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documenting the first year…

documenting each year | oh joy

documenting each year | oh joy

Remember when we used to have photo albums with actual printed photographs in them? With the amount of images from our iPhones, our "good" cameras, and those taken by friends and family, it can be so hard to keep up with all the digital photos you take of your kids, especially in that first year when you're super snap-happy. So, after Ruby was born, whenever we snapped a photo that was a keeper, I filed it into a folder on my computer marked by month. I'd also email photos to our parents and post them on Facebook, too, but the plan was that I'd make a book at the end of year with all our favorites in chronological order.

documenting each year | oh joy

documenting each year | oh joy

There are a few great sites where you can make books, but I decided to try out a new one called Artifact Uprising because I loved the cloth covers and how high-quality the paper looked. And, when the end of year came, it was that much easier to start laying out a book because I already had all of my favorite photos saved by month. All I had to do was narrow down the picks even more (because who wants a 1,000 page book?!?). It was so fun looking back through our photos and looking back at how tiny Ruby once was, too…

documenting each year | oh joy

documenting each year | oh joy

documenting each year | oh joy

documenting each year | oh joy

I used a mix of Instagram photos, iPhone photos, photos we shot with our good camera, and professional photos we had taken over the course of the year. I love having them all in one place. With all of our photos being so virtual these days, it was nice to be able to create a real, live album to put on the shelf that we can hand down to Ruby one day. We also gave a copy to our parents as Christmas presents which helps give them an extra dose of Ruby especially since we live so far away. My goal is to make one every year for each of our children. I know it gets harder and harder to keep up with, but I think gathering photos as you take them is really helpful and has been key for me. The result is a tangible memento you'll have forever.

P.S. I wrote this post because a reader asked me about how I store and share my digital photos. How do you guys do it? Curious to hear what system or methods you use!

{Photos of finished book by Oh Joy}


  1. Thanks for sharing. I like the ARTIFACT UPRISING site a lot – “Inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible”. True True.

  2. I don’t have children of my own, but for the holidays this year, I went through over a hundred instagram photos of my nieces and nephews, and did a few projects for my sister and them through Pinhole Press, it was fun! And they loved it, so neat, but thanks for sharing this site, need to check it out!!
    *Also Instagrid makers have came out with Printstagram, where you can print out your instragrams in various mediums!

  3. Such a great idea. I haven’t tried it yet but am very tempted to make one for my niece. Would be a perfect gift 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is so cool. I don’t have kids but sometimes I wonder if I will have any record of my life ‘starting out’ like my parents do, once I get married and such. I think I’ll take a page from your book 😉

  5. i love this idea – i’ve been trying to be better at getting photos off the computer as well – books have been a great go-to (blurb of course, the pinhole press books are gorgeous and recently have discovered MILK studios which are beautiful and have a collaboration with Moleskine (um, my favorite notebooks)) I’ve done my books mostly by theme (the instagram books on blurb are great for that) This year my goal is to do a magazine at the end of the years of all our trips and travels in one place!

  6. My boyfriend and I don’t have children but we print our photos every year (that’s our valentine’s day gift 🙂 ).
    We collect our pics all through the year : holidays, parties, W-E abroad, friends wedding…and then, we organize it chronologically in a pretty album.
    I definitely look more often at the album than at the pics on the computer….it’s so much pleasant !!!
    As I live in France I use “Photoweb”, it offers a great quality and a glossy finish which look like professional photo paper. But I definitly had a crush for this cloth cover you’re talking about…I wish I could find something like this here :-/

  7. This is precious and really special! I definitely feel like these days I simply hand my iPhone over to someone to let them peruse pictures. It would be so nice to actually have prints that you can touch and treasure!

  8. so cute! i appreciate how it’s not overly “layed out.” I’ll be considering this company when I finally get around to getting my wedding pics in order 🙂 thanks for sharing, joy.

  9. Yes! So great for a wedding book! Yeah, I agree, Ive done books before where there were so many layouts with various options and I kept it simple for this one with just a few options and mostly one photo on each page. I feel like the photos can really shine that way!

  10. This is incredibly helpful, actually! I have aspired to create printed books like this, but I get so I overwhelmed by all the choices involved that they never get finished! Case in point, my best friend’s 30th birthday celebration…we turn 35 this year and I’ve only laid out about 3 pages : /
    I love how you organized photos as you took them, and put only one per page. Now I think I can actually do this!
    Also, Artifact Uprising is great! I love the boxes the albums arrive in too 🙂

  11. I make a photo book every year. We started in 2005 and it’s so nice to go back and see what we did before kids, when the kids were first born and now that they are 5 and 3. We also did a large photo book for our wedding photos – a combo of professional shots and casual snaps. It’s a bit of work to stay organized, but it’s so worth it.
    We take out the books often when people come over and have fun flipping through them.

