What do you do when you’re a VERY behind scrapbooker? Make easy photo books!

Easy photo book made using Shutterfly as a scrapbooking time-saver

Disclosure: In exchange for the honest review of our experience which appears in this post, our family received discount coupons for easy photo books from Shutterfly’s digital scrapbooking service. I have been a Shutterfly customer for more than 5 years with no prior compensation, and all comments and views are my own!

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that I love to scrapbook.

Very specifically, I love the feeling of taking printed-out photos, arranging them on pretty paper, adding some notes and embellishments, and seeing them turn into a stack of finished pages and, finally, a nice scrapbook.

There’s a huge sense of accomplishment to having a shelf of finished scrapbooks and fewer and fewer boxes of photos.


That all sounds good in theory, but what actually happens is more like this.

My scrapbooking nightmare

Normally, here’s what precedes that wonderful scrapbooking experience.

  1. Freak out about tons of photos piling up on phones and camera.
  2. Sit down and have marathon “dump,” getting photos off devices and onto computer.
  3. Drop photos in big ol’ folder inside other folder marked “To Do” and leave them to languish.
  4. Get freaked out again, sort photos from big ol’ folder into subfolders.
  5. Upload photos into Shutterfly or onto a local site to order prints.
  6. Receive prints in the mail; freak out again at HOW MANY I ordered.
  7. Desperately attempt to sort them in storage boxes.
  8. Attend a scrapbooking event, with boxes of photos in tow. Freak out when I see 300 of them from one event, and spend most of event doing here-and-there photos but ignoring big events.
  9. Freak out at how behind I am when I see big chunks of photos from the past few years (and earlier) not yet touched.

Do you see a theme here?

I am a perpetually behind and freaked-out scrapbooker!

Traditional scrapbooks

Completed traditional scrapbooking projects

The good news is, the freaking out does kind of work. I’ve completed what I feel like is a great number of traditional (meaning, not done on the computer) projects, including:

  • An album of my high-school years (1995-1999)
  • Sarah’s baby album from birth to about age 3 (2000-2003)
  • Our wedding album (2005)
  • An album for my tae kwon do progress, which is not “finished” but is up to date (2010-present)
  • Albums for Christmas 2007, Christmas 2008, Christmas 2009 and Christmas 2010
  • Full family albums (sometimes two volumes!) for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011
  • Bunches of mini-books from trips, holidays and so on as gifts and for ourselves
  • Two homeschool portfolios (yes, I count these!)

Sarah, meanwhile, has completed a 2008 album of “Sarah’s favorite things” and a 4-H club album that won her an “outstanding historian” award in 2011. She’s also got a two-volume wildlife journal for 4-H in progress, and is working on an album of our pet photos.

In-progress and not-yet-started scrapbooking projects

I’ve got several projects that are in various stages of ideas or completion. Works in progress include:

  • An album I’m working on with my mom for her side of our family (her parents, brothers and her early life).
  • A 2012 family album (and possibly a separate Christmas album).
  • A 2013 family album.

And the not-yet-started projects include:

  • A “beach album” of family trips to various shore points from 2005 until present, starting with our 2005 honeymoon to Mexico.
  • A family album of my dad’s side of our family, including his early life.
  • A HUGE HEAP OF EVERYTHING from when I was born in 1982 until Sarah was born in 2000. (This. Is. Huge.)
  • Everything from after Sarah was born in 2000 that’s not somewhere else.
  • An album of favorite family recipes, again something that I’m working on with my mom.

That’s a lot. And we don’t show any signs of taking fewer photos, so… stuff is going to keep piling up. And that’s where I turn to methods outside my traditional scrapbooking to help document our lives and keep the “main albums” manageable.

New Shutterfly photo book made online

Easy photo books with Shutterfly

When I started scrapbooking, I had the idea in mind that I would do ALL traditional albums, and I’d include ALL our photos from the year (after editing, of course). That mindset was driving me crazy – and costing me a LOT of time and money. Especially when we’d take large family trips, I would end up with enough photos from each trip to create a full separate album, and that might cost me anywhere from $80 to $100 at minimum, plus at least 8 to 12 hours of my time!

That’s when I turned to digital scrapbooks to help me stay afloat.

Essentially, these easy photo books – digital scrapbooks – are a great way take my photos from a trip or holiday and preserve them in a way that’s just as long-lasting and durable as my traditional scrapbooks, but with a lot less time and money spent!

I’ve used a variety of digital scrapbooking programs, but since 2007, our family has relied most heavily on the photobook service from Shutterfly. (Actually, my husband, Chris, is an even bigger Shutterfly photobook user than I am; he’s made several albums as gifts!)

Our completed Shutterfly books include:

  • Family road trip to Wyoming in 2007
  • Fourth anniversary trip to Pa. Grand Canyon in 2009
  • My sister Carol’s wedding in 2009
  • Sarah and Chris’ day at the local street rod show in 2009
  • Fifth anniversary trip to Erie, Pa., in 2010
  • Sarah and Chris’ day exploring New Oxford, Pa., in 2010

And as of this week, I can check another huge project off the list. All our photos are off the camera and in Shutterfly for print-ordering purposes (just that would be a win!) and I’ve taken a HUGE piece of finishing 2012’s photos off my plate.

