our 2011 family photo books {Blurb}

The family albums I mentioned working on a couple of weeks ago arrived over the weekend! I have gotten a lot of questions about the details of my book, so I’ll try to bullet list a bunch of things you all have asked about:

  • Company – This year I created my book through Blurb.com
  • Size – I did the 12″ x 12″ book and am THRILLED! The photos are large and so is the book. It isn’t obnoxious big…just right. I like it so much better than the smaller 8.72″ x 11.25″ books I’ve done in the past.
  • Paper – I had to use the standard paper because my book got too big (250+ pages) and I no longer had the option for upgraded paper. However, I am very happy with the standard paper.
  • Text – My books are photos only. I plan to add some hand written text eventually. I know if I tried to add text while creating the books, I would never finish them. So, I opt to have books with no text verses no books at all. I also like the idea of the handwritten text – makes them feel a little more like my grandma’s photo albums with names written on the back of photos!
  • Design software – I used the Blurb BookSmart software and the Modern Family templates from Design Aglow. The templates are set up for a 10×10 book, but they worked just fine for the 12×12 book. I didn’t really understand the BookSmart software at first. Once I got the hang of it I started using it more than the other templates. Next time I’ll just use the BookSmart templates and customize them.
  • Cover – I did the wrap around cover and really like it
  • How are my photos organizedhere is an old post on how I organize photos, I still do basically the same
  • Extra copy – I always order 2 yearly albums. One is tucked away safely. The other is left out for us to enjoy. I don’t harp on the kids to be so careful that they are afraid the thumb the pages. I want them to enjoy the books…as they enjoy photos they are more willingly to continue to not mind my camera out all the time.

Overall, I am so happy with the bigger Blurb book this year. In the past I used a company that had a 100 page limit so I had to divide the year into two books. Though I really liked the product, I’ve always just wanted the whole year in one book. I’ll be sticking with Blurb.

Here is a look at our 2011 book…

A size comparison.


This year I added small square pictures in the very back of the book of all my projects from the year. I think it will be fun thing to look back on one day.

When the book arrived, the older boys began devouring each page.

They were joined by another little boy.

And a little girl wanted to join, but didn’t get her way.

I enjoy our family books for so many reasons. One of the biggest is how it makes my heart overflow in gratitude. To look back and see all that we enjoyed and overcame. To see a glimpse of the days gone by. To see how much we’ve changed and stayed the same. To be reminded of just how incredible the plain days of our lives are. To see photos of everyday life that capture incredible beauty – more than any exotic location travel book could. It isn’t the picture quality or the paper quality. It is just the culmination of so many of our ‘boring’ stories that together are anything but boring. It makes me thankful for all of it. And all of it is just so good for my soul.

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  • Andy - your girl looks just like you. love it
    the photo book is great. love the cover. i considered using blurb before. i make 8×8 books so i need to see if they do that size and see the cost comparison.
    great book

  • Andy - i see there is no text in your book. do you ever right in them later?

  • emmybrown - VERY cool!!! Thanks for the details! πŸ™‚

  • ranee - I am just finishing my 2011 books through blurb as well…this makes me motivated to get mine done!!

  • AshleyAnn - Andy – great question, I forgot to address that part. I just added it to the main part of the blog post.

  • kiley - what a treasure!!! love the cat’s comment, too!

  • Lori - They look so gorgeous, thanks for sharing!

  • Paige E - I’m sure the meltdowns by Firecracker aren’t a joy when its happening, but it really makes me laugh. I have a just turned 3 year old and its so him to not get his way and sulk off, finger in the mouth, head down, pouty lip. Then 3 seconds later, joining in the fun he so adamently abhored. Its so real life, as is your blog and I just love reading it.

  • Rhonda Elder - I absolutely looooove this! You are so amazing. Thanks for such a great idea and all the info on how to do it. God bless you and yours.

  • Annie Page - I’ve been doing 12 x 12’s for our books for several years. I love the size! I make one each year based on our school year calendar and it’s a present I make for our family for Christmas. We love looking back and I enjoy doing this so much more than scrap booking. You will have SO much more in your book for this coming year – exciting changes ahead!!!!

  • Erin - When I was a kid my family took a trip to Alaska (from VA). My dad bought a bus and drove it across country, two months later my sister and I flew out to meet him and my mom and my aunt left home to drive to Washington and ferry up to meet us. It was an amazing trip, that even as a four year old, has left me a lifetimes worth of memories.

    My parents have since divorced and my Dad has mentioned for years how he wished he had copies of the photos upon photos that were taken throughout the trip. I had decided to copy them, since we are without the original negatives, and give them to him as a present. Now I KNOW that I want to give them to him in a book like this!

