This week I want to share my weekly Project Life process with you. I’ve been getting lots of technical questions so I thought I could address them all here in this post. So instead of covering Weeks 51 and 52 and my 2012 end page as I’d said last time, I’m just going to share Week 51 in this post, which consists of a double spread and various inserts (remember you can click on each image for a larger version).
1) Documenting (taking photos & journalling)
I take almost all my photos for Project Life with my iPhone 4S. I do not think of my DSLR (a Canon EOS 40D) as my real camera and my iPhone as a second-rate camera. To me, it’s about the moments that I capture rather than the ability of my camera. And honestly, the iPhone camera is a wonderful camera that can do so much more than we often give it credit for. Most importantly, it is the camera that I have with me all the time and, to me, that’s what counts.
One thing I’ve also noticed in the past year is that I tend to take different types of photos if I’m using my DSLR versus my iPhone. With the DSLR, I usually end up with portraits of Rick and the boys: these tend to be close-up shots that capture their expression at a particular point in time (partly because I tend to only use our 50mm prime lens), and usually only when we’re home. With my iPhone, I tend to take a wider variety of photographs: photos of the boys when we’re out and about, photos of landscapes, photos of twilight, up-close shots, self-portraits, photos of my family from a distance, silhouettes, etc. I think this is one of the reasons why my weekly spreads don’t usually look too busy, even though they’re filled with photos: the variety in the photos means that the spreads are not usually overcrowded with close-up portraits, thus giving the eye room to ‘breathe,’ whilst also adding a greater degree of interest.
When taking photos using my iPhone, I usually just use the native camera app as it’s easy to load and it means I have all my ‘raw images’ (so to speak) on my camera roll rather than having to manually save images to the camera roll when using some third party apps. If I have the time, I will use the VSCO Cam app to process my favourite photos on the phone: filters 05 and 07 are the ones that I primarily use. Now and then, I will also use the Afterglow app, which has the advantage of allowing you to adjust the strength of the filter that you apply.
For the last half a year, I’ve been practising the art of taking less photos: rather than snapping up every single frame at every single opportunity, I’ve been learning to only capture the moments that move me. This has been a huge change in the way I photograph: rather than cluttering up my camera and subsequently hard drive with photos that will never get looked at or printed, I’m choosing to take photographs that matter and that tell a story. This also makes the whole Project Life process a lot simpler, because choosing photos becomes a lot easier.
In terms of journalling, I actually don’t write anything down during the week because I use my photos as a way to document things that happen and how I feel at different moments in time. (I keep a running record of things that our boys say and do, but these are usually not included in our main family album, as I save it for their individual albums.) Plus, I know that I can always refer to our calendar to remind me of different things that have happened during the week.
2) Sorting, selecting and processing photos
Every Sunday, I import all photos from my iPhone, Rick’s iPhone and our Canon EOS from that week into Aperture. Using the system I’ve put in place, I re-name all the files, sort them into Aperture projects and folders, tag all the files and rate them if they have been taken on our Canon EOS. This is part of my photography workflow, which I’m planning to write about separately in the coming weeks.
With all the files from the previous week sorted and tagged, I sit down on Monday evenings to choose the photos for our Project Life spread. In Aperture, I create a new album that corresponds to that week of Project Life and then drag a ‘shortlist’ of my favourite photos to that album. This usually doesn’t take very long because I generally already have a good idea of which photos were my favourites from the week.
Generally speaking, I do not tend to include photos from the Canon EOS in our weekly spreads, because I know that I will be going through them at a later stage to create photo books. To me, this makes sense as it helps to draw a distinction between our Project Life album and our photo books – the former is about our everyday, as illustrated by everyday moments captured by the camera that is always with me, while the latter is more focused on portraits and event documentation. (This will probably become clearer after I’ve finished writing about my overall memory keeping framework.) If there is a set of photos I really want to include, I will usually choose to display them as an insert, rather than as part of the main spread.
Once the album is filled with my ‘shortlist’ of photos, I then go through and select my favourite landscape (ie. horizontal) photos by labelling them orange, and my favourite portrait (ie. vertical) photos by labelling them green. I almost always end up with more photos than I can fit on the spread, so I just keeping culling my favourites by de-selecting them until I end up with eight landscape photos and seven portrait photos for my weekly spread (only seven portrait photos because I always use the far left 3×4 pocket for ‘this week’ card). The photos I’ve already processed with VSCO Cam usually make the cut because they’re bound to be among my favourites.
