Friday, June 6, 2008

June 6 - Friday From The Collectors


Scrapbooks have been around for ages. They are a way of preserving elements of personal and family history in a traditional book format. Unlike a diary, text tends to be at a minimum in scrapbooks. Items such as photos, pressed flowers, keys, medals, and ephemera are the focus of a scrapbook page. Generally speaking, text is used to explain the significance of the items on a given page and/or identify the date and location of an event.

Creating scrapbooks became hugely popular in the Victorian Era. Long before it was practical to to lug around a large format camera, people had a desire to capture their memories and revisit them later. A first visit to the theater with a beau, a pretty flower from the garden of a good friend, the first dollar earned, business and calling cards of significant people, and a postcard from a travel vacation were all popular items on scrapbook pages. Both men and women kept souvenirs and remembrances on the blank pages of books designed just for that purpose. Decorating those souvenir pages was a natural next step.

Fast forward to the computer age and you find people still creating scrapbooks but now they're making use of current technology to do so. The art of creating scrapbooks has evolved into the art of digi-scrapping. The pages that were traditionally book bound have become individual works of art that may be printed as individual pages and inserted into page sleeves in an album. They can also be made into slide shows and sent around the world via email, printed as posters and displayed at funerals, framed and hung as works of art, and included in PowerPoint presentations at family reunions.

So now that you have a rudimentary understanding of why scrapbooks were originally created and how they've evolved, let's take a look at what their value is to the family historian. The best way to do this is by way of illustration. Let's start with an old family photograph.

Written on the back of this photograph is "1932". When my kids inherit my collection of old photos they'll look at this one and say to themselves, "Who do you think this is? Do you think that was grandma back in 1932?" What more do they know about the picture? Not much. What will anyone else looking at the picture know about it? Equally little. There's not a lot to go on here.

Now as it happens, I know what this picture is about because my mother told me. But if I don't take the time to record that information in some meaningful way it will be lost. Then it will become just another one of the pictures in "the box"of old photos, its significance lost to future generations.

Now let's take that same photo and create a scrapbook page for it. Let's add a theme and pull in other related items that my mom gave me. Individually most of these items would have little significance but put together they make an impact and tell a story. Take a look at this page and see if the significance of that photo doesn't become crystal clear. To everyone. (Click on the image to view larger if you need to.)

That same photo takes on a lot more meaning now, doesn't it? Same story with those individual lapel pins I used as elements on the page. If you found them in my jewelry box you probably wouldn't be able to figure out what they represented. But put on this page, they make sense. They've been given context.

I could have added a simple caption on the back of the original photo, "Lucille Lisowska 8th grade graduation from Assumption School" and that would have given some meaning to it. But that still leaves the lapel pins, the ribbon, and class ring. Sure, I could have photographed each item and printed them on a page with captions, a catalog of sorts. Or I could spend about the same amount of time creating this themed scrapbook page with it's vibrant spring colors and visual appeal. It's an example of the old "the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts".

Which would you rather have from your ancestor, the original photo or the scrapbook page? How about the original photo and the scrapbook page? Now we're talkin!

So what does it take to create a digi-scrap page like the one above? Basically, you need a computer, photo editing software that allows you to work in layers, and an old photo. That's it. That's all you need to start creating digi-scrap pages. True, a little more than that went into my scrapbook page. I used the Digi-scrapping kit: "Inherent Blessings", created by Netta of the Creative Victorian blog. Yellow paper from "Lovin Spring" kit by Jan Hosford on the Jan Hosford Designs blog. I also used an overlay created by Adeyeo of the Adeyeo blog. We'll get back to kits in a minute...

I personally use and recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements (the latest version is currently $69.99 with free shipping) but you can use any photo editing software that allows you to work in layers... including which is a free download.

Everyone who creates art works a little differently. The same is true with creating scrapbook pages. Some people start with a photo and create backgrounds and theme elements to go with it. Other's will choose a pre-made kit and look through their photo collection for just the right photo to use with it. I've done both. There is no right way. It's a matter of personal preference.

Digi-scrapping is a huge industry and for a price you can make it much easier to create great looking pages. Investing in a good piece of software is the best place to start. The better photo/image editing software programs have all sorts of short cut ways to save time and get good results. If you're like me and time is at a premium, you can buy or get for free pre-designed kits that have color coordinated backgrounds and elements that make creating a theme sooo much easier. Why reinvent the wheel when hugely talented designers have already done it for you? Kits are generally priced from $1.99 - $9.99 with the more expensive kits having more backgrounds and more elements making them more useful for a larger variety of layouts.

