Organizing Kid Artwork With Photo Streams & Photo Books In 5 Easy Steps

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I’m sure I’m not the only one out there drowning in adorable, plentiful kid artwork.  I love it.  Artwork they do at home, school, camps… all of it.  However, I don’t exactly want to keep all of it as much as I cherish it.  I mean, I certainly don’t have any desire to rummage through the boxes upon boxes of art and keepsakes that my mother saved and that is now rotting in storage, save a few key pieces that I remember like artwork I won awards for or made as a gift.  Of course, those pieces she saved and put into a scrap book, so really there’s no point to all of those boxes that my mother has lugged around year after year, move after move.  I appreciate the gesture, but don’t want to follow in that tradition. So, after a couple of years of wrangling piles upon piles of artwork, I’ve found a system that is working great for us. There are systems out there, like the Artkive iPhone app that use the same idea, but I’m a control freak and really need more creative control.  Plus, I like to order my books from my favorite photo book maker, Blurb. I started using Artkive in the beginning, but later ended up downloading my files so I could import them into Blurb’s Free BookSmart software.  They also offer BookWright, which I haven’t tried yet but I hear is amazing.  Then, I started organizing my artwork photos myself.

Step 1: Photograph Artwork I found that taking photos of artwork outdoors in the shade works best, although in the spirit of keeping up with the organization, some are taken inside on a colorful backdrop, some are just taken on the carpet in front of my study window where I get a lot go rest light, some are taken inside the school hallways where artwork has been displayed, and some was taken on the way out of school since my kids have a habit of disassembling artwork in the backseat on the way home (and I want to preserve it FIRST!).  In the end, the variation turned out great.  If I could do one thing differently, I would have taken more photos of my kids with their artwork (and also the artwork alone) because those photos turned out really cute in the book and gave me more layout options.  I photographed all projects:  from home, school, camp, dance class, grandma’s house… everything.  It’s easier to not use something later than to wish you had photographed something.  For some artwork, I amped up the brightness and/or shadows (especially on artwork with white backgrounds) using my Snapspeed app on my iPhone to reduce shadows and get more accurate colors.

Step 2: Organize Artwork If I had just taken these photos and left them on my phone, I never would have been able to find them again when it came time to make a book and therefore never would have gotten around to making the book.  So, what I found was quick, easy, and painless was to add artwork to a PhotoStream (more on that here if you’re not familiar with it) from my iPhone as soon as I took it (and right after I edited it, as I sometimes did).  Sometimes I took multiple photos so I could decide later what I wanted to use and I added all of these to the PhotoStream.  Each kiddo had a separate PhotoStream and I titled it “Artwork 2013-14 <name>”.  It was easy to find and easy to manage.  Plus, I was able to share the stream with my husband and he enjoyed getting to see all of their art as it happened.  I use an iPhone which I know is super popular for moms, if you have a different phone, look for a similar feature. 20140620-110426-39866251.jpg Step 3: Import Photos To BookSmart or BookWright Software I use a Mac with Aperture, and iPhoto should work much the same way.  There are instructions on how to set up PhotoStream on your PC here.  In Aperture & iPhoto, you can add your Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 11.52.56 AMPhotoStreams in “Preferences” if you haven’t already using your Apple ID and then they will show up in the “Shared” section on the left-hand navigation panel along with your Albums/Projects.  I then added a Project/Event (you can also use an Album) and used the “Select All” function to select and copy all of the artwork from the photo stream into my local Aperture/iPhoto library on my computer.  You can navigate to your photos within the Blurb software, but if your library is as full as mine, it’s easier to export the images into a temporary folder first, then navigate to that folder from within the Blurb software.  Be sure to export photos in FULL SIZE so that you get the best print quality! That sounds like a lot of steps, but only takes a few minutes per book/child.

Step 4: Create Your Book 20140620-110420-39860717.jpgBlurb allows you to fully customize your books in their software and there are templates for the novice user and advanced options for the advanced user.  We use a template for all of our books so that they look like a set all stacked together on a shelf.  You can make customizations to the binding, although we always use a plain white binding with colored text, all in the same font, for continuity.  I used 8 x 10 books for this project. On the front covers, I chose photos that included the girls to make them extra personal.  On Chloe’s, I picked an adorable photo of her holding an art project and for Cora’s I used an image of an art project that included a photo of her (so glad she happened to be wearing something cute that day!).  I don’t always use the same font on the covers, but this has been out favorite for it’s classic look.  I included a title and volume.  Both girls have “Volume I” because I’m expecting more art and will make “Volume II” for summer 2014 through the next school year.  Chloe’s book is thicker because I added artwork she had done beginning in 2012 that never made a book because there wasn’t really enough of it before both girls started preschool last year.  The odds and ends from summer camps and at home fit in best at the beginning of this book rather than in a stand-alone book.  Just use your best judgment on when to do your cut-off dates and what to include.  I included every project I could photograph including holiday cards and 3D objects, even the plant Chloe grew in her class as a Mother’s Day gift this year. 20140620-110426-39866080.jpg On the back, I picked some of my favorite art.  In hindsight, something similar (like both having handprint art) may have looked better together, but I still like the way it turned out.  Chloe’s art was from a Mother’s Day project and included a sweet poem about growing up so it was perfect.  Cora’s Bluebonnet art was just one of my favorites and I planned on keeping it, but it was unfortunately ruined in the way home (glad i photographed it at school!). 20140620-110421-39861162.jpg On the first/intro page, I used one of Blurb’s built-in layouts to create a fun title page with thumbnails of artwork shown later in the book. 20140620-110425-39865547.jpg Inside, I used a number of layouts and even changed the background colors to add some interest.  I found that white art pages stood out well against a black or colored background since the photographs weren’t always a true white.  For more colorful photos, where I photographed artwork on interesting backgrounds (will try to do more of this next year!), a plain white background worked best.  I mixed sizes and layouts depending on how it looked and the size/quality of the artwork and photographs. 20140620-110421-39861460.jpg

For some artwork, I had dates and other notes I wanted to add, which the Blurb software makes fairly simply using their layouts or by modifying a layout to add text and moving images around.

20140620-110422-39862244.jpg The black backgrounds also worked well to frame art that I wanted to make sure didn’t get cut-off, like artwork that included titles from Cora’s class.  There are full-bleed options (where the image fills the page), but that works best when you aren’t concerned about getting every pixel printed like I was with these. 20140620-110421-39861845.jpg I also grouped themed artwork, like putting these two Valentine’s Day art pieces together. 20140620-110423-39863259.jpg And these firefighter-themed works together from when the firefighters visited the school, inspiring a theme-week. 20140620-110422-39862994.jpg I also grouped Dr. Seuss themed artwork from that theme week, 20140620-110422-39862663.jpg For some pieces, out carpet or pavers outside didn’t look as beautiful as other backgrounds, like one of our antique rugs that complimented this Thanksgiving page. 20140620-110423-39863655.jpg For some artwork, I included a close-up photo as well as a photo of the proud artist (who yes, wears tiaras to school regularly).  I did not manage to photograph this project at home and was glad that I photographed it on display at school.  It looks better with the peek-a-bo of classmate’s artwork in view. 20140620-110425-39865255.jpgStep 5: Publish! Blurb offers many options for their books.  You can select different cover types (we use image-wrap here) and paper types (we do upgrade so these books can last year of abuse from the proud artists), and options to order a PDF version or even share the book with family so they can order their own copy.  There is a delivery time estimate and our books have always arrived ahead of that estimate so we have never needed to upgrade the shipping. I love Blurb for the options, easy of use, and quality.  Their customer service is great a well.  I have submitted questions before and have promptly received answers.  Once a book came with the binding a bit off where the front image was on half of the binding and they quickly sent out a replacement.

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