© 2013 photobookgirl digital scrapbooking journaling

Photo Book Girl’s Top 7 Tips on Journaling (Plus a Flash Giveaway ENDED!)




5 Prizes from Photobook Canada and Photobook America

I have 4 vouchers for a FREE photo book from Photobook Canada and 1 from Photobook America. Each is for a 20-page, 11×8.5 Medium Landscape Imagewrap Lite (shipping not included) Voucher expires Feb 28, 2014. The Canadian ones are only for delivery within Canada and is valued at CAD43 and the U.S. one is only for delivery in the U.S. and is valued at USD43. They are up for grabs! The first 4 Canadians and first U.S. reader who comment on this post below will get a voucher. Be sure to tell me if you’re in the U.S. or Canada.
For Canadians, I will ask you a skill question to comply with local requirements. (Don’t worry it will be easy). Giveaway will close when I get my 4 Canadian and 1 U.S. reader confirmed or by October 2, 2013 11:59pm CST, whichever is sooner. Your comment might not post right away, but it will be time stamped so don’t worry it will count if you comment in time and if you are eligible. Thanks to Photobook Worldwide for sponsoring the prizes!


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).Β  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 toΒ  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.

MyPublisher Deluxe Photo Book Leather

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!




Be sure to check out my CANVAS DEALS!


  1. Nikki Hancock
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:04 pm | #

    Sweet! I could really use these to make books from our recent visit to Disney!!!

  2. Vanessa Lee
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:04 pm | #

    Hi Photobook Girl! I would like to enter! I am a US resident.

  3. Stephanie
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm | #

    yes! me please!

  4. Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm | #

    I WIN!!! US Please!

  5. Jocelyn
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm | #

    Wish I would consistently keep a journal would make things easier for maki g books. But I am on off on this

  6. Heather Watson
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm | #

    I don’t think I’ve ever used text in a photo book. Maybe I should start. You had a lot of great ideas!

  7. Janet
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm | #

    I do journal in my photo books. Coming from a Creative Memories background, I got a lot of training on how the words are just as important as the pictures. But I’m not afraid of blank space. If I only have a little bit to say, I don’t try to fill the blank space beyond what I have to communicate.

  8. Sally
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm | #

    I would love a free photo book from Photobook America! I’m in the US and would make my cousin a wedding photo book.

  9. Faith Dulin
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm | #

    How do you win? πŸ™‚

  10. Virginia Tom
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm | #

    I would love this!

  11. Janet
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm | #

    Forgot to say that I’m in the USA.

  12. Nicole
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm | #

    I take a tiny notebook with me when I travel and ‘try’ to remember to jot down bullets of where we went or what we saw. This helps when organizing my pictures for photobooks as I can then quickly remember what goes with what and when. (Canadian reader here)

  13. Linda
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm | #

    I could always use a good photo book coupon. I look to photobook girl for the best deals whenever I have one to make.

  14. Virginia Tom
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm | #

    I would love this! I’m in the US.

  15. Jennifer
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm | #

    I’m a US reader. Love your site! I recommend it all the time to friends who ask about photo books.

  16. Colleen
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm | #

    I’m Canadian and would love to win a book!!!

  17. Amy Ford
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm | #

    I think adding descriptions, phrases and more adds an extra creativity to your book and helps others know more about the event. US resident

    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm | #

    Thanks for the tips, i especially like the song lyrics and quotes idea!

  19. tawnya
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm | #

    Would love a Photobook america book for new baby on the way!

  20. Cindy Wright
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm | #


  21. Shanna Irwin-Coury
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm | #

    Where are the free programs to make your own fonts?

    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm | #

    oh im in the U.S. πŸ™‚

  23. Rebecca
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm | #

    Flash…did I get it?

  24. Shanna Irwin-Coury
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm | #

    So I’m in the U.S.

  25. Kathleen Hoch
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm | #

    Some really good suggestions.

  26. Cosmo
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm | #

    thanks – lotsa great tips!

