How to Choose the Best Photos for Your Scrapbook

I’ve been hearing this question a lot lately, and it really got me thinking- how DO I choose which photos to use in my scrapbooks?

I take a TON of photos, and I tend to do month-based layouts, so I often have to choose a handful of photos out of hundreds to document our story for that month. Usually as I’m scrolling through my pictures it’s easy for me to see the 1-3 “stand out” photos that I know I will definitely include in my scrapbook pages- you know – the ones in perfect focus with good lighting that really capture the moment.

The hard part is when the rest are just “pretty good” pictures, or if you don’t even have any stand out photos at all.

Sometimes you may be tempted to not put any of them in your pages because it is hard to get past the fact that your pictures didn’t turn out exactly as you wanted them or you just don’t feel inspired by any of them- maybe the lighting wasn’t great, you goofed on your camera settings, you don’t have a single shot that is completely in focus, etc.

Wait! Before you scroll past that photo—

Don’t rule out a photo just because it isn’t the best. Try to keep in mind that a lot of issues can be fixed with simple adjustments on Photoshop or other photo editing apps. Even a blurry photo can be made to look clearer to the eye by increasing contrast or making it black & white. Try to keep an open mind.

Most importantly, try to remember the REASON you are scrapbooking in the first place. Sometimes, the precious moments, faces, and personalities that you want to remember so badly, can’t be captured in a perfect photo- and that’s OK. Life isn’t perfect, and neither is memory-keeping. In my opinion, I would rather have an imperfect photo to tell the story than no photo at all.

The other problem is the sheer quantity of the photos, which can be very overwhelming- how on earth are you supposed to pick just a few favorites? This leads you to photo paralysis (why yes I just made up that term)- where choosing none is easier than choosing “the wrong ones”.  On this topic, I defer to Becky Higgins, who wisely said, “Listen. This is not choosing who to marry or where we will raise our family. We’re choosing which pictures to put in a scrapbook. You’re not going to screw up, so stop stressing yourself out over these little choices…Stop second-guessing yourself. Choose. And move on. And you will magically be quicker at scrapbooking.” – Read more of her great advice here.

But how DO you CHOOSE? How do you know which photos are worth including? Below are some questions that help guide me when I am trying to sort through my seemingly endless quantities of photos. Keep in mind that ONLY YOU can know the right answer to these questions for YOUR photos. Not everything that is heart-warming to me …hehe like a pic of my handsome husband ;)… will be heart-warming to you, and vice-versa. Scrapbook the moments that YOU want to remember, the photos that make you feel the feels, and that YOU believe best capture the story of your life.

How to Choose the Best Photos for Your Scrapbook – Ask Yourself:

1. Does it help set the scene for the story you have to tell? 

This is SO important because it helps others step into your shoes and really be able to visualize your story. Where were you? What was it like there?

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2. Does it warm your heart and make you go “aw”? 

This is one of my go-to questions for deciding on pictures to include. If it makes me feel all the feels, it’s going in. Because isn’t that what scrapbooking is about? Helping you capture those precious, heart-warming moments you never want to forget.

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3. Does it make you pause and want to keep looking? 

Sometimes a photo is just nice to look at. If it’s pretty or has that “je-ne-sais-quoi”- include it!

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4. Does it show a relationship? 

I love the quote that says, “The family is the center of life and the key to eternal happiness.”  Any picture that captures the beauty of these treasured relationships should be saved for future generations.

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5. Is it candid? Does it show emotion? Does it perfectly capture a moment you want to remember? 

My favorite photos to include are candid ones. The ones that show it like it really is.

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6. Is it iconic? Does it represent a typical moment in your day to day life? 

10, 20, 50 years from now, these are the things that will be most interesting to your kids and others who look back on your life. What was life really like? What did a typical day look like?

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7. Does it fill in the blanks of the story? 

So much of life goes on behind the scenes that we often don’t see. Include those things- everyday objects, weather, social media, screenshots of conversations, details that are affecting your life at that point in time. Any information that helps to complete the story are scrapbooker’s gold!

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8. Is it a group shot? 

You can never have too many group photos.  If it’s a decent photo, include it.

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 9. Does it perfectly capture a quirk or personality? 

A scrapbook needs to be so much more than perfectly composed, formal portraits. Photos with personality are what make the pages come to life.

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10. Does it offer a unique angle or perspective? 

These kind of shots mix things up and make your page more visually appealing.

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11. Does it makes you laugh?

For me, including funny pictures, whether good shots or not, is a no-brainer. These are the sort of moments I definitely want to look back and remember.

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If you can answer YES  to any of the above questions, especially more than once for any photo in question, it is probably worth documenting.

You know a photo is especially awesome & needs to be documented when it fits into multiple categories-

Unique Perspective & Setting the Scene

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Unique Perspective & Iconic/Representative of Daily Life

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Group Photo & Candid

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Candid, Shows Relationship, Makes Me Laugh

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Candid & Heart-Warming

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Fills in the Blanks, Candid, Iconic

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Makes Me Laugh, Candid, Perfectly Captures Personality

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Candid & Iconic/Representative of Everyday Life

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Candid, Heart-Warming, Shows Relationship, Unique Perspective

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Some Other Questions to Ask Yourself:

If the photo isn’t “perfect”, can you improve it with editing?

Is this an important memory to preserve for yourself? Your children? Future generations?

Remember the 80/20 Principle– even if the photo isn’t perfect, is it 80% good enough?

If you have many similar pictures that you can’t choose between, are they different enough to group together to make a themed layout?

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Are you feeling hopeful? Inspired? If you want some more great tips on choosing the best photos for your scrapbooks, check out this article on choosing the best photos at Paperclipping.com, and this fantastic blog post by Becky Higgins herself.

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