Gin & Zin

How to make a kick ass Photo Book

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My butt, mind, and right hand are now numb. I’ve been making a shutterfly book for the last 3 hours. Thankfully the internet has decided to cooperate and act like it’s 2016 instead of the usual1998 nonsense.

Each year for my kids, I complete a shutterfly photo book as their birthday present using photos from  the previous year to the current time. Dad picks out other fun gifts but that is usually “all” that I do for my children. Sometimes (like now) it is something that I GOTTA get done and fit in within a time crunch to save the 10$ and not have to pay for a rush shipping fee.

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This is serious business. I take thousands of photos each year. Uploading the photos with a country performing internet takes hours, actually longer than it takes to make the book on shutterfly. When all is said and done the book usually takes about 15-20 hours to put together. It is no joke!

I do this project for a variety of reasons~

  1. I take an insane amount of photos, what else are they doing besides living on the computer? This gives them a better, frame free home.
  2. I LOVE to look back on the year, reflect, cry, summarize, and re-live the moments. I’m not rushing to “get photos developed” on a regular basis, so this is my chance! Happy tears are always shed.
  3. I enjoy scrapbooking but have long ago abandoned the traditional methods of cutting paper and placing stickers. I still enjoy that but those books are also usually large and I don’t like to store large things.
  4. I would freak my freak if these were made for me, of my life, documenting each detail, moment, friendship. Memmmmoriiiiiiiies, like the corner of my mind…..
  5. My kids DO freak their freak, often asking to look at their books. Even though they are an investment, I do keep the books readily accessible to kids, for them to grab and glance through when they need a minute. They are backed up anyhow, and this way they are really solidifying their memories. (another perk of using shutterfly is their backup service that comes when you upload the photos).
  6. Kids, including my kids, have too much stuff. Too much plastic, too much waste. Yes you could argue the book comes shipped, wrapped in plastic and cardboard, etc. But this gift truly keeps on giving.
  7. It is a really nice gift. It isn’t a 2$ toy that breaks or is played with once then donated swiftly. The books cost a minor fortune by the time I am done with them (827 photos and 91 pages!).

A few tips for your next (or first!) photo book:

  1. Upload all photos first to an album, then add to the photo book. The other way around takes my internet’s brain waaaaaaay tooooo long.
  2. Chronological is cool, but not necessary. I usually start the book off with a few photos of their previous birthday, then try to stick the main holidays in order. I make a list of main events: vacations, christmas, etc that should be in chronological order.
  3. In between the main chronological events, group like photos. Do you always take pictures of your kids asleep in the car like I do? These look random as hell on their own. But all on the same page they look hilarious! Same goes for photos at school, ones with friends, selfies with mom, selfies with dad, photos doing crafts at the dinner table, photos in the yard at home, etc. You get it. Group like photos otherwise you will spend FOREVER trying to put photos in exact chronological order.
  4. Do group photos of vacations together. I usually use at least one right and one left page to document a trip (depending on the amount of photos). I like to save special photos (like the ones of us four all together) for a special page at the end.
  5. Attempt to complete your book well ahead of time to avoid paying oodles for shipping. I usually start my book 6 weeks in advance. Usually a sale comes up during that time where I can score 30-50% off!  I just made one for my son’s 6th birthday and it was $120 prior to discounts and then $68 after.
  6. (This is a new tip per the last book creation!) Put on your favorite tunes in the background while looking through the year’s photos. Watch the flood gates as they may just open as the tunes pull on those heart strings. I am a fan of nostalgic music paired with photos. If you’re not, omit James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Ben Harper, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, Neil Young, and, specifically, the song “Home” by Aron Wright. Cried like a baby to that one on repeat.

Here are a few ideas from previous books:


I had just a few feeding and snuggling photos. These pages mean so much to me. I don’t even see the double chins. Really.


Daddy and Arabelle page~ Man beards are HOT.



What to do with the “month photos” that first year? They make a great spread (left and right pages).

Okay, there you have it. Why I do it, a couple of tips, and my favorite perk of the project- how this creates a home for your photos and an amazing gift.  This can even be a great joint christmas book idea for the whole family to complete every year. I would be beside myself in overwhelm if my kids birthdays were closer but I do one in June/July, and then another in Sept/Oct so it all works out.

And now, here is a sweet lyric from one of the best: A time it was, and what a time it was, it was. A time of innocence, a time of confidences. Long ago it must be. I have a photograph. Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you.

Thank you Simon and Garfunkel for cementing that into my heart. For always.

PS this post is not affiliated with Shutterfly in any way. They haven’t paid me anything to promote them. They are just what I know. I really enjoy using their products and wanted to share that with you. Plus they offer great discounts!

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