photo book fail {but print win}

Each year I make family photo books. Well, that is the goal. I started in 2007 and have books through 2012. Then, 2013 came and went. And 2014 came and went. And 2015 has come. For so long I kept telling myself I would schedule a weekend to hide out and make the 2013 book and then another weekend for the 2014 book. I never scheduled those weekends. Honestly, the books have felt like a weight. I cherish the ones we have and am so thankful I was consistent to get those done during those years. Since I had made them for so long, I felt stuck. I had to make the remaining years.

And then one day I let go of that weight.

I decided 2013 and 2014 would be the years of prints. Maybe one day I would go back and make photo books, but I was not going to just let those years sit on a hard drive.

So…we got prints. 2 years worth of 4×6 and 4×4 (instagram) prints. And it is awesome!

7.15mpix-01The prints came as sets of 25 in clear sleeves. This helps keep them somewhat organized until I put them in a photo box. I know photo boxes run the risk of getting un-organized, but I just like the ease of pulling out a stack and flipping through them.7.15mpix-027.15mpix-03Photo Tip: Name your pictures by their date. For example, “7.15Campbells-01.jpg, 7.15Campbells-02.jpg, 7.15Campbells-03.jpg, etc”. I order all my prints from On the back of each photo is the name of the photo. You could name your photos by the exact date they were taken, but just the month and year works for me. This gives me so much relief knowing if I don’t ever get around to writing more info the back of the photos, at least the month and date are there. This also helps if photos get out of order. The date stamp on the back is pretty light. My plan is to write the date and a little note darker, but my plan was also to make photo books for 2013 and 2014…you can see how well that plan turned out!7.15mpix-05I order 4×4 prints of my instagram shots. Mpix has a Tap-to-Print app that makes printing from my phone super easy.7.15mpix-06I like to use different apps on my phone occasionally to create grids and add text. It is fun to be able to easily print those photos as well.7.15mpix-07When it comes to picking pictures to print, photo quality is not even close to the top of my list of factors. I pick pictures based on the content of the photo, not the quality. Some of my favorite and most meaningful pictures are grainy and blurry. Don’t delete a meaningful photo because it make not be technically good.7.15mpix-09My kids were so surprised by the big box of prints that arrived. They are accustomed to flipping pages of a photo book. It was a lot of fun watching them thumb through prints. I make photo books and print pictures for us…for THEM. I don’t care if they get finger prints on the prints. I want my kids to enjoy photos…photography…my camera. Always being uptight and worried when they handle prints will not help me towards that goal. I did ask them to keep them in the plastic sleeve stacks just so they stay somewhat in order.

Looking back through pictures is a beautiful experience…for adults and kids.7.15mpix-107.15mpix-117.15mpix-12I told them they could pull out any prints that they wanted. They like to use them as bookmarks and hang them on their walls. A certain boy pulled out all the puppy pictures of Arley.7.15mpix-13“Look Mommy! It is me and my friends!” My kids, all 5 of them, love looking at baby pictures and learning about their early years through photos. Photography is a powerful tool for telling stories and learning stories.7.15mpix-14While we were reliving memories through photos, I found some really old ones. This is me the first time I broke my foot. I did a front flip off a wooden train my dad built me. The flip was awesome, the landing not so much. It was my first broken bone, but certainly not my last. The other photo is me and my dad in Canton, Texas..below it my dad and me on my wedding day. Pictures are meant to be printed!7.15mpix-15I am not sure what 2015 will look like. I am trying to do more video this year. Right now I am thinking about printing pictures again, creating a 2015 video recap and making a couple photo books of significant events. I still really, really like photo books. There is something so amazing about seeing pictures printed in a book format. has a new line of panoramic books that I would like to try out using our recent family photos.

I picked this post date with great intention. I asked my friends at when they would be doing a print sale – I wanted to share about prints and give you a little extra encouragement to PRINT YOUR PHOTOS! Starting today is doing a 25% off print sale. Use that extra nudge to print some of your photos. Order a few extra to share with friends or family. My kids love writing letters and slipping photos in too.

Break those pictures out of the digital abyss of hard drives and online storage – get some prints in your hands!

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  • Jen - This is so timely, my four year old was asking just this morning where her baby photos are…On the computer was not a satisfactory answer!!

