My current Photo Album Project + a free download

Cathy ZielskeFree Downloads, Scrapbooking43 Comments


Back in 2005, when I was writing Clean & Simple Scrapbooking: The Sequel, I was knee-deep in the scrapbooking philosophy—the same one that pretty much guides how I approach the hobby to this day—of scrap what you want to remember and never scrap out of obligation.

Sometimes this translated to as many as ten layouts a month; sometimes just a few; and sometimes none at all. Over the years, aside from pages created for assignments or classes, I haven’t done a lot of scrapbooking just for the fun of it. Part of why Project Life has resonated so much with me is that it really has brought back the joy of simple documentation. It lets me play with my photos and memories every single week in a very do-able way.

Now let me jump to a different thought: photo albums. In C&S: The Sequel, as part of my scrapbook liberation theology, I touted the value of the simple photo album as another way to do something with your photos. During that time, I had invested in a bevy of gorgeous albums from Kolo in an effort to streamline my chronological photo album system. I gathered up all of my rag-tag, mismatched albums and transferred many of my photos into these sleek, black, cloth-covered albums.


My goal was to have a chronological photographic record of my life. Simple enough, right?

But for some reason—maybe it was boredom or the fact that those albums aren’t exactly cheap—I stopped the transfer process right at year 2004. And then in 2006, I stopped making photo albums altogether.

But as you can guess, I didn’t exactly stop taking photos.

So this summer, I got the itch again—the itch to continue the Great Photo Album Project. To continue transferring photos into thos beautiful Kolo albums, which thankfully, they still make. (Although some of the blacks are slightly different.)

But here’s where it gets weird: I didn’t realize that I never bothered to transfer photos from my super old albums, the ones ranging from 1995 to 2001. I have no idea why I decided to start the Kolo transfer beginning with the year 2002, but that’s what I did.

Because I do have some anal retentive tendences, I had to go back and make it right. Luckily, the albums lined up pretty well and it hasn’t been too bad, but I did have to take photos out of albums I’d already done, re-sort and re-insert but this process is perfect for a person who can’t even walk out to get the mail without real effort. So that is what I’m working on right now.

One thing I’ve been doing as I’ve been moving photos is culling. Yep, I’m getting rid of photos that quite honestly didn’t need to be in a photo album in the first place. And just what types of photos? Ones that are repetitive. I realized that I don’t need 13 photos that are all close ups of Aidan. Just as I’m also doing with my digital library, it’s time to pare it down a bit.

(And by ‘getting rid of’ I simply mean putting them into boxes. I haven’t completely lost my mind, people.)


But here’s where it gets ambitious: I need to start making new albums.

The last photos I had printed for photo album homes was in 2006. That leaves 2007 to present day not currently in any photo album of any kind.

I have layouts sprinkled across those years, but there really is a value to me in having a chronological photographic record. So I’ve made a slightly ambitious but sensible plan.

I will choose 100 photos from each year since 2007 to have printed. These Kolo albums hold 300 photos, so that’s three years per album which I think is just about right. I just need to create some new folders in iPhoto and start compiling.

It’ll come out to less than 10 photos for each month and will require some concise editing, but I think it’s going to be really cool to have photos in albums for all these years I’ve overlooked.

I’ll use Persnickety Prints for printing the photos since I’ve been so happy with my digital Project Life pages.

And really, it’s not a bad use of time for a girl who quite literally can do nothing more than sit and shuffle back and forth from the office to the bathroom to the living room and back. (More on that later this week.)

I really feel like the credo from Artifact Uprising has inspired me to do this project as well, to preserve the disappearing beauty of the tangible. I want to touch and see my photos in a medium that isn’t pixelated.

To enhance my albums, I created a simple label (roughly 3 x 3.5 inches) to drop into each of the album windows. I just wanted something clean and classic.

If you’d like to use my label template, I’ve created a layered PSD file for you to download. I used the free font Arvo, a slab serif with some similarities to my favorite Archer font, for the template. Simply customize as needed, then print onto cardstock and trim just inside the lines. My Clean & Simple students will be very familiar with create a precision title that doesn’t rely on the Force Justify Alignment. This label is designed to work with the Kolo album windows, but could be modified to fit any album.


