What should I take pictures of now?

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life55 Comments


Someone recently asked me, “So Cathy, you have no little kids at home, one’s away at college, one’s camera shy… and you’re self employed. What do you take pictures of?”

I have no freaking idea.

Okay, not totally true, but consider this: I love projects like Ali Edwards Day in the Life. In fact, I feel like at this stage of the game, it’s more do-able than say, her Week in the Life project. Because the question posed is accurate: I’m just about a year and a half from dipping my toe into the Empty Nest world and what will that look like considering I make my living in scrapbooking?

Good question, right?

So a few days ago, I thought, “Let’s just take pictures and see what we get on a typical day where I have nothing special planned.”

Here’s what I got:

6:30 a.m.—I come down to find Dan drinking his protein smoothie before heading off to work. This is a common scene. It happens daily. Though he varies what he’s wearing.

7:10 a.m.—I took a shower and got dressed. This is not a common scene. It happens sporadically. But when it does, there’s a 90 percent chance I’ll be wearing that outfit.

8:10 a.m.—I stealthily take a shot of Cole who is finishing his breakfast and preparing for rain. Internally, I hear an angel choir because I just took a shot of my 17-year-old.

8:35 a.m.—I pull over and take this photo because I love nature. This is evident because I remain inside my car to take the photo.

8:40 a.m.—I put my iPhone low to the ground and take this photo featuring one of many rotting apples that are presently pummeling my deck each day. It’s not as good a shot as I think it is in the moment.

9:30 a.m.—I make my own protein smoothie and get busy laying out the Winter issue of Scrapbook & Cards Today magazine. The filled in boxes mean that page has been designed. You go, Cathy!

10:15 a.m.—I’m on Cup No. 3 of coffee and decide to take a selfie. Might not be my best choice for angle.

12:15 p.m.—A lunch of cooked ground turkey and veggies (better than it sounds) while watching the latest episode of This Is Us. I put my phone on a tripod and used the self timer. This is a decidedly better angle of my face.

2:45 p.m.—A snack of dried cherries and almonds from Trader Joes. This is my tipping point. Once I have resorted to snack shots, I know in my heart: the day is done photographically.

Now here’s the thing: am I glad I have all of these photos? Well, yes, more or less, but the reality is that I could live with fewer of them.

Right now is definitely a time of transition for me. The ages of my offspring. The changing of my husband’s career. The uncertainty of what the hell I will end up doing for the next 10 years in this industry, if I’m fortunate enough to be alive and kicking. Lots of question marks and uncharted avenues, really.

Regardless of whether I commit an image and words to paper in a formal way, stories and their tender trails will always be something I cherish. That is something I know for sure.

And I think that’s what makes up a life. Stories that connect from one instant to the next.

So to answer that question, of what to take photos of… I guess I would have to say, we’ll see what continues to shake out.


Speaking of stories that connect… November kicks off next Tuesday and I will be doing my annual 30 Days of Thankful album project. This year, I’m offering a mini course which is really just designed to inspire you to join in and create an album project of your own! The course is short and sweet and priced accordingly. Registration closed on November 15th! Sign up today and get ready to document what you’re grateful for all month long. As many times as I’ve done this project, it never fails to ground me and remind me that this life stuff is pretty alright.







Cathy ZielskeWhat should I take pictures of now?

55 Comments on “What should I take pictures of now?”

  1. #1

    I LOVE all those photos Cathy – even all the rotting apples hitting the deck! I so don’t take enough selfies, and as a genealogist I really really should! Yep – all great photos!

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      We definitely DO need to take photos of ourselves. I mean, I think of how few photos there are of my mother, you know? So at least I’ll have a few of those. 😉

  2. #2

    Love the photos. I’m getting to this stage too. Hard when your children don’t want to be in the photos anymore but still there are stories to tell

  3. #3

    After raising six kids, I entered the world of empty nesters last year. I had been doing Project Life on a weekly basis since 2011, but with no kids at home, much of my weekly spreads were fillers. So this year, I’m using PL but doing a subject approach to my year. I have four pages on the movies we’ve seen. Another two on the tv shows we watch. Two on this election and my thoughts about all the players. A spread on the Olympics. Several spreads on world and national news. And then, of course, there are personal events that still take place whether we are Empty Nesters or not: birthdays and vacations and just…stuff. Anyway, I’m loving my PL this year and am happy with this new approach. It fits what my life is now. But isn’t that the beauty of scrap booking?

