Learn how to create a photo book. From organizing your photos to laying out the pages. Ideas for creating a personal one-of-a-kind gift.

My son graduated high school a couple of years ago…yes I know I’m old!

Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m old enough to have a kid in college.

But you know as they say…young at heart.

Well, that’s what I keep trying to tell myself. Haha!

Anyway back to the point of this post…I wanted to give him something meaningful for his graduation.

I’m a pretty sentimental person and love doing special things for the people I love. 

So…as part of his gift, I made him two memory books.

The first was a graduation book where I collected letters from friends, family, and mentors to include in a book.   

The second was a photo book of memories simply titled…  Jakob Riley  Through the years…

How to Create a Photo Book

flat lay picture of closed photo book

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Can you believe we have actual hard copy pictures in photo albums of his first few years.

Nothing fancy…just an album with pages to slip in pictures.

This is way back when… you know in the late ’90s before iPhones or even digital cameras!

I wanted him to have a photo book of the highlights of his life.

Just something small that would fit on his bookshelf and he could take with him to college.

flat lay photo of back cover of photo book

I started looking through the literally thousands of pictures I have on my computer… I started to feel overwhelmed!

It didn’t help that I started this project just 2 months before he would graduate. The pressure was on!

See all those baskets filled with photo albums? How was I going to scan 4 years of printed pictures from those albums?

close up of console table with baskets filled with photo albums

Not only those 4 years of printed pictures…but how was I going to organize all of the 14 remaining years of digital pictures stored on my computer?

I started searching for an easy answer, but there were so many variations of how to layout a photo book that I felt unsure of myself.

How was I going to condense 18 years’ worth of memories into one photo book?

I was feeling emotional…my baby was graduating! Wasn’t he just starting kindergarten??

inside page of photo book showing picture of little boy laughing

So what’s a girl to do…call your friend…the one who’s a photographer, scrapbooker & memory keeper…I called Anne!

The next day I was in her studio and she asked me just the right questions to help me figure out what was important to include and how I wanted it to feel when he looked at it. I left her house with a plan and felt confident I could get this done.

How to Organize Photos

picture of computer screen showing picture folders organized by year

I started with “scanning” in all my printed pictures. With the quality of my iPhone being better than the quality of my printer at the time, I just took pictures of the old printed photos then uploaded the images to my computer.

Although I wouldn’t recommend this method if you want to print out a large picture…it worked great for a photo book!

I created a separate “Jake” folder on my computer and copied all the pictures that I thought I might want to use into that folder. Then created subfolders for each year, including a subfolder for all those older “scanned” pictures.

I decided to layout the book chronologically from birth through current, with a few special pages thrown in for fun.

The cover page included a picture from his senior photo session and a note.

I also did a page of pictures of the three houses & his bedrooms in each of those houses that he’s lived in.

And I “borrowed” some of his friends’ pictures from social media and created a few pages with quotes about friendship. Those pages didn’t necessarily fall within the chronological span of the book.

How to Layout the Photo Book Pages

inside of photo book page with teen leaning against wall with arms crossed

I chose Blurb to create this photo book because it allowed me to create the layout that I wanted for each page.

Once a layout page is designed you can save that page to reuse later in your book. It’s seriously so easy to use!

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inside page of photo book with grid pattern of photos and caption

Another reason I chose Blurb is that there is no page limit which was very important to me!

No need to be limited once I got into my groove.

And I’m happy I went with them because the book ended up being 160 pages! Wow!

inside of photo book showing both left and right sides of pages with photos in grid pattern and caption

Some pages had a just few pictures….but others had up to 12 on a page.

I wrote a little message about the period in his life or shared a memory of the experience we were having in the photos.

inside of photo book showing both left and right sides of pages with photos in grid pattern and caption

If I didn’t have something to meaningful or witty to write…I just added a simple heading

inside of photo book showing both left and right sides of pages with photos in grid pattern and caption

…or found a quote that matched a feeling I had about him and our family.

If you’re looking for a great quote check this out!

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inside photo book with picture of teenager and quote caption

This is one of those projects I’ve wanted to do for years but never found the time to do it.

Apparently, I work better under pressure.

I’m so glad I did this for him…and for me…because of course, I ordered 2 copies of the book!

inside photo book with pictures of senior photo session

Do you create photo books? 

Our other photo or memory book/gift ideas:

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photo book pinterest graphic

7 Comments on How to Create a Photo Book | Graduation Gift Idea

  1. Yes, I have created my own graduation books ala Through The Years or This Is Your Life. I have made 6 of them so far for my grandkids graduations. I have 3 more to make. I start with the day they were born and the last page is Graduation Day. I include birthdays, sports, hobbies, special times with parents, grandparents, siblings & family. I also include poems, what their name means, and any old papers I have that they have sent us when in preschool or at any age. I use 3 ring notebooks with the sleeves on front so I can insert my own cover photo. So far, the kids have loved them and I have fun making them!

    • Oh, Kathie what a wonderful keepsake for your grandchildren. I’m sure they will cherish the books you’ve made them forever! Thanks so much for the ideas you shared with us. And thank you for taking time to read our blog post and comment…we love our followers.

  2. thank you for your idea. I am also putting together a photo book for my graduate. Do you remember which blurb book format you used? there are many options . The one format I see offers only a few pictures per page and then you add pictures which costs a lot of money. Thank you.

    • Hi Jenn!

      Congratulations on your graduate! Thanks so much for reading our blog and for reaching out to us. We both made 10×8 photo books using the Blank Slate template, picked layouts we generally liked from the “standard layouts” option across the top and then used the “add/insert” option to add more image boxes, as needed. Any time we changed layouts, we opted to save the layout so we could reuse it on future pages.

      The books start with 20 pages and then you can add more pages as needed. We HIGHLY recommend waiting to actually order the book when they’re offering a 40% off sale on books which they do every couple of months.

      I hope that helps!

  3. Last Fall , to celebrate my husbands retirement ; he wanted to drive across country in our 2017 corvette . He had some bucket list items he wanted to achieve on this cross- country trip , and we were able to check those off the list. I am a photographer , so we have excellent photos to capture this fun trip . About half way through the ride , we discovered his sister had cancer & was given a diagnosis of 6 months left to live … she died almost exactly six months later . Since she lived in California , we adjusted our trip Togo and visit her . All this to say , I would like to make a photo book of this cross country trip , but like you feel overwhelmed by where to start .. any suggestions would be helpful ? My photos are all digital and organized , I just need to make the photo book .. I wanted the book to be a birthday present … his birthday is June 13😬 .. I’ve never heard of the company you used .. I am going to look them up now .. thank you for any advice you can offer … Karen

    • Thanks so much for reaching out Karen and I’m so very sorry for your loss. A photo book would be a perfect birthday gift idea. I’d suggest laying the book out chronologically from the start of your trip to end. Adding a special section for photos of your visit with his sister…maybe adding some special quotes. Another idea…choose a different color page background for the pictures of your visit with his sister. I chose a black background for the entire book. But it would be a nice idea to do different color pages to create a distinction for that special time with your sister in-law. Let us know if you have any other questions.

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