School Album – Part 1: Organizing and Photographing Artwork

I am in the process of setting up a school album for each of my three kids. My oldest is just finishing 2nd Grade and my youngest is in his first year of Preschool. I’m not too far behind yet, but anymore and I will start feeling that way.

Over time I found the 12×12 binder albums that I wanted. Each child will have two matching binders and all six look nice together while they still live here.

I don’t want to repeat much, if anything in our annual Project Life albums. It will showcase a lot of artwork, classroom photos, school pictures, school activities and maybe the key extracurriculars they did that year. I plan on coming up with a recipe for what to include each year, including a rough layout template and repeat that from pre-Kindergarten up through high school.

Today’s blog post is about organizing the pieces throughout the year, so that when that school year is complete you are ready to put it together. Maybe you are more like me and have a few (or all) years to do. Artwork is a big part of it. I am photographing it so that I can incorporate it into a 12×12 album easily.

When something comes home that I think I might want to include, I add the date somewhere on the back or even the front lower corner, along with a name. I will weed stuff down at the end of the school year, but try to collect the stellar stuff that tells a little about their year.

I put oversized art pieces together near the filing cabinet. So, when it’s the end of the year (or anytime if you are playing catch-up) I can get to work. Most everything I will use needs to be digitized.

One approach is to start with your current year with the most recent memories, and then work backwards. Typically, I would go with that approach, but I was really anxious to free up space in the filing cabinet, so I’m starting with my oldest child’s first year of Pre-Kindergarten (3-year-old Preschool). I grabbed that hanging file and got to work.

I like to use a clean white canvas as a backdrop and lay the piece on top and shoot from above. Find a spot near a window for good natural, indirect light. Mid-morning or afternoon are typically best for me, but you will need to take note when that is in your part of the world. Make sure to hold the camera or your phone parallel above your subject. If you do not have access to good daylight hours and want to get this project done, say after kids are in bed, I suggest investing in a lightbox. Go here for a review I previously did on the Shotbox. There are also plenty of tutorials out there on how to make one.

I have also tried non-daylight photographing with an app called PhotoScan. It will remove glare for any lighting and align artwork nicely, cropping to just the artwork. I ended up using this app even with my natural light photography and really liked the ability to rotate and crop right to the edges within the app. It takes a little longer than just snapping a photo, but it will save me time cropping.

Here are two screenshots from my phone within the Photoscan App. Here is the feature that makes it great for photographing artwork. The top image shows the options to rotate on the bottom left and “Adjust Corners” in the bottom center. If you select Adjust Corners, you see what is shown in the bottom image above. Four connected dots appear that you can move around to your liking.

When you select one corner, a zoomed in image pops up so you can pick the exact corner if that is best for the image.

You can photoscan and adjust a batch in the app and then “Save All”. It will save to your camera roll and Google Photos.

Now we are all set up to start creating a format for getting these school albums done. I’ll be back with Part 2 of this series soon! If you want to get ahead, I suggest these products from Amber LaBau Designs:

 Through the Years | Pocket Cards

Wonderful You | Pocket Cards

Composition | Pocket Squares

Blackboard Alpha


I’m Holly. I’m a stay-at-home-mama of three wee ones. It’s a busy, chaotic life since leaving the architecture world. And I’m documenting the heck out of it. My days are full of museum and zoo trips, playgrounds, play-dates, school happenings and feeding this family of five. My husband and I still love to travel; now we do it with kids.

4 Comments on School Album – Part 1: Organizing and Photographing Artwork

  1. Monica
    May 27, 2017 at 11:06 PM (4 years ago)

    I like this! Thanks for sharing!

    • Holly Genc
      May 29, 2017 at 4:27 PM (4 years ago)

      Thanks, Monica! I’ll be back in June with my next steps!


2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on School Album – Part 1: Organizing and Photographing Artwork

  1. […] I’m back with my next step in getting School Albums started. If you are anything like me, you have stacks of school memorabilia in bags or boxes in your closet and just need a system for starting! I did the first post on organizing and photographing artwork in June. Find it here. […]

  2. […] I’m sharing the next part of my School Albums Series. Previous posts were about Organizing and Photographing Artwork (Part 1), and Making a Plan (Part 2). “Making a Plan” showcased my first two layouts which I […]

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