    1. #3.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well that sounds like a fun idea! And YES, making it fit your life is the beauty of it.

    2. #3.2
      Debbie Kim

      This is such a good idea! I’m in the midst of little kids (7 & 2 years) but I will be keeping this in mind – it actually reminds me of what I did while single and pre-kids….hmmm…

    3. #3.4

      Wonderful idea. As a woman with a husband and fur babies I sometimes wonder why I’m doing PL. These are great ideas on tracking what’s going on in my world and THEE world. Cool!

  4. #4
    Lisa Russo

    Just think about all of the people – back in the day with us – who scrapbooked when they didn’t have kids at all! They scrapbooked their hobbies, their interests, their weekend excursions. Their cars, their pets, their recipes. So many facets of life that extend beyond kids! 🙂

  5. #5
    Kathy Fehr

    Since we’ve never had children this has been a question I’ve had to address ever since I started scrapbooking. So what do I work on – I have an album of a year of walking our dog. Since she recently passed this is a wonderful memory of her for me. I also did an album celebrating my mothers’ 80th birthday. You look for and you find ideas everywhere.

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, love hearing this, Kathy! And you know it’s true, there are ideas everywhere. 🙂

  6. #6

    “I love nature. This is evident because I remain inside my car to take the photo.” Hehe 🙂
    Also, I LOVE Scrapbook and Cards Today!!
    And what a great post on what to photograph…. I have two young children right now, but feel a bit worn out from trying to documenting every day. I haven’t finished PLing 2015, and find mini albums that document special events suit my life better right now… Though I still snap the cute moments, I’m not as focused on documenting something special in every single day

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Did you read the post Ali Edwards wrote the other day about what is “enough”? I think it inspired me to write this post.

      Part of why I went to a monthly “year in the life” Project Life approach was because for me, weekly was feeling overwhelming. I think whatever we choose to do will be enough, you know?

  7. #8

    My third child moved out of our house 5 years ago. I have had an abundance of things to photograph, even the holidays when most of my children cannot be home. I think the challenge lies in how you decide to go on with your life after you have raised your children. Basically, I went back to being who I was before children but only better, wiser and open minded. I just sent off 294 photos for the month of September. So proof is in the printing that I still have many many things to take photos of. And now I finally have more time to frame them into scrappy pages and to tell our stories.

  8. #9
    Sandy Goldman

    I am right there with you Cathy. I am really looking forward to creating my first Gratitude album next week and hoping this is an eye opening experience to slow down and appreciate everything around me. And also get out of my frequent rut of mainly scrapbooking events and give me a reason to take more pictures!

    On a side note…your smoothies look delicious. Do you have a recipe? Also is that Dan’s lunch box?

      1. #9.1.1
        Sunny Girl

        I too have a smoothie in the mornings. and I use chia seeds. I get a two pound bag for $7.29 (or a price thereabouts) at costco. Naturally I buy three bags at a time because of the one year stretch when there was a crop shortage and chia seeds were crazy expensive. (I may or may not have cradled the bags of chia seeds in my arms when I saw that costco was carrying them again.)

        LOVE this post of yours… I can read it and process what I’m seeing vs. the teen version of using snapchat story to show glimpses of their days. I feel like I blink and the image is gone – no time to process what I saw.

  9. #10

    WWen I started scrapbooking, back in 2000, I had no kids. I scrapbooked pictures of my dogs, vacations, my husband’s training, our wedding. I went back and did all the photos from the beginning of our relationship. Trust me, Cathy. You”l find something to scrapbook about!

  10. #11
    Carol Labuski

    Pretty much what my days look like, too, Cathy, except the people are different! Ha ha! Thinking I may also end up going back to monthly spreads for next year again. I tried it last year and seemed to miss the weekly format but I’m thinking going monthly again will free up more time for other projects.

  11. #13
    chris s.

    well, i ask myself this daily. this is my first school year without kids. my oldest graduated from college in may and my youngest from HS in june. it’s very weird not having them around. my husband was in the navy for 22 years so those boys were my whole life. i didn’t work cuz my hubs was on a submarine most of the time. i didn’t want my boys growing up without us so we managed and they are fabulous men now. but i miss them every single day. luckily they don’t have aversions to having their pictures taken so they send me pics from their days, like for day in the life yesterday. they both sent me 3 pics each. it’s the little things that keep me going. but i’m struggling with this hobby and my new found life without the boys and wondering if i should even do it anymore.

    1. #13.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I totally get this… at least I’m getting closer to this, as Cole will graduate from high school in a year and a half.

      I have always loved to journal. Even this blog, honestly, has really been my online journal. I haven’t been using it as much in this way, but part of what has kept me blogging for 10 years (actually more than that, now!) is the love of recording life.

      Some stuff in this later era, however, feels more personal and maybe it’s not stuff I should be writing about. And sometimes, the same goes with my memory keeping. I don’t do the number of pages I once did back in the day, and yet life is still full and rich with so much going on… even if it’s only internally.

      I’m definitely going to revisit this topic!

  12. #14

    You have inspired me to do a DITL thing again. I work basically from home, I have child in graduate school and one in college (she lives at home), my husband is self employed also (we work together) so sometimes I have to make an excuse to leave the house so I have more interesting things to take photos of. Off to the gym this rainy PNW morning-it is still dark here.

    Love the apple shot!!!

  13. #15
    Gail T

    Never having had children I’ve scrapbooked trips, nature, our dog (sadly no longer with us), things around the house, our gardens, family history, a special album of my niece’s life as a gift for her before she got married, etc. There aren’t pictures every day or even every week but I still find things to scrapbook and have now for over 20 years. Like you I found doing project life weekly though just didn’t work for us and that monthly is much better. Thanks for making me realize that. Believe me, there will always be something to scrap about.

  14. #16

    I’m still in the trenches of kid photos although my oldest (14) is becoming resistant to the camera in his face while he eats a bowl of cereal these days. He does not yet appreciate A Day In the Life! I can’t wait for the days of documenting just for me, but it seems there’s never the time or space. I would love to do a pocket album all about our town through the different seasons of the year. I can’t wait to go back and tell stories of my young adulthood. And I definitely have stories that I want my parents to share with me to document them while they are still with us.

    You have such a knack for telling stories in a concise but interesting way— the picture is the icing on the cake

  15. #17

    We don’t have kids living at home (or rather visiting us on school breaks) anymore. But our lives continue to go on and I continue to document “us”. Sure, some weeks there are more pictures of our pup than of my husband or I and thats OK. Much of our filler is snapchat pictures from our 3 nieces and 2 nephews. (The fact that these 5 snapchat us pretty much every day is fantastic, given that four of them are 17yrs old and one is 21 yrs old!). I don’t worry so much about what to take pictures of because life is full of so many opportunities (even your rotten apples photo has a story otherwise you wouldn’t of taken the time to squat down and shoot that picture!). The question I ask often though is “what will happen to all of these books about our random day to day – when we are no longer here?” My husband always replies, it doesn’t matter because we are enjoying them now and we won’t be here to care what happens to them later. And then he insists that one of the kids will want them. So I continue to shoot and document and we continue to enjoy.

  16. #18

    Soon enough, there will be weddings and then…. GRANDCHILDREN!

    My 4 year-old grand and I were looking through my 2015 album the other day and almost every page was “and who is this?”, “ADDIE!” “That’s right!”.

    Oh, it is such fun! We’ve been empty nesters for almost 10 years. I’ve never run out of photographic material, even pre-grands. My life isn’t that exciting either… No regular weekend excursions, no marathons being run, not many hobbies outside of scrapbooking; you get the idea.

    Scrappers, there is hope! There will always be a life to document.?

