My children’s Project Life albums – The process (Part 1)

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

This second post about my children’s individual Project Life albums has been a long time coming. In my first post, I gave you guys an overview of my framework for my boys’ albums. In this second post, I thought it might be helpful if I started sharing in greater detail my actual process. Because there’s so much to cover, I’m going to focus on photo selection in this post, and then I’ll look at other aspects of my process (ie. photo editing, exporting, design, layout, journaling, assembling, etc.) in subsequent posts – hopefully you won’t have to wait another year till the next one! I know I’ve said a couple of times that I’ve sometimes wondered whether or not I should continue with these albums, but every time I flip through them and look back over all their individual memories, I can’t help but conclude this: it is totally worth it. (You can click on each image for a slightly larger version.)

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

A note about design

Before I dive into my monthly process, I just wanted to make one comment about my design philosophy. One thing that I always have in mind when I work on the boys’ albums is that I want the the overall look and feel of the albums to appeal to them as boys. For this reason, I’ve kept the design very simple and contemporary, much like our family albums. For colour accents, I’ve used light teal, yellow, beige and also dark grey, as I think they go well together and none of the colours are ‘girly.’

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

On time management

In my time management post, I detailed how I go about organising my month to make time to work on each of the boys’ individual Project Life albums. Basically, I update their albums on a monthly basis and because there are a number of them, I simply focus on a single boy’s album each week. In other words, during the first week of the month, I work on Jamie’s album. During the second week, I work on Pete’s album. During the third week, I work on Angus’ album. You get the picture. Instead of spreading it out over the course of the week, I usually try to finish updating each of the albums within a couple of days. Because I always stick to the same process, it only takes about 2-3 hours overall for each album. It largely depends on how focused I am (which is what this post was all about). If I don’t get distracted by the likes of Facebook, I can get it done in under 2 hours.

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

It all begins with a smart album…

Selecting photos probably takes up a third of the total time taken to update the boys’ albums. This is where Aperture comes in. Aaaah, Aperture. I’m not quite sure what I would do without this brilliant piece of software. Every single one of my digital photo is organised and tagged in Aperture. This means that when it comes to memory keeping, everything is ten times faster than it would otherwise be. Say, I’m updating Angus’ Project Life album for the month of December (which is actually what I spent last night doing). I simply create a smart album for the month, naming it ‘Angus 2013_12′ and nesting it under Angus’ main folder. This brings up every single photo that includes Angus from that month. Usually, this brings up a few hundred photos, but for the month of December, there were 819 photos due to preschool concerts and Christmas gatherings.

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Narrowing down the field

To narrow this down quickly, I type ‘vsco’ into the text field at the top of the browser window. This brings up the photos of Angus in December which I’ve already processed using my VSCO Cam app or VSCO Film presets within Aperture. (Remember that by the time I work on the boys’ albums, I’ve already completed our family album spreads for that month, hence I’ve already gone through and processed my favourite photos.) I immediately drag these photos into another album. I then delete ‘vsco’ from the text field and I quickly scroll through all 819 photos to see whether there are extra photos that I want to include specifically in Angus’ album.

My selection criteria

My criteria for choosing the boys’ photos is not whether they are the best looking photos, or the best photos from a technical point of view (I save that criteria for photo books like this one). Instead, I’m looking for photos that capture moments which I want us to remember years down the track. This means that the photos which end up making it into the boys’ albums are a combination of every day moments, portraits, funny captures, spontaneous family selfies, events and other special occasions. It also means that some of the photos overlap with our family album, but I am totally okay with this because it’s all about what makes sense for each particular album.

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

iPhone versus EOS photos

Most of you already know this, but up till now, my iPhone has been my primary every day camera and so most of the photos in the boys’ albums so far are from my iPhone. In addition to these iPhone photos, I usually include a handful of portraits I’ve taken using my Canon EOS into the main spread as well. If there is a particular sequence of EOS shots that I really like, or if there’s been a special occasion like a birthday or a school event, then I include these in either as inserts using 8×8 or 8×10 layouts.

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Using colour labels

For those of you who have read this post about my weekly Project Life process, you might remember that I use colour labels when I’m choosing photos. I employ the same method with the boys’ albums. Photos that I want to include in a horizontal 6×4 pocket, are labeled orange. Photos that I want to include in a vertical 3×4 pocket, I label green. Photos that I want to include on an insert layout, I label yellow. (Note that some of the photos I label orange are actually portrait in orientation, rather than landscape, but because I know that I’ll be dropping it into my 6×4 template with a square photo, I consider it an ‘orange’ photo.)

Multiples of four

Because I only use the Design A layout, I know that the final number of ‘orange’ photos has to be a multiple of four. I mentioned in my overview post that I’m flexible with the number of pages I end up with each month for each of the boys, and this is still the case. I do like the keep the ballpark around eight pages though (that’s four spreads), which is equal to about 32 horizontal ‘orange’ photos. This means that if I end up choosing about fifty or sixty ‘orange’ photos, I just keep culling until I end up with just 32 or 36. At this point, I also need to consider how many ‘green’ photos I have. If, for example, there are under 20 ‘green’ photos that I’m happy to use, then I’ll keep culling my ‘orange’ ones to a lesser multiple of four.