Note: The “LASTNAME” placeholder is a separate text layer. You can type in your last name, and adjust the size and placement as needed. The goal is to get your name flush with the “FAMILY PHOTOS” text, lining it up on the guides you’ll see in the template. This layered PSD file is for Photoshop or Photoshop Elements only.

Download KoloLabelSet

I’m curious about you: do you keep chronological photo albums? Yes? No? Reasons? Or do you have other ways of keeping your photos on track?



Cathy ZielskeMy current Photo Album Project + a free download

43 Comments on “My current Photo Album Project + a free download”

  1. #1

    It’s great that you are filling your post op days with one of those really want to get done projects. I’m thinking of getting my folks on board to scan and journal photos from my childhood.

  2. #2

    I’m getting ready to dash out the door to work, so have read halfway through your post. All I can say, is OH.MY.GOSH. The fact that you said you have layouts, but still have albums to create is akin to the heavens opening up and raining chocolate!! I am liberated!!!

    Seriously, a decade of scrapbooking guilt has fallen away like autumn leaves!

    Thank you, Cathy! I have been collecting Kolo albums for the past 3-4 years, and am thrilled to say, I feel inspired to start compiling the photos/layouts I’ve had sitting in bins for almost 10 years. (It doesn’t hurt that I took your online class recently either!)

    Will be back later today to finish reading your post…

  3. #3

    What a great project for you while being laid up. These look wonderful! I have been thinking of putting my older pictures into some sort of an album or even a PL album. They have been stuffed inside of a box for years and it would be nice to put them in a good home.
    You have also inspired me to go thru my photos on the computer and start deleting the ones not needed. Keep the inspiration coming, would love to see the insides of these.
    Sending you hugs and patience for another day of sitting around.

  4. #4

    yes, but haven’t printed for awhile, and have just decided to go digital. Same process as you – some precise editing and selection (I take LOTS of photos!) and dropped into a simple photo album style digital template. Simply because of the room/storage factor! And I might even stick a disc of the years images in the back the printed photo book too. (in monthly folders). I’ve got around 3-4 years to do to be “up to date”.

  5. #5

    Seems like a good project to keep you busy while recovering (sending you good vibes !), it’s also a very inspiring one and I might join you in selecting 100 photos per year (seems a reasonable number to me too) to be printed and put into albums (that would be 1100 photos to print + the cost of the albums, I’ll have to save a bit before being able to do that !).

    I have no photo album for the digital ages (starting in 2002) and all my photo albums before were chronological, except for one or maybe two vacation / special events albums.
    I do have backups of my digital files (photos and layouts) so they’re quite safe, but I would love to have them in albums and be able to flip through pages and enjoy the physical object. I’ve already started purging the digital files, there won’t be much purging needed for the printed photos for in those days I took fewer photos…

  6. #6

    Hello…be still my heart!! I have chronological photo albums (Book bound scrapbooks from Exposures with old style paper scrapbook pages and tissue interleaving – they no longer make them ) from 1988 to about 2003, simple simple photos and ephemera stuck on a page… from 2003-07 I scrapbooked chronologically and that was fine. I started Project Life in 2011 and have ’12 and now ’13.

    I no longer “scrapbook” chronologically (except for PL) my layouts and process have been liberated from that yoke, but I realized a few weeks ago that all the photos from ’07 – ’11 are on hard drives and pretty much not printed out…anywhere. And I’ve been thinking how best to remedy this situation (photo pockets? PL for each of those years?) so THANKS so much for the Kolo album link! I really love book bound albums, they are easy to look at and hold and look nice on the shelf. I think I’ve found my answer!


  7. #7
    Laura A in Oregon

    I also have chronological albums until I started Project Life 3-4 years ago. I do still try to make some pages to put in a book for each of the two kids, that they can take with them when they move out. They probably won’t want to lug several books to their college dorm, but I feel good knowing they have highlights of their life’s documented. If they want specifics, they will need to pull out PL!

  8. #8

    I have recently revisted the photo album, I have something set up like this for my film and early digi years when I printed then I am using your templates (love them) and making 12×12 blurb books from 2009 on. I have the print albums done, but am of course behind on my digi ones. I find that I too need a chronological record, and having done that I can be super selective about what I scrap.

