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How to (Finally) Make a Family Yearbook

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Making a family yearbook can be daunting. We look at our photos and wonder how we’ll ever sort through them all. We doubt we have what it takes to make a book anyone will want to look at. Or we tell ourselves we’re going to do it, but we keep putting it off so it never gets done.

Friends, I get it! I love making photobooks and still find myself giving in to those familiar monsters, Doubt and Busyness. But it is an absolute shame to leave our photos on a hard drive where no one sees them. These are our memories, after all. Evidence of our lives and memorials to the people and animals and places we have loved. It might be easier to share them on social media, where they’ll be glanced at by friends and given a couple of thumbs up, but you’ll be a hero for generations to come if you take the time to make a photobook instead.

So dust off that hard drive, clear out some time in your schedule, and follow along with this step-by-step process for (finally) making the family yearbook you’ve been dreaming about for years. 


Put it on your calendar

Creating a family yearbook will be much easier if you set aside a regular time to work on it. This is true whether you’re catching up on past photos or trying to stay up to date on a book for this year. Depending on how many photos you take and how often you schedule photobook sessions, this could take a few minutes or a few hours. However, the important thing is not how much time you spend, it’s making a commitment to keep this date with yourself. 

Personally, I like to use Sunday afternoons to work on my photobooks because it’s a meaningful and restful activity for the Sabbath. I’ll also sometimes pull up a book project on the laptop while Brett and I watch a show together, which is a great way to sneak in some work without feeling like you’re neglecting your family. It might even be helpful to let your family know your plan so they can give you space to focus—and help keep you accountable.

Woman organizing photos at a desktop computer
Photo by (Adobe Stock)

Gather & Weed Your Content

Next, you’ll want to gather all of the photos you want to include. Check your camera, SD cards, your phone, social media, email, etc. Gather all of your photos into one spot and weed out any duplicates or photos that are blurry or low resolution. And don’t forget videos! You can easily include videos in your yearbook by uploading them to social media or your private cloud storage and including a QR code linked to the video’s URL. (Here’s my favorite QR code generator.)

Amazon Prime Logo

Members of Amazon Prime automatically get unlimited photo storage and 5GB of video storage. If you don't already have Prime, you can try it free for 30 days!

This is also the time to gather any flat or paper ephemera you’d like to include in your book. I love to include ticket stubs, notes from friends, postcards, printed photos people have given me, wedding announcements, etc. Gathering these items now gives you a chance to scan them and add them to your layout as photos, or shows you how much space to leave on your pages if you’d like to attach the physical item using photo mounting squares after the book is printed



Next, you’ll want to decide how you’re going to organize your family yearbook. There are a lot of different ways you could group your photos, such as

  • Chronologically by day, month, or season
  • By Event 
  • By Location
  • By Category – i.e. work, school, vacation, etc.

You can even combine a couple of different group types or create subcategories. The important thing is to find a system that works for you.  When I made photobooks for my time working at Philmont Scout Ranch, I grouped all of my work-related photos together regardless of chronology, but also had chronological sections for special events and trips away from the ranch. 

You can definitely organize your book however works for you, but deciding on your structure at the beginning and sticking to it will save you the headache of having to rearrange photos after you’ve already started adding them to the layout. 

After you decide how you’d like to organize your photos, you can group them into folders related to each section to make it easy to find the right pictures as you go along. Or, if you have Adobe Lightroom, you can create collections for each section of your photobook. That way, you can rearrange photos to your heart’s content without changing how you have them organized on your hard drive. You can also use filters to hide photos you’ve already added to the book so that you know how many pictures you still need to add and don’t accidentally create duplicates. (Lightroom users can even create a photobook right from Lightroom itself. I haven’t done this, though, so I can’t speak to its efficacy.)

Color palette with image of lavender flowers, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and pastel macaroons on a pink background
Photo by meteoritka (Adobe Stock)
4 (Optional)

Create Your Design Standards

If you’re designing your yearbook yourself (instead of using a predesigned template), this is where you’ll want to pick the color scheme, fonts, and graphic details you’ll use throughout your book. Using the same elements on every page will help your book look polished and professional. Pinterest is a great place to find color palettes and free fonts.

Make a Photo Book as Unique as You Are

Check out the Post 10 Tips for Making Gorgeous Photo Books

Put it All Together

This is where things get really fun! Designing a family yearbook does take time and effort, but watching it take shape is incredibly rewarding. There are a couple of options here:

Design Your Book from Scratch

This gives you full creative control, and it’s great for those with a good eye for design. Many photobook printers will let you upload PDFs, so you can design your book in your favorite design software, like InDesign or Photoshop. Some printers, like Blurb and Saal Digital, even have InDesign plugins to help optimize your document for their print services. Blurb also has a free design software called BookWright. It doesn’t quite provide the creative control that you’d get with InDesign, but it’s a user-friendly alternative for those who want to design from scratch but don’t have access to other design programs.

Start with a Template

This still affords you some creative control, but gives you some pre-existing layouts to get you started and speed up your work flow. Etsy and Creative Market both have templates built to work with a variety of software.

Looking for some professionally designed InDesign templates to get you started? Check out my Etsy shop and start telling your family’s story today!

Use a Drag-And-Drop Design

Some photobook printers like Shutterfly, Mixbook, and Artifact Uprising use online book builders to create your book. You’ll upload your photos and add them to pre-existing layouts. Depending on the service, you may have some options for customizing the theme, but you definitely won’t have as much creative control as you would designing in Photoshop or InDesign. This is a great option for those who want a professionally designed book but may not have the software or the expertise to do it themselves. 

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, so there’s definitely no right way to make a photobook. Just pick the method you’re most comfortable with and make your book!


Proof proof proof

Before you submit your order to the printer, proof the heck out of that book. You’ve worked so hard on making something beautiful, so don’t let a typo muddy up your work. (I have several typos in one of my books because I failed to proofread before ordering. 😭) You’ll also want to check photo quality, layouts, margins and bleeds, etc. If you’ve used any QR codes, make sure they link to the right files. 

If you have the option to export a PDF proof, I highly recommend printing out your book on your home printer to proof a physical copy. For some reason, it can be easier to catch typos and design issues on paper than on a screen. If you’re worried about printing that many photo-heavy pages, you can print multiple pages on a single sheet, and black and white ink is perfectly fine for this application. 

Edge of a photobook with a white leather cover
Photo by Владислав Легір (Adobe Stock)


Last—but certainly not least!—get that book printed! I personally use and love Blurb for printing my photo books. If you’re ready to make the leap into the wonderful world of making photo books with Blurb, get 25% off photo books with the code WINTERBOOK now until 3/18/22. (If you miss that window, don’t fret! I keep this post updated with their current offers.)

There you have it! In a few days, you’ll have a beautiful record of your family’s year that will be treasured for generations. I’d say that it’s easy, but I don’t want to downplay that accomplishment it truly is to carve out time, sort through your photos, and put together a beautiful keepsake. Pat yourself on the back! You deserve to be proud of yourself!


You've Got This

In the words of a certain famous shoe brand, “Just do it.” Pull out your calendar today and schedule a time to sit down to work on your family yearbook. Keep that commitment to yourself, and pretty soon, you’ll have a beautiful book to enjoy!

I’d love to see your finished project! Tag your pictures on Instagram with #jestkeptsecret so I can celebrate with you!


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Jess Friedman
Jess is a Canadian-American who’s always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about helping families make and preserve treasured memories that strengthen bonds across generations. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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