scrapbooking for the obligated, part 1

I’m currently transferring video files over to our new external hard drive, and boy does it slow the computer down to try to move 50-some gigs at once. But that’s a cake walk compared to the ridiculousness that is trying to move files within the organizer of Photoshop Elements 3.0. Now I love the PSE Organizer, don’t get me wrong, I would be so. very. lost. without it. See here?

Photo Count, 11/2006Even taking into account that about 2000 of that is digital scrapbooking element files (digi paper, etc), and probably 200 of it is otherwise miscellaneous (some video files and such), even still that leaves roughly 10,000 photos. Eep. In September? When I got my beloved new camera? I took 2000 pictures. Mmhm. Yeah, I think I need to learn to cull more. (Why do we need an extra 300 gigs of hard drive, you ask? Well, actually it’s most because of digital home video, but yes, the photos play their part….)

Regardless I would certainly be up that proverbial creek without the PSE Organizer and it’s lovely, lovely tag and collection system. But I may have to upgrade soon from 3.0, if only because the stupid thing really has some issues with moving files — like not being able to move a folder full at a time, no, no, only individual ones. And otherwise giving me crap, like having no way to easily rename or change your folder system. Surely the newer versions must have fixed this problem? Eventually I will find out… but not until I can buy some more RAM too.

Ahem. Back to the intended topic. Scrapbooking, and this entry by Jessica over at Kerflop. So much of what I have to say has, no doubt, been said before… but since when have I let that stop me?

Let me preface the following by saying: my house (and life at times) is sometimes a total disaster, so I’m not trying to come off as some super-scrapper. (The very thought! It is to laugh.) But scrapbooking is something I care very much about, am very into. I get very protective even of the photos of total strangers, go figure.

ANYWAY, Jessica’s system she talks about is fabulous. I want to teach a class for my local church women’s organization entitled “Scrapbooking for the Obligated,” for those who want to do something with their photos, or feel they should, but have no clue what. It would involve edumacation about preservation (acid free, etc), and go from there.

I love scrapbooking, but I think, particularly for beginners, the current state of the SB industry is (to say the least) overwhelming. Some obviously fall in love with it all, but I think your average, busy, semi-perfectionist just comes away from looking at a magazine, peeking into a store, or even visiting the scrap section of a big craft store with some trouble breathing. And no idea where to begin. How to get “caught up,” whatever that means exactly.

Some, like Stacy Julian over at Simple Scrapbooks, consider the very notion of being “caught up” overrated, if not impossible. Which is probably true, at least if you think you have to “scrap” every single photo you have. Granted, it is important to consider WHY you want to scrapbook (or do whatever with your photos). For some, it is primarily a creative outlet, and that’s certainly fine. But here I’m addressing more the family history aspect.

I think it’s not a bad idea to at least consider the old notion of scrapbooking. Ever seen an old-style scrapbook? Plain black pages with photos and programs, tickets and calling cards, pasted to the pages or adhered with photo corners? Handwritten labels, if you’re lucky. (I’m not talking about the evil EVIL magnetic albums — they are bad bad bad… take your photos out of them now, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Even the new, so called “acid free” ones are bad. Do not use them, please. </rant>) But the point is – so simple, so straightforward, just paste it in. Yes, we know more about preservation now, acid free and so on, and it’s important, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here are my personal priorities when it comes to scrapbooking – yes, in order of importance:

  1. FINISHED
  2. safe
  3. labelled
  4. journaled
  5. creative

Keeping it simple, safe, doable. The system Jessica has – and “system” here just means getting some nice, heavy, photo-safe pages with slots for the photos, inserting the photos, and putting them into a photo-safe and heavy duty binder – is a legitimate, even recommended beginning – and, if you want, ending. There is no reason you have to do much more than just this, especially if the “creative” aspect of scrapping doesn’t appeal to you.

The one thing I would urge, after getting your photos into a nice, safe, viewable format like the above: some labelling. Dates, names, places perhaps. Maybe write them carefully along the edges of the back of the photo with a special photo-safe pencil. Get some acid free white cardstock (most index cards are very acidic, and post-it note glue is as well – if you want to use it on the outside of the plastic protector that’s alright) and a good, longlasting pen, like an EK Success Millenium Zig Writer, very common; write some labels and slide them in behind your photos, if you like.

And then the next step: journaled. This is one of my favorite parts. It doesn’t have to be involved. You can use that white cardstock and pen, or do it on your computer and print it if that’s easier for you. Here’s the key: you sit down with your photo album and start looking through the pages. If you have a patient relative to sit with you, fantastic; or you can just pretend you have one sitting there, hanging on your every word. Now look through the photos, and whenever you have the urge to stop and explain what’s going on, or tell a funny story in connection with one, or talk about someone in the photo and what they mean to you — make a note of it. Do this a little at a time, and then write it out. Whatever you would say to that interested relative or friend, write that down, in your casual, conversational voice, just like you were saying it. The facts, the feelings, whatever is important or meaningful to you about it. (This gets easier with practice, too.)

If you really want, you can record yourself talking it out, but keep in mind that transcribing tapes is quite time consuming, believe me; it can work well when doing this with elderly (or not so elderly) relatives and their photos, though – very useful to just be able to listen and ask questions and not have to take lots of notes.

That’s all journaling is – the stories that go with the photos. That’s where a lot of the meaning is – so do it! Like I said, a little at a time, not a lot of pressure, but get it down. Maybe get some regular top loading pages to insert among the photo-sleeve ones and print out stories to slip in there. Or try putting them on small 4×6 cards of white cardstock and putting one into a slot by the photos it describes.

{And you can apply the above “system” (I hesitate to call it that, but) to family albums, and also to individual baby or children’s albums as well. Same principle, just choose which photos you want to include first.}

After all that — you will have a true treasure.

If you want to do more, great. One of my favorite “next step” type projects is a sort of reverse journalling process: recall stories – maybe childhood stories of your own, or funny stories of your kids, or ones from your parents, whatever – that are memorable or important to you, and DON’T have specific photos with them. Then write down the story, and maybe you’ll find a photo, or some memorabilia (i.e. tickets, kids’ artwork, programs, postcards, etc), that will serve to illustrate it somewhat (even if just showing the person involved at the approximate age the story took place) and put those together.

There are lots of fun ideas, like recording an “average” day or month in your family’s life, or holiday traditions, or a myriad of other “mini album” ideas. And if there are some special photos that you really want to fancy up with some of the fun product out there – great! Have at it. Or not. The point is, with the basics, you are done enough, and believe me it is enough.

Let me tell you a secret: as I said, I love scrapping, love playing with paper and glue and ribbon and color and whatnot. For me it’s just fun, a fabulous meld of pictures and words and play, and I try not to let my inner obnoxious perfectionist interfere with the joy. Sometimes I make a page that I’m really proud of, that just makes me happy to look at. But guess what? Really and honestly, the vast majority of my family pretty much couldn’t care less about the paper I used. They just look at the photos, and read the story, and enjoy it. And, when you use photo-safe materials, it’ll be around for lots of your family to enjoy. So — it IS a scrapbook, and IT IS ENOUGH.

This is the mantra quote I use in my signature on sb message boards:

Perfect is pretty, but finished is BEAUTIFUL.

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3 responses to “scrapbooking for the obligated, part 1

  1. I love this. I love your priorities. I’m doing the 4×6 card thing, shoving in stories and dates whenever the “theme” changes.

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