  9. #9
    audrey v

    I was always pretty consistent about putting all of my photos into photo albums. When I first started scrapbooking (back in the day of film), I still put all of my photos into albums, and scrapbooked the doubles. One day I noticed that I had 50+ photo albums and 50+ scrapbooks. I was thinking I needed to build a bigger house to store them, lol. I do scrapbook chronologically and I scrapbook most photos that I think are important, so once I switched to digital photos, I no longer kept up the photo albums. I like my system, because it is incentive to me to scrapbook a lot, so I get most of the stories told about most of the photos that mean something to me. Once the kids are out of the house, I can envision making a yearly digital photo book, at the very least. It’s all good, however you choose to do it. The important thing is that we are doing something with our photos.

  10. #10

    Yes, I keep chronological albums. Since 2008, only digital, one album per year. I have rubbermaid totes full of paper scrapbooks that are precious to me, but I have nowhere to display them since we moved and in the basement they remain. Recently we had a wildfire threat and we prepped for evacuation. I wasn’t worried at all about my digital albums, they were all backed up nicely on Shutterfly, ready to reprint if needed. As I thought about lugging all those totes of paper scrapbooks up, I wondered if anyone has ever found a way to transfer all those to digital? Is there a service? Is there such a thing as a 12 by 12 scanner? I have lumpy bumpy albums, and scanned wouldn’t be the same, but at least I’d have them safe in case of fire! You were working on going back and fixing your albums and it reminded me I wanted to fix mine into a safe place somehow.

  11. #11
    Tracy Smith

    I’m sort of a nutjob with my albums. First, let me say that none of them match. I do a ‘regular’ album chronologically by year, starting in 1997 (my first child was born and I needed something to do with all those photos). Then I have albums for special trips I’ve taken, I usually have enough photos to fill more than one album! Starting with 2012, I actually separated out all of my travel photos from the ‘regular’ album, even if it was just a weekend trip somewhere within the state. Otherwise, my yearly albums will be way too big.

    So far for 2013, I will have the regular/family album, an album that will contain all of the smaller trips/weekends away, an album just for the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, an album for the rest of London experience, and an album for Paris. Yikes!!!

  12. #12

    I started putting all my printed photos into albums last week! Many of my photos are random sizes,3×3,4×4,3×5,3.5×5,etc. After I finish with the printed photos I’ll start printing photos from my computer. It is really so nice to have them in books. Already my girls are loving to see these photos that have been stored away for years.

  13. #13

    Cathy, do you add journaling to these albums? Or just let the photos stand alone? I already have all my childhood photos printed and they’d easily fit into one album. I’ve been wanting to move them out of a box.

  14. #15

    Does wanting to count? How about intended to? Now, I have so many photos with no dates (who knew I would forget?) and ones where the date and time on the camera were wrong, it has become an impossibility. But I can always start from here.

  15. #16
    Tammy B

    I absolutely have chronological albums. And they go back to 2001 when, after every roll of film was developed, it went into an album to be scrapbooked. Over the last week I have been going through my digital files and copying the pictures on to discs (in chronological order!) and then printing a few here and there. Not every photo gets its own space in the album, I usually put 3 or 4 photos per pocket, but it’s nice to have them to look at every once in a while. Family vacations/trips get their own photo album.

  16. #17
    Debby Riendeau

    Glad you have found a project to keep you busy during your recovery. Thanks for the download link for the font – I have been looking for one similar to that.

  17. #18
    Wendy McAllister

    Cathy- this is JUST what I need- I am trying to get the energy to get some albums together for DS that is a senior this year…so graduation is not far off! You have always been an inspiration to me and I am soooooo going to rethink how I scrap these albums for him! THANK YOU!!!
    I wish you a speedy recovery too-

  18. #19

    Thanks Cathy! I always love seeing your process!

    So, I used to keep up with chronological photo albums –since my first child was born in 1993. I survived the transition to digital and came up with a process for printing that was working pretty well. Then came the iphone! I love my phone, of course, but having pics from multiple sources has thrown off my process. As a result that I haven’t printed since 2011. Your post gives me new hope and motivation.

    I hope you are back on your feet (literally and figuratively) soon. In the meantime, I am impressed that you are making good use of your time! Thanks as always for sharing!

  19. #21
    Nancy Barnes

    I plan to use PL to get my older photos present in our lives. I just haven’t decided if I am going to mix the PL with layouts. We’ll see how that pans out.

  20. #22

    Thanks for the download. I so wish I was being as productive – even with you laid up not being able to move around much. I am so far behind on photo organisation it isn’t funny anymore!

  21. #23

    I think I need to have elective surgery so I can do something like this. 😉

    Thanks for keeping it real…it does my heart good knowing a guru like you has years of photos that need to be put into something. I stopped scrapbooking about 2009 when I told myself I was going digital and getting rid of the endless papers and cutters and whatnot. I just have never made the step. I want to get back to chronological annual albums (I only scrapbooked that and trips) but haven’t decided how.

    Can I ask why you choose to print the photos and put them in a sleeve album (kickin it old school!) instead of digitally, and getting the book printed?

  22. #24
    Barb in AK

    This is very timely. I spent my weekend thinking about the 20-something magnetic albums upstairs. Some of the photos I had reprinted (way back in ’97) and scrapped them into albums. But the tons of other photos–hmmm. Yes, I need to cull them. Perfect idea to put them into Family Photo books 🙂 Okay, so that makes project number 5 on my list of things that need to be done with my stacks of photos 😉
    Thanks for the inspiration. I’d love to read/see more details of what you have done inside the books.

  23. #25
    Jenny from Germany

    This post makes me want to break my foot so I will have the time to get working on my photos. Like scanning old pictures so they are “safe” in case of whatever. I have tons of pictures in photo boxes. Mainly I just want to get my exchange year in the US into PL albums. I do have the photos in albums but having tons of memorabilia (I’m a hoarder!) And then have the rest put into coordinating photo albums.

  24. #26
    Annet M

    I can’t even remember the last time that I printed photos, never mind put them in albums. But when we moved from Australia, we brought along a lot of my husband’s old photos and I promised him to organise them/present/save them (cause I ain’t moving that many back!). Lots of work ahead but culling will be the word of the day. I also considered scanning them all in… just not sure if I’m up for that…
    But definitely need to get better at sharing our memories. Actually I also need to get better at moving more eating well (even though I’m not in this year’s class). So basically, I just need to get better… baby steps…

  25. #27

    I just started a similar project today. I am looking at each picture asking myself : do I adore it ? If not, it goes in the shredder. The one that I keep because they are worth keeping will be scanned and also kept by year in plastic divider. I told my daughter that I was doing this for her and we decide on what was going to be kept and in what kind of support. She is 25 years old so she likes to have her pictures in her computer. Me, I like to look at picture in my hand. I have been laughing and crying all days looking at pictures. I really enjoy reading your blog.

  26. #28

    I want to do this too, but using photo books. I don’t have the patience to slip that many photos in and I am a digital scrapbooker (I also don’t have room for thick photo albums). I have lots of scrapbook pages and baby photo albums for both kids but that’s about it. Love your idea of 100 photos per year. I plan to start at 2006 when we got our digital camera. I already rate my photos in Aperture and have “Best of” smart albums set up per year so I just need to get in and print. Thanks for the push!

  27. #29
    Megan Anderson

    So awesome, Cathy! I’ve had a smilier itch recently; I’m freeing my childhood / heritage photos from boxes and slipping them into Project Life albums. They’re basically going to be photo albums, but with words! I love the idea of simplifying in this way, but I’ll bet that pairing down to 100 photos a year is going to be HARD!

  28. #30

    Tami, good question. I think its just because I already have the albums, so many of them, and I like the idea of continuity. But maybe a book might be a better idea. Hmmm. Didnt even think of that.

  29. #32

    Thanks for this Cathy! This post is just what I need to get motivated to print more photos! I love what you’ve done here, and I bet you’ll be glad once you go through your photo albums and can look at all the amazing photos at the end!