  17. #19
    Debbie Kim

    Love you Cathy! I will read and follow your musings no matter what – kids or no kids. It’s the creativity that we love and your take on it… Maybe now you will have time to but “crap” BACK into scrapbooking, then take it out again… that’ll take 20 years at least. You’re good 🙂

  18. #20
    Madeline St Onge

    Really likes this blog post Cathy. I live alone now so unless it is something involving the grand urchins 😉 I have nothing to take pictures of. I have been taking photos of the house I bought in June and all the changes I am making to it. So I can hear what you are saying

  19. #21

    My kids are grown and gone….I may take a sporadic pic of a moment in the day of what I am doing and fb post. Then like snapchat…..it disappears after a couple days. My scrapbooking photos are now of events like apple picking, a local festival, holiday gatherings, etc…..or a vacation. The events then get put into a “year in review” album….and vacations go into a vacation album.

  20. #22
    DeAnna Bennett

    My favorite albums, my favorite layouts, are the stories I tell about what I am thinking, about what I value, about how I respond to an image, a situation, a piece of music, an event. And I still have little kids at home. I still take pics by the thousands, and document them in weekly PL spreads. But I think if you turn the lens to you, inside you, the stories will continue to flow. It is what draws us to you. It is what will resonate for your adult children. Just my 2 cents. Love the blog!

  21. #23
    Amanda Maddox

    My oldest moved out 3 years ago, and I continued to document my younger children. Then, my oldest MOVED BACK IN and I’ve picked up right where I left off with him! 😉 At this rate, I’ll never NOT have kids to photograph! lol

  22. #24

    Took 6 months off from scrapbooking. Just didn’t feel motivated at the time (plus I miss having a local scrapbook store for the latest inspiration). But now I’m energized and getting caught up on my kids books. You and your photos are my guilty pleasure. Inspires me! Keep taking those everyday photos…especially when you run errands. It will make people wonder what you’re up to!

  23. #25

    I don’t care what you write and photograph; just keep doing both! You’ve been an inspiration to me since the days before scrapbooking was big on the internet, and I had to get help and info from scrapping magazines. You’re the best, Cathy! You’ll always be one of my favorites in the industry . . . as long as you keep writing and taking photos. =) XO!

  24. #26
    Tracie Claiborne

    Boy have I got a lot to say about this! I love you but those types of photos bore me so I would not be interested in scrapping them more than once a year. (Like a DITL.) Here’s my question for you….do you feel you’ve already scrapped your entire life? I think the beauty of the place you are now is that you finally have time to go back to all the photos and stories you didn’t get to because you were scrapping your current life. Have you scrapped your entire childhood? Your entire teen years? How about your husband’s? His family history? Yours? What he does for a living? All your favorite things? You still have kids, they just might not be with you as much but even when they’re out of the house, they’ll still be your kids so can’t you just steal their social media pics and scrap them or say “let’s take a pic” once a month. I have drawers and drawers full of pictures waiting for the day I’m not trying to keep up with our crazy, busy life so it’s hard to imagine trying to think of what I will scrap next. I could make a layout about pop culture each month because my tastes change, so one month movies, the next TV shows I’m currently loving, the next music, and then I would switch to my favorite restaurants, favorites layouts could just be all I scrap. How about all the trips you’ve ever been on? Maybe this is your cue to plan a romantic getaway with Dan the Man so you can take some wonderful fall photos. I know you have been a prolific scrapper for years but do you not have the drawers of photos we all have??? Come on woman! 🙂 -Signed, Your Bossy Friend

    1. #26.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Fall getaway? on a new teacher’s salary? LOL!

      I hear you. And yeah, there are a lot of stories to tell… FO sure. 🙂

  25. #28

    These are the kinds of photos I take. I have a 21 yr old daughter at home who doesn’t mind having her photo taken, I work a full time job, I’m not happy in my current life situation but I do what I can to keep a smile in my heart for myself, one way being is to do projects like DITL, WITL, 30 Days of Thankful, December Daily, etc. etc. etc! (Enter Yul Brenner’s voice here. https://youtu.be/1JHH6iwgIek) 😀

    1. #28.1

      I also wanted to say, I feel these projects are what WE each want to make them. Some content may be boring to some, some see the simplicity of everydayness subtly beautiful.

