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The Art of Creating Amazing Heirbooks

Telling a good story, especially one that involves photographs, requires some forward thinking. Working on our clients' heirbooks, we are constantly thinking about how we can help them improve their future heirbooks. And the best improvements are the ones made at the source. We want to help them take better photographs and record the details of their memories better.

None of this is particularly difficult to learn. All it takes is awareness and a little bit of effort, and everything will become second nature over time. To share our heirbooking ideas with you, we have decided to blog more about our own heirbooks so you can see how we have applied the ideas.

Today, we'd like to share a few pages we recently created for a fruit-picking trip with the kids:


We like to tell our clients that the best heirbooks are created throughout the year, rather than after the year-end. If we were to create these pages in January or February 2014 (i.e. some six months later), I'm pretty sure we would have forgotten a lot of the details when trying to write those few paragraphs about our experience. Either that or the task would simply be a lot more daunting and time-consuming, and we would probably decide to leave out the text. But if you were to write it shortly after the event, it would probably take you no more than 5-10 minutes.

So here are some photography tips from these 4 pages:

  • Capture the whole environment. A common mistake people make is to simply take close-ups of their kids, perhaps to catch an expression or capture a gorgeous little outfit. This is all very well as you need these shots, but if that's all you're shooting then you lose the context and the story. Everywhere you go, just step back and look at where you are, and try to take some shots of your surroundings. Try to keep it relatively uncluttered, remember there doesn't have to be anyone posing in the shot! Remember that you're trying to tell a story, and the story is more than just about you, your kids or your family. It's about where you are and what you're doing.
  • Capture the details. Here we got some nice little closeups of the fruits, the signs and those fruit-stained fingers. Remember that you're now shooting for an heirbook, not just for a photograph. A photograph is, well, just a single photograph. You either try to get a great close-up portrait, or you try to compose a single photo that tells a story. Either way, you would include the subject i.e. your family members. With a book, you're telling a story through a series of photographs. In some ways, this makes it easier for you - each single photo does not need to be particularly creatively composed. Rather you simply take shots of the detail, and leave the composition of the layout to us! So go out capture the details. Signs are great, they tell you something about where you were and what you were doing, and including signs in your heirbooks always beats using some kind of fonts to spell it out. Also think about what it is you're doing - if you're at the beach, what about close-ups of spades, buckets, sun-cream, sandcastles and seashells. The easy thing about taking these shots is that these subjects generally don't move, meaning you can get nice clear shots!
  • Capture the movement. One thing I like doing is capturing movement. Again, here lies the difference between a single photo and a series of photos. With a series of photos, you can almost re-create the feel you get from watching a video. The way your child walks, runs, jumps or laughs - captured forever in a few photos! Truly, it is amazing. So how exactly do you capture such shots? It definitely helps to have an SLR camera, as you can shoot multiple shots very quickly and with less motion blur. With a compact camera or smartphone, you will probably have to shoot outdoors (to have sufficient lighting) and don't get too close to your subject to minimise the motion blur and to allow you enough time to take multiple shots.
  • Keep it clean. Creating a montage of photos is a great way to tell a story. But the pages can look too 'busy' if your photos aren't 'clean'. By this, we're talking about background clutter. You should be conscious of what's in the background whenever you're taking a shot. If you're trying to take a picture of a bucket, take it against a background of sand rather than a mat with colourful prints!

Notes, notes notes. Apart from photography, try to make it a point to write a mini summary of special trips, events or family days out. If you write something the same evening or the next day, the words will just flow and it'll take you a few minutes. Almost everyone has a smartphone these days - write your notes in an email to yourself, or on the brilliant Evernote note-taking app. If you've got children of school-going age, why not ask them to write something, or use some of their school essays/compositions that they've written about their summer, for instance. These would be wonderful for your heirbooks as they would be direct insights from your own kids.

Follow these simple tips and you'll find yourself creating amazing heirbooks rather than ordinary photobooks.



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