  • Southern Gal - Thank you, Ashley. A weight is what it feels like when I think of all the photos on my hard drive just sitting there and never being enjoyed. I finally took some photos of Ethan for his 13th birthday. The last one on my wall was when he was 9. Now I have to print the things!! I took them in April, his birthday was in February. I let these kinds of things wake me up in the middle of the night. I love Mpix, so today I’m making time to select some photos to print.

    Question: Do you label your photos when you download them on your computer like that? I put mine in folders, but don’t label individual photos. Or is that something you do when you load them to print?

  • Brandi - I’ve been going through the same thing–just want to get the pictures off the computer to enjoy! But I’ve been waffling between trying a sort of Project Life album again (my first one was harder to put together than I thought) or a printed photo book. Just got an Artifact Uprising sale email and thought that was the kick I needed…now I’m tempted to go with the prints–I love getting a box of Mpix prints! Ha! Decisions, decisions!

  • Katie M. - We love Mpix too! Thank you for sharing. This may be the push I needed to print a bunch of my pictures.

  • Paige E - I love this, Ashley! Way to go letting go of the weight! I’m working on doing that with a number of things in my life I’m allowing to become a burden because of an expectation I have put on myself. Thanks for the encouragement to do so! Lets enjoy today and look for God’s blessings! Enjoy those awesome memories and prints!

  • Ashley - I remember finding a link to your blog a couple of years ago with your family yearbooks, and it inspired me to make my own. I’m in the same boat as you right now though, I’m so behind and the idea of completing a couple of years in backlog is kind of daunting. Hopefully I’ll have some time to spare sometime soon, or I’ll get some pictures printed like you did.

  • Charity G. - Love it! I have some pictures sitting in que to print but haven’t done the last step. I really need to – thanks for the encouragement.

    For the dates you could get small address labels and print them and then just stick them on. Might be faster/easier than writing if you decide to do it.

  • Melanie - Oh gosh…I also have 2013 & 2014 waiting to be printed into books. For personal family reasons, those years were pretty tough and I think I have somewhat dreaded the emotional reliving of it! BUT. Photography really helps me to see how beautiful life can be even in the middle of the difficult times. I am so glad I kept taking pictures. My photos are a reminder that we made it through! You have inspired me to want to finish those books. 🙂 Thank you!!

  • Rachel - Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m going to share this on my facebook page. Been thinking of printing and organizing photos for a while now. Such a shame to only have them in digital form. There’s just something about photos that you can touch!

  • Krystina - This might be one of my favorite posts ever. I can’t really explain exactly why or pick to one reason. It just sums up exactly how I’ve always felt about photography and printing photos and looking through photos. I just LOVE your idea about how to title photos. I’m totally stealing that idea. It will make my life so much easier!

  • Amanda - I love this post and had just gotten the Mpix email, thinking I need to get ordering! Question: what phone apps do you like to make grids or add text?

  • Rachel - Thank you! I have been doing scrapbooks for 15 years. It is getting harder to complete them and this post feels like permission to switch it up. Maybe I’ll just do chatbooks or print my photos instead.

  • Cassidy Scott - What app made the “THIS HAPPENED!” sign on the picture with the Best Blogs magazine?

  • Paige Willingham - Hey Ashley… I’m thankful for this post – like many others. I love printed photos. I too am missing many years printed or in books, with thousands on the hard drive. Wondering how this isn’t just as time consuming if you’ve got to indibidually choose and rename photos? Would you share the process of picking and naming them so I can see how you did it efficiently? I can see myself sitting there for hours and there must be a quicker way. Thanks friend.

  • Melissa - What apps do you use to create grids?

  • Cathy S. - I’m curious too, what app you use for the grids.

  • AshleyAnn - Amanda – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Cassidy – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Melissa – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Cathy – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Paige – After I take photos, I download them to my computer. Edit them in batches in Lightroom. After I do any editing, I export them all to a new folder on my computer. When I export them, I rename them at the same time. Here is a post I wrote a long time ago. My file naming process is still the same:

    So, when I went to select photos to print they were already all named with the month and year. I just opened my harddrive and picked the ones I wanted to print. It took a few hours because I had 2 years worth of photos, but it was WAY LESS time than making 2 years of photobooks.

  • Laurel Libby - You have inspired me! I have too many years (2008 forward!!!) that I have been *planning* to turn into yearly photo books . . . 3 kiddos in and I am no closer to making it happen! So I’m going to get them printed off, and put them into albums, like we had in my family as kids. I LOVED perusing the albums, and want my kids to do the same. I’ll be too worried they’ll tear the pages to really let them enjoy the yearly books, albums it is!