If a special event has taken place that week (e.g. a birthday, a Christmas gathering, family holiday etc.) or I’ve captured a particularly special series of photos that I feel must be included, I will choose my favourites for an insert and label those photos in yellow. Because I have a number of different insert templates set up that can accommodate for different numbers of photos to be included (see below for a couple of examples), I can be flexible in terms of how many photos I include. As a general rule, I try to not go crazy with inserts so that I can fit an entire year into one album.
At this point in time, if the photos I like the most have not already been processed with VSCOCam, I will choose one of my VSCO Film presets in Aperture (from the same makers of VSCO Cam) and apply it to the photos that I’ve chosen. This is usually all the editing that I will do with the photos. The great thing about using both VSCO Cam and VSCO Film is that the photos have a consistent feel about them across the board.
Despite how complicated this sounds, the entire photo selection process only takes about 15 minutes at most.
3) Adding text and graphics
Every week, I create a new folder on my hard drive for that week’s Project Life. Once the photos are selected and processed using VSCO Film where necessary, I export the image files into this folder. I will then also copy and paste my Adobe InDesign templates from the previous week into the new folder, and rename them so that they correspond to the current week. (I have templates set up for the landscape photos, the portrait photos and the different inserts.)
I then place the new photos into the InDesign template files and add any text that I feel is necessary. You’ll notice that sometimes I’ll include a circle graphic on the photos – this is usually only when there is ‘breathing space’ in the photo for text to be added on top, so I use the circle as a background to carry the text.
At this point, I also ‘crop’ the photos if necessary in InDesign, usually if there is something near the edges of the photos that make them too busy or extra cluttered. Lastly, I add the date and day of the week to each photo, in one of the four corners.
I use the same design for my title card each week, which means all I have to do is change the number of week as well as the corresponding dates. In terms of the photo I choose for the title card, it is usually either my favourite photo of the week, or the photo that best accommodates having the large text placed on top. Sometimes I will move the large text up or down on the photo depending on the composition of the photo.
The ‘this week’ card is a short summary of the week (again I just use the same design each week). Here, I will list events that took place and anything else that was special about that week. Each bullet point corresponds to the seven days of the week.
The main reason I use Adobe InDesign is because I’m familiar with it. In my work as a graphic designer, Adobe InDesign was the program I used the most and so I can be pretty quick with it.
Once I’ve finished in InDesign, I export the photos back to the folder that I’ve created. Again, this process only takes about 15 minutes.
4) Printing and inserting photos into the album
On Wednesday evenings, I import the new files (ie. the ones with the text added) back into Aperture. I then print the photos using my Canon Pixma MP630 onto Kodak premium photo paper (210gsm).
Once the photos are printed, I trim the 3×4 ones down and then I lay them out onto the floor to determine how they will go into the Design A page protectors. The process here is as simple as can be: I put the title card and the ‘this week’ summary card in their appropriate spot and then I lay down the rest of the photos in chronological order. I’ll then stand back and see if it looks okay. Sometimes, I don’t need to change a thing. Other times, I might just need to switch a few photos around to make the layout work better. Sometimes (though this does not happen often), I may decide to reprint a photo in black and white or to add white space around a photo to make the spread less busy. Obviously, if there are inserts for the week, I print them out too, and put them into the appropriately sized page protectors (my favourites at the moment are the 8×8 ones from American Craft and the 8×10 ones from Becky Higgins).
And that’s it. Into the pockets the photos go, and the week is done.
All up, across the two evenings, the weekly process only takes about 40-45 minutes.
In terms of Week 51, I decided on two spreads instead of one so that I could include more photos from the festive season, especially since I had no plans to do a separate December Dailies album. I also included extra inserts (shown above) to display the photos from setting up our Christmas tree (these were taken on our Canon EOS), one of our family Christmas gatherings (again, EOS), and also a series of photos I snapped while we were out at a cafe one day (these were taken on my iPhone 4S).
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Anyway, I really hope this post was helpful, especially if you’re just getting started with Project Life. Of course, this is simply my approach and other people’s process would look quite different. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!
Other posts you might be interested in reading:
Tips on taking photos for Project Life
What you need to get started with Project Life
How to control the exposure on your iPhone camera
Using the grid on your iPhone camera
You can read my other Project Life posts here.
Materials used: Becky Higgins Design A page protector; American Craft 8×8 page protector; Kodak 210gsm glossy premium photo paper. All photos printed on the Canon MP630 Pixma.