Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

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preserving heritage photos


Oh man. Talk about an overwhelming topic for so many, right? One of our amazing customers, Laura Hager in Phoenix, has recently tackled her heritage photos. She made a plan and took notes and photos along the way. Laura has graciously offered to share all of this with you today! Get ready to be inspired. I totally am!

A few years ago, I saw a blog about revamping family photo albums and I’ve been dreaming about redoing my family’s albums ever since. I’d been trying to find traditional photo albums that were simple and high quality, but there weren’t a lot of options and the quality just wasn’t what I was hoping for. I realized my scrapbooking pocket pages from Project Life were archival and I finally knew how I would make my albums!

My Plan

I knew this would be a big project. I’m redoing all the albums and photos my parents have, so I have multiple families and generations to organize. I had to think of how I wanted to organize all these photos before getting them into the albums. I’m trying to do this all in one go without need to edit or redo the albums later. I decided to break down my albums into three main sections: old photos (basically before me photos), my baby and kid photos, and digital camera photos.

My old photos category is a big one. My grandma was very nice and gave me 5 big boxes of family photos, so my old photos have my great grandma, my grandma, my parents as kids, and my parents before kids. This section is going to get divided even further into my mom’s side, my dad’s side, and my parents after getting married. All of these photos are film.

The second category is my baby and kid photos. My baby and kid photos were still taken with film. My mom put these photos into magnetic style (the sticky pages) albums. These pages seem like a good idea because they can hold photos of different sizes at different directions, but they aren’t acid free. My baby photos have started fading, so I wanted to pull them out of these pages.

The last section is my digital photos. Since my family started using digital photos (around age 12 for me), we haven’t printed any photos. The old albums we do have together are scattered all over the house. Some are in boxes at the back of closets. Some are falling apart. And some are not acid free so they are causing damage to the photos. This is not how I want my photos to live.

When I dream about my family’s albums, they are all clean and archival, in matching albums, and are lining the shelf with tags on the binding. Now that I have my album categories and my vision for my albums, it’s time to get to work!

Getting Started

One main reason I started this project was to scan in the original film photos into digital files. If anything were to happen to our physical photos, they would be gone forever. I knew I wanted to scan them all in so we could have them digitally and backed up on multiple hard drives. Scanning them in was my first step. I use a Canon scanner and scan one photograph in at a time. It’s time consuming, but so worth it! There are companies that digitize photos, but I knew with the volume of photos I have that it would cost too much for this project. When I scan in the photo, I double check how the photo scanned in and add any details to the file that I can. It takes some time, but I have scanned in almost 3,000 family photos!

Sorting the Photos

Once the photos were scanned, I started to sort them into piles by the date. Some of the photos have the date written on the back, but many do not. My grandma was so nice and came over to help me sort out a bunch of the photos into their piles by dates. The dates are so important to me and help me know where to put them in the albums. I’m going to use a date stamp and StazOn Ink (it’s archival!) to add the dates to the photos without the date. I didn’t want to make marks with pens or ruin the back with my handwriting, so I’m using a date stamp to add the date. Once the photos are sorted into piles by the album and the dates, it’s time to get them into the albums!

For my baby photos, I had to peel them out of the magnetic pages (they are called magnetic but are just sticky paper and plastic covers). My mom already had them in order, so I put them in a stack in order as I took them out of the album. I scanned them in the same order too.

The digital pictures were easier to sort because they have the date within the file. I just had to figure out which photos I wanted to print and put them into folders by the year.

Putting the Photos into Pocket Pages

What I love about using the Project Life products is that I can use the same album and have different size pocket pages within the album. For my project, I’m using white 12×12 albums, Design C, Design L, Design P, and 12×12 page protectors.

For the old photos, finding the right size pocket page can be tricky. I look at the photos within the year I’m working on and see what page design works best for that group of photos. For large portraits, I used photo corners and 12×12 paper to put it into a 12×12 page protector. Many of the old photos are small and can fit into the 4×4 squares of the Design P pages. I used white archival cardstock in the pocket and then added the photo. Some of the old photos need the large pockets of Design C or Design L, which I also back with white cardstock.