  30. #33
    nancy l

    I stopped scrapping chronologically about five years ago. I took Stacy’s LOM class and fell I love with that idea. I do make albums though of specific trips and Xmas and Halloween so I do continue with some chronological scrapping. Have choosing those 100 pictures per year. That’s where I would get stuck. Too many decisions.

  31. #34

    Cathy, how many albums do you have right now? How many will you have when you are “caught up” to 2013?

  32. #35

    Do put anything in besides pictures? Label them in any way, or “place cards” between the years or anything?

  33. #37

    I will say 10 a month doesn’t sound like enough to me. That would scare me. LOL I’d probably have to do a whole album per year.

    I’m excited about this post because I have BIG PLANS to do a major photo organization project in January and February of 2014. That’s when I know I will stay home a lot and can spread it all out. My problem is, when I want to scrapbook a photo from my childhood or even 2003, my photos are in too many places. I have some of them on CD’s (digi pics), some are in a box, some are in a drawer, some in photo albums, some already scrapped. I am drowning in photos. I actually have almost all my good photos printed already – but that’s another quandary because that means I have like 5,000 photos waiting to be organized in some fashion. Until I started scrapping (same time you did), I was so diligent about putting my pics in very nice photo albums and I have at least 10 completed scrapbooks but they only go through 2006 maybe? I lost my motivation for scrapping around then although I continue to piddle. 🙂 I have about 20 brand new, 12×12 American Crafts albums that match and my plan is to organize my pics by year and then month and then fill those albums with 12×12 plain pages and divided protectors so that we can at least look at them and if I ever want to make a layout about them, I will just add it in. I really want my photos where we can enjoy them. I hope you’ll share more about your process!! Would love to see!

  34. #39

    I was soooo good about putting photos in albums back in the day (that would be Before Kids). Unfortunately, I used photo sleeves that weren’t photo safe (we didn’t know back then), so I’ve since pulled most of them and (ack) stacked them in photo boxes to be put in albums again “later.”

    I was also really good about adding photos to albums the very first year of my oldest son’s life. (Had to move those as well, but at least they *are* in new albums now.) But since then…not so much. :-/ I have a bazillion photo boxes, with photos all sorted and labeled by event/date. But we never go through them, of course. I have grand plans to do a Library of Memories with them but it hasn’t happened.

    And don’t get me started on the digital era (starting circa 2005, though I overlapped for a couple of years – that was especially crazy). I go through phases of printing some photos and then I don’t print any at all for long periods of time. It’s pretty bad. I did just print 200+ photos that I’d uploaded to FB in recent months, mostly to use up a couple of Costco coupons I had lying around. Seems daunting to go back through the literally 1000’s (10’s of 1000’s, if we’re going to be honest) (I have almost 5000 photos on my iPhone alone…just in the past 9 months :O) and printing the best of them.

    But I love the idea of just pulling together some representative photos (100 sounds like a great number) from each year and at least having those albums to remind us of what happened then. Thanks for sharing, Cathy!

  35. #40

    oh how I have missed your blog!!!! (we moved this year and I’m just now getting back to “normal” life – whatever that is …)

    I really like your idea of printing 10 pics per month … last year I printed a collage of photos – one 8×10 per month – for a total of 12 pages and it was a great way to glance at a year in a short amount of time.

    I was trying to scrap chronologically, but that left me feeling behind always. Now I “scrap off the top of my desk” with divided 12″ pages … whatever is laying on the desk that I want to scrap gets put in an album with notes (if I can remember what I want to say) and there is no order. It gets me putting things in albums faster for us to be able to enjoy them sooner. 🙂

  36. #41
    Young Chang-Miller

    I like your laid back approach! And your honesty about too many supplies – would love to see how you decide to weed through them!

  37. #42

    Now that a few years have passed, would love to see an update to this post. Did you ever get that chronological record of photos? I am starting a similar project and am sticking with albums instead of photo books so I can include memorabilia. Thanks for a great post.

    1. #42.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Beth, I should do that! Because no… I’m still not on track with it. I still have the goal of choose 100 photos from each year for albums, but my issue is space. I don’t have any more room on my shelves for the dang albums. I need a bigger house. lol!

      But yes, I will add this to my list of things to post about this year. It’s a good one and I have updated thoughts on it for sure.

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