Year in Review Albums

As the end of 2009 approaches, it’s the perfect time to reflect on all the adventures of the past year. Did you move? Did you have a baby, send a child off to school for the first time, or have a child leave home? Even if nothing this momentous happened, you’re still another year wiser, and have another year’s worth of memories to treasure. Just how you do that is up to you, with a year-in-review album.

(Image by JessiW)

The purpose of a review album is to use a few specific moments to capture the feel of an entire period of time – most often a month (although you can do 52 weekly pages as well, you go-getter!). This takes the pressure off for perfection, since you’re going more for a sweeping overview than individually perfect photographic shots, and it also logically limits the size of your book – twelve 2-page spreads, plus a title page, and you’re done!

(Image by Joey-T)

And the final benefit of starting a year-in-review photobook tradition, comes with a little visualization exercise. Imagine with me right now, the spot on your bookshelf where the 2009 book will go. Now what about next year, tucked right in beside? Now what about ten years from now, when your shelf is filling with beautiful memories year by year? See why a year-in-review is worth tackling?

(Image by AnnAbbott)

Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge, I’ve got some tips to streamline your process as you select photos and write captions to create your Year In Review photobook!

Tip 1: Organize your photos by month to make finding easier
I store my digital photos in folders by the month they were taken, so it’s easy for me to dive in to my January folder and choose out 12-15 photos that tell the main stories for the month. Okay, the narrowing down part, maybe not so much. But the folder part, yes! I highly recommend creating a new folder in your file system for each month.

Tip 2: Choose a simple, multi-photo design
For this overview-style photo book, I like a design that crosses two pages and allows for 12-18 different photos.  A multi-photo design fulfils two purposes, as well: it lets you tell more stories, and it allows your photos to “read” visually as a group. Since no one photo stands out, none of their possible imperfections stands out either. Always  a good thing to reduce stress over photo editing!

Tip 3: Tell a good story even if you don’t have a photo for it
Did you go ice skating in January, but didn’t bring your camera? Be sure to save a space to tell that story in your year-in-review book, even if it’s a one-line highlight of that event. Reading your book in the future, that one line will spark a string of great memories!

Tip 4: Don’t forget the small stuff
Life has its huge moments, sure. But it’s mostly filled with the small stuff – daily happenings and events, routines, conversations, growth and change, learning and accomplishment on a smaller scale. Don’t forget that these are precious things worth remembering in a book just like this one. Maybe you want to include a list of the books you read that month, or the new recipes you tried, new routes you took in your morning run, new milestones your child passed – all the small pieces of joy that fill your life – make sure they have a place alongside the big things.

Creating Your PhotoBook

There are several ways to actually create your project:

  1. Year In Review, designed by Lisa Bearnson. Shutterfly has a gorgeous Year In Review photo book just waiting for your photos and text! The beautiful blue color scheme lets you highlight special moments from your year to record in a keepsake that you’ll treasure! All you need are your photos and text!
  2. Simple Path. This new option from Shutterfly allows you to upload a set of photos and have them instantly transformed into a book. Less control, but way faster! If you want more control over over the design layouts and fonts, Shutterfly also offers the Custom Path photo book option.
  3. Digital template in Photoshop. The most complex, but also the most versatile option, is to download a set of templates (or create from scratch) and create the pages of your book in Photoshop. You’ll then upload these as .jpg files and place them into the pages of a blank book. You get ultimate control over the placement of everything.

As a digital scrapbooker, I will admit that I’m pretty partial to number three. And to show you how easy this method can be with a template, I’ve created a set you can download for free! Follow the simple instructions here, or click to watch a video tutorial I’ve prepared to show you how fun and easy digital templates can be!

Download the Digital Scrapbook Templates

To get you started with your own year-in-review photo book, I’ve designed a two-page spread you can open in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and use as a template for telling your own stories month-by-month. No need to stress about design! Just about narrowing down those photos!

Click here to download.

Here’s an example of how your two-page spreads might look:

To use this template:

  1. Download the .zip file.
  2. Unzip.  The .zip file contains one left-hand page for each month, and a generic right-hand page you can change the photos and text for.
  3. Open the .psd file in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
  4. Open the first photo you’d like to use.
  5. In your template, click on the first square placeholder. Then switch over to your photo.
  6. With your Move tool selected, drag your photo in to the template and position it just above the square placeholder.
  7. In the Layers palette, hover your mouse on the line between your photo and the placeholder layer underneath it, and hold down your Alt key (Option on the Mac). When your cursor changes to a little double-circle icon, left-click to “clip” your photo to the placeholder layer.
  8. For a video tutorial of this process, please click here. This video walks you through using a template including digital patterned papers, which you can choose to use with this template or not.