  12. Thanks for this. We are trying to choose between publishing companies for our daughter’s first year photobook. We have used Mypublisher in the past for our other albums.
    We also created a video “album” and pieced together a bunch of videos we took over the year. We’re hoping to do this every year. It’s a lot easier watching this than a bunch of separate videos.

  13. OMG. WHAT a cutie!! I love your video. I have plans to put all our clips together in a recap too but it hasnt happened yet. Youve inspired me!!

  14. This is beautiful! I’m doing the 365 project this year and have chosen my kids to be the subject. I’d like to make a book like this at the end, instead of just putting the photos in traditional photo albums. Love the idea!
    Oh, it’d make an awesome gift for grandma and grandpa too!

  15. I’ve been thinking of giving Artifact Uprising a try because I love the look of them. I have a Valentines Day project in mind. I think you just convinced me! And going month by month is genius! I must start, and perfect timing to add to my resolution list!

  16. My daughter is 16 months old, and I made photo books of her first year and gave them to the grandparents for Christmas as well. They loved it! I used MyPublisher, which was fine in terms of product quality, but I found the software to be pretty buggy. May try out your suggestion for next time. I haven’t decided if I’ll do a book for every year or not… I’m not sure I can handle having 18 books sitting around for each kid by the time they graduate from high school. I might have to consolidate into first year, preschool, and then elementary, middle and high schools. I guess that will take some organization… Yikes. Better write myself a note and tape it to my laptop to stay on top of that. 🙂

  17. I am sorely in need of a system like this, but alas have not put one in place. I like the idea of storing the pics in a special folder, that definitely makes it easier once it comes time to make the book. I’ve used Costco, iPhoto and Mixbook for photo books but wasn’t super impressed with the quality so I’ll try Artifact Uprising next! Thanks!
    Strive to Thrive,

  18. Joy- I just ordered some books with artifact uprising and I’m curious about how you did the full bleed spread of just ruby. Did you chop it up in photoshop first? I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do that with their editor program. Adorable kid, good for you taking the time to put this together! Thanks!

  19. Making yearly photo books is something I want to get in the habit of this year. I miss having tangible albums of photos. This one is particularly gorgeous! Thank you for sharing your source, I will have to check them out.

  20. Thank you for posting this! My intention for 2013 is to finish my daughter’s first year baby book (she’s now 17months!) and I’m getting so hung up on organizing thousands of photos. This is some much-needed inspiration for me. THANK YOU!!

  21. I love this!!! I used shutterfly this year, and I wasn’t the absolute biggest fan. I am going to try this next year! These pictures are all amazing!!! p.s. I have finished Bog Inc, and I loved it! I feel so much more prepared to start growing my blog now. thanks!

  22. Hi Sarah!
    So, each side of the page is a full-bleed image and then I brought in the photo twice. Id bring it into the left side and move it all the way to the right (to show the left most side of the photo) and then on the right side, Id move it all the way to the left (to show the right most side). As long as the photo is large enough and hi-res enough, it should work. There is a tiny bit of overlap in the middle to allow for the gutter.
    Hope that helps!

  23. Love your photo organization ideas and this recommendation is the best!!! The finish and the materials is gorgeous. Will definitely have to use them in the near future and LOVE how they also have books specifically for IG photos. Thanks for the brilliant rec Joy!

  24. Isn’t it crazy how we used to have photos in a photo album, seems like such a thing of the past nowadays. I love how the book came out! I love the idea of having instagram photos and professional photos all in one book and I definitely, having a tangible memento to keep forever is priceless! 🙂
    xo, Yi-chia

  25. my husband is the photo-organizer of the family. he’s done the same thing with all of little william’s photos: saving them in a monthly floder. instead of a book we have this huge 30 photo wall hanging thingy… (real technical term here) and every couple of months we replace the photos with more up-to-date ones. at the end of this year we’ll compile all the photos we’ve used in to a nice little book!

  26. love this idea! i started an album with printed photos for my daughter and it’s getting a little out of hand. this looks much simpler and so pretty too! my husband and i made a one-month video and a one-year video for my daughter and we plan to make one for her second birthday coming up next month but an album is also a great idea! thanks for the tip!
    just in case you wanted to see :):

  27. Thank you for posting this! I am going to start a “book” soon for our little girl and I’m glad you made it so easy to find a better quality product for all of us busy mommies short on time to search them all out…thank you 🙂

  28. I was planning on doing this for my daughter – now 6 months old – but was already getting overwhelmed with the task. I love the idea of organizing the photos in folders by month so it’s easy to choose when the time comes. I was planning on using Blurb but love Artifact Uprising. Thanks!

