Birthday Photo Book Inspiration

<sound of a kazoo>
Happy, happy birthday,
May all your dreams come true!
We wish it was our birthday,
So we could party, too!

(Image by StacyandBrian2)

There’s something simply magical about birthdays, isn’t there? For the children in our lives, birthdays can turn into a Major Event with cute invites, a theme, lots of friends, decorations, games, goodie bags, the works. But I think adults can love birthdays, too! After all, “it’s my birthday” is the license you get to pretty much do anything you want: to eat cake, to sing silly songs (see above), to wear kooky hats, eat dessert first, and to generally just party it up for your special day. You only get this one personal holiday a year, right? Gotta make the most of it.

I think it’s safe to say that this accumulation of birthdays also means an accumulation of birthday photos, right? Right. I’ll share some ideas for creating birthday-related projects you’ll love, as well as some tips for upcoming birthday celebrations, so you can capture the best of the events to come.

Photo Book Idea #1: One Tradition, Many Birthdays
When I was growing up, my family had the tradition that each Birthday Person received an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen for their birthday, personalized with their name and a picture that represented something about them. And the fact that we all got to share in the deliciousness made this a tradition we could all get behind. Here’s my sister Julie and her 6th birthday cake. (Rainbows? Hearts? This is something my 6 year old daughter would love, too, so some things never change).

We have years of ice cream cake + birthday photos, and this is something that I will put into a photo book of its own. I love all the different pictures drawn on the cakes, and how they evolve over time. Does your family have traditions relating to birthdays? Think about putting together a photo book of a single tradition that crosses many birthdays.

Photo Book Idea #2: One at a Time
This is the classic “fill the whole book with one party” scenario, perfect for those milestone birthdays, or if you’re one to go all-out for a child and you took plenty of photos. For my own children, I’m taking this approach because I am a photo-taking fool who happens to love parties (and small faces smeared with cake).

(Image by StacyandBrian2)

Be sure this photo book has a single color scheme, whether you’re creating individual digital scrapbook pages or whether you’re using one of the Shutterfly photo book templates – it’ll add uniformity to your book.

Photo Book Idea #3: Year-by-Year
While the idea of having an individual photo book for every single year might be really cool, sometimes it simply isn’t practical. If you’re like me, and you lived your childhood (and maybe even some of your adulthood) before the age of digital cameras, you’re probably lucky to have a dozen photos from any one birthday event. I DID get lucky at my 10th birthday, and have 14 shots. Woo! But still not enough to make a whole book. So, consider grouping the birthdays you’ve got into 5-year increments, or ten if the photos are particularly sparse.
In this groups-of-years scenario, your photo books might go:

  • Me, ages 1-10
  • Me, ages 11-20
  • Etc.

Another approach is to group years AND people, so you can include the birthdays of every family member into one book, divided roughly into chapters by year. Like so:

  • Birthdays, 1973-1981 (this would include the years all my siblings were born, too, and I’d just include shots from all the birthdays that occurred each year)
  • Birthdays, 1981-1986
  • Etc.

The added benefit of working the “groups of years” scenario is that if you’re in the middle of a segment – say you’re working on Birthdays, 2005-2010, you can simply keep your Shutterfly project open and add pages as needed until your year group ends, then get the book printed without feeling like you’re missing something.

Photo Book Idea  #4: Milestones
Another approach for those sparse-photo years is to tackle birthdays in a roundabout way. Say you’re celebrating a 40th birthday. Your album could actually be the gift you give your birthday person, complete with “40 Things We Love About You”, special photos and memories through the years, or a “Then and Now” approach. It’s a great way to add in those old birthday shots as well!

(Image by AlietaE)

Okay, so you’ve decided on an approach for your birthday album. And whether you’ve got 200 photos or 10, here are some additional cool tricks you might think about, for birthdays past AND future:

Cool Trick #1: Include the Birthday Cards
Create a plain white or solid background for a two-page (or four-page) spread in your PhotoBook (or put a cute background in and leave the rest blank), and get it printed with those pages left blank. When you get your book back, paste the actual birthday cards in to the blank pages in the book. You can paste the backs of the envelopes with the card inside, or paste the back of the card itself onto the Photo Book page. It’ll be wonderful to look back in the years to come on the thoughts of those special to the birthday person.

Cool Trick #2: Add in a Guestbook
Have everyone who attends the party write a message and their signature with a fine-tipped Sharpie marker on letter-sized sheets of paper (several messages can fit on a single sheet). Scan these in (make sure you set your scanner to the “photo” setting to capture the best detail), and add them to your book just as you would a photo.

Cool Trick #3: Interview the Birthday Person
Sit your Birthday Person down and ask them a series of questions, maybe something like this:

  • What do you wish most for on your birthday?
  • What’s your ideal birthday celebration?
  • What do you want to eat for your birthday dinner?
  • What’s your favorite accomplishment of this last year?
  • What are your hopes for your next year of life?

Include the questions AND the answers in a text box within the Photo Book. If you can, repeat the interview year after year to watch the answers change.

For future parties, try these tips:

Cool Trick #4: Create a photo booth
Set up a backdrop (or go outside in front of a fence) and let your party guests take photos of themselves using a remote or your camera’s self-timer. For older kids and teenagers, toss in some hats, sunglasses, and feather boas and see the cool stuff they come up with! Add them in to your birthday photo book, possibly styled like photo booth shots in columns of black-and-white pictures.

Cool Trick #5: Photo Ideas for Parties
Sure, you’ve got the requisite Bringing Out The Cake picture, the Blowing Out the Candles picture, and maybe one or two of Little Mr. