Organizing Photos: How to Make a Photo Book

I only know one person who has worked for the same company and retired after 44 years: my mom. Congrats, Mom!

My cousin Jenny and I were her self-appointed photographers when Dad threw her a big bash to celebrate.  After the party, Jenny handed me the camera memory card she had purchased just for this event. Smart lady! Memory cards for 8 and 16 GB can be had for about $10 each, so it’s a good tip to buy one to use for a special event like this.

As a member of the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (APPO), I put my professional skills to work for my mom and made her a special photo book to document Her Big Day.

Here are the steps that led to her having a beautiful, high-quality hard bound memory book from her retirement party. (Faithful readers will recognize the organizing SPACE method at work, even here!)

How to Make a Photo Book

5 Steps to Make a Photo Book

1. Gather and sort the images. I downloaded the pictures from both cameras’ disks onto my Mom’s PC. Her PC has a little slot that the camera cards fit into, but if your PC doesn’t have one, you can find a photo card reader like this Kodak A250 50-in-1 Card Reader 83037  for about $10.

2. Purge. The digital age means more photos. A lot more. We only had 180 pictures from this four hour event, but even that was too many. I purged the poor quality ones, and then asked mom to eliminate the few she didn’t like at all. We got it down to about 140 shots.

3. Analyze & Arrange. Because Jenny and I were playing dueling cameras, we had a lot of the same shots. We renamed most of the photo image files, mostly using family names, so that we ended up with batches of photos. All of the Miller file names started with Miller, for example. We could have skipped this step, but it made the next step so much easier.

4. Contain. I’ve made photo books using a couple of services, and have found that Shutterfly has good quality and price and lots of special offers. Their “Quick Path” feature lets you choose a background, pick the pictures you want to include, and it builds the book for you. It is super easy to move the pictures around, crop, change the way pictures are arranged on the page using, and add captions. However, I didn’t get to play with fonts and text styles. I also would have liked to be able to do more photo editing than just cropping pictures. It took just a couple of hours to create a 56 page book. Using a special offer, I got it for half off, and spent about $50. (By the way, there are lots of similar services, including Snapfish, Picaboo, SmileBooks,, and

5. Maintenance. We almost hit the order button on the book, but something didn’t feel quite right. Mom knew everyone in the pictures, but I didn’t. In another 40 or 50 years, someone might want to know who all those people were. So we took another half hour to type in names to go with each picture. We take pictures to tell a story, after all. If we are missing names of the characters, the story becomes less special over time. The extra time we took now won’t be remembered, but the fact that we named everyone will be.

In about ten days, my mom will receive a beautiful, hard-bound book that she’ll keep forever. The pictures aren’t subject to fading and decay like laser or inkjet photos are. AND… the project is DONE DONE DONE, which is more than I can say of 90% of the scrapbooking projects I’ve ever seen. We even ordered a few extra single prints from Shutterfly at the same time.

My mom is such a capable, successful, well-liked woman that I don’t feel like there is much I can do for her. I am grateful to be able to do this for her.

By the way, if you like the idea of this project but don’t know where to start, if you want to learn how to do this, if you have piles of paper photos that need attention, or if you’d like to have your group invite me to speak about digital and paper photo organizing, please let me know.



This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. mkathy

    Hi, I just love your site.
    do you know any online tool, that helps me filter my not so pretty ( i mean out of focus, or too dark) pictures?

    1. Darla

      Dear Kathy, I’m so grateful this post has gotten you thinking. I don’t do much with my photos, and have never warmed up to the relatively Photoshop. I make a few tweaks, usually to save bad pictures, using Windows Live Photo Gallery. You probably already have this on your computer, or might be able to download it; it came with my new PC last year. I’ve also used and Both are pretty simple to use and free, and you can add simple captions to your pictures. Hope this helps.

  2. mkathy

    Dear Darla, thanks for the answer. I love this picmonkey. I use picasa, but my main problem is, in the past few years I made thousands of pictures with my phones and there are many, that are just rubbish (at parties or evening shots) . I read last week that you should make back ups of your photos, because hard drives can fail, so you can eventually lost all of your pictures. So I bought some dvds and i want first organize my pictures before archive them. But i don’t know when will i have the time to see through all of these pictures.

    1. Darla

      I have a much better way to backup your digital photos!!! PictureKeeper does the work for you and can store from 4-16 thousand pictures on one device. And it’s veery affordable! Don’t wait to organize them first…that day may never come. I’m thinking of having a Save and Store Your Pics party later this summer or maybe in the fall. Kepp your eyes open for details.

      1. mkathy

        Thanks the great tips again! I just found this site It looks a good idea for me, but it not working yet i think.

  3. Barbara @ Homeroom At Home

    Hi Darla~ As always you’ve got awesome suggestions. I’ve gotten away from scrapbooking well not entirely and still love the idea of three-dimensional pages but after awhile it adds up to a lot of pages/books and how could I possibly grab them all in the case of a fire? LOL I’d love to incorporate these books with my scrapbooking projects but yes, where to start? Good info and definitely food for thought as years and years of good pictures aren’t displayed, shared or printed… just stuck in a camera card or on the pc waiting.

    1. Darla

      You made a really good point…we always say we’d grab the photos in case of a fire. Now we don’t have to worry about it with multiple backup and cloud storage options. But as we transition to this brave new medium, the archivists in the family (that is usually us moms) need to store photos safely in bits and bytes. You could also scan your artistic scrapbooks and keep snaps of those as well.

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