  29. I love the book you made. It looks fantastic and cloth is great. I have been making books via Blurb for several years now and use a standard format.
    I wish I had been more systematic about making family photo albums and albums just of my son (which I now do). I started when my son was around 4.
    In years past I have added pages of funny things my son said during the year (there were a lot from at ages 4, 5 & 6). Now I include a page of “his favorite things.” I found the inspiration on Pinterest and just made a second book with them (see the link above). I wish I could remember all my son’s favorites from years past. You really do forget things. Sigh.

  30. What a gorgeous book! I seriously need to get on the ball with ordering yearly books for our little ones so I can’t wait to check out this company!

  31. Love these books, thanks for sharing! Unfortunately, international shipping is a tad bit expensive.
    I agree with you on our images being mostly virtual these days. That’s why I added ‘creating live photo albums’ to my to-do list for this year. I do organize all my photos in folders according to year (date) and I tag them in Lightroom, but nothing beats a live album to browse through. They also make beautiful gifts!

  32. I finished creating a 2012 Instagram book with Artifact Uprising. I really <3 the layouts! Now that I know I want to make this for next year, I'm saving my fav photos in a folder in the computer. 🙂

  33. I’ve only made books of the first year of both of my kids. Now my family has expressed no more photo frames and so instead this past Christmas we made a photo book to give out for the boys together. We kept an extra copy and I’ll probably keep doing this. I also have a family blog and I’m slowly transferring them into book format but it’s A LOT of work.

  34. This is awesome and your daughter is absolutely adorable. My son is almost 16 mos and I am so behind on the photo bio. All the digital pics from everyone are just overwhelming besides the ones we take too.
    What size book did you wind up getting and how many pages? It looks like the square one? I like the look of it.

  35. Hi Robin!
    The main one we did (for us and our parents) is the square one and it was 200 pages.
    We did a 2nd one just for us that had only 50 pages and included just the photos our friend Bonnie took of our family last year. (thats the one thats vertical and more rectangular).

  36. What a great idea..and awesome albums, Joy! Ruby is sooo adorable!!
    I’m in the midst of selecting the pics …oh, I wish I was more organized like you were! It will take me a while to go thru them!
    Question: how did you include the ultrasound pics in there? did you scan them first? and they look okay after they get sized up? Thanks!

  37. Gorgeous, Joy! Keepsakes like this are just the most precious things ever.
    We currently have three boys under four (with another on the way) and I spent AGES mulling over a memory-keeping workflow/system so that I could maintain something consistent across the board. Even though it seemed like it took forever to work out, it was totally worth it as it’s now a no-brainer.
    For each child, I make a first year photo book similar to the one you’ve made for Ruby, except that I only include photos taken on our DSLR. Throughout the year, I import, tag and rate every single photo as we take them, which means that all I have to do at the end of the year, is to create a smart album in Aperture of all photos of that child with a rating of four stars and above and then I choose photos from that collection. This has worked really well so far. I also intend to do 2nd year to 5th year photo books for each child.
    I also keep a Project Life album for each child, which I update monthly throughout the year. I print photos at home on my Canon Pixma for these. For these albums, I include mainly my iPhone photos because I know that these won’t be included in the photo books. Again, having all the photos sorted and ready to go in Aperture makes all of this pretty easy.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing these lovely images with us and I’m so glad you told us about Artifcat Uprising. I always love to check out what other printing/suppliers there are out there.
    Happy new year to you and your gorgeous family!
    Ronnie xo

  38. p.s. Joy, are you happy with the overall quality o f the books by Artifact Uprising? How thick are you books and how do they sit when laid out flat?
    Ronnie xo

  39. I love the quality of the books. The only issues I had were their limitations with fonts, but they say they are working on a lot of updates right now.
    My thicker book can lay flat if you press it out a bit and my thinner book lays flat pretty easily.

  40. Yes, I like the images to shine, so I was able to get the look I wanted with their templates. But they also have an option to create your own. So I used that as well!

  41. Lovely photo book, and Ruby is adorable! I’m a big fan of organizing and displaying digital photos in printed photo books, and have make some albums for family members as gifts. It wasn’t until I got married (May 2012) that I started thinking about the possibilities of making albums for our own use. Thanks; will definitely check this out!

  42. Beautiful photos of Ruby!
    My baby was born in june and I want to make an album of his first year, so I have taken photos of him every day. So, it should be 365 days and 365 photos of my baby-boy in the album. And these photos are such a good family chronicle and it’s so heart warming to look how he is growing, day by day.

  43. hi joy, thanks for sharing this post! how is the quality of the paper? is it like magazine-style paper or thicker (like some photo books)?

