Minimalism and milking a great photo

Cathy ZielskeScrapbooking40 Comments


My birthday blog post made me happy.

And when a post makes me happy, I pull it out of cyberspace and find a home for it in Ye Olde Scrapbook Collection. Sometimes.

When I first began blogging back in 2007, I believed it would become an endless trove I could continually mine for top notch page content. It didn't quite turn out that way, interestingly enough. In fact, some of my most favorite things I've written about here have yet to see the light of a scrapbook page.

And for right now, that's perfectly okay.

Still, I wanted to pull out the 44 Things list and save it. Why? Two things: sincere and authentic journaling, and if I'm being completely honest, a great flippin' photo of me. And you didn't know this at the time, but I had lots of shots to choose from, thanks to my daughter's digital prowess.


Keep mind: the happier the shot, the faker the laugh.

Most photos of me look like this:


You know the type: me in an old puffy sweatshirt, scrunched up nose, enveloped by oven mitts and with a man attached to my head.

There's nothing wrong with the above shot, but it doesn't really project that whole I'm in the love with the world and I don't care who knows it! vibe that I'm going for.

But I'm digressing…back to the point of saving the blog post.

I first created a fully digital version of the photo and the list in 12 x 12 glory, and it looks like this: (click on layout to see if larger in a new window)


SUPPLIES: xx things templateJust Linens No. 4 (Michelle Martin) • Stitched by Anna No. 01 White (Anna Aspnes)

Now try as I might to add other things, other digital elements into this design, I just couldn't do it. Every time I placed something down, it just felt instantly overdone. The point of this page was simply to pair that uber-adorable photo with the list of 44. End of process.

Then I thought: do I really need a 12 x 12 to fit all of this text? My personal albums are all 8.5 x 11. Yes, I do have three larger 12 x 12 albums that hold all of the 12 x 12 pages created for Simple Scrapbooks magazine, as well as for my two books, but I knew I wanted to make a different layout that could easily fit into my system.

Here is that page, a hybrid design: (click on page to see larger in new window)


SUPPLIES: crocheted flower (Dear Lizzy by American Crafts) • scallop edge blade (Fiskars) • white cardstock • Ilford Gallerie Smooth Pearl photo paper • Avenir font

I tried to find some other way to put this story down. I pulled out papers. I pulled out embellishments. But in the end, a simple crocheted flower was the one piece needed to complete the text heavy design.

I realized in this process how much I love the minimalism of a photo and a story together. That try as I might to dress it up a bit more, lately it's just not happening.

In fact, minimalism is ruling my scrapbook choices more than ever. And it's not that I'm surprised by this, but rather, I'm just wondering why I fill up an entire dining room of stuff I may never use.

We all come to this story-saving process with different needs. Needs to document, to express, to feel creative, to play, to experiment, and to be heard. Where you may love the random, I may love the precise, but in the end, we are both saving something of value that finds a way to lift us up.

And that's always going to be a good thing.

Cathy ZielskeMinimalism and milking a great photo

40 Comments on “Minimalism and milking a great photo”

  1. #1
    Stephanie Howell

    love it cathy. the single flower is absolutely perfect. i admire your minimalism greatly. for me, “minimalism” means a bit more, b/c that’s just how i roll…and i’m fine with that. HA!
    love the layout, love the photo of you, fake laugh or not. now send A to my house. thank you and goodbye.

  2. #6
    Jane Toft

    I’ve always subscribed to the ‘Less is More’ camp. Except when it comes to anything cheese related (real ‘made of milk cheese’) then obviously just ‘More’ is the order of the day.
    Beautiful pages. That shade of pink with your dark hair is just delicious. Keep keeping it simple.

  3. #8

    This is fab! I love minimal on digital pages but love sticking all sorts of bits on when it comes to traditional scrapping!

  4. #13
    Johanna Hörrmann

    Woman, I really love that hybrid page of yours. I feel it is so much stronger than your first shot, flipping your photo and placing it directly next to white (instead of pink) + simple typography without any layering really does the trick for me here.

    Plus, your last two paragraphs are now my leading mantra for my journey to tell my story. I have felt so, so drawn to this whole documenting + exploring design thing but couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it. Now I can. Thank you.

  5. #14
    Tammy Eberhard

    Love the layout Cathy! Definitely going to scrap lift it for my 43rd birthday which is on Friday! A really nice way to capture “today” every year. Happy Belated Birthday.

  6. #15
    Penny Grimsley

    Great post, great layout, great perspective. Thanks for sharing all three with us. I had seen the template Sunday when I was trolling DD and so glad to see how it unfolded for you. You’re the best BFF a girl could ever have. 😉 pennyscraps

  7. #16

    I have always loved your style. You always stay true yourself. Aidan should think of starting her own photoghraphy business. She took some great shots of you. Fake laugh or not, YOU LOOK GOOD!!!