    Now, to just get to scanning these prints and hope it doesn’t take years. Your book turned out great!

  • Nicole - I love these! They are so much more artistic than mine … I just use blog2print and they pull my blog posts, including pictures, text and comments … not nearly as pretty as yours for sure but I know I won’t create books, so that works quite well for me.

    Love your books, just beautiful! I’ve heard great things about blurb, it’s good to hear you’re happy with them!

  • Heather D - Love the photo of middle brother smooshing oldest brother.. And the one of firecracker because she’s just adorable even when she’s upset Bc she can’t hold the book. Keep hoping to hear that you’re going to china soon!!! Cant wait!!!

  • Chantel - The book looks fantastic! Seeing yours completed is really motivating me to get going on mine!

  • Jackie - Your books are so beautiful. I am about 5 years behind and desperately need to get caught up. I love your tip about ordering two books, such a simple and genius idea to have one to enjoy and one to save. Thanks for the tip!

  • Abigail C - I love the looks on their faces as they look through the book for the first time! That alone would make it worth all the effort of documenting life, I think.

  • Marie - Your book is delightful! I love the idea of adding written notes to it.
    The photos of the children looking through it are wonderful too!! What a special storybook you’ve created for them.

  • Meredith - I think I have read the answer to this before on your blog, but where is your laundry chair from? I absolutely love it, and I have been looking for one.

  • Tiffany - Ashley – How much was your book? I am using MyPublisher because they have promotions that make it more affordable but I also have more photos than the 100 page limit. Before I dive into making a book on Blurb, I’d love to have an idea of cost. Thanks!

  • Jen - Hello I recently got married this past November (man now that I wrote that I’m thinking not really recent haha) alright so I’m thinking about making a book for my three bridesmaids for Christmas and wasn’t sure if I shoul use blurb or if I should use Costco. I heard blurb is amazing. Wanted to know what you thought about both of them. Pros and cons kinda list. Hope you can help me out! Your books are so adorable and I love following your blog!!

  • Alicia - Wow. Those are amazing. I’m seriously considering doing this. My boys are 4 and (almost!) 7. But I only started taking decent pictures 2-3 years ago. Also, I don’t have nearly as many of you NOR is our family as interesting. I have such mom guilt! But the first years don’t have to be huge books – I can look at it like we have really grown since the beginning! I’m also such a β€œfrugal” person so it’s so hard to fork over cash for a high quality book – but what a great way to catalogue all of your photos for the year. Instead of having them sit on my C drive.
    Thanks for giving examples of the book and some of the details. This may be my fall project. (Or at least a couple years to catch up, for now!)

  • Lisa - This is just so wonderful. I have thousands of pictures of my daughter (who is 10 months old) and I am definitely doing this every year for our pics. How heartwarming to be able to watch your kids enjoy reliving their past year!! Love love love.

  • tara pollard pakosta - so how many pages did it end up being and what was the cost? I have been wanting to do this for so LONG but am afraid of the cost!
    I have all of my photos since 2005 organized by child & month and then family….so I am ready to make one!

  • Stoich91 - Absolutely stunning!

  • Maria - This is so gorgeous. I used blurb for a photobook of my honey. I was very impressed but always wondered how MyPublisher compared in print quality. Thanks for the inspiration, I am now convinced a need to make a photo yearbook for us!

  • Lisa M. - Wow. I love that book! For years I have wanted to do this but the task seems so daunting. My son is 7 and to now go back seven years and THOUSANDS of pictures seems impossible. But you have encouraged me to start. One question, do you have any journaling at all in your books? I couldn’t see any and was thinking how much easier (especially from the earlier years, as I don’t remember as much:) that might be.

    Thank you for sharing your book with us! And, as always, I love your blog! πŸ™‚

  • Lisa M. - (2nd time around…) Ha! Nevermind, I just went back and RE-READ your post and it says you do not use text and that you can always add handwritten text later! Great idea!

    *Don’t you hate it when a reader asks a question in the comments that you already have an answer to in your post? πŸ™‚ Sorry!

  • Taylor - This is such a good idea. It’s great because you have a slim, beautiful book with all of your pictures and it tells a story. Love it!

  • MarthaB - Gorgeous book! I used Blurb to make our daughter’s lifebook and will use them to do our first family album this year. DD LOVES to look through her lifebook and it has held up beautifully, I too ordered 2 copies and tucked one away for safekeeping πŸ™‚

  • Elizabeth - Thanks for the post. I’ve used the “other book” company for our last few photo books, and have just been frustrated with the software when got to around 80 pages. Love the idea of the bigger book!

