Making Our Family Yearbook (An Annual Photo Book)

This week has already been pretty word-heavy with two big construction tutorials and a laundry saga, so we thought some lighter fare was in order – especially since a bunch of you have been asking if we made a family photo book again this year, and if so, when we’d share the details. Well, in the ever esteemed words of Madame Britney, “oops, we did it again.” In fact, the newest edition of the Petersik Family Yearbook landed on our doorstep this weekend.

I have to say that we’re still so stunned at how thin-yet-picture-packed these books are. That picture above shows how five years of photos (over 2,400 of them!) can be stored in the same amount of space as one traditional photo album (which might hold 200 photos by comparison).

Here’s the cover that we chose for this year’s album: a somewhat goofy snapshot from our summer vacation to Florida. Yup, Sherry convinced me to go topless for this year’s cover (actually I think Clara’s happy grin sold us all on this photo).

For those keeping track, this is now our fourth year of condensing 365-days’ worth of family photographs into one nicely bound volume that we buy from MyPublisher (here are the posts on our books from 2012, 2011 and 2009/10). This year’s picture is so light that the white title on the cover isn’t as visible from afar, but it’s easier to see in person when you’re holding it.

We followed our usual format and wrapped the spine and back in a color borrowed from the cover photo – so this year’s was a soft seafoam-ish green.

We always time our order to take advantage of MyPublisher’s “Free Extra Pages” discount, which cycles around every few weeks. It means that we can print a 99-page book without paying the surcharge they usually tack on for anything longer than 35 pages. You can see this year it saved us nearly $80. And while the final $48 price tag isn’t nothing, we’ve always felt that it’s comparable (if not better) than what we’d pay to order all of those prints along with buying a traditional photo album (or three) to stuff them into.

We also like the “insurance” of these photo books, since we have files for each book saved on our computer (so we could quickly get one reprinted if something happened to the original). Even if our entire house was destroyed, MyPublisher keeps files remotely on their end as well, so everything we’ve ever purchased (even dating back to that first 2009/2010 book) could easily be reordered.

But I promised this post would be less wordy, right? Can you tell we have trouble with that? Let’s just take a peek inside at some of the pages, starting with our summary page at the very beginning of the book. For anyone wondering, you can add type while creating your layout, so we just make two type columns, and fill them in with notable things that we did (in a general order of when they occurred).

And here are some of our interior pages. We packed a lot of pictures into some of them, like this spread full of book tour adventures.

We also used some pages for comparisons, like this series of shots of Clara with Sherry’s mom and my parents, who all just happened to all be with us on her birthday for the last four years since her birth.

Some pages got bigger/fewer photos (like the right one below, which just has two of our favorite Clara-party pics).

And we had fun looking back at other big events, like our move (we’re so glad we took those empty house photos before we locked that door for the last time).

One change this year is that we tried to include more pictures of us doing projects (since that’s clearly a big part of our lives). In the past, our technique of backing up “blog photos” and “family photos” separately has meant a lot of the photos of us building/painting/de-wallpapering don’t end up in the family folder that we draw from to make our yearbook. So throughout this year we both tried to be better at plucking out certain blog pictures and making sure they also went into our family file.

For those who wonder how we generally organize photos, we just use iPhoto. We have one album called Family 2013, and throughout the entire year we dump family photos in there, where it keeps them all nice and chronological. Then we go through and pick the ones we love most, import them into the MyPublisher software (it’s free to download) and layout the yearbook.

And of course, we couldn’t resist making a page that celebrates how much we’re looking forward to 2014 for an extra special reason…

We also saved a dozen or so pages at the end of the book to make fun little grids of Instagram pictures. It’s not all of the IG pics we shared in 2013, just some of our favorites. There’s something about seeing them en masse at the end of the book that’s more exciting than sprinkling them throughout the album (they have a more casual and random feeling, so it’s cool to flip through them at the end, like some sort of relaxed wrap-up).

Since this is my fourth time assembling one of these, I’ve definitely honed my skills at pacing out my pages. In past years I’ve hit MyPublisher’s 100-page max before I even got to Halloween photos. But this time I even had a spare spread to put the last 12 photos from Clara’s monthly photo project.

Ahhh, the memories…

How are you guys memorializing 2013? Please tell me that we’re not the only ones running a little late with any end-of-the-year traditions. Are you newly on the bound-photobook bandwagon? Or are you committed to tried-and-true photo albums? Is there some new software or service we should check out?


    • says

      We’re planning to do something similar but not identical, so we might change a few elements (ex: not use different fabric every week, etc) but we’re not quite sure what we’ll do. I think once he’s here we’ll play around on that first weekly photo and see where we end up – and of course we’ll share it with you guys!


  1. says

    I love these yearly photo albums you make – great keepsakes. We did one for our toddler’s first year and for our wedding/honeymoon, but we need to catch up with the last few years (especially since we too moved into a new house in 2013!). We’ve used Snapfish and have been pretty happy with the results.

  2. says

    so cute! love the pictures with grandparents & the last 12 months of Clara photos. We did a photobook for our wedding album, and ordered the album as our xmas presents to parents and grandparents this year. Timing was everything! I got 6 books for about $110 thanks to coupons, promotions, free shipping, etc.

