My Annual Family Album has become a yearly tradition, loved by my kids and coveted by their grandparents.  It consists of a visual timeline of my children’s growth and my family’s experiences throughout the year.  Organized in a month-by-month fashion, these Annual Family Albums are my most valued possession.  When I tell folks about this yearly tradition, they usually ask the same questions – “How do you find the time?” “How do you keep your photos organized?” and “How do you decide which photos go in the album?”  I’m here to say that, with a good system and a little time, you too can have an Annual Family Album to cherish.

If you plan to make an album, keeping your personal photos organized is the first step. Because my album is always organized chronologically, this is how I organize my personal photos.  Each time I download a card of personal images, I download them on to a separate “Family Photo Drive” and I immediately organize them in to folders.  Each folder is titled by the year and contains subfolders, which are titled MO-DAY – DESCRIPTION OF PHOTOS.  For example, “12-25 – Christmas Morning” would be how I would name the folder containing images of my family opening their Christmas gifts.  Like this -

One thing that is worth mentioning: if you are like me, you probably have multiple days worth of personal photos on any given CF card.  In this case, I still recommend that you organize them in to folders by date and description.  I find that it makes it easier to find specific images later down the road.

When it comes time to design your Annual Album (I usually begin mine around Thanksgiving, as I like to give them as Christmas gifts), I recommend taking it month by month.  Go through all of the images shot in each month, choosing some favorites and paying particular attention to things like birthdays, family vacations and major milestones.  I then copy these favorite photos to a separate folder, named “Annual Album Edit.”

This new folder becomes my album selections and I simply begin designing from there.  Depending on your skill-level, you can design the album using a program, such as InDesign (this is what I do), or through an online publishing site, such as Blurb or Shutterfly. The online sites will print and bind the album for you or you can have your own design printed through a lab, such as ProDPI or SharedInk.

When designing the album, I recommend at least one album spread per month, and sometimes much more if there was a major event during that time.  You can include a date or short description, such as “Max’s First Steps” or “Daddy’s Birthday” to help keep the flow of the album moving.  Depending on the size of your album, you’ll want to make sure that the photos are nicely spread out and not too small.  Keep in mind that cramming 10-12 photos on an 8×8 page will likely make the images hard to see.




A few other notes about your album.  I like to do the album as an 8×8 square album.  It’s a nice size for grandparents and it means it’s not too expensive to make multiple copies.  I also try not to obsess about retouching and Photoshop effects.  After all, these are family snap shots and not professional images.  If you get too caught up in trying to retouch everything, you’ll lose steam about May or so.

How ever you choose to organize your family photos, a yearly album is a wonderful way to document your family’s growth and milestones.  It makes for a lovely holiday gift and a lasting keepsake for your children.


(Note: This article originally ran on  Special thanks to Jasmine for giving me the opportunity to share my knowledge to her readers and for permission to re-post the article on this blog.)

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    amazing tips chenin! makes me want to drop my todo list and organize my pics right now!

  • Great post Chenin! I have a few years to catch up on but I like your manageable chunk approach.

  • I also have a few years to catch up on, but you’re giving me renewed inspiration! Thanks Chenin!

  • i’m working on our first baby album so this is inspiring to keep going! great tips.

  • brilliant! We’ve been organizing our family photos in EXACTLY the same way for quite awhile… I’m ashamed to say though that I’ve yet to get one book completely designed and ordered… BOO! I’m gonna do it soon though! Thanks for the push!

  • I can’t get over what a great post this was.. I am half doing it like that already this post gives me more motivation to do more of this!

  • Organizing chronologically is good – but always remember to use a long and descriptive folder name. I now have 10 years worth of photos ( about 70,000 pictures ) and the only way to really manage/share and find them is via an online Photo Service called – They have an application you can install and it will upload your entire collection. Once the collection is online – you can share with friends and family. Their search facility is blindingly fast. It never takes me more than 2 seconds to find a folder. You can also ‘tag’ pictures which are also searchable. I use different tags to mark my favorite pictures of my children – so by searching for the tag – I get an overview of them over the years. The uploader is available for Windows and MAC. When you add to or change your photo collection – just re-run the uploader – and it only sends the updates to the online system.

  • Love this. Very helpful tips. Thank you, shane bliss photography

  • [...] system for organizing your files. Chenin, one of our fearless leaders here at Totally Rad!, did an amazing post going over this in detail. Each time she downloads a card of personal images, she downloads them on [...]

  • I had a baby last year and am already OVERRUN with pixels and more pixels of that little baby. Thank you for all the great ideas. I’m pinning this post and going to put it into action soon!