  • Alicia Johnson - Did you opt for their full creative control or did you use their booksmart software? Do you have an opinion about which is better? Thanks!

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - It is really nice to see this because I’ve been making books from shutterfly for about 8 years now (maybe more??) and this year I started making a blurb one and I tend to make them once a year (though I didn’t order last years’ from shutterfly still). Anyway, I really like how they turned out!!! I am sure your kids will love looking through them as the years go on!!!!

  • giozi - OHh you got it !! so soon

    Looks great and your children too.

  • Amy @ PaintWineRepeat - You take such beautiful pictures and your family is adorable. What a great way to remember all the fun moments in a year!!

  • Lacey - Hi Ashley-
    This is totally off-topic from your post, but my husband is budding apologist and we were in Broken Arrow this past weekend so he could attend the “On Guard” conference at your church. On the drive home he was telling me about this one pastor who was a great encouragement to him and explained him as “the type of person who made you excited to be apart of the body of Christ”. It turns out it was your husband! I thought it was especially exciting because you have been such an encouragement to me, and it was neat to see your husband do the same in my husband’s life. Thank you to your family for living out Christ’s message. πŸ™‚

  • Emily - I really need to do this. What a great project!

  • DawnF - Thank you so much for sharing the details of your fabulous family album! Wow!! LOVE this idea so much!

  • Taralynn - As of now the majority of my family photos are taken with instagram. (Although I’m signed up to take your photo class in Oct. Yippee!) Do you think the instagram prints would turn out clear and nice if I were to do a 12×12 from Blurb? I have soooo many pictures I really need to do something with them so they can be enjoyed! Thanks πŸ™‚

  • aubrey - LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I can’t even wait to do mine. I just had my first baby and want to start this tradition with him. I love how you make our simple, stay at home mommas more creative and important. I love how you share your faith so many. Please keep up the good work and God speed with your coming sweet pea!

  • Jules - I just recently learned that Blurb is the brainchild of a friend’s brother-in-law. It’s so wonderful to see others enjoying the product of their services! Your children, it seems, will definitely be happy to pose into 2012… it’s apparent that they just LOVE seeing themselves in print. Who wouldn’t?!

  • Aneta - Gorgeous book, incredible souvenir for the family! Don’t you wish you could make one for every child! That would be a fortune though.
    I want to make one soon!!!

  • Lisa Johnson - What a treasure! You can never imagine how special those books are going to be years from now. You are so wise to realize that it is the everyday moments that make the real events of life!

  • Emily @ I Love Farm Weddings - Stunning. I absolutely love it. I have sooooo many photographs and just have been paralyzed with what to do with them. This is such a wonderful way to put them together. A huge undertaking, but I think I’m going to try it.

    And just the photos of your kids looking at the book made me tear up. What a wonderful way for them to cherish their lives. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    P.S. I love your blog. Maybe one of my favorites!

  • Elizabeth - Your picts look beautiful…LOVE the idea of having a page of your creations!! I’ve *never* made a family photo book, but i’m starting this year ~ thanks for the inspiration to capture each BEAUTIFUL moment!
    ps. Firecracker is truly adorable snuggling w. Poppy!!

  • Cecilia - Thank you for all the info. I have some picture books but never did one of a full year. Maybe its time to start working on it.
    I enjoy reading your blog for over a year. Im very exited about your younger daughter coming home. Your family is adorable!

  • Meghan - AShley- thank you so much for posting these about Blurb! I just started using them for my clients (after a lot of research) and have not gotten any back in my hands yet. I love your review of the company and being able to see the finished project. Well done. I’m hoping to start doing this for our family too this year! Blogging has definately forced me to take MANY more pictures and I’m loving it. I also love your project pages in the back! super!

  • Jane in Canada - I wish I could flip through every page! Your book looks fantastic and I’m so happy you’ve decided to try Blurb and like their product. I’ve created lots of custom templates while working on my books – I wish there was a way to send them to you. Maybe I’ll try just doing a screen shot and sending that. They only added the customizable option a few versions of BookSmart ago, but it’s great!

  • dani r - i love your photo album! i also make a photo book at the end of every year – up until now i’ve used photobox, but i had to order 2 books last year because i was way above the 100 page limit. i might try blurb this year to avoid this problem as well.

  • Kelly - Your memory books are beautiful. I can see why the kids love looking through them.
    What does a book like the last one cost? It’s it cheaper as you add more, or just a basic price depending on size and number of pages?

  • Georgia - LOVE THIS! I scrapbook, but you actually FINISH your year before the next one is gone. I am still about 30 years behind. I have been thinking about using Blurb, but wasn’t sure what quality of pages to choose. This is so helpful. Thanks!

