Creating photo keepsakes

Many professional photographers expend all their energy photographing and preserving memories of their clients, but what about their personal photo collections? It’s time to tame and master your own photos, with a little help from Katie Kolenberg who planned and created 15 albums in 8 months.

This time we bring you a quick guide to conquering your personal photo collection, and feeling the intense satisfaction that can bring. Portrait photographer, mum and all-round-creative Katie Kolenberg explains how seeking refuge from the 2019 summer bushfires followed by COVID-inspired isolation in 2020 gave her the space to plan and create 15 family albums in just eight months, and why the biggest benefits are yet to come.


When and why did you decide to create these albums?

For years I’ve had a mental list a mile long of all the albums and books I wanted to design. But I really got down to the business of catching up last summer, during the bushfire crisis. We were housebound due to smoke and I was suffering from some pretty crippling anxiety. It was something productive and relaxing to do that kept my mind busy.

How did you approach it i.e. planning, album topics, timeline?

I made a list of what I wanted to make, based around annuals, big holidays and personal projects. Basically a big list of all the books I’d always intended to make but never got around to.

How long did the whole process take and what took the most time?

I did it in stages. So I got the first few done over summer, during our ‘failed’ holiday period, and then the rest done during COVID-19. The thing that took the most time was sorting through photos that hadn’t previously been culled or processed.


How many albums did you create?

15 altogether! 6 travel albums, 3 annuals, our wedding album and 5 personal projects.

How many photos did you start with, and how many made the album?

Each one was different, but a few of them had in excess of 8000 photos to choose from! The biggest ones were the two annuals I did and our Iceland trip. Iceland had almost 9000 photos (including phone photos) and I chose approximately 700, divided into three volumes. The annuals are pretty big too. 2017 ended up with 600 photos, culled from 7500.


How did you decide which photos made the cut? Any selection tips?

It varies from project to project. With more family oriented books, I try and make sure I include all important events and faces, even if they’re not all the greatest photos we’ve ever taken. It’s important for me to tell the most meaningful stories and not leave things out just because the photos aren’t as good.

With travel books, I always pick the most outstanding images first and then fill in the gaps with other shots as needed. And I ALWAYS include phone photos in any family or travel book, because sometimes you capture things on your phone that you don’t otherwise capture. Often they’re funny, quirky memories that deserve a place in your heart just as much as anything else you captured!

I also think that when choosing, it’s important to not dwell on it too much as it can really chew up a lot of time and feel heavy and hard. Best to use your instinct, and if you feel undecided about a few, choose them all and let your layout have the final say.


Your top 3 rules when designing and laying out the albums?

Keep it simple! Regardless of the design tool you use, set up your guides and margins before you start, so your design is consistently aligned. Use full page bleed images for impact and emphasis (and your favourite photos). Use pages with grids of smaller photos for iphoneography, selfies and quirky moments. Try not to put similar or same layouts on consecutive pages.

Did you include any text? Why or why not?

Yes I usually do. For travel albums I love to record where shots were taken, especially when visiting far flung exotic locations. For family albums, I love to include dates and events.


How did your family respond to them ?

My kids love them and Jez is just so happy that I took on the responsibility of getting on top of it all!

Where do they live and how often do you all look at them?

Jez built a special shelf in our living room just for them, and we designed it to be expandable, because we will run out of room each time I do a new batch of books!


Your personal photo management and backup system?

I save all personal photos on a RAID drive. I use Lightroom like a directory (so one catalog for everything). I divide my photos into directories of the year, then break them down into months or events, so it’s really easy to find things.

Top tip for anyone wanting to tackle their personal photo mountain?

Make a list or draw a diagram of what you want to achieve. Break it down into specific albums and projects. Start with something simple. And then just keep going. The sense of achievement is amazing!

Has this process influenced your professional photography business?

It’s something to talk about with clients when they’re questioning the value of albums and books.


Finally, how do you feel about your achievement?

There are no words. It’s something that’s been hanging over me for years, and accumulating. I’m so proud of myself!


We agree that Katie should be proud of her achievement. She was committed and created stunning and thoughtful album designs. We hope you are now inspired to establish a plan to tame and master your own photo collection. If you need even more incentive, read our blog post on how these printed keepsakes will not only preserve childhood memories for her boys, but improve their sense of self and  well being as they grow.

Jez, we also think you should patent your expandable bookshelf idea!


Now you’re inspired

About the author Momento Photobooks

Co-founder + Marketing Manager of Momento, creators of premium photo books + custom stationery. A 100% Australian owned + made company dedicated to helping amateur, enthusiast + professional photographers preserve their images in style at

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