  3. says

    This is such a great idea! We used to send yearly photobooks to my husband’s grandparents, yet we never thought to make books for ourselves. I really need to go back and do this, but I’m certainly intimated by the sheer daunting numbers of photos to go through. I really do like the electronic back up feature, that’s awesome!

  4. Jen says

    I use my publisher every year as well, i love it. I order three copies of each book because we have two kids, and I want them to be able to have a set of the family photo albums when they leave the house . Nice book guys

  5. says

    We do family yearbooks like this too. I love MyPublisher! I wish we could have done each book in the same size but they’re of multi-heights and depths unlike yours. Some years we’ve had more of a budget for them and this year we got a great deal so upgraded to large size! I usually do ours in January.

  6. says

    Do you ever look at the pictures of your last house and get a little bit sad? We moved last summer and our new house is WAY better than our old house but I still get a tiny twinge of sadness when I look at the pictures. It was part of our life and now its not. Just wondering if I’m alone!

    • says

      Yes, I think it’s always bittersweet! I even get that feeling for our first house. I just remind myself it was so meaningful to us (such a huge chunk of our lives was spent in those two homes and so much happened there!) that it would be crazy if we didn’t feel anything when we looked back on those photos and fond memories :)


    • says

      how funny you mention that–I was just talking about this with my friends the other day. I bought my first home in 2013, and upgraded from a TINY studio apartment to a “spacious” 1000-sq ft 3 bedroom with a huge backyard….and yet sometimes, I find myself missing my cramped, lovely, completely “done” apartment with no counter space and a five foot balcony. I became so much of an adult in that space, and really discovered what kind of woman I wanted to be. i love my house, but I still miss my little space.

  7. Jessie L. says

    I just ordered my wedding photo-book from Shutterfly for Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been married for two years now. So don’t worry, y’all aren’t that bad behind :) I really want to try and do that yearly photo-book tradition though, just because it is such a great way to look back at the good times. Problem is, I’m not so great and the whole actually getting out the camera and taking pictures thing. Any tips?

    • says

      We take so many photos with our iPhones these days, so that might be a tip (when the big camera isn’t on hand, just grab your phone to capture something sweet). We also try to make ourselves bring the good camera to special events (family parties, trips, etc) so just lugging it along can egg us on to take more photos. Also: start a blog. You’ll take a million pictures! Ha!


    • Lindsey d. says

      I’ve done two yearly photobooks now, and, honestly, they are mostly iPhone pics. Shutterfly has an app so I can directly upload from my phone to the web without having to shuttle photos from phone to computer to Shutterfly. The iPhone pics are high enough quality that they turn out well in the books…

  8. em says

    I love our family yearbooks. We use Shutterfly- I wonder how the quality of the pictures compares to My Publisher? We also look for the deals and make a hard-cover book for our own family, as well as soft-covers for each set of grandparents and great-grandparents. It is absolutely the best present I could give them. Our extended family is not so tech-savvy, so they love having these books to look through over and over again.
    For our own family, it’s great to see the pictures again and read the text with all the memories of the year.

    • says

      I’ve gotten books from both Shutterfly and My Publisher. I don’t mind Shutterfly for smaller books (like, I did an ABC book for my daughter using Shutterfly) but feel like My Publisher’s books are such better quality for our yearly family photo album. Thicker pages, great color, great binding, etc. Especially since my yearbooks tend to be 100 pages also.

    • says

      And I forgot my favorite part about My Publisher. Since the program is downloaded on your computer, you can make the book as you go throughout the year and just do a little bit of editing down when the year wraps up. The web based photo book applications are so difficult, and I’ve lost a book and had to start over in the middle of a web-based application too. Those things take long enough without having to start over!

    • Susan says

      I totally agree with Lacey. I’ve made albums through both companies and have come to the conclusion that Shutterfly does a decent job on smaller, more informal books, but MyPublisher puts out a higher quality product overall.

    • Brianna says

      I’ve used both! I intentionally have chosen MyPublisher for our family yearbooks and wedding albums since 2010 because the quality + ease couldn’t be best and the coupon codes were usually fabulous too. I have not been thrilled with Shutterfly’s quality when I’ve compared them to MyPublisher. It’s cheaper so I sometimes use them, but for heirloom books, I prefer MyPublisher. Shutterfly quality seems on par with iPhoto photo books in terms of photo quality, layout options, etc (though the backgrounds for Shutterfly pages have a lot more to choose from). I was actually concerned when Shutterfly bought MyPublisher last year, but so far MyPublisher quality is still excellent. Maybe in the future they’ll become more or less the same product, but for now they are definitely different.

    • says

      I haven’t made a photobook before but keep meaning to! I just clicked over to the My Publisher website and it looks like Shutterfly acquired them recently? So maybe I will try Shutterfly first. Hard to decide!