  • Jamie - blog jumped and got to you…so glad I did! This book looks awesome!! I have been wanting and wanting to do one, and now I am inspired!

    My kiddos are almost 4 and this would be a great thing to try to complete before they are 5…baby steps-right!

    Thanks again for sharing…I’ll definitely be back to visit!

    Nice to meet you-have a Happy Day!

  • Susan W - You mentioned you will go back later and write in your books, will the paper accept that? Some photo books they’ve told me I can’t and your book looks so cool! If you get a chance and can let me know that’d be great!

  • Why I don’t Project Life | Christen Krumm - […] at this one Elise did (I know I know Elise again — can never have to much Elise) And this one Ashley did of her family […]

  • kate - i LOVE blurb and the 12×12. i have been using them for years!

  • Teresa - I love the chair your kids are sitting in, the book to of course :), but I just have to know where you got that chair!!!

  • Julie B. - Love your photobook. Your kids will cherish them in the years to come.

    So, I was designing my family’s 2012 album in MyPublisher and reached the 100 pg. limit. I haven’t reached Halloween yet and that’s with cramming too many photos on some of my layouts! I’ve downloaded BookSmart as an alternative, but I’m kind of disappointed in the page layout options. Would you be willing to share the layout templates you customized? Feeling a little overwhelmed with the task of redoing my entire yearly book…

  • Vera - This is a brilliant idea! Photo albums are so old fashioned now…this is such a better way to organize/hardcopy digital photos!!!

  • What do you do with your digital pictures? - […] year in one book.  A photographer/blogger that I have followed for years, shared her family Blurb book and it looks gorgeous.  Like I said, I am picky.  I want nice vivid […]

  • Aharon Hill - Ashley, I am so glad I found this post– one big book makes so much more sense than ordering lots of small ones (my previous method). Quick question: do you use Blurb’s design software? If so, bookify or booksmart?

  • swanson yearbook | laura swanson - […] iPhone pics from our last few months in Brisbane.I plan (optimistically) to put together a photo book for each coming year. Rather than follow the January to December year, I’m doing November to October, to coincide with each year of marriage (our anniversary is November 19). If it’s not too expensive, I’d really like to print two copies each year – one to keep out and look at all the time and one to store away as a family keepsake. I was inspired by one of my new favourite bloggers – Ashley Ann of Under the Sycamore – because I loved seeing photos of her kids going through their family albums. […]

  • Joe K - I love this idea! My mom & aunts are all big scrapbookers. I am not. I love looking at theirs and know I’m going to be sad that I don’t have our memories recorded in a book. This looks like the best of both worlds to me. I also love the idea of having two. My 3 year old son loves looking at photo albums and I want to let him, but he’s rough on them! Thanks for the great idea(s)!

  • Marnie - I know this is an old post, but may I ask you a related question Ashley? I have used Blurb a few times for my photobooks and have also been delighted by the quality, BUT the images are always way darker than on the computer screen. I understand the different colour systems of monitors vs ink and the backlighting issue, but it looks as though your images came out just right (although I haven’t seen the originals, of course).Here’s my question – What did you do ensure the images were not too dark? I know you are busy and I will understand if you don’t get time to answer. Thanks!

  • AshleyAnn - Marnie – I haven’t done anything to ensure that. Some photos are too dark, but overall they seem to be pretty accurate. I’m not sure if Blurb has any tips for monitor callibration, but you might check that. Sorry that isn’t much help!

  • Marnie - No, that was helpful. Thank you : )

  • Valerie - Love this post…I’m currently in the process of making a book, i=using Design Aglows Modern Family Templates…but how the heck did you get them to upload via BookSmart. For the life of me, I can’t figure it out. Did you import the images as jpegs already in the Modern Family layout? Any help would be great! I’ts driving me crazy!


  • AshleyAnn - Valerie – Yes, I imported them as jpegs already designed. So then I selected either full page or full spreads in the BookSmart software

  • Julie - How did you get your colors so bright with Blurb? For my last book with them, I spent time editing my photos before putting them in the book, but the printed copy on standard paper looked drab. My pictures were RGB which might have been the problem. Were all of your picture CMKY?

  • Renee - Hi, quick question!! You said the 10 x 10 from Design Aglow worked for 12 x 12… did you have to edit each of the templates to make them a little bigger, or could you just import them and go without messing with them?

  • Modern Scrapbooking - […] PHOTOS:Album […]

  • My Blurb Photo Book | A Blurb Review - […] of room. I knew that for my 2012 book I needed a new option that offered more pages. I came across a post that Ashley Ann had written about her 2011 12″ x 12″ Blurb book and I was in love as soon as I saw it. I wanted a book just like hers! Her post was extremely […]