My children's individual Project Life albums - The process (Part one), by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

I heart filler cards

You may have noticed that I didn’t say that the final number of my ‘green’ photos also has to be a multiple of four. This is because I know I can easily use some of the 3×4 vertical pockets for journaling, captioning and (more recently) highlighting their funniest quotes from that month. In fact, I really like doing this because it means that even when there isn’t negative space on the individual photos to add text to (I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later post), I can still jot down some journaling on the 3×4 filler card. Also, from a design perspective, the filler cards break up the content on each page through the addition of white space, and therefore, breathing room for the eye.

Image sequencing

Another thing I like to do when selecting photos for the boys’ spreads is to choose 2 or 3 photos that were taken in quick succession to form an image sequence in the the layouts, like the one in layout immediately above. There are three reasons I like doing this: 1) It’s a good way of balancing the number of vertical and horizontal photos (I almost always end up with more horizontal photos). 2) It’s a fun way to show how a special moment in time has played out, kind of like a ‘flip book’ animation. 3) When you have photos that almost look the same, the page immediately feels less cluttered.

A final note…

It’s not about choosing photos that are perfect. Nor is it about photos of only the ‘exciting’ stuff that we do with them. It’s about choosing photos that paint a realistic picture of their childhood. Photos that encapsulate their everyday life. Photos that show them changing, growing, living, learning, and loving. Photos that document their relationship with each other, with us, with the wider family, and with their friends. Because at the end of the day, that is what matters.

* * *

I do apologise if this post was overly detailed or technical in any way. I guess I just wanted to give you all a clearer picture of what I do and how a streamlined process can significantly reduce the time it takes to do something like this.

If you have any questions at all, fire away!

p.s. I’ll try and write my next post in less than a year’s time…

(You can read all my Project Life posts here or go here for a visual gallery.)

13 comments

Lucy February 2, 2014 at 11:40 am

Inspiring as always Ronnie! I’m thinking of doing a PL album for each of my boys with one spread per year for 0-18yrs. I already do a weekly family PL but wanted to do something for my boys that I know wouldn’t be too arduous and that I’d stick too. While it won’t be as detailed as yours, your ideas for labeling, archiving and organising your photos will help a lot. Your albums are amazing! Can’t help but think they’ll be useful resources for your boys’ future partners!!

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Erin February 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm

You are a memory keeping machine. It’s so impressive how much effort you put in. You’ve given me so much inspiration for when I have kids – though I think I’ll stick to photo books & possibly a journal for the most part. :)

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Kelly February 3, 2014 at 5:12 am

Thankyou so much for sharing all this info, you are the first person I’ve come across that also keeps individual albums for their 4 kids plus a family album, everyone I know in real life thinks I’m mad for doing it! I’m inspired to keep going with it all when I read your memory keeping posts, and not feeling so overwhelmed. I also find using my Line A Day journal helpful for journalling notes and remembering what we’ve been up to over the month when it comes to printing photos. Your albums are beautiful, as are your photos. Keep it coming! xx

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Pink Ronnie February 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

Hi Kelly,
Thanks for your encouraging comment! The thing is, even before I discovered Project Life, I was doing individual scrapbooks for each of the boys and this is so much more flexible to do!
Ronnie xo

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Kathy February 3, 2014 at 6:28 am

I think everyone will get a lot out of that detailed post….so no apologies. I think it’s a credit to you that you do all of this for your boys. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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Fiona February 3, 2014 at 10:05 am

Those albums are priceless! Thanks for the detailed post. It’s so helpful to get an idea of how to tackle an album for each of the kids. It’s something I’d love to do.

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Catherine February 3, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Thank you so much for this post, Ronnie! It’s really helpful to get another perspective on photo organization and selection as well as a reminder that it’s time well spent to document our lives. I’m trying to make plans to stay on top of our project life albums with the arrival of a baby in 7 weeks, and it’s been pretty overwhelming. Your post reminded me that it’s both doable and valuable. Thank you as always :) xo, C

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Cara February 4, 2014 at 5:41 am

I love the colour coding of orientation idea – brilliant!

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

Glad you like it Cara – it’s extremely handy and makes the photo selection process so much easier.
Ronnie xo

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Kolina February 4, 2014 at 5:57 am

Ronnie – What a great post! I love hearing about other people’s process, and your post was just the right amount of detail/technicalities to give me ideas how I can adopt some of your tricks into my weekly PL schedule. One of my biggest challenges is learning to balance color and subject matter within a spread so that it is clean, minimalistic, and to save room for whitespace and journalling, so I’m looking forward very much to your future post on design and layout!

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Moi February 4, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Hi Ronnie,love your post…You’ve given me some great ideas.
I wondering if your could share your 8×10 templates on your blog,it would really help some of us out.
Thanks

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Pink Ronnie February 9, 2014 at 11:46 am

Hi Moi,
I’m planning to release templates down the track – hopefully later this year.
Ronnie xo

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Birgit Engelhardt February 9, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Such great pages – a true treasure!

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I love hearing from you!

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