My baby photos are mostly 4×6, so I put them into the Design C pocket pages. If a photo is smaller than 4×6, I back it with white cardstock.

My digital photos that I’m having printed will easily fit into the 4×6 pocket pages.

I love that I can get all the photos into pockets by finding the best size. If the pocket is bigger than the photo, I use archival photo corners to hold it in place. It’s such a cool mix of modern albums with the vintage photo corner look.

Finishing the Albums

As I fill out the pages, I put them in their correct albums. My album list includes Mom’s side, Dad’s side, Mom and Dad before kids, kids, and digital photos. Once I have all my albums finished, I’ll be printing tags to add to the binding with an initial of the family’s last name and the dates within the album. For example, my dad’s side of the albums will have an “H” and the year within the albums. I can’t wait to see the matching albums all sitting in order on the shelf.

My family is excited about this project because I’m making the albums and photos easier to enjoy. Digitizing them by scanning them in is also very helpful because I can share them with family out of state and everyone can enjoy a copy.

Tips for This Project

Start with a plan. Don’t start getting out all the photos until you know exactly what you want to do. Start with a definite plan before beginning. Remember, you can adapt your idea as you go. Pulling out multiple albums and stacks of photos all at once is extremely overwhelming! Start with your plan for the project before diving in.

Scan in your photos. It can be time consuming or a bit costly, but scanning in your photos is very important in helping preserve them. Once they are scanned in, you can share them with family out of state, upload them to family history websites, edit them to restore the original color, or print them out to hang on the wall. I recommend scanning them before putting them in the albums so you don’t have to take them all out again.

Have a clean work space. The photos are just paper, so any food, drinks, and oil can ruin them. I had a few photos (luckily duplicates) that got ruined by furniture polish that was on the table I was working on. I recommend starting with a clean space and putting down a clean sheet to work on. Coffee can make the project more fun, but make sure it isn’t anywhere near your photos.

Use a typewriter to add names and dates. I get really nervous about making a mistake or spelling something wrong when I start to use my handwriting on a page. I decided it would be easier for me to just use my parents’ old typewriter to add these details. I love how clean it looks and how easy it is to read. I’ll be adding the names of all the people in the photos and the dates to the white cardstock behind the photos. If you aren’t comfortable using your handwriting, use a typewriter or computer to print out your text.

Throw an album party. As soon as I’m 100% done with my project, I’m going to have a little album party to show off my albums to the family. If you’ve done all the work, you deserve to show them off a bit! Invite your family over for dinner and everyone can flip through your new albums. I can’t wait to see how excited they are over the new family albums!

Laura Hager lives in Phoenix, AZ with her fiancé and their small dog, Astro. She loves working on all kinds of fun projects. Some of her current projects are building an urban garden at her home, planning a wedding, and getting caught up on her scrapbooks. You can see more of her projects on her blog at Laurel and Fern or visit her Instagram.


21 Responses

  1. Katy Brohlman says:

    This was very helpful! My mom recently passed away and I have photos coming out of my ears. I also have my grandmother’s college scrapbooks with dance cards and letters and sorority invitations. Do you have any suggestions on how to preserve those types of memories?

    • Heidi & Bev says:

      Personally I use Becky’s Envelope Pages in all sizes! I find they are perfect for holding memorabilia in the album along with the photos of the same time period :) I hope that helps!

  2. Ginger says:

    I am so inspired by this! I have one question … what kind of naming convention do you use on the scanned photos?? I’d want it to be simple enough that I didn’t have to think about it, yet specific enough for it to be useful. I think this is where I would get hung up!

    • Heidi & Bev says:

      There are many ways to name the files, personally I organize my digital photos by date in folders – so when I scan analog photos I usually name with the date – even if all I know is the decade I will use that for starters i.e. 2017-01-01 and though some people also put descriptions into the filename (2017-01-01-JaneJohnDoeWedding) – I prefer to add the keywords into the metadata of the file so I can keep the filenames simple and organized chronologically. Just a few tips, hope they help!