I decided to use the promotional codes Shutterfly sent me for $20 off and free shipping, combine them with a recent 30% off photobook sale, and get our pictures from last summer’s trip to Washington, D.C., taken care of!

Creating our Shutterfly hardcover photobook

While I’ve done some detailed customizations on past Shutterfly books, this D.C. trip was one that I wanted to get done fast.

I decided to use Shutterfly’s Simple Path service, in which you choose the pictures (either from your Shutterfly account, your computer or your Facebook account) and Shutterfly arranges them in a nice selection with 1 to 4 photos per page, in chronological order.

You can then easily tweak, add captions and titles, and rearrange, but the idea is that most of the work is done for you!

To start my book, I quickly browsed through about 1,000 photos I’d uploaded from the three-day trip, chose 220, and told Simple Path to get started. By default, it made a 99-page book for about $76, and that’s before any customizations.

From the page backgrounds available (of which there are dozens and dozens), I chose an “Americana” theme – perfect for a trip to our nation’s capital, I thought!

I spent about a half-hour pruning the book down to 85 pages, deleting photos that seemed too similar on closer inspection, and grouping more onto certain pages.

I then went back page-by-page and tweaked photo arrangements and positions, added captions and more, for about another half-hour.

My finished product was a total of 81 pages for a price of about $64.

This would EASILY have been an 8-hour day of scrapbooking if I’d have tackled it traditionally, and might have cost $80 or more. And while I’ll still do some of our favorite photos for a couple of “highlight” pages in our annual scrapbook, it’s a huge relief to know that what was looking like a major part of that project is now only a small piece.

As I mentioned, Shutterfly kindly provided me with a “free shipping” coupon code and a $20 off coupon code as a thanks for creating a product and sharing my experience. The funniest thing is, I’d do that anyway – we use our Shutterfly “Share” site as our family photo-sharing service, and we publish our finished photobooks to that as well. You can check out our Shutterfly Share site here (for even more family fun photos!)

Specifically, one thing I especially love about Shutterfly is that you can stack sales and coupon codes as I did in this order; I can almost always catch a sale on the products I’m looking to make, then score free shipping and sometimes a bonus discount!)

In all, I paid $46.32 out of pocket for my photobook, and I saved at least 7 hours of my time! And, as a surprise I wasn’t expecting, when my book arrived, inside was a coupon code for 20% off my NEXT order!

Our finished Shutterfly photo book

Click here to view this photo book larger

Click here to create your own Shutterfly photo book.


I have to admit, seeing this book got me motivated to get even more of my scrapbooking done. And blogging about it is a good incentive to make SURE I’m making progress. So I think you can count on future “Joan’s projects” installments! How about you – any unfinished craft or hobby projects you need to get motivated to finish? Would love to hear what everyone else is working on!

8 thoughts on “What do you do when you’re a VERY behind scrapbooker? Make easy photo books!

    • Give it a try, Phyllis! It really does go quickly – and it’s been such a relief to me to not feel like I “should” do something else with these pictures, you know?

  1. Just had to say that I am totally amazed at how much you accomplished in such a short time! As you can imagine, with seven children, I am WAY behind with scrapbooking–thousands of photos behind! I’ve been strongly considering making the switch from paper scrapping to digital, and you may have convinced me. 81 pages for $64 is certainly far less expensive than regular paper pages, IMO.
    And I loved your scrapbook, too! I tried to pick out a favorite layout, but it’s really hard to narrow it down to just one. 🙂

    • Judy, I truly CANNOT even imagine how your scrapbooking must pile up!! I can’t keep up with one kid 🙂

      I have to admit I love the experience of paper-scrapping, especially when I get together with friends, but I really can’t rely just on that. And you are so right, if I add up the cost of what would have been probably MORE than 81 pages in a traditional album (since I can’t resize the photos smaller, so I can’t use as many on a page), I’m sure it’d have actually been over $100 to do that as a standard album!

      I’m so glad you liked it. And I’m so glad I’m not alone in being behind!

  2. Much like you, I love the idea of paper scrap booking, but have finally realised I just won’t ever catch up. Sounds defeatist I guess, but I just have boxes and boxes and boxes of unsorted photos, up until the time we went digital. Now I have a hard enough time sorting our many digital photos, let alone doing anything with them. Whilst I like the paper version, I have plenty to keep me occupied, trying to get twenty years done, lol! So I’ve decided that everything from the time of our digital camera onwards will be kept in the digital format. I try to save everything to Flickr as a backup, and I’m still sorting out external hard drive storage, but also desperately want to put lots of them into digital scrapbooks. I’m thinking year books, plus books for special occasions and holidays, much like you. Thanks for the inspiration to get on with it!

    • Karen, I kind of did the opposite – I have one HUGE box of about 3,000+ photos from long before I was born to about 2007, sorted in huge swatches (like, before I was born, from when I was born until Sarah was born, and then after Sarah was born). Then I started scrapbooking the current stuff and left them in the box to deal with at some amorphous “later” time.

      I have done particular projects – my high school years, Sarah’s first three years, etc. – but mostly that box will remain untouched (but safe) for a long time. And then I can just keep going from where I am now and catch up to them when I hit the lottery, I guess?! Ha!

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