  8. #17

    I’ve looked at my process in the past couple of months, and I am starting to come to terms with my minimalistic style. I’m starting to consider giving 90% of my paper and embellishments away. I wonder if I’ll regret it. I suppose I could just move it out of my scrapbooking area for now and see if I miss it. Hmmmmm…

    I love your hybrid page, btw. I would never be brave enough to turn my photo and title sideways, but you’ve executed it so perfectly that I’m thinking I need to try it on one of my own pages now.

  9. #18

    Love your smile in the photos Cathy, right from the heart.
    Did you use a Totally Rad action on the photo? if yes, which one, I desperately need some “umph” in my own photo. Thanks.

  10. #22

    While I actually consider both designs to be pretty minimal, the second layout works better to me. And it has everything to do with “weight.” Both layouts are text-heavy, but the image and color block pull your eyes. I want to stare at your happy face and ignore what you’ve written. The second layout, however, says “Yes, this cute face is important, but the words are more so.” It’s amazing how two layouts can contain the same amount of words, but one invites you to read them closer.

  11. #23
    Heather Crawley

    Go minimalism! Every month, when I get my Creating Keepsakes magazine, I still grieve Simple. Simple reflects keeping the photos and story first, which is why we are really scrapbooking, right?

    Creating Keepsakes pretty much slams you over the head with embellishments and begs the question, “Do you really put these in your albums? And, how thick are those said albums?”

    Oh, I still miss simple. Oh, I have cling to those carrying the torch – you, Ella, Stacy. Thanks for keepin’ it real (simple, that is).

  12. #24

    Those are gorgeous photos. Your daughter has clearly inherited your great photo taking abilities. Ahh, I miss Simple Scrapbooks. I am so glad to have your blog to come to and see your trademark clean and simple style. By, the way, what is that blue thing hanging vertically in front of the kitchen window in your photo? Nosy, I know, but puzzling me just the same.

  13. #25

    I really love your style and coming from some graphic design experience…somehow I never thought scrapbooking could look like that, because what is in style really emphasizes the products and all those tools you can buy. It’s refreshing to see your work and thanks for sharing your thoughts and process 🙂 You have really inspired me!

  14. #27

    Hi Cathy, great layout ! simple, it’s what I like. I don’t manage to scrap differently. When I see your pages, I know that it’s ok.

    Like what Heather said about CK. Still 10 months before the end of my subscription, it’s so long !!!

  15. #28

    12×12 or 8 1/2×11 both layouts look great. I love the touch of pink cardstock and the wall color of your pic. By the way, you photograph well. Lucky you!!

  16. #29

    I love both layouts and you look like a thirty-something lady in those photos. I’m a pretty simple scrapbooker too and sometimes I feel like I’m “supposed” to add more stuff. But in the end I always like the simple photo and journaling types of layouts. Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. #30

    Awesome job on the LO. Looks like a magazine article – go figure! Taking your class as we speak and I’m totally getting into the minimalism way of scrapping because of it. It’s not how I would normally do things but I’m totally diggin’ it. When I list the credits of my digi items, I might not even have any except your template…so there you have it. Guess you’re rubbin’ off on me! And that’s a good thing.

  18. #31

    I just love the simplicity of your birthday layout, a lovely photo of you and wonderful journaling. You are an inspiration for me. Since you are wondering why you have all the stuff in your dining room, considering your persistent minimalistic focus on a good photo and great story, are you going to get rid of some of that stuff?

  19. #33

    I suppose i should. It still feels like a happy room, you know, all that crafty stuff. I never let it get me down. Plus, Cole uses more of it than i do for his own projects! lOL!

  20. #34

    I find that, for myself, I put most of my creative energy into the words themselves, and then making the words inviting to read…and most other things DO end up feeling like too much. So I can totally, absolutely, 100% agree!

    And: Happy Birthday a few days late!

    Oh, and…I am totally jealous that your daughter still likes you! Mine…not so much. (I’m hoping it will pass!)

  21. #35

    I like the second layout better because, in my opinion, it has more impact. I like the placement and up closeness of your photo. It feels more personal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the first layout. I just prefer the second one.

  22. #36

    Yes, the second is my favorite. I’m going to have to remember the fake laugh trick. I tend to have a smile that is way too big and a scrunched up nose. And while my hubby thinks it’s cute, I find it less than attractive. 🙂 Great post today!

  23. #37

    I like both the layouts. I am definitely with the
    minimalist approach I think it ‘s a way to bring more attention to the photos and story. Actually my printer
    can’t scan my 12 by 12 layouts. So I am back to 8 1/2
    by I am having fun with it.

  24. #38

    I was wondering if you would sell the 8 1/2 x 11 version of this 44 things lo at DD??? Pretty please. 🙂

  25. #40

    Busy day of work pressure I am hard pressed quickly, and has recently suffered from a cold, but I insist to make a living at work, to just want to say something about this, very tired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *