getting started with scrapbooking
Loaded topic, right?? It seems so daunting to even think about how to start scrapbooking. Now imagine how impossible it seems to teach someone how to start scrapbooking! I mean, where do any of us ever know where to START with this topic, right??
You’re in the right place.
You should feel a sense of trust in being here with me. I’ve been a LIFE-long memory keeper and this has been my profession since 1995. I’ve published 9 books on the topic of scrapbooking. So yes, 22+ years of experience gives me a leg to stand on … but more important than my personal experience is the connection that I’ve made with thousands of women (and a few men!) over the years — and around the world — through my work. I’ve become intimately familiar with the woes, stresses, concerns, hold-backs, stumbling blocks, hurdles, and REASONS that people feel paralyzed by the very idea of scrapbooking. In short … I get it.
Can you believe that this “getting started” topic isn’t even covered in ANY of my books?? I did dive in very, very deeply in my online class with Creative Live a few years ago, but most people don’t want to carve out the time for 18 hours of content. Well, finally it’s all here … in writing … condensed but thorough … free (!!) … and in one pretty little accessible package!
Can you tell I’ve been pretty stoked to pull this blog post together once + for all??
In all the years I’ve been running this business, I’ve accidentally procrastinated covering this very back-to-basics topic of GETTING STARTED WITH SCRAPBOOKING here on the blog. We always have so much to share about documenting life — new products, evolving ideas on how to approach certain memory-keeping projects, tips for taking photos, and so much more. It’s what we do, day in and day out! Honestly, it has just felt like such a huge topic I wondered if I needed to make an online class on getting started (less extensive than the one I did for Creative Live) … or write a book … or something!
But here we are. A simple blog post feels like the right thing to do, and this feels like the right time to do it! Whoever you are … wherever you’re coming from … it’s TIME! I have felt a burning desire to help you with scrapbooking — right here and right now.
I am honestly so grateful you’re here. If you feel this will be a benefit to your friends, please share it. Let’s help each other in our memory-keeping efforts!
THIS POST IS FOR …
THE NEWBIE. Someone who truly has no experience with scrapbooking, ever.
THE CONFUSED. Someone who has lots of ideas for how she wants to preserve memories but is easily paralyzed by too many good intentions and not enough clarity on how to focus and get going.
THE OVERWHELMED. Someone who thinks that scrapbooking is this messy, creative, expensive, time-consuming hobby. She feels it’s all just “too much.”
THE BUSY. Someone who can’t possibly squeeze one more thing in her day or week or life! She is pulled in a lot of directions. There’s just not enough time for “recreational” memory keeping.
THE USED-TO-BE-A-SCRAPBOOKER. Someone who, once upon a time, actually did make scrapbooks. It’s been a long time. Years, probably. She likely feels guilty for not doing anything with pictures in a while and she needs a little re-set and refresh on her perspective.
If you’re still reading, you have at least SOME desire to do something with your pictures. Regardless of the source of your motivation (even if it’s straight up guilt) … you are HERE and you are here for a reason. I am fully aware that a lot of people have this idea in their minds of what “scrapbooking” means. It’s messy, complicated, and incredibly time-consuming, right? The thing is … it really did used to be all of those things! It’s no WONDER we’ve all felt the overwhelm!
Here’s the good news: Scrapbooking has evolved. Gone are the days that you need to dedicate a whole room in your house to preserving memories or extensive storage supplies just to keep your supply stash organized. I promise!
You’re likely here because you care about your memories. Maybe you’re printing your pictures; maybe you’re not. I’m here to tell you that bringing those pictures and stories together is incredibly do-able and easier than ever. You only need a few things, including a solid game plan and a clear vision for what you’re doing.
No seriously — first things first, my friend. That mention of having a game plan and a vision? Yes. I’m totally serious. And you can thank me later for not skipping this vital step in getting started. *wink*
WHAT’S YOUR VISION?
Notice that I said “your.” What is YOUR vision … for YOU? What are you hoping to accomplish? Is it realistic? Is your goal to simply create one little album for that one specific trip and that’s it — forever and always? Is your goal to get every picture you’ve ever taken into a scrapbook?? Okay, whoa. That’s a LOT of pressure to put on yourself, sister. Let’s take a deep breath and be sure that you’re aiming for something that feels realistic and attainable. ; ) Now, if you still feel that way about all the pictures … well, then that’s your goal!
I’d be willing to bet that you’re somewhere in the middle of those two ends of the scrapbooking spectrum. You might have a handful of albums you’d like to complete over the course of say, “X” amount of time. Great! Can you get everything you want to get done in a weekend? Um, I’m willing to bet … not so much. But can you get some serious scrapbooking done in a lot less time than you might imagine? Heck. YES.
This is the part where people start to feel paralyzed. You have an idea of what you want to accomplish. You feel motivated. You can envision that completed album (or those completed albums). And then … and then??
And then what?
TURNING VISION INTO ACTION
I’m going to spell it out right now —
You need to do what works for you. Connect with YOUR way of memory keeping.
What does that even mean?? It means that you have likely heard about (or will hear about) or see what other people are doing in terms of scrapbooking. All of this will likely influence your “vision” for what you want. Be inspired! That’s great! But you know what’s more important than being inspired by what others are doing? Connecting with YOUR way of memory keeping!
The way that other people handle their memory keeping is great for them, but what is going to be the approach that YOU will connect with?? What is going to be the approach that will help you to have the most enjoyable experience and a sense of thrill when you see your completed pages and projects?
The reason behind this philosophy that I’ve had for such a long time is this: When you find an approach that you truly connect with, then you know what happens? You are far more likely to have SUCCESS because you’re enjoying it! Right?? And if you have success completing a scrapbook (or photo album or whatever), you know what happens? You are further motivated to DO MORE! It just makes sense!
So friend, don’t force yourself to approach memory keeping in a way that you just don’t connect with. But also — don’t do nothing!
DISCOVER YOUR SCRAPBOOKING PERSONALITY
If you feel like what I’m saying so far makes sense, but you’re also like … um, I don’t know WHAT I connect with (!!) … then let’s try to figure that out together. (This is the part where I want to jump out of the computer and be right there with you, sitting side by side in your family room, and TALKING through all of this together! For real.)
Ask yourself the following questions and if it helps to write down your answers, do that. Be careful not to write the wrong answers. Kidding! You KNOW I’m kidding. There is no such thing as a “wrong” way to approach memory keeping, okay?? Got it? The purpose of going through this quick exercise is to identify for yourself, at least in some way, an approach to scrapbooking that you’re going to connect with.
Are you in this for the completed project(s) only? Do you just want to have the work done? Or do you want the actual progress to be enjoyable as well?
Are you interested in being creative in your scrapbooking? Do you want to deliberate over lots of little detailed decisions, like where to place certain photos or which products to pair with the photos on a page? Or are you interested in keeping things as simple as possible for a more efficient experience? Do you want to get it done and move on to the next page?
Do you want to move through things quickly or take your time?
Would you like to have each of your completed albums / books be matchy + cohesive + uniform? Or would you want each project to be its own look + size + style? Or maybe a little of both?
Are you interested in scrapbooking on your own or would you enjoy the company of others such as your family or a few others with a common interest?
Would you like to be in auto-pilot mode in terms of making decisions ahead of time that will greatly streamline your process and create a rhythm that just works? Or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants and see where the wind blows you from project to project?
What do you want the actual ACT of scrapbooking to FEEL like? Weird question perhaps, but I’m serious. Do you want that feeling of peace and solitude and possibly even quiet so that you can use this time to process + get introspective + reflective? Or perhaps you want it to feel social + lively + fun … complete with your favorite jams and snacks that are handy.
Who are these scrapbooks for, ultimately? You? Your kids? Your posterity? Or perhaps you’re interested in making a memory-related gift for someone else?
What about accountability? Do you feel like sharing your scrapbooking goals and progress with someone (or on social media) would help you to stay motivated? Or will that distract you from staying focused?
Do you want to work with physical products and actual physical printed photographs? Or do you want to scrapbook on your computer? Or do you want to make pages in the palm of your hand, using an app?
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?
I’m not going to pretend to have a formula that spells out the magic answers for you. “If this, then this” doesn’t really work here. There are far too many variables to consider … many that I’m not even bringing up that would be more personal to you, your current life situation, and your goals.