  44. Hi Joy! I am in the process of trying out Artifact Uprising also for my 8 month old’s pics. Does anyone find the upload process and adding text to be wierd? I have to use the basic uploader because it keeps saying I am missing the java plug-in even though I am not. And than when I do get my pics uploaded they are no where to be found. I find that to be a little bit annoying when I am trying to upload a lot of pics. Did you or anyone else have that issue? I am also having trouble trying to change the font. It doesn’t seem to let me go back and revise. Anyway hoping there are easy fixes because I am so excited to get my book going!

  45. One other thing….is there a way to make the pics black and white in artifact uprising rather than having to change them all in a separate program and re-save each pic?

  46. Hi Dawn,
    It might be a browser issue but Id email them to ask about your specific issue!
    It definitely took me a few mins to get use to the interface of their site, but once I figured it out, it went pretty smoothly.

  47. Hi,
    Thank you! I am def going to email them because I am running into a few issues and I really want to make my book. Love the way you have the one big pic spread across both pages. I am trying to do that now with some difficulty. I don’t see a specific template for that. What I need is more patience lol
    Anyway I love your blog. I am on it all the time…my first time posting though. Your book has inspired me to get my butt in gear with all these pics!

  48. Hi! Beautiful book…
    I was wondering if you or your readers have ideas on good companies to convert blogs into books? I have a blog for my daughter, and last year, I transferred her first year from her blog to Blurb to create a book. It came out beautiful, but was so much work. I had to physically edit every page, and I had to re-import every single photo, since the software just transferred thumbnail photos to Blurb.
    Any ideas? Instead of doing a photo book for each year, I’d like to take advantage of the virtual baby book I have going already on a blog. And who knows where that blog will be in 20 years when my baby grows up!

  49. I have used Blurb in the past but I think Im going to give your recommendation a try! How did you end up choosing your size and album jacket/cover. Did you end up just taking it off? I kind of like the partial cover but worry it will look funny.

  50. I started a book for our twin girls first year and became so overwhelmed with the process that I never finished. They will be two in just a few weeks and I’ll be facing my desire for a photo book once again. I love your idea of keeping it simple by having just one photo per page without frilly layout options. It looks great AND it feels manageable!! Thanks for sharing!

  51. Hi Sarah!
    We chose the smaller one to give to our parents as I figured theyd want to use it as a brag book too, so I didnt want it to be too big proportionately. I like the look of the half cover, but yes, when flipping through the half cover does get hard to keep on. Hopefully theyll eventually have printable covers that are part of the book!

  52. Love that you included the sonogram to start with. I wish that 18 years ago this kind of books existed, young moms have so many choices now!
    I will add this company to my list and will try it for one of my projects. I have started to do photo organizing for private clients who don’t have the time to do it. I teach iPhoto to moms who are not so comfortable with computers so I naturally recommend Apple if they are on a Mac. Designwise I love Kolo and Pinhole Press. I am very curious about Moleskine new photo book capabilities.
    The key is to edit regularly your photos before it gets overwhelming. Because it is very boring to edit pictures on your own, the task is easier to do it along with another mom.
    Thank you for the recommendation, would love to see your next books!

  53. so cute! i’m excited to have found this post, i’m thinking ahead for getting a book done for my little guy’s 1st year, and i was feeling overwhelmed by the choices for book printing but there’s lots of great dialogue here!
    thanks for sharing, ruby is CRAZY CUTE! ^__^

  54. thank you so much for this recommendation Joy. I finally got around to doing our wedding album (I’d put it off for 2 1/2 years because I couldn’t find any options that I liked enough) and I’m thrilled with it!

  55. Hi Joy! I am so inspired to make one of these for my daughter Annabel! Quick question – did you fill one page with even your instagram and phone pics? I wouldn’t think they would be high enough res. to come out that big!

  56. Awesome site! My wife and I just recently had our first child and we both love fashion… Your site makes it easy for us to get the latest trend on fashion & decor. I just bookmarked your blog! Thanks again and continue blogging :).

  57. Thanks to you Joy, I just designed my first photo book and used Artifact Uprising. I am not a tech person so had many questions at the beginning. I LOVE this company because you can either call or email your questions. I called initially and the woman I spoke with said, “What is your title?” I told her, “The Camino de Santiago” and she responded, “I want to walk that too. I just bought the guide book!” Needless to say, Laura and I had an instant connection…she would even call me during the week to see how I was doing! Imagine! Today Joy, thanks to you and Laura at Artifact Uprising, I am ready to order my 150 pg landscape photo book of walking 500 miles across northern Spain… and I am 63 yrs. old! Now ready to start my second book for my 2 yr old grandson!

  58. Hi again Joy! Another project I so want to do as a gift for my youngest daughter is to convert her blog (wordpress) of her sons first year to a photo book. She did an amazing job and want to preserve it for her and her family. What would you do?
    Appreciate all your suggestion very much!


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