  27. viki hojnacki
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm | #

    Oh my I need this I just loaded 6 years of pictures I live in Nc usa

  28. nancy
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm | #

    I would love a book!!!

  29. Divya Samuel
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm | #

    Keeping a journal is what came to my mind the instant I saw your title & then when I saw it on the top of the list, I was overjoyed!! My husband & I are planning on a trip this weekend by the sea & the first thing I thought of getting ready was a travel journal for the journey! I’ve also mad a note to collect scraps (tickets/napkins/labels etc) from each place we visit! I live in India as of now, but my family is in Indianapolis. Would I qualify for the US voucher?!

  30. Rebecca
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm | #

    From USA

  31. Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm | #

    Hey Photobook Girl – Thanks for the wonderful information and coupon access. It is hugely appreciated by your loyal fans!


  32. Tina Suarez
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm | #

    Thanks for the awesome tips!

  33. Cosmo
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm | #

    (btw I’m in the US, for the giveaway – thanx)

  34. aubri
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm | #

    i love photobook canada and they are my go to publisher for photobooks!

  35. Michele cespedes
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm | #

    I only caption photos that either have a specific memory attached to them or a specific place. I’ll especially write a caption if I won’t remember something cute my kids said or did.

  36. Nikki Hancock
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm | #


  37. Joan Vander Ziel
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm | #

    Hey is this where we comment on the give away. I’m in the US and wouldn’t make a photo book with out first reading about it on photo girl

  38. Patricia Wilson
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:21 pm | #

    We love going to Disney and look forward to taking our grandchildren. A photo book will be a must after that.

    • Posted November 25, 2016 at 10:30 pm | #

      I might be benatig a dead horse, but thank you for posting this!

  39. Nikki Hancock
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm | #


  40. Faith Dulin
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm | #

    Hey.. I was first on the facebook thread and maybe here (in the US)

  41. Patricia Wilson
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm | #

    I am un the USA

  42. Veronica
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm | #

    :)hope I made it. States girl

  43. Lacey Olsen
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm | #

    Hi! I’m from the U.S. and would love the free photobook!

  44. Maria
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm | #

    I live in the US.
    Traditional journaling has always been a challenge for me (have tried many times), however “image journaling” (including photos and drawings) add a new dimension to my travels and everyday experiences – I am always involved in the creation of some sort of photobook.

  45. Stacey
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm | #

    I love the infographic suggestion! I’ll have to try that. The font one is great too, but I’m not crazy about my own handwriting!

  46. Janna Mauldin Heiner
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm | #

    Serious–I’m first? I love your tips, always!

    • Janna Mauldin Heiner
      Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm | #

      And I’m in the US, LOL!

  47. Katy foley
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm | #

    I’m in the US. Love photo books and need to make another for my fiancΓ©!

  48. Lacey Olsen
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm | #

    Oh and I loved your tips. I think I do a fairly good job on narrative, but I think i’ll incorporate the interviewing, inforgraphics, and the personalized font in my next book…which I need to get going on! Any deals on Blurb?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm | #

      Yes there’s 20% off Blurb books right now which is one of the higher discounts they offer (I think I’ve only seen 25% off as max)! http://www.photobookgirl.com/deals/

  49. Alejandra Montes
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm | #

    You give me inspiration on finally doing something with the thousands of pictures I have. Please pick me…..

  50. Christie
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm | #

    Great article! Love the idea of interviewing others. I never thought of that. πŸ™‚

  51. huong nguyen
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm | #

    Can’t wait for the freebie. Thanks πŸ™‚

  52. Karla
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm | #

    Hello, for some reason the information about the give away is cut off on my phone… I only see half of it so I’m not sure if there is something specific I am supposed to say on my comment for the giveaway! Does this count?? Haha

    • photobookgirl
      Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm | #

      Karla, you should be able to “turn off the mobile” option right on the screen of the post. πŸ™‚

  53. Andy
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:35 pm | #

    Scot living in Canada πŸ™‚

  54. Victoria W.
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:38 pm | #

    canadian with tech issues who’d love this πŸ™‚

  55. Lily
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm | #

    Love the idea of the info graphic! would love more details on how you do that? maybe a whole post on it?

