2. Get organized, and start early. We
publish our yearbook at the end of November,
giving us time to order it and mail it to relatives in time for the holidays. But January is
not too soon to begin collecting and organizing pictures for the coming year, especially if
they are from family members who live far
apart. Make a list of the year’s events you want
to be sure to include. September is when we
begin the design and layout.
3. Keep the focus on people. You
may be justifiably proud of your panoramic
shot of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. Include it, to
set the scene. But remember: Years from now,
you may barely look at the pictures of landscapes or buildings. Your eye will always be
drawn to shots that include your family and
friends. It’s human nature.
4. Make the project a true collaboration. Each family member uploads pictures regularly to online folders, all year long.
(Yes, it’s taken five years to commit ourselves
to this.) We lay out the book using simple,
Web-based design tools provided by the vendor that handles the printing and binding. I
create each year’s project file, and provide
password access to everyone in the family.
While I’ve taken on a sort of executive editor’s
role, each member of the family lays out his or
her own pages. Collaboration lets each member of the family feel fairly represented.
5. Adopt a theme, but don’t be dogmatic. A theme can be as simple as a decision
to present your pictures in chronological order,
as we do. Once you make these decisions, be
prepared to bend the rules a little. Our book is
designed to be a Christmas gift, so the 2014
book can’t include pictures of Christmas 2014.
We start with the previous year’s holidays.
6. Let the pictures speak for themselves. The online design system will let you
add captions to explain the pictures. But don’t
design around the words. The pictures will tell
the story and inspire conversation when you
browse through the book in years to come.
7. Don’t overcrowd your layout.
You will be tempted to cram as many pictures
as you can onto each page, especially if it’s
been a particularly eventful year. Fight this
urge. A photograph needs space. It has to be
big enough to be seen in detail, and it will
lose some of its power as an image if it is
jammed in beside too many competing
images. A great photo will disappoint you
when you see it as a 1 x 2-inch postage stamp
image. Pages with the most impact have no
more than three to five images. This presents
a dilemma. The cost of producing the book
rises with the number of pages, and you may
have more images than you can use. Engage
your family in the decisions about what to
include, and what not to include.
8. Brighten up your images. The
online tools you use to compose your book
will allow you to correct for brightness and
color tone and to remove “red-eye” caused by
flash. If you have the skills and software to
correct for these issues before you upload, the
effort will be worth it. The main problem to
look for is brightness; a dark, muddy image
will be more so on the page of a book.
Our yearbook is a significant commitment of time and effort, and the cost has
grown with the scale of the project: 2013 was
eventful, and the book grew to 56 pages.
Fortunately, online photo finishing is a competitive business, and we’ve found affordable
ways to make the book every year.
Our yearbook has become a favorite project. It gives us a shared goal, and a way to capture our family’s history, not only for the
future but to share here and now with the
people we care about. C
Peter Dorfman is a freelance writer based in
Lebanon, New Jersey.
1. Don’t be shy: People will care. So
you don’t climb mountains or live in the
South of France. Everyone has a story to tell.
Believe it or not, there is an eager audience for
yours. Among the most cherished memories
we’ve documented have been family dinners,
hobbies, home improvements, Halloween
costumes and the antics of our dog. Don’t be
discouraged if your photos aren’t gallery quality. If they show people you love doing things
that were fun and important to you, they will
have meaning forever.