital Scrapbooking HQ you can see how I recoloured and adjusted the memorabilia to fit with my colour scheme as well as learn other extraction methods.

If you are keen to learn more about digital scrapbooking I have special offer for Simple Scrapper readers – $5 off any video workshop.

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A Newbie’s Perspective on Scrapbooking

Next month I will celebrate my one year scrapping digiversary, something I didn’t even know existed until recently. A year ago I would have said, “Huh? A digi-what?” And scrapbooking? Don’t even get me started. Scrapbooking was something for those women with perfect lives and perfect children. They scrapped in their beautifully decorated craft rooms in their picture perfect houses.

Diane Caldwell

I had met some of these women-at church, at PTA or while doing volunteer work. For fun, these chicks took pictures of every move their families made. Then they went to a hotel for the weekend, leaving their children with their husbands, while they would cut, paste and crop until the wee hours.

When they came back, they would go on and on about crops and scrapping with an almost religious zeal. Weird, I thought, and so totally NOT me.

My husband was away on a business trip that September day and our only son had just left for college. I was cleaning out desk drawers when I happened upon a “Learn Digital Scrapbooking” CD by Linda Sattgast. It had come free in the box with PSE 8 when I purchased it at Costco a year earlier. Given my disdain for paper scrapping, I don’t even know why this would interest me.

I have never been sentimental about the past. I have a great memory and just figured that I would remember all the important stuff in life.

As for passing it along to my son and any future generations—please! My life is just not that interesting or important. I am a lousy photographer but I would take the obligatory snapshots on vacations or special occasions. I know this sounds strange, but I didn’t even OWN any photo albums! Other than our wedding album and my son’s baby book, all my pictures were in shoe boxes (not sorted or organized) or living on the hard drive of my computer.

I still don’t know what kept me from tossing that disk into the trash. I must have REALLY been looking for an excuse to escape the boredom of cleaning out the office! But something spoke to me that day and I popped the CD into the tray and hit play.

I was fascinated from the very start. I have always been good on the computer and had edited the employee newsletter at my old job. This looked like so much fun! I liked the idea of limitless creative options and the fact that I could always fix mistakes by clicking undo. Best of all there was NO MESS! And if I hated my original (lousy) photo, I could crop, change to black & white or zoom in to emphasize something other than the main subject.

Digi-scrapping seemed like a much less expensive hobby than regular scrapping but as someone with two sets of golf clubs gathering dust in the garage, a like-new sewing machine that I sold at a yard sale a year ago and drawers full of fabric, notions and yarn-I KNEW my tendency to go whole hog on a new hobby only to abandon it later could end up costing me big bucks in the end.

As I began researching digiscrapping on the internet, Simple Scrapper was the first site I found. I loved that it was so straightforward and well, simple! I was so hooked on this new hobby that I needed advice-and Simple Scrapper was great in directing me to invaluable resources and inspiration from some of the best folks in the business.

Determined that I could do this new hobby almost entirely free, I began by using freebies and printing on my home printer. I quickly found that trolling for freebies on a daily basis was eating up huge chunks of time and I had begun to subscribe to the mindset of “if it’s free, I must need it!” As soon as I realized how much time I was wasting when I could be scrapping, my addiction to freebie-hunting was cured.

My Lessons Learned

I learned that a couple of subscriptions were my best investment. I currently subscribe to The Digi Files and Scrapper’s Guide. Both provide tons of digital product as well as fantastic training videos and articles every month.

A Seagate 1TB external hard drive was also money well spent. Kind of an unglamorous purchase but one I am glad I made. All my scrap stuff is in one place and accessible on my home network and if one of our computers were to crash, I am safe. Of course if my house burns down or a tornado strikes, the EHD is gone along with the computers so my next investment will be an on line backup service.

The idea of home printing was a bust. My printer is not large format and the cost of the HP ink alone is a deal breaker. There are many great printing services available but I tried Persnickety Prints first and see no reason to switch.

I am proud to report that I did finish a year in review album for 2010. I sent it off to Persnickety Prints and got the pages back in just 3 days. I was so excited that my hands were shaking as I opened the package. My handiwork was all there in gorgeous living color—with staples the size of a small country and journaling fonts that could double as the top line on an eye chart! OK, so I still had a lot to learn about perspective and how some things may look fine on the screen but not so much on the 12×12 printed page.

Yet something strange happened as I gazed at those first printed pages. I realized that I loved scrapping the everyday moments. Yes, we had a family reunion and a vacation and Thanksgiving and Christmas to scrap. But those were not my favorite pages.

The turtle we found on our dog walk one day is one of my faves.

A page about my in-laws first house is another.

Cute Shoes and a Good Hair Day sums up my feelings after a long Chicago winter.

My perception of scrapping being for sappy sentimentalists was quickly changing. I realized that I love doing this FOR ME. Yes, I am documenting our family history, but mostly I am expressing myself through a hobby that I truly love. Is that really any different than the woman who golfs, plays tennis, paints or sews as a hobby?

I assembled that 2010 album using archival quality sleeves and taking great care to put the whole year in chronological order. After dinner, I brought it out and showed it proudly to my husband and son, who both said, “Oh that’s nice” and quickly turned their attention back to whatever sporting event was on ESPN at that moment.

The old me would have cried and quit. The new me took it in stride and kept right on scrapping her imperfect life.

I am a wife, mother and daughter who VERY occasionally blogs at When I emailed Simple Scrapper about doing a guest post from a newbie’s perspective, my intent was to write a review of essential products for the new scrapper. As I began to write, I realized that while those things were important, what was more important was finally finding a hobby I totally love and how my perceptions of scrapbooking and memory keeping had dramatically changed.

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How to Cope with Digital Overwhelm

Even when a storm is brewing (in your computer), you can feel stress-free.

A few times per year I realize the enormity of my photo library and how it keeps on growing. It is times like these where I can choose to be overwhelmed or choose to saddle up and reign in my archive. I try to always choose the latter and fight off the temptation to feel anxious and overloaded.

Last year Holly Blackwell posted a help series on “Dealing with digital overload” here at Simple Scrapper. If you’re facing a virtual mountain of photos, these posts will help you take control.

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