You can also get equally beautiful kits absolutely free. Designers create them and give them away. Nope, I'm not kidding. Really! I was amazed when I first discovered this. There are literally hundreds of kits given away for free via the internet every day of the year. A good place to look for freebie kits is DigiFree the Freebie Search Engine. Everyday a new set of preview thumbnails are posted. All you have to do is click on one and it will take you to the designer's blog where you can down the kit for free. Often, kits are given away in parts so you might have to visit the designer's blog several days in a row to get a complete kit. But you can't beat the price. All they ask is for is a thank you comment!

Beware! Going after freebie kits can become addictive. I started almost a year ago and haven't missed a day since. I've amassed a huge collection of kits to cover every event, season, holiday, color scheme, era, and area you can imagine. When I get to the Fourth of July I'll have completed one year and that's when I plan to stop accumulating kits on a daily basis. Of course I've discovered several favorite designers over the last year and I'll continue to download their kits. But I need to deal with my addiction and move on to creating more pages and downloading fewer kits ;-)

I know what you're thinking... so how do I use the kits? Kits contain at a minimum background papers in .jpg format and elements in .png format. Some will also contain coordinating alphabets and frames for your photos (also .png format). Scrapbook pages are created by opening a background paper file in your photo editing software and adding your photos and elements on separate layers. Then you can move the items around independent of each other and resize as necessary to get the effect you want. Finishing touches such as bevels and drop shadows give a more authentic look and are usually added at the end.

Some designers create "templates" that you can download. Templates are pre-designed pages that can be huge time savers. You can use a kit in combination with a pre-designed template and create a great looking and unique scrapbook page in no time. Misty has created a great little tutorial that explains how easily it can be done. Here is an example of a template and how I used it to create my own page. (Template by Deltapdawn)

If you're really pressed for time you can use a "quick page". Some designers will create a complete page from their kits and all you have to do is download it and slip your photo into the frame(s). Here's an example of a freebie quick page (from the kit Musical Memories by Tina Williams).

I added a photo and text on the tag.

The beauty of using a quick page is I completed this page in less than 15 minutes and it's ready for framing!

There are loads of tutorials available on how to create special effects and custom elements, and tips for using Photoshop Elements. You need only do a search on Google to find many, many good ones. Check out the Creative Genealogy blog for era and ethnic themed kits.

The best scrapbook pages for the family historian will include photos as well as other related items. But what if you don't have "other related items"? You can do some searches for related items that will give your page some context. Check out vintage postcard sites, Ebay, and ephemera collections for great period pieces. Here are some ideas for digi-scrap pages with family history themes:

  • Use an image of a ship manifest with a photo or postcard of the ship your ancestor sailed on. Then add their citizenship photo for a terrific and personal immigration themed page.
  • Scan a map of the country your ancestor was from, add a short list of the surnames of your ancestors and the name of their village. Then search for a village web site or on for images of that village. (You might be surprised how many photographers will be happy to give you permission to use their photos for your personal use in a family history.) Voila! You have a great "starting point" page for your family history album!
  • Create a series of pages using one theme like "summer fun" and devote a page to each family member you have a summer photo for. You can add vintage vacation postcards and fun elements like sand pails, sea shells, beach blankets, sunglasses, etc. from page to page. If you use a kit with coordinating backgrounds and elements everything will work beautifully together. Add a little journaling about favorite family vacation spots and you've got a priceless keepsake... the pages could be added to an album or you could buy some inexpensive and simple frames and create a gallery on a wall in your home. You could even coordinate the colors to match your decor and it would be a totally unique, one-of-a-kind display. Talk about a conversation piece!
Printing scrapbook pages has never been easier. The traditional 12"x12" scrapbook page is a bit of a challenge to print on most home printers (not to mention pricey ;-) but many online services are now printing that size for a very reasonable price. CostCo charges only $2.99 to print a 12"x12" page and they do a beautiful job. I don't think you could print it at home for that price by the time you consider the price of the ink, paper, and figure in the cost of an oversized printer. And 12"x12" scrapbook pages fit nicely in "record album frames" which you can pick up for about $10 a piece at major craft stores or discount retailers like Hey, we're talking less than $15 for a unique and personal work of art, a beautiful display of your family history... so what are you waiting for?

Go get creative with your genealogy!

Article and Photographs
Copyright © Jasia


Blogger footnoteMaven said...

My apologies to everyone, but Shades has experienced technical difficulties this morning.

I believe all has been remedied.


June 6, 2008 at 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I always enjoy your creativity and this one just shows how wonderfully talented you really are.
Thanks for sharing with us. I've been slowly but surely experimenting with Digital Scrapbooking but my daughter has now become completely addicted to it.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us Jasia and thank you for allowing her to, Mrs. Maven!

June 6, 2008 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Chery Kinnick said...


Thanks, I can't wait to try it! I appreciate your stressing the importance of putting other artifacts in context with photos.

June 6, 2008 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Moultrie Creek said...

You didn't have to convince me that digi-scrapping was the way to go, but you've sure given me some great inspiration! I love the way you pulled the ephemera in with the photos to tell your graduation story.

A special thanks to fM for her uncanny ability to bring out the best of this very talented community. I really look forward to coming home to "Friday at Shades". Talk about Happy Hour!

June 6, 2008 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Lidian said...

You have convinced me that this is something I might really like doing...Thank you souch for a great post!

June 6, 2008 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

Thanks to all for your very kind remarks. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and I look forward to seeing some scrapbook pages on your blogs!

June 7, 2008 at 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you very much. I've always been a fan of traditional scrapbooking, and I've been wanting to try digi-scrapbooking but I didn't really understand how to do it. Now I do.
What's Past is Prologue

June 7, 2008 at 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy both genealogy and digital scrapbooking. I just recently started combining the two. Good article!

June 8, 2008 at 8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one aspect of genealogical documentation that I had not tried yet, but I think after reading this post I will be giving it a try. A++ article. Thanks for all the advice.

June 10, 2008 at 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also enjoy genealogy and digital scrapbooking and have just began the process of combining the two together. I would highly recommend
This can be found there and it is fabulous!
Heritage Chest, Vol 1 - My Family Tree by Jean Daugherty Designs
The first in the Heritage Chest Collection, My Family Tree is a unique kit to help you assemble and organize your family information onto Family Tree... $4.99

... more info
Heritage Chest, Vol 1 - My Family Tree Freebie
This FREE Quick Page is created using background paper and chart elements from Heritage Chest Vol I Kit, and coordinates beautifully with that kit....

Stop in there and you will be amazed at the quality of the scrapbooking kits and tell Kate "HI" from indigosd! Enjoy!

October 15, 2008 at 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too love photography & have a big collection of photographs in the form of scrapbooks. Too have bought a new digital camera from Circuit City specially for this purpose.

October 31, 2008 at 2:12 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I loved your story about Digital Scrapbooking.
I am so fortunate to live in Southern California. One year ago I could not even load a picture into a quick page. I have been taking Digital Scrapbooking classes at Huntington Beach Adult School for a year now and have learned so much. I use Photoshop Elements. I made a Genealogy Digital Scrapbook of one of my lines last Spring and printed out two copies to give one to my grandson who graduated from 8th grade and one for my cousin in Chicago. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I love Digital Scrapbooking because it allows me to connect yesterday to the present and leads me to tomorrow's world through pictures and journaling of family, friends,and events. T

November 9, 2008 at 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also add "video" as another potential form of digital scrapbooking. It's not for everyone, but once you master a few editing moves, you can pan across photos like Ken Burns, make documents pop, add text, audio and more. I like the fact that you can post the results on YouTube and email the link!

February 21, 2009 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you had any problems with taking pictures in public places, in that people demand you not take pictures of them or their stuff, even though they are in public and should have no right to privacy while in a public place? I have read all the articles on this, but there is always a catch to every thing.

March 31, 2009 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Judith Richards Shubert said...

Cheryl told me about your article on digi scrapping and I love your ideas, Jasia! Thank you so much for the links and the instructions. I have been doing digital scrapbooking since June 2009 and have really enjoyed it. I use Photoshop 7 even though it's not quite as user friendly as Elements (I've been told), it does a good job. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!

October 15, 2009 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger my Heritage Happens said...

Jasia, Judith beat me to this article! I have been wanting to learn digi scrapbooking for a couple of years, but never have the time. I still wish I had more time, but I am getting closer. I wish I would find a local class to take. I have Photoshop Elements 6 and hope to play around once I learn enough to know how to! Little by little I am getting closer. You are the one who inspires me! Thank you for sharing!

October 28, 2009 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Sherry - Family Tree Writer said...

Great post! I'm getting ready to dive into digital scrapbooking, but don't have Photoshop yet. Thought I would check out an on-line company, too. Will Paint Shop Pro work? I do have that program.

November 9, 2009 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

Sherry, Paint Shop Pro will work just fine! All you really need is software that allows you to work in layers, and PPP will do that. :-)

November 10, 2009 at 1:12 PM  

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