How to Build a Nourishing, Sustainable Photo Journal

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

Do you have a photo journal system in place that you love?

I’ve been a mom for three years, and I haven't made a yearly album yet – a BIG admission for a photographer. I've also tried and failed at several journaling methodologies: : Day One. Qeepsake, Blogs, Journals. You get the point.

A family story that I can look back on is important.

One of the favorite things about visiting my family in Wisconsin every year is paging through the collection of photos at my grandma's house. I head to the upstairs bedroom where I find shelf after shelf of photo albums, organized roughly by decade, person or event.

My grandparents spent decades filling these albums with printed 4x6 photos. Those keepsakes didn't happen overnight. My grandma and grandpa developed a system that worked for them, which in turn inspired me to create a sustainable, nourishing way of recording my own family journal and yearly photo album simultaneously.

The recipe? Making hand-written notes on 4x6 prints which combine to create an intimate, detailed timeline of your life. And because this physical act of creation is nourishing, it’s more likely to become a habit. Seventy years from now, you’ll have a rich set of photo journals on your own shelf.

1. Take Intentional Pictures

Before digital, most of us couldn't take 100s of photos per week. The cost of film and development meant paying cold hard cash for each shot.

I curl up in a ball just thinking of going through 1000's of cellphone pictures to select a handful that represent the year. The task overwhelms me, so I don't do it.

Digital noise is real. We may only need a single photo to bring back memories of an event or day. Decrease your digital noise by clicking the shutter button fewer times, with more intention.

If you're like "Um, no Cass. I absolutely can't resist the urge to take 500 pictures of my baby eating mashed banana", and I feel you, then create a habit of culling your photos daily. Or favorite the shots you want to put into an album someday.

Or, get a film camera!

You only have 35 exposures per roll, which forces you to be more selective about what you capture.

When I get a roll back, I have 35 pictures that tell the story of several days over a few weeks.

Film photography also makes it super easy to get prints. Most companies send prints with your developed film, one of the reasons I think photo albums were more common in the days before digital.

2. Order 4x6 Prints of Your Faves

In the digital era, we don't need prints to see our pictures like we did with film.

But, I urge you, print your photos! This is the secret sauce to a nourishing, sustainable photo journal. More on that in #4.

You may ask, how do I print my photos?

With film, it's easy. We send our film to be developed and check "yes" send my 4x6 prints of my images.

With digital, it might be even easier. I recently discovered Shutterfly, an app that connects to your cell phone photo album. They have an ongoing free 4x6 print promo. You only pay for shipping.

It's easy to order with Shutterfly, but the print quality is sub par. Only go this route if it's for convenience, or if you don't mind the quality.

Do this every couple of months, or whenever you find yourself running low on prints.