That said, I bet you have a more clear idea of what you connect with the most. Do you?? Are you more in tune with your scrapbooking personality? Jot down a few notes if that helps you. Keep all of this (how you just answered all of those questions) in your heart and mind as we move forward.
Please also know that EVOLUTION is a beautiful thing! You may connect with an approach or method or philosophy now … and then it might evolve to be something different in the future. And that’s okay! In fact, I encourage it! I am so THANKFUL for my personal evolution over the past 22 years. I love how I used to do things in a way that worked for me many moons ago, just as much as I appreciate my current method.
Remember: The goal is always the same. The goal is to do something with your pictures. Something! Anything! How you actually go about preserving those memories might change from time to time and that’s great. But the goal … it is the same.
MAKE A GAME PLAN
Okay, enough philosophy. Let’s put the wheels in motion!
Keeping in mind how you answered all those questions for yourself … this is my recommendation: Make a list of the different scrapbooks / photo albums / photo books you’d like to make. It can be a list of 2 things or 20 or 200. I don’t care. Just write it down. (These are the notebooks I use for keeping lists.)
If you’re truly not even sure, let me just throw some quick ideas out there to get your wheels spinning. These are all GREAT scrapbook themes, but this is in no way inclusive of all the awesome possibilities of the types of memory-based projects you could make. You very well may have a totally different and specific topic in mind.
Baby, wedding, general / ongoing family memories, school days, your childhood, a specific trip, a series of travel adventures, All About Me (for you or for a child even), focus on a certain project like building / renovating a home / restoring an old car / whatever, a heritage album. Like I said, the list is endless. I’ll stop there.
You likely already have an idea of what kind of album(s) or photo books(s) you’d like to make. I encourage you to then look at your list of what you’d like to pull together … all the different themes / topics / times … and then …
Choose one thing.
Is this a rule? To choose just one and only work on one at a time? Nope. Remember — no rules in scrapbooking. But I have found that most people tend to have more success when they focus all of their energy into ONE memory-keeping project at a time, especially when you’re just starting out. Something to consider.
How do you decide which topic to cover / which scrapbook to make first?? It’s not about which one has memories that are most “fresh” in your mind (although that can certainly be helpful). It’s really more about which topic you’re just so excited to WORK on right now! Honestly! Which is the scrapbook that you’re most anxious to have done? Which one are you feeling like will bring you the greatest joy as you work on it? Decide to start with that, if that’s what feels right to you … and the rest can wait.
Next step: Decide on your method or approach for putting that book together. Remember all this talk about “beginning with the end in mind” as you sort through your options.
By the way … there’s always the option of traditional, creative scrapbooking! If that’s your cup of tea and you know you’ll have the most fun creating elaborate pages … then I encourage you to do that. I’m admittedly not the best resource (anymore) for creative scrapbooking because as much as I love that I approached scrapbooking that way for so many years, I really, really burned out on that kind of investment of my time and energy into pretty pages. But seriously — if that’s your jam, then do it! Please connect with a way that makes sense for you!
If you’re more into “quick + easy,” then that’s where we can really help. That’s why Project Life® even exists in the first place. I was so overwhelmed by traditional scrapbooking but never stopped loving my pictures and stories. I struggled. I had a “problem.” The solution just wasn’t out there. So I created it and that’s how it came to be! Watch this video for an overview of the 3 methods of Project Life.
Now think about your ONE album or book you want to make first.
CHOOSE A METHOD
The next decision to make is … Which method feels right for you? You have options.
Do you prefer TRADITIONAL, CREATIVE SCRAPBOOKING?
Or … Do you prefer the PHYSICAL VERSION OF PROJECT LIFE (a.k.a. “pocket scrapbooking”) with actual, printed photos and pre-designed journaling cards and everything slips into pocket pages? No cutting, gluing, creativity, or embellishing is required to make beautiful pages. Just sayin’.
Check out this blog post that walks you through putting together a physical Project Life album, step by step.
Or … Do you prefer DIGITAL PROJECT LIFE which happens completely on your computer and using Photoshop and our digital templates and artwork?