    I’m in Canada but honestly, I’m so behind on photobooks I probably shouldn’t take the coupon from a less-procrastinater-y photobook maker.

  56. Michele Cespedes
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm | #

    I previously commented. I’m in the us.

  57. Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm | #

    Journaling is a must, otherwise you miss out on the little things that make you laugh. Even as the creator of the books, years later, I can’t remember everything. When I read my journal comments, it brings me back in time to why I took the picture in the first place.

  58. Melinda
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm | #

    Im a Canadian Photobookgirl fan!!
    Thanks for all the great tips!!

  59. bellina Jacobs
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm | #

    Awesome chance for a great prize!

  60. Anna
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm | #

    Us reader- would love to win a photo book to use for our recent vacation!

  61. Carol Roggio
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm | #

    Love your website. would love to win

  62. Carol Roggio
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm | #


  63. Em
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm | #

    Yay for photo books! Thanks for the great journaling tips. This Canadian reader is grateful.

  64. Betty Horner
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm | #

    I sure could use a free photo book as I am creating and ordering multiple copies of my recent books for family members this year. It is turning into a mound of photo books. Haven’t even thought about the costs yet! (U.S.)

  65. Carol Roggio
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm | #

    Sorry forgot to put that I am from US in my first post. Love your website

  66. lauren pierce
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm | #

    I’d love to get a free book here in the US πŸ˜€

  67. Posted October 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm | #

    I liked all your tips. I usually did the book by date and give it some caption on each days. If it all just one day then i will caption on what kind of activity they do. I try to be funny sometime because later when they read it back it will remind them of a good time.

  68. Diana
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm | #

    Diana from US

  69. Terra
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm | #

    A little disappointing that your flash giveaways are during the day when most people work. Thanks anyway

  70. Kerri Hildebrandt
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm | #

    Kerri from Canada πŸ™‚

  71. Brandy
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm | #

    I once came back from a quick weekend trip with some lackluster photos, but a great story about drunken neighbors. I wrote the story out and then arranged photos from my trip to fit the story. For example: “The drunk neighbor chased me all the way from the bathrooms to my parked car…” This caption went onto the page next to a picture of my 3 year playing in the bathtub and another picture of my kid pretending to drive my car. I continued the story in this fashion: telling my story with captions underneath innocent pictures from my trip. It is one of my favorite books.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted October 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm | #

      Hi Brandy! Sounds hilarious and very creative. πŸ™‚

  72. Andre-Claude
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm | #

    I’m in for the giveaway albums for Canadian Customer. Always nice to read your article BTW !

  73. Posted October 2, 2013 at 8:01 pm | #

    Great idea. Thank you for your vigilance in keeping us informed.

  74. Pauline
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 11:36 am | #

    Thanks for another great giveaway!

  75. Anndee
    Posted October 4, 2013 at 10:45 pm | #

    Great article! How fun to have a blog entry off my question. I really like the map idea – that’s something I’m doing in my childhood book but using a sketch of the house layout. Then do pictures linked to the sketch and possibly a memory. Sounds like I should dedicate more space to all that…
    What I’ve found I do is make my layout and email it to the family. then sometimes in the email I’ll put the funny sidestory that goes with the layout. I realize I need to be including that in the layout as well!
    Anyway, thanks for the thoughts!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted October 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm | #

      I’m glad you like the article Anndee. Thanks for the inspiration! I like your idea of a sketch of your house layout. It makes me think of the doodling I used to do and maybe have scraps saved of somewhere. I like the idea that you email your family your layout for comment. Yes, definitely include the comment. Depending on the style of your book, I think if you find a thought or speech bubble as a background to the text that may be a fun aside. I used the idea in this baby book I did and I like how it turned out! Good luck with your book. I might make a childhood book too with your inspiration! πŸ™‚

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