When I first started Project Life last year I was a bit overwhelmed about where to start. There seemed to be so much to think about–what do I take pictures of? How can I make the photos different each week? How can my I get my pages to look nice?
As you all know online inspiration can be a blessing…and a curse.
Now that I write that all out it’s not surprising to me that it took me a whole six months to begin my album once I discovered what Project Life was. I have recently received emails from readers expressing the same concerns and questions as they struggle with where to start, which got me to thinking….why not break a page completely down? Talk about why I took a photo the way I did, how I took it, what was added….etc…
I have chosen to break down parts of Week Four since it’s one of my favorites. Here is a look at it again:
Before I begin talking about each photo, here are some general tips on creating a layout if you are not sure on where to get started.
Tip #1: If you want a two-page layout that looks cohesive use a complete digital kit (like a Project Life kit) to complete it. I have to laugh when I get comments from readers who at times seem pretty convinced I have some secret talent in putting this all together. Ha! I wish! The papers and elements in a kit are designed to coordinate and I have not the time, or the energy, to scour multiple kits and try to create something from scratch. Nope. I let the designers do the work for me, and if I am want to add something from somewhere else…well that’s where photoshop comes in. A HUGE difference in my pages this year, versus last, is that I am into recoloring everything. (If you missed the tutorial on how to do that, you can view it here.) I use a lot of different kits throughout the year because I am the type of person who gets bored too quickly doing the same thing…but really…all you need is one kit to create an album.
Tip #2: Take photos with intention. One look at all of my Project Life pages and you will definitely see a common theme–I love to use brushes and text on a photo. Take a look at the left side above–every single photo was taken using the rule of thirds not only because the composition is pleasing to the eye, but also because space to use brushes and elements is built in. The next time you are looking through your lens take a few photos from a different perspective to see how it can work for you. Center a few, then put the subject to the right, and then put the subject to the left. After awhile you will find your groove, and what you like/don’t like, and eventually you will be able to take less photos. I am also a big proponent of in-camera cropping (and the manual mode for that matter) so there is less time spent editing. The more time I would need to edit, the less time I would have to play around with the layout, and for me that means the harder it would be to keep up. And I say keep up, not with frustration or guilt, but matter of factly. For me Project Life is just what I do–it truly is as routine for me as grocery shopping–so just like not running out of bread and milk I personally want to have something recorded about each week if I can. Even if I completely forget to take photos.
Tip #3: Create constants. I scanned through my pages as I wrote this post and realized I have a checklist that I go through each week in my mind as I take photos and compile stories. (Seriously didn’t realize that until now!) For the most part here is my formula for a two-page layout:
- Title Card–Typically the top left is just a pre-made title card or a piece of digital paper with the words Week ____ typed on it. When I have a lot of photos in a week it turns into a photo spot with a little flag notating the week like you see above. I will talk more about this particular week’s title card below.
- 4×6 spots–I know at a minimum I need just 6 horizontal photos since I now always have a week in review and title card. I also know that 2-3 of my photos will be plain or very minimally embellished. (The rest have text on them as well as brushes.) When I end up with a lot of photos from one event I create a collage (Cathy’s Tiny templates, Lili’s collages, and Paislee Press’ free templates are favorites) and if there is a special event, like a birthday or a holiday, it will get an insert versus a collage. (To reference the event I usually will put one photo from that event in the main two-page layout.) Telling myself I only need six photos, versus “You need to document your entire week!” really kept the anxiety at bay in the beginning. (And, for the record, I wish I didn’t use words like anxiety to describe this…but most of us that like to scrapbook know it is there. We want so badly to a) do something creative and b) something we think is special for our family that we can’t help but put some kind of pressure on ourselves to get it done. I get it. I do it too. But I am certainly getting better about it over time by learning to break it down into smaller pieces and rephrasing it in a more positive light. Trust me this has taken a long, long, long time for me to do and does not necessarily translate into all areas of my life!)
- 3×4 spots–Two vertical shots each week, at least two journaling cards, and if I am able two 3×4 spots dedicated to instagrams. The last two 3×4 spots have filler cards or a calendar card.
- Use of Black and White–This might just pertain to me, since my papers tend to be really bright and busy, but I think having at least two b/w per week gives the eye a nice place to rest. I don’t always do this, but have noticed that I have started doing it a lot more.
Now let’s get to the good stuff–the photos! I have chosen to talk about a few photos from the layout, and with each photo I have broken down how the photo came to be, why it was used, and how the photo was embellished.
Top Left Photo on the Left Side:
How this photo came to be: This photo of my husband was all his idea. It was a very cold in Minnesota that week, so when my husband asked if I wanted a picture of him in his winter gear I jumped at the chance. (In fact, would you believe he had taken it all off–then looked at me and said, “Hey want me to put the stuff back on for you book?”) I touched on this last year in my thoughts mid-year post, but it’s worth repeating–Get the family on board quickly. Our album is really a group effort and I get a lot of ideas and cooperation from everyone each week–including my husband!
Why it was used in my layout: I thought it would make a great image for the “title spot” since it so accurately depicted what was going on here that week. If you feel that you might be in a photo rut, start thinking about different ways to tell the story. In my example I could have put in a screenshot of the temperature off of my iphone (that day the HIGH was -5!), I could have taken a photo of a pile of all our winter gear on the floor, a close up of boots, a picture of a shovel–any of these images would have illustrated the story of it being VERY cold that week. I liked this particular photo because it was one of my husband, a native Minnesotan, in his best cold weather gear. Those fur hat flaps always crack me up. I didn’t know people actually wore those hats before I moved here, and I tell you what, they work!! (And I own two!)
