Show off your priceless digital photos by arranging them in small books that you design and make yourself.
By Judee Stalmack, F235840
I’m now on my third digital camera, so I have, at the click of a mouse, thousands of photos stored on my computer and archived on CDs. Like many of you I have travel photos, wildflower photos, shots of sunsets and sunrises, and family events, such as reunions, graduations, and birthdays.
And perhaps like many of you, I often wondered what I should do with all the photos I’ve taken.
Many of our traveling friends have created Web home pages or travel blogs on which they display their photos. But I’m a little old-fashioned, for I prefer the permanence of real paper. Plus, I like the idea of creating a unique and personal memento or souvenir “” something I can keep and show easily.
So, I’ve been making miniature digital photo albums “” I call them “migital” albums “” for several years now. Each album is a 16-page booklet with photos and text that measures only 4.25 inches wide and 2.15 inches tall. The entire album is made from one letter-sized sheet of paper printed on the front and back. Sixteen pages carry the attention span of most people without boring them, but allow enough room to showcase a place or event.
I can store an entire stack of these tiny albums in a 3-inch-by-5-inch index card file box. Even better is the fact that once an album is made, it’s easy to duplicate to give to family and friends. A migital album can be mailed in a small invitation-size envelope and travel on a single first-class stamp. Our grandchildren are especially delighted to get a souvenir album of their last visit with us.
The making of a book. To get the idea of making these little albums, take one sheet of typewriter paper and fold it in half (top to bottom), then in half again. Open the page and cut on the folds to make four strips. Put the strips together and fold the long strips in half. You have made a little book.
Creating the original letter-sized template on your computer is probably the hardest part of this project. My computer template has hash marks to show where the paper will be either cut or folded, but its primary purpose is to show the allotted space for pictures and text. A uniform border of white space around each photo-and-text combination adds to the professional look of the album. Notice that I left extra space at one end of the paper for the printer to grip. That wouldn’t be necessary if I owned one of the new edge-to-edge printers.
Which software to use? Any computer program that can print several pictures on a page and create easy-to-use text boxes can be used to create the album. What is important is that you know your application program well enough to be able to control the size and position of the pictures, text boxes, and margins on the letter-sized page.
I “fix” (crop, color correct, eliminate red eye) most of my photos in Photoshop Elements, but I use Microsoft Excel to produce the album. Even though Excel is an accounting and spreadsheet program, the picture-importing and text-formatting capabilities of the more recent versions are powerful and easy to use. Most important, I feel comfortable using Excel. When I showed a friend my album template, he developed his own template in PaintShop Pro, a program he felt more comfortable using.
Planning the layout
If an album is going to be just a collection of photos, you can place them in any order you wish. I usually want my photo albums to tell a story in a logical sequence, so where I put the photos on the template is important. I use two different planning diagrams to help me with the layout (Figures 1 and 2).
Even though I don’t use page numbers in my migital albums, it’s almost impossible to make any kind of book without thinking about page numbering. Look again at that little blank book you made out of the one sheet of paper. Number all the pages, starting with page 1 for the cover. The back cover will be page 16. If you carefully reassemble the sheet back to its letter size, you’ll end up with the results shown in the Little-Page Diagram (Figure 1). I use this diagram to find my way around the front and the back sides of my computer template. The diagram shows me where each page sits on each side of the letter-sized sheet of paper. This diagram is exactly the same for every album I make.
Since I’m fussy about the sequence of my photos, I created a Story Planning Sheet (Figure 2). I use this form as I work with the layout, writing down which photo should go on which page for a particular album. Notice that the layout of the Story Planning Sheet is done in a way that shows how the album will look as it’s being read. When the book is closed, you see only the cover; but when you open it, page 2 and 3 are opposite each other; 4 and 5 are opposite, and so on.
Importing photos and writing text
To keep myself on track while importing the photos into the template, I refer to both the Little-Page Diagram and the Story Planning Sheet. For the accompanying text, I use 9-point Comic Sans typeface, a font that is readable in small print, and stick with it throughout. To keep the professional look, I don’t get fancy with color, or use bold or underlined text.
For most of my travel albums, I reserve two pages for text. Page 2 (inside the front cover) is used to set the scene. Page 16 (the back cover), which may or may not have a photo, is used to identify the place and date. When a group of albums belong to a set (for instance, all 12 albums covering our two-month vacation in Western Europe), I use the back cover to identify the booklets as Volume 1, 2, 3, etc., so that the little albums quickly can be put in sequential order.
Choose your paper
For printing, it’s important to use two-sided paper (and I am not trying to be funny). Most papers marketed for printing photos on an ink-jet printer are treated on one side only. But Hewlett-Packard Photo Quality Inkjet Paper and Epson’s two-sided heavyweight matte paper both work well. I’ve also used two-sided photo paper with a glossy finish. The glossy albums are beautiful, but can be expensive to make, especially when I want to print 10 or more albums to send to family and friends.
Print, cut, and staple
The first print of the album is a test, because back-to-back printing can be tricky. After printing, I use a steel-edged ruler and an X-Acto knife to make my cuts, then fold and staple the album. I was afraid I might have to buy a longneck stapler, but after several trips to office supply stores, I found a normal-sized Bates stapler that can bite the paper a full 4¼ inches, which is exactly at the middle fold.
Now is the time to check each page. Are there any pictures or text running into the margins? Are any of the photos too dark or too light? Is the sequence good? Are there any spelling or punctuation errors? Personally, I’ve never made a perfect first copy. But, digitally speaking, corrections are easy to make.
With each migital album requiring such a small investment of ink and paper, there’s no reason why your digital photos have to stay hidden in your computer. Let the good times roll off your printer!