    • Rebecca says

      It is good to read the comparison. I take a million pictures, so I ended up doing two books for my daughter’s first year–100 pages for the first and second 6 months of her life. I used My Publisher for those books and loved the product!!! However, the program was SOOOOOOO….(wait for it)……SLOW! I kept up with the making of the books as I took the pictures each week and I almost had a conniption each time because every process took so long. So, for our 2014 yearbook I decided to try Shutterfly. So far I’ve liked it better because it is quicker/less frustrating and there are so many more layout/background/embellishment options. I’m disappointed to hear that so many were not as please with the quality of the product. I haven’t printed a book yet, but I have made a wall calendar through Shutterfly and was pleased with the results. Now I’m starting to rethink my decision to switch companies. Anyone else have any insight on the differences?

    • Judy says

      I printed my 2011 family yearbook through ArtsCow at the 12×12 size. I wasn’t totally impressed with the quality at that size (I use them for all of my kids’ 8×8 school art yearbooks and they are great). For my 2012 yearbook I switched the Shutterfly at the 12×12 size and couldn’t tell as much of a difference as I would have thought vs. ArtsCow. So that means I’m either expecting too much at that size or I need to jump to My Publisher for my 2013 book (I’m always a few months behind). I will say that I got my ArtsCow book for around $50 (100+ pages) but paid almost $80 through Shutterfly for the same amount of pages. I was amazed at the MyPublisher price!!

    • Natalie says

      My Publisher was recently aquired by Shutterfly. You can read about it at the bottom of their homepage. It does seem that the two will remain separate, though.

    • Shanna says

      I’ve done both and even though My Publisher was bought out by Shutterfly the books from My Publisher, in my opinion, are still a lot better quality. If you ever splurge on the super gloss printing and lay flat pages you’ll see a huge jump in quality too. I wish I never had because now I’ll never go back :).

    • Julie Kohler says

      I’ve never bought a book from them, but mpix has the best photo prints I’ve seen in a long time–definitely heirloom quality (not surprising–it was recommended by a professional photographer). They do books, so I suspect they would be really good. I find Shutterfly disappointing once I actually get the books, although the layout options are awesome.

  9. says

    I LOVE that you guys take the time to make these photo albums each year! I’ve been meaning to do something similar, but alas, it ends up on a New Year’s Resolutions or To-Do list, and never gets done. I assume it probably takes a lot of time to put together the layouts, but it’s so well worth it!

    • says

      We’re getting much faster each year! I think this year’s only took a few hours (the first one took a few hours of a bunch of days in a row, so we dipped into it on the evenings). It really is a learning curve though, so as you go, you seem to get faster at it!


    • Lindsey d. says

      I put together ours as we go through the year. So every month I take just an hour or two to compile the pages for that month. It’s a lot less daunting than waiting until the end and the information is fresh in my mind, making it easier to remember details. At the end, I do one big edit session, cutting out a page here or there and making sure it all looks consistent.

  10. Crystal says

    I’ve tried a couple of times to make one of these (I even started out at the beginning of the year in hopes of pacing myself) but I just couldn’t stick with it! How do you manage the time that you spend on it? Do you block out one hour every Thursday to work on it? Or do you just throw it together at the end? Do you both work on it so the work is split between two?

    P.s. Speaking of Florida…I’m going today!!! I’m desperate to get away from CT and all this snow! So excited!

    • says

      Wahoo! Have so much fun in Florida! I’m so jealous. As for the time it takes for us to make them, we have gotten so much faster over the years! I think this past one only took us a few hours total (all done in one day, except for the ordering process, which we did the next morning). Meanwhile a few years ago it took us a few hours of a few days (so we just tried to work on it in the evenings across a week, with both of us weighing in and trying to cull things down, etc). There’s definitely a learning curve, but over time you can get so much faster! We expected this years’ to take a lot longer than it did!


    • Crystal says

      Alright…I might be inspired to give it another go. :) Third times the charm right??

      I just need to keep it simple and not overcomplicate things!

    • Rebecca says

      I keep up with my books as I go. It is exciting for me to see it come together, so after I take some good pictures, I can’t wait to plug them into the book. The benefit of doing it that way is that it is easier to keep up with instead of sorting through a whole year’s worth of pictures at the end of the year–which would be totally overwhelming to me. The downside of doing it that way is that every little picture seems to be important enough to include which can make your books too long (especially if your publishing company has a page limit). I’ve noticed when I get a couple of weeks behind on mine, I feel less compelled to include certain pictures that I surely would have included if I were up to date on the book.

    • em says

      Crystal, our photos are all arranged chronologically anyway on iphoto. I usually end up doing my book the night before the really good deal expires, but it only takes a couple hours to choose my favorite pictures and add captions. That’s on Shutterfly- I don’t know about MyPublisher. It’s so worth it!

  11. Natalie Royall says

    Couldn’t wait for you guys to share this! I “stole” your idea starting in 2012… when our little one arrived. I use Snapfish, and also wait for a 50% off coupon, so I usually end up around the $50 mark as well for the year :) I like how you sort your photos though. This past year at the beginning of each month, I would do the previous months photos. So I broke the book down into 12 “chapters” That way, I was just about done come the beginning of January, so I jumped on the first coupon that came out :) Loooove this idea, and will keep it up for many years to come too!! Also… unrelated… love how the new nursery is coming out so far! Can’t wait to see the rest!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *