If you like surprises, your family probably will, too, and there's no nicer surprise than using your creative inspiration to craft a photo album that present and future generations can enjoy. Time goes by quickly, and those hundreds or thousands of photos you have in shoeboxes or on disks and thumb drives can be valuable mementos if you just take the time to get them organized and arranged in some logical order.
There are lots of products and services on the market that can help you bring your photos into the light of day in a big way. Whether you like the idea of a handheld album, an online photo sharing service or a software package that can create files to share, there's something out there for you. The popularity of scrapbooking has given the old picture album a big push into the realm of multimedia, and you can easily use your photos in fun and unexpected ways. If you're a renegade, you can even print them on fabric and sew them into a quilt or wall hanging. How's that for turning candid snapshots into family treasures?
If you want to archive photographs in a handheld album as opposed to electronic media, make sure they'll stand the test of time by using plastic and paper products that are compliant with the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) designed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). PAT-compliant materials won't fade or cause unsightly stains. If you can't find PAT-compliant paper, use acid-free paper and avoid using cover sheets made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
On the next page, we'll take a look at a few photo album ideas that may focus your attention on new, exciting and fun ways to share and enjoy your photos.
Creative Family Keepsake Photo Album Ideas
Photo albums have come a long way since the days of cellophane and black construction paper. Remember the little mounting triangles that held the photos in place? Well, maybe you don't, but chances are your granny has a few in her closet -- where they've probably been gathering dust for a couple of decades. That's the trouble with photos. They're memory enhancers and poignant reminders of loved ones who are no longer with us, but they can languish, forgotten, unless we bring them out into the light of day.
With enhancements in photo handling hardware and software, you don't have to be an artist to take a good picture or make a collection of photos look like an artistic collage. If you have damaged photo prints, a photo printer and included software will make it easy to repair, digitize and electronically store those pictures, too. Using photos more creatively in your daily life and sharing them with others has never been easier. These suggestions will take your ideas about photo albums out of the box and put them in plain view where they belong:
- Use digital photo frames - From a single frame that displays a range of photos to a table full of photo frames, getting your photo album off the bookshelf and into your living space has its advantages. Digital frames are becoming more economical all the time, and if you can use photo handling software or a slideshow program, you can label and arrange your pics easily. A collection of these frames will be endlessly diverting, and you can avoid too much of a power drain by putting them on an electrical timer. Another nice touch is to change out your selections with the seasons or for special occasions.
- Indulge in some silkscreening - If you want to keep your photos close by, why not integrate a mini album into your daily life by having a photo collage silkscreened onto a decorative throw, tablecloth or clock face. It may be kitschy, but kitschy can be fun. The idea is to use your photos in dynamic new ways that will make you appreciate your creative vision, your life and your family every day.
- Create themes - Specialty scrapbooks and photo albums are wildly popular, and there are paper crafting and embellishment tools that can add interest to even those grainy, dark photos of your last vacation. With specialty stamps, stickers and papers, using themes and craft elements in your albums is like icing a cake -- it's all good.
- Use photo fabric - We mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. You can purchase fabric in 8 1/2-by 11-inch sheets to send through your color printer. Print single photos or photo groups onto fabric as you would onto photo paper. The fabric can then be washed and sewn into just about anything. If you've ever thought photo albums were nice but not very cuddly, this is the answer for you.
- Make your album portable - You may be able to create photo album wallpaper in .jpg format for your smartphone. Newer phones have the capability, and if you can use a camera, you can figure out how to use this feature on your phone, too.
- Employ your computer or flat screen - If you like the idea of using photo frames but want make a big statement, design an album to use as a flat screen slideshow, computer screensaver or computer wallpaper. If you're hosting a family reunion, it's one economical and effective way to share photos, create a focal point for the gathering, generate some laughs and create a few poignant moments.
- Use online services - If your family isn't centrally located, you can harness the power of cyberspace to make your picture albums available around the globe. Free photo hosting and some social networking sites make sharing images with family and friends simple and economical. Once you get comfortable handling and manipulating photo files, you'll be amazed at how easy and fun the process can be.
Now that your pictures are on display where your family can enjoy them, it's time to drag out your camera and start updating your photo journal. Creating photo albums can be addictive, and keeping them current is half the fun.
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