Saving and Uploading

After you’ve completed a template, save the file as a .jpg (File > Save As, then change the format to .jpg), and upload your .jpg files to Shutterfly. Place each spread side-by-side in a blank 8-inch photo book, and you’re on your way to making a beautiful year-in-review album!

And for next year, try selecting photos and filling in stories as each month ends – recording  a month at a time to finish a year in review album as you go along! You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to remember those small, everyday memories. Happy Holidays, and joy to you as you look back on 2009, and forward to a bright year ahead!

Jessica Sprague


  1. Joey says

    Oh my gosh, I gasped when i saw photos of my neices and nephews. Nice surprise, Jessi’s son and Ann’s family too!!
    I did a YIR book last year. I just used a bunch of photos on one page and use text on the opposite page. This year I wasn’t going to do one until I saw Julie323’s Our Vision of 2009 using the CK template by Lisa Bearnson. I have always wanted to try a CK template anyway. So I set my mind and I gathered all the photos. I, too, have mine in a monthly folder by date. I did feel I was just reusuing the photos that I had used in books before, but its nice having things summed up in one book. So, I am glad I did it. I do have a hard time eliminating photos!
    I am very intrigued by a lot of the 2009 digital scrapbooking books I have seen. I thought I could whip one up. HA! They look so easy, but I know they aren’t.
    I’m for sure going to download that template. I LOVE it!! I love the classy simplicity to it.
    I also like your idea of starting a YIR book now for 2010 and jotting down those memories we may forget in a year.
    Thanks Jessica for the great article. Maybe in 2010 I’ll learn digital scrapbooking!!
    Happy New Year!

  2. Earl J says

    This is so very well done, and with such helpful instructions. When I look through my Shutterfly books, my favorites seem to be the ones that follow themes. Nice work here!

  3. rsheedy says

    I love Year in Review albums; I think they are such a great way to preserve memories and showcase photos. I actually used your template to create a year in review book for my sister, and she loves it. You have some excellent suggestions and recommendations; thanks for the ideas!

  4. says

    I yet have taken the challenge of making a 12 month, 52 week or 365-day photo book but I have done one by seasons. I keep my photos filed by season starting with winter, spring, summer, and fall and then because the end of the year is so busy there is always a Halloween/Harvest folder and a Thanksgiving/Christmas folder. The two-year review photo books were made by season. One was more detailed and focused on events though out the year. I picked two or three pictures per event or outing and the book ended up to be about 60 pages. The second book was much simpler. That book, I picked one picture per season, special event, or holiday. Each picture was placed on the page full bleed, one big picture one page! Because of the detail of each photo, example someone holding a valentine, family vacation photo at Disneyland or standing by the Christmas tree, it clearly explained each event so no caption was needed. That book came out to be 20 pages and one of my favorites. Either way if you like details and have the discipline for the bigger books great, but if you don’t have the time you can still get a great book by picking the best one of the season. You will not regret making these yearly books.

  5. jumaga2 says

    I would like to do my son’s baby book with part CM pages (that I already have) and some 12×12’s created on Shutterfly. My question is, can I format these pages in any way so that I can write in my own handwriting after I receive the pages? I’m thinking that the finish on these (glossy or matte) will not permit this? I would love to digital scrapbook, but I also am trying to make it match my oldest child’s book as much as possible.

  6. klrmullins says

    oh my gosh, I tried to download the free template the other day but couldn’t, so I just came back for it! It was SO worth the extra trip! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! Jessica you do totally rock!

  7. says

    Jessica! Wow! Thank you so much for this year in review template. I am SO going to use it. Really fantastic. Love your generosity and love your classes!
    shutterfly gallery guru

  8. says

    Answer to jumaga2: You can definitely write on these shutterfly pages once you get the book in the mail. Permanent markers and ball point pens would work. I would even venture to guess that the traditional scrapbook rub-ons would stick on the pages also. Hope this helps!!!
    shutterfly gallery guru

  9. TonetteB says

    Thanks so much for all your helpful tips! I love that you used Jessi’s, Joey’s, Ann’s books & photos as examples! They are perfect! :)

    In 2010 I want to do my 1st year in review book & I want to finally learn how to do digital scrapbooking! This is my goal for this year & I’m bound and determined to learn digi & make some year in review books! The template is beautiful! I love how you explained all the steps to use the template! I’m sure its simple once I get the hang of it & do it a few times! Thanks! :)

    I love all your journaling ideas as well! This article was so helpful! :)

  10. BarbaraJ says

    Jessica, just today I was looking for this page and I knew you had it back in 2010, Love it and want to use it for 2011.

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