Be sure to check out our Getting Started With Digital Project Life page. You’ll learn about what you need to get started, there are links to tutorials, and even information on printing. After all, the point is to get those completed pages printed!
Checking out our free video tutorials would be the next step. These are designed to take you from no knowledge of Photoshop Elements to completing your first page. Pretty fantastic! Also … a special shout-out to our Drag & Drop Templates because these truly make the digital version of Project Life completely EASY! Check out this video tutorial that is specifically about how to use the Drag & Drop Templates.
So … if you’re a newcomer to Digital Project Life, you can see we have created some solid content that will get you going. And of course we’re always just an email away if you need any help: Digital@BeckyHiggins.com.
Or … Do you prefer the PROJECT LIFE APP, which keeps the entire process 100% in the palm of your hand, using your mobile device? Just as with created digital pages on your computer, the desired end result of creating app pages is to get them printed! Be sure you’re doing that.
Order individual prints directly through the app and we’ll deliver them to your door (as pictured below and as shown in this video of my family album flip-through) … or if you want a thin photo book instead of a ringed album full of pages, we have that option as well! This blog post will walk you through all you need to know before making a photo book and this blog post will walk you through the comparison of prints vs. photo books (including pricing) so you can make an educated decision about the best fit for your needs.
Are you feeling it? Are you connecting with one method that makes sense for you, for this one specific project? If you’re interested in doing more than one “way” … a hybrid approach is great, too! Or try different approaches for different projects! Below is a visual overview of the various outcomes, from a physical Project Life album with photos + cards slipped into pocket pages, to printed digital or app-created pages slipped into page protectors, to a photo book printed directly through the app!
I’m going to say it again + again:
Begin with the end in mind.
Envision what you want that finished project to look like and feel like. Larger or smaller? Thicker or thinner? Shown below, and left to right, I’m holding a 12×12 album, an 8×8 album, and an 8×8 photo book. These are not the only options / sizes / colors / types of books. But it helps to give you an idea on what you think you might want … in order to know how to get started.
GUIDANCE FOR SPECIFIC TYPES OF ALBUMS
BABY | This blog post is very step-by-step in setting up a baby album. My personal opinion is that it’s completely do-able and manageable to contain a baby’s first-year memories to one album (or less).
WEDDING | We have a few wedding editions in our shop (which are also available in digital format and in the app — or coming to the app soon).
GENERAL FAMILY MEMORIES | This blog post is a detailed outline of how I keep up with our family’s ongoing memories … “family yearbook” style. For me, it all happens in the Project Life App. But what about the memorabilia? I’ve got a whole blog post in the works to show you what I’m doing … but the short answer is that I keep the “stuff” in 12×12 Envelope Pages and in 12×12 albums. It totally works for me!
KIDS’ ALBUMS | Again … sharing what has worked for me, personally … I like to keep ALL things childhood in a set of albums per child. That means that instead of separating out sports + school + friends + (you get the idea) … it all happens together. I choose to do this in 12×12 albums so that I can keep all their stuff WITH the photos. If you’re interested in seeing very candid videos about my approach, these are among my most popular videos on YouTube. Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I even did a live Q&A broadcast about catching up on kids’ albums and you can catch that video here.
Shown above is a glimpse into one of Porter’s albums. You can see how I divided each year (with our Scrapbook Dividers). Each “year” starts with a new school year and goes through the following summer. So it’s August through July. Make sense?
This picture below shows an actual Envelope Page in that same album. I have one at the back of each year, to keep the kids’ most important memorabilia stored, organized, preserved, and tidy. We actually have these in various sizes (not just 12×12), in case your items aren’t as large or if you’re working in a smaller album.
ALL ABOUT ME | Speaking of the kids … You must know about the 6×8 All About Me page set + album!! I have one for each of my kids and they’ve chipped away at filling out the pages and they’re seriously so fun. It basically summarizes their whole childhood in one little book, which can be done along the way or even retrospectively when childhood is a thing of the past. Super cool. Oh, and grab some 6×8 Pocket Pages to insert photos throughout the album if you want.
TRAVEL | Whether you’re making an album about a specific trip or a series of travel adventures, be sure to check out the various collections of pre-designed Project Life cards that we have to help you with that. A few that come to mind — Travel Themed Cards, Vintage Travel Core Kit, and the Wander Core Kit.
PROJECT THEME | Is there a certain special “project” in your life that you want to document? We have oodles of Themed Cards for Project Life, but I also have another thought: Chatbooks! Check out what I’m doing to preserve the memories of our home build, which we’re in the thick of right now. This blog post lays it all out!
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
JOURNALING | Which voice should you use when writing the stories? Again, no right or wrong answer to this, but I don’t feel comfortable putting words in other people’s mouth … and I reserve writing in second person for the kids’ journals and pages that are specific for their individual albums. That’s where I write TO them (as opposed to about them). But for our family albums, I choose to write with the first person perspective. I expect these books to be passed along through generations and so this makes the most sense for me.
STICKY NOTES FOR THE WIN | When it comes to getting physical stuff — photos and memorabilia — organized and prepared to get scrapbooked … sticky notes sure come in handy for labeling those piles. You’ll see how I organize in those “catching up on kids’ albums” YouTube videos that I linked earlier … and this video is another one that gives an overview of my process for organizing kids’ stuff.
DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF | If I had a dollar for every time a scrapbooker put waaaaay too much thought into a tiny decision that really didn’t matter, I’d be a bazillionaire. It’s very, very common (for women, especially) to over-think stuff … and my personal opinion is that we have so so so many better ways to use our brain cells than deliberating over certain details that we just won’t care about later anyway.
LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM | I swear, this is one of the main things that keeps people from doing anything at all. There’s this mentality of “all or nothing.” Like … if you’re not doing all the things you want to accomplish, then why bother doing anything at all, right? Wrong. As the saying goes …
Perfect is the enemy of done.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK | Don’t beat yourself up over not having all your pictures in the exact chronological order or when you can’t remember the dates or certain things or the name of that one person. It’s okay! In 5, 10, 50 years from now will some of those very specific details really matter? Or will you (or the person looking at your scrapbook) and your loved ones just be so grateful to have something to look at? You know??
WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT
I’ve got to briefly address something that is so so so important. Everyone (including most who actually work in this industry) tends to focus so much on the RESULT of scrapbooking in a sense that we have completed albums and projects and yay for us that we did these things and our posterity will love these memories all put together and … yes. All of that. It’s wonderful!
But what if you don’t have children of your own? What if no one else sees these albums you make? What if you experience a fire or flood or other kind of tragedy that literally wipes out all those completed albums? (This blog post addresses that topic thoroughly.) Hold on. I’m not trying to make you feel depressed before you even get started with this. But I want us to acknowledge and remember that there’s another huge blessing in scrapbooking that isn’t about the completed albums.
It’s the process, guys.
It’s the beautiful, therapeutic, healing, exciting, clarifying process of physically bringing our photos and stories together that is incredibly wonderful. There is VALUE in the EXPERIENCE that no one could ever take away from you. If something happened to all of my scrapbooks (oh heaven forbid), sure I’d be devastated. I can’t even imagine. But there is nothing that could ever change how much I have personally benefitted from going through the motions of, and making it a priority to, bring my stories and pictures together.
If you just said “Amen” in your head, just picture me winking at you. ; )
REMEMBER YOUR WHY
This is what I want to leave you with. (And I do need to let you go now; there’s PLENTY of information in this blog post to get your wheels spinning.) Why do you want to do anything with your pictures? Why does any of this matter? I encourage you to sit still and preferably in silence for even just 2 minutes and ponder this question. Why are you doing this??
I promise that when you identify your REASON for scrapbooking — and keep that always deeply rooted in your heart and mind — that it will keep you motivated when you need it. It will remind you why it matters. It will be your guiding compass throughout any and all memory-keeping endeavors.
You’ve got this. I am totally cheering you on.
PS — Guess what? October is Birthday Month around here (we’re celebrating 8 years this month!) … and we love to celebrate in so many ways! Well now that you are ready to dive into some scrapbooking, we want to give you the hook-up while you’re feeling freshly motivated … so we’re doing a FLASH SALE very, very soon. You should definitely know that. If you subscribe to our newsletter, you will be notified when that sales kicks off. Just sayin’.