  26. #29
    Tracie Claiborne

    I meant that when *I* take these pictures they bore me!!! Not yours. I figured you would know what I meant by that. If you took those pics every day, that wouldn’t be too exciting. I think that was kind of the point of your post, no?

  27. #31
    Karenliz Henderson

    I am an empty nester and I don’t scrapbook but I’m working on my family tree. I found that pictures were taken of the every day even though it was boring or nothing going on. It has given me insight to their daily lives that I knew nothing about. Maybe I should give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  28. #32
    Deirdre Keating

    I am in a different season—with three boys between 8 and 14, and a full time job and too many stories I want to be capturing but no time to scrap.

    So your post sounds promising to me. I know I’ll miss these days, but I look forward to a day when I can scrapbook the photos I take now!

  29. #33

    I took up photography and now my scrapbooks are about my photography projects. There is so much to take pictures of and such a variety of ways. Consider how fun doing a page is when you have beautiful shots and paper to play with creatively. So many times in the past, I was using the pictures (some were not particularly great nor interesting) to document life and the paper to add interest. Funny thing is I find myself journaling more!

  30. #34

    When both daughters left the nest, I decided to keep up with PL just on a monthly basis instead of anoicture a day. It’s worked out well. Admittedly some months are rather boring but what the heck?! You find pictures and stories where you can. On a separate note the nature shot taken feom inside the car almost made me pee my pants! Too funny! You could change careers and go into comedy…

  31. #35

    Hi Cathy, I have been an empty nester for over 10 years. I stick to monthly PL spreads in a 6×8 album. Some stories need the 12×12, like vacations or special events because I want to use more photos. What I like about the 6×8 is that I am limited and so I choose a small number or even one photo only and focus on the story. To be completely honest it’s therapeutic. Like you, I feel many of my stories are very personal but I love to document with hidden journaling. It’s challenging in a good way. I also enjoy WITL. This year the most special of fur kids I have been blessed to love died during WITL. My album is a priceless keepsake because at any other time, I probably wouldn’t have captured the story of why he is so special to our family. When I thought about it later the proverbial lightbulb appeared and I finally understood…these stories of now are for me. When I am old and grey, I will love them and enjoy them like my son loves and enjoys the stories I captured of him growing up. I realize this is long but I hope it makes sense. Thank you for your honesty and inspiration to be who we are, no apologies. Take care.

    1. #35.1

      I really want to try the 6×8 format. Think I may do that for a WITL or DITL and see how I like it. (Maybe even to do catch up scrapbooking for those times I’ve captured photos + journaling for a “..in the life”…and never created the actual scrapbook! I have, um, a few of those.)

  32. #36
    Jenny B.

    Love this post, Cathy. I laughed out loud at you staying in the car to take the nature picture. 🙂 Also, I love your design checklist / graphic organizer! I need to do that for my Project Life album(s). I am so far behind. I think it would be helpful to have a visual reminder of how much I’ve finished (since they’re all digital, I can’t just flip through the album to see). 🙂

  33. #37
    Linda Fisher

    How I loved reading this. I’m in your place right now. My 17 and 15 year olds don’t appreciate the pictures so much, and there’s only so many pictures to take of our German Shepherd looking adorable sleeping on the chair. My Project Life albums have dwindled from weekly to monthly, and even at monthly they are just two page spreads. Take out pictures of said German Shepherd and, well, you can guess what those monthly pages would look like. I too am waiting to see what shakes out. Maybe just fewer pictures, which is okay, because at least there are still pictures.

  34. #38

    Thanks for this post. I’m facing this in the next 5 months (my kids are in their 30’s, but I’ve been living with my daughter and her kids for the last 5 years and I’m moving out). While I’m excited to get my own place, I was wondering how “capture memories” when it’s just me! I guess the story becomes “A Year In My Life”.

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