Recently I received a comment on my Facebook fan page from AJ about sharing some tips for non-writers on how to include narrative in your photo books.
I’m sure you have plenty on your “to do” list but what about the Words? Journaling? There are probably articles out there on other scrapbooking sites but I can’t find any (good ones). I’m working on my childhood book and want to include lots of memories and such. Tips on how to write (for us non-writers) when we’re not looking to write a novel but do want more then dates and two sentence captions.
Honestly, I don’t know if I should even venture into this topic. Sometimes I think a post topic is going to be easy and then I get into it and I find it’s not as simple as I thought. But, I suppose I could dig deep into the past and brush the cobwebs off that degree I earned many, many years ago in journalism. Yes, I was a broadcasting major in college. As you may be able to tell from my writing style, my degree in broadcasting has influenced the way I write for this blog. I prefer a casual, conversational tone, and many times I purposely do not use proper grammar. Sometimes proper grammar sounds wrong or “too proper”. I hope you’re not grading me!
Now that I’ve shared that tidbit, I bet you’re expecting some morsels of scholarly greatness aren’t you? Well, I can’t promise that, but I’ll do my best!
Here are my best tips for adding narrative to your photo books (or at least what works for me):
1) Keep a journal. I started keeping a journal since I was about 8 years old maybe even younger. Was I really that introspective? I actually recall my good friend at the time having one and she encouraged me to buy one at the local dime store. Back then it was called a diary and my first entry started with, “Dear Diary, blah, blah, blah…” I think folks feel pressure starting or keeping a journal because they think it needs to be really profound, but I assure you nothing profound is in those early entries and even in the ones I write today. I just write whatever is in my head and I only write when I feel like it. So, months sometime pass before I do an entry, but I typically reread the last entry before writing the next one to basically catch myself up on myself. Haha…
When I go to making my photo books, I look back at the relevant journal entries to get inspiration of what to include in my narratives. I even journal when I go on vacation. I find it’s a nice way to cap off the day. Admittedly, since having a little one, I’m too exhausted to journal after a long day out and about, but then I try to do it as soon as I can before I forget the details. You may be saying to yourself, “But I didn’t keep a journal at the time and my details are already fuzzy.” It’s never to late to make a photo book in my mind. Even if the small details may be lost, jot down what you can remember about an event. Anything you have down on paper (or typed on your computer) will be helpful;
2) Don’t feel like you have to caption every photo. I prefer to write a single narrative (or block of text) for each section of photos. That section could be broken up by days (if you’re doing a vacation photo book for example) or by category (if you’re doing a family heritage book or yearbook). I don’t prefer to caption each photo because I like a cleaner look. Sometimes I only write a single page at the beginning that summarizes the trip or overall topic of the book as a whole;
3) Interview Others. Don’t feel like you have to put the whole narrative on your shoulders. For example if your photo book is about a vacation, come up with a list of fun questions to ask each traveler such as, “What was your favorite place we visited on this trip? What was your favorite meal? What was a surprising thing you learned?” I think it would be a great way to remember the trip and to get the different perspectives of each individual.
The reader who requested this post is doing a childhood book. While her personal thoughts should be front and center, perhaps interviewing her mother, father, siblings, family friends about what memories a particular photo brings to mind would be an interesting exercise. Be sure to answer the same questions yourself!
4) Use Bullet Points or Make a List. Does the thought of long paragraphs scare you? Try writing bullet points if that makes sense for your narrative, or think of a relevant “Top Ten List”;
5) Quotes and Lyrics. Narrative can come from other sources…
- Song Lyrics (ie: What song played when you walked down the aisle? Your first dance? A song that played over and over during your ten-hour road trip. A favorite song from 1989 (if you’re making a book about the past). A favorite lullaby;
- Transcribe a speech – memorialize the words that made folks misty eyed (or chuckle)- at a wedding, graduation, anniversary, retirement party etc.;
- Funny things your kids (or grandparents) say;
- Advice from your mother and father (that you always followed of course);
- Poems and stories;
- Famous Quotes
6) Infographics. I love, love, love infographics. You may not be familiar with this term, but I’m sure you’ve seen them before. An infographic is a creative, visual method of conveying information. My version of the infographic is a lot less sophisticated than some of the examples I’ve seen, but I’m always game to give something a try.
For example, we recently came back from Disneyland. I’m so excited to make photo books (yes I did mean to use plural) of this trip. One thing I wanted to do was an account of the specific attractions we experienced and the places we ate. While I could type up a list and put that in the book as a caption, that’s a little to blah for me. What I plan to do is scan the park map and then circle or use a color overlay to highlight each ride we went on. I may even put a small inset photo of us on that ride or in front of the ride to make it even more personal. I used this same concept for my honeymoon book. I created a map of the places we visited and then added my favorite photo of us in each place. We also used the same map in our wedding thank you cards. They were a big hit with our friends and family. I’ve also seen folks create fun ways to display facts about their year or their trip such as how many miles they traveled, how many hamburgers they ate, etc.
7) Make Your Own Font.
There are some free services as well as paid ones that are very affordable for having a font made of your own handwriting. How cool is that to have your own font? I made one of my printing and I have used it a couple times in books. Lends a nice personal touch. If you’re interested I’ll write more on that later.
Additional Tips and Related Topics
Make sure to have someone read over your narrative to check for errors. It’s so annoying to find a typo after a book has gone to print. Take a look at my pre-printing checklist here.
Now that you have some tips on what to write, check out my design tips for laying out text.
Happy Photobooking! Don’t forget to enter your comment for to be eligible for the giveaway!