  3. Kristin Basbagill says:

    WOW, that is so awesome. This sounds like a great way to tackle such a task. I have been wanting to do my heritage photos since I started scrapbooking 16 years ago, but I find it overwhelming.

  4. Tara says:

    Love this! And it’s perfect timing for me. I just talked to my grandmother recently about doing an album to compile all the photos and stories of her son (my uncle) who passed away as a a child. This will be a great guide to keep me on track!

  5. Laura G. says:

    When I make photo albums of family I also copy the back if there’s a date written on it by some family member…I cut that out and affix it somewhere …maybe underneath…or on top…depending on the picture…that way my kid’s have a little sample of their great grandma’s handwriting…

  6. jen s says:

    Just amazing! I’m going to show this to my parents & get to work on their albums!!

  7. Patricia Cardoso Perez says:

    Wow! White cardstock! Genius , name and date! <3

    • Maria says:

      I agree Patricia. I love the look of the heritage pictures on white cardstock with black photo corners.

  8. Ana says:

    A monumental task but I agree so worth it when done. I will have to do this with my parent’s photos and albums as well since I am the only one in the family documenting everything :)
    Thanks for the inspiration and motivation.

  9. Sheree says:

    Tell me about it! My parents divorced when I was 10. They both survived their spouses and then passed within four months of each other. I now have about 6 boxes of photos of my mom’s and returned from PA with as many more from my dad’s which included his mom’s! Add that to my 30 years of my marriage in pictures and now another 7 years of digital ANND well I am so glad to discover Becky Higgins and Ali Edwards. These are some great hints I will add to my plans.

  10. Jackie says:

    Such inspiration! Started a similar project a few years ago. It’s been sitting, but now I feel inspired to get it out again and get those pictures into pocket pages. Thank you!!!

  11. Judith says:

    Inspired and inspiring. As I face all the boxes, and also want to share stuff with nieces and nephews, it is helpful to hear Laura say firmly, You must scan them in!! I like the plan component. I love the use of white cardstock.
    Just a couple of questions:
    Where does one get archival photo corners?
    My dad made a scrapbook/photo book when he went into the Navy at 17 in WWII, on black paper, and wrote his captions in white ink. Ideas? Could I scan the photos and the writing? But printing black…help!

    • Heidi & Bev says:

      Hi Judith!

      You can find them in different places (try google) but personally I get mine at Archival Methods (https://www.archivalmethods.com/product/mounting-corners-tape)

      That’s amazing you have that book from your father! What a treasure! You can definitely scan the writing in the white ink – many of my clients bring me albums like these to scan. I scan the photo on its own and then scan it again to include the writing and save the whole image as one piece. That way when I publish it in a photobook – its as close to the original book as possible :) It won’t make a difference to print that portion with a black background (other than more usage of your black in cartridge if you print them yourself at home). I hope that helps! :)

  12. Susie says:

    This is such a great article!! Thank you so much!! It all does seem overwhelming— but, you break it down so nicely and show us that if we make small goals, and keep meeting them— it’s all possible!! 😍😍

  13. Laura says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share this monumental project!
    My question…what scanner settings (resolution…) have you found to work the best for you?
    Thanks Again!

  14. Pam Stewart says:

    I love the sorting into three groups. I believe I will sort the heritage photos first, then scan so I can put in date folders and my scanned photos will be in order.

    Thanks so much

  15. Lisa says:

    This is so helpful!!! Thank you!! This is one of my goals for the next 5-10 years- to complete my family’s heritage album. If I understood correctly, you donplan on scanning the pages and sharing with family members? I would almost want to do the whole project on the app so I could make the photo book and print like 8 copies for aunts/uncles/cousins/siblings. Do you think this project could be done on the app??? Or, when you complete the physical albums are you going to scan each page for relatives so they could also make a printed album with your scanned pages? I’m just hung up on the quality of the scanned pages… help!

  16. Deirdre says:

    My parents and brothers lost all their photos (including heritage photos) in a wildfire. I have been scanning photos like crazy for them. I saw that you named photos by date and include the rest of the information in the metadata. How exactly do you add info to the metadata? This is something I have been trying to figure out prior to this article. Do you have to have a special program?