DIY Photo Album Book + How I Store and Organize Photos


Today I want to share how I organize both printed and digital photos as well as take you along as I create our 2021 photo album book.

diy photo album book

For the last few years, I have had nothing but issues with my phone. The storage was always full. Could this be because I had over 6,000 photos stored on it? Probably. I also had several flash drives full of photos. After investing in a new camera in 2021 and having Ila in December 2020, the issue only got worse. I was overwhelmed with all of our photos and could not manage what I have and I definitely could not enjoy them. So come the end of 2021/beginning of 2022, I decided enough was enough. I started to organize my digital and physical photos with a hard drive and this DIY photo album book.

Now I hate clutter. I am messy and not naturally organized so the best way I have found to keep control of the house is to keep our belongings minimal. I considered printing a photo book for 2021 so we would have a digital and physical copy of our photos. The issue with this was that I just do not really like how they look. You are also so limited in what you can do with them. I am a creative person who enjoys the process of something like this and adding more than just photos like handwritten notes about memories and other documents was important to me. So I chose to organize them digitally and then make a tradition photo album. This solved multiple issues like photo organization and paper clutter.

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    How I Store and Organize Digital Photos

    Until the end of 2021, all of our photos were stored on multiple flash drives and my phone. Very unorganized and susceptible to loss. After having Ila, I became more serious about getting our photos organized because I had so many of her first year of life and I did not ever want to lose any of them!

    So now they are all stored on hard drives. But I do know that hard drives can crash. To remedy this, I have two hard drives so that one can serve as a back up in the event the original fails. Another great option would be to have one hard drive and a backup on a cloud storage service. I might do this in the future, we will see. I plan to have two backups of the photos for each year.

    Within the hard drives I have all photos organized by year and month, then organized by if they are the original photo or an edited version. This just makes it easier come time to print them because I usually will want the edited version.

    My plan is to back these up monthly so that it is not this overwhelming task that takes months like this initial declutter and organization did.

    How I Store and Organize Printed Photos

    diy photo album book

    For printed photos, I have a ton packed away in boxes since we have moved and are in the process of building a new home. These are not organized but eventually I will get to these. I just started fresh with 2021 for now and plan to work on this monthly as well.

    We love to look through our photos that have been printed. Even more, I love the creativity that comes with a photo album and putting photos together, jotting down a few things about what we were doing or memories we have. So this year I decided to do a photo album book for 2021. I really enjoyed making this and plan to start on 2022’s book as well.

    Every printed photo gets added to the book, along with any other memory items I am wanting to keep like coloring pages from Ila, any new developments she has had or souvenirs we have like things from trips. I love the idea of looking through all of these items in one place. It keeps my home and paper clutter organized without having to sacrifice the actual item. Once Ila is old enough, I want her to help me to make it that much more special.

    How Much Does It Cost To Make A Photo Book?

    It can cost as little or as much as you are willing to spend. I did not spend a lot, maybe $10 on the actual book. Compared to a printed photo book from a place like Shutterfly or Artifact Uprising, this is very affordable. Now the printing the photos was more like $30.00 but I will add that I printed a lot of photos- like 350- and we will see just how many of those I can actually fit into my book.

    I just picked up a nicer looking binder from Wal-Mart that was not one of the traditional looking cheap plastic ones and several packages of these inserts. Wal-Mart does sell photo albums that come with inserts but they did not have what I needed in store and I was in a rush and did not want to order online and wait. I also was in Michaels today for a few other things and saw so many nice albums if you are looking to spend a little more on the actual album.

    How Long Does It Take To Make A Photo Book?

    I have spent a good chunk of time on this because I waited until the end of the year. I expect this to take no more than 30 minutes every month to complete. Maybe an hour if I am really elaborate in creativity. The point of this though is to not just create the book to get it done but to enjoy making it and the time spent on it. So spend five minutes if you just want to document your year and do not really enjoy the creative part or spend hours if this is a nice outlet for you. Add notes, drawings, dates, mementos, anything you like.

    What Do I Add To A Photo Album Book?

    • Photos
    • Sentimental documents (kids artwork, letters, brochures or pamphlets from trips, tickets to concerts, etc.)
    • Captions, dates
    • Small sentimental items (fabric, small trip souvenirs)


    • Don’t wait until the end of the year. its best to do it as you go like every month.
    • Add more than just photos if you want to use this as a way to organize any sentimental or memory items. I like that I can keep the original items but have them all in one place AND get enjoyment out of them.
    • Keep your books out for easy access and more use
    • Involve your family and make it a family project each year if you are short on time

    Tools And Materials For DIY Photo Album Book

    Photo album or binder
    Photo album inserts- I used these

    How To Make A DIY Photo Album Book

    Gather and Organize All Of Your Photos and Other Additions For The Year

    This was actually the longest part of the project for me because I was doing a major organization overhaul of our photos. I had never organized them so it was a disaster. I made folders on my hard drive for the year and each month. Then I pulled all of the photos from my camera and organized them by organizing by month into the monthly folder. I also broke this down further by adding any edits to a special folder within the monthly folder to keep them organized.

    Next I pulled all of my photos off of my phone. I repeated the process that I used for my camera photos on the photos from my phone.

    Pick Out Which Photos To Print

    Once I had every photo from 2021 organized by month, I created a separate folder on my desktop called “Photos To Print” and I added my favorite photos to monthly folders within this. If you do not care to organize your final printed photos by month in your album, just create one folder and skip the monthly folders but I wanted to have monthly sections.

    I added every photo I liked without worrying too much. Now I tried to keep tabs on multiple pictures that were similar but it was my babies first year of life so I definitely got out of hand. So try to keep it minimal so that your photos all fit in your album, unlike mine.

    Run Photos Through Lightroom

    If you do not care to edit your photos or if you only shoot with your phone/JPEG, you can skip this step too. I usually like to edit my photos but due to the amount of photos I had and the neglect I had given them, I skipped this step this year. Our next album I want to prioritize editing more so they all have a similar look to them and keep the album cohesive. I also shoot in RAW on my camera and RAW photos cannot be printed so I had to do some work on my photos.

    I literally just imported all of the photos into Lightroom, then immediately exported them back to the desktop “Photos To Print” folder under the title “Exported”. This resized my photos and put them in JPEG format.

    Pick your printer and have your photos printed. I used Wal-Mart for their 1 hour printing but this is probably not what I will do again. The photos turned out fine but I had a few issues with the actual service so I will likely go another route from now on. I have used and liked Shutterfly before as well as Walgreens. Be sure your photos are sorted by date again if you choose to. I sorted my printed photos by month again into envelopes.

    Create Album

    DIY Photo Album Book

    Now for the fun part- add your photos, mementos, and whatever else you chose to the album! I organized mine by month and added photos, captions with memories and dates like when Ila got her first teeth and about her first birthday. I also added a few pieces of her “artwork” and coloring pages we had made together. I loved adding these things for simplifying all of the paper clutter and making this album even more special.

    I did this in my spare time while she napped or while she spent time with other family members. I pulled out a month’s worth of photos and would lay them out how I wanted them, sorting by like photos. I placed the photos/items and then added captions to tell what was happening and the specific dates if I knew them. I also added funny stories, quotes or scripture if I wanted.

    Leave Your Album Out For Regular Enjoyment

    Now store your album where you can regularly flip through and enjoy it. A basket in your living room, bookshelves, anywhere that they are protected but can be grabbed anytime. These are so special and it is really fun to look back through them regularly.

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