How the photo was embellished: The “hello” word art is part of the Seen and Noted kit used for the entire week, and the flag is a recolored element from the Clementine collection. The text below is the Facebook status I posted on our coldest day. Something about wanting to run away…but not being able to…because our garage was frozen shut. TRUE STORY. Facebook statuses are quick and easy ways to add journaling to your photos.
Top Right Photo on the Left Page:
How this photo came to be: Marie is getting to the age where she likes to play in her room and I had noticed for awhile how much she enjoyed books. I knew I wanted to capture this particular book because it had a mirror in it that she loved to peek at. To get ready to capture all of this I opened up her windows, turned on all of the lights in her room, dumped all of her toys on the floor…and waited. I knew she would eventually see the book, and I was right. And ready! Making sure the room was well-lit in the beginning enabled me to get my settings correct on my camera as she played around. I knew then that when the time came I could just snap away. I intentionally stood over her so that I could get a unique angle and could focus on the mirror instead of her. I probably ended up with 20-25 images of her reading this book, all taken from different perspectives. I choose this particular image because it had room for journaling and I liked the horizontal line it created on the page. This is a good example of knowing what story you want to tell first, and then going after a particular picture to capture it. The look I got from her was indeed natural and spontaneous, even though the setting itself was a bit “staged.” (I like to think I just helped it along:))
Why it was used in my layout: I wanted to make sure I got the story down of how happy this book made Marie. Before I know it she will no longer look at this book and have moved onto other toys. Babies grow up too fast!! I have found that since I began creating Project Layouts I am living life much more aware of what is going on around me and am more sensitive to how fleeting some stages and moments can be.
How the photo was embellished: A text box, a digital brush, and an element from the Seen and Noted Collection.
Middle Far Left Photo on the Left Page:
How this photo came to be: It was a good old-fashioned hold your arm out in front of you iphone self-portrait instagram!
Why it was used in my layout: Marie and I were home all day alone together that day, so I thought it would be fun to document. I have since discovered the Timer Cam app and have began to use that A LOT to get myself in the picture. Strive to do that friends. When I received my Shutterfly book in the mail, and the kids and I looked at it together, my oldest daughter Holly got most excited when she saw the pictures of her and I playing/hanging out together. That resonated with me…and I am working really hard on getting in front of the camera even though I need to lose weight, my hair is graying, I have crows feet around my eyes…blah, blah, blah. I have to remember that my daughter does not care about any of that. And really, nor should I. I have a feeling when I look at this book in twenty years I am going to WISH I look like I do now!!! Right?!
How the photo was embellished: Love my little square instagrams but wasn’t always sure how to place them on a page. So I created this little template to fit into a 3×4 spot. Have one, it’s a free download!
Bottom Far Left on the Right Page:
How this photo came to be: I used the self-timer on my DSLR. My oldest daughter Holly is very used to being photographed and even though there are instances where she gives me a hard time, she has really come around now that I print her up some of the photos for her own Design A pages too. (Isn’t that something? Five and a Project Lifer!) It’s a bit easier to capture images like this with an older child, we only had to do this twice to get the shot I was hoping for.
Why it was used in my layout: For the same reasons I stated above–my daughter wants me in the photos with her. (And I loved the story that went along with this picture–check out my original week four post for the details.)
How the photo was embellished: This was a photo that needed nothing in my opinion. The corresponding story was written on a journaling card.
Top Far Left on the Right Page:
How this photo came to be: Holly and I were working on our Kiwi Crate together which is always a great excuse to take photos. I took quite a few, but my favorite shots when capturing an activity like this are always an image with the camera sitting on the table (low perspective), an image taken from above (overhead perspective), and–with this particular game–a photo on the ground. It was a tossing game so I thought it would be fun and different to be on the ground so I could capture the concentration on her face while looking up at her as she threw the ball into the rings.
Why it was used in my layout: Pictures of the crafts and/or games we do together are a favorite.
How the photo was embellished: No embellishment needed, really. I clipped a pattern paper to the journaling box, but other than that kept it pretty clean. I liked using a collage to document this activity…I had a number of photos of us creating together, and the different photos show the different levels of concentration on Holly’s face as we worked through the project. Priceless!
Top Far Right on the Right Page:
How this photo came to be: Every once in awhile you get lucky. I mentioned in my workflow post recently that I keep my camera on our piano in our living room for easy access. This piano sits next to the archway that leads from the bedroom hallway to the living room, so it was serendipity the day I walked into the living room and found the girls like this. I moved just enough to grab the camera (ever notice the more you move the more the kids become aware and then thwart the whole plan?!) and start snapping.
Why it was used in my layout: This photo, to me, is the definition of capturing the everyday–just a morning at home with the girls. Bonus that they were doing something completely adorable.
How the photo was embellished: A small digital brush from Studio Calico so I would have room to journal. However, it may go away. The more I look at the layout the more distracting I think it is….and the photo just doesn’t need it. I rarely touch pages after I complete them….but this one just might get messed with!
If you made it this far, bravo. This turned into a mini-novel without me even realizing it! I hope everyone was able to find some new idea or tip to implement, please share tips of your own in the comments. I am all about learning more and more to make this process more fun and efficient!
Have a happy Tuesday:)