As long as we’ve been taking pictures, we’ve been using them to tell our family stories. You remember those albums at your grandmother’s house? The ones piled under the coffee table with snapshots placed under plastic film on pages? Sometimes the photos didn’t even make it under the film, and to open the book was to get a lap full of loose photos. You could see your parents, grandparents, family members you didn’t even know, suspended in those pages, faded, a collection of characters and anecdotes jumbled together.
In ten years, twenty years, thirty years, what will yours look like? How will the pictures you take now tell your family story?
Here are 10 ways to turn your snapshots into stories that tell themselves when you make a family or baby book.
1. Birthday Book
Honor someone’s birthday by gathering stories and pictures from friends and family. Everyone can contribute photos, and the receiver gets to see themselves with all the warmth and love you feel when you hand them this personalized gift.
2. Baby Book
Baby Books are a centuries-old tradition, but digital photography makes it possible to archive in a new way. Try taking photos of favorite objects, clothes, baby shoes, important cards and greetings—not only will it save space by digitizing them into a baby album, but you can print several copies of the book!
3. Family Blog
Some of you who live far away keep a blog or regularly share on Facebook or Instagram as a way to keep in touch. Why not turn all your posts into a printed family book? Instant books that pull from Facebook or Instagram are easy, and while making pages out of blog posts is a few more steps, you’ve already got the photos taken and stories written, which is the hardest part. We never know what will become of these digital platforms we freely use now, but books printed on archival paper save those moments for years to come.
4. Letters from Mom and Dad
One mom writes each of her children letters as they’re growing, sharing bits of wisdom or telling stories about her son as he was growing up. She made sure to write a letter for every birthday, which then formed chapter markers for photos. She has two books still in progress, but she gave the gift to her oldest son when he turned 18, right before he left for college. Send your kids into the world with the love and wisdom you collected along the way.
5. Adoption Book
Hannah Eloge used a beautiful book as an introduction to her family and community for prospective mothers when she and her husband were in the adoption process. She ended up adopting two beautiful baby girls, and now she helps other families in the adoption process create their own family books.
6. Family Questionnaire
Vanity Fair magazine has a regular feature in the back of its issues where it interviews one celebrity every month with the same set of traditional questions. Try this with your own family! Every year, ask your family members a set of questions. Questions about who they are, what they think, and what they’re loving right now. It can be a New Year’s Eve tradition, a birthday tradition, or some other anniversary day. Combine the questions with recent photos, for a meaningful portrait of who someone was during a particular season.
7. Family Art Book
Put the family’s creative work all in one place as a kind of family portfolio. Everyone has their own creativity, and it deserves to be in print. Maybe someone cooks beautiful meals, someone else is a photographer, someone plays an instrument. Capture these in photos and put them together in a book. You can also round up favorite pieces of your children’s art, and make copies for all the grandparents. This way, one event or piece of art can bring joy many times over!
8. Anniversary Book
For those couples whose marriage has withstood the test of time and blessed so many people, gather up stories and photos in tribute. There may have been ups and downs, but it’s meaningful and powerful to see a record of all the love along the way.
9. Family Reunion Photo Book
Create a common uploading space for everyone at the family reunion to share the photos they take. Then, even though it may be a few years before you can all gather again, you can put a photo book together that helps everyone remember in the meantime. You can upload the book and anyone who wants one can buy a copy—or three!
10. 365 Day Project
Take one photo of your family life or your baby every day for 365 days. This is an especially powerful exercise with newborns, who change so much in that first year! Your 365 Day Project can be anything—of one person, of your dinners, of a certain corner in your home—something that will show how your family changes a little every day, in ways you might miss because of their subtlety. When you put a year’s worth of photos together, you’ll have that full, beautiful picture.
Just like those photos under your grandmother’s table, you’re probably piling up captured moments on your phone, computer, or hard drives. It may be even harder to keep those moments and images safe than it was to keep photos from getting lost, bent, or ruined. Keeping digital files organized and retrievable over time and as technology rapidly changes is serious business. However you choose to tell the story of your family, take these important moments and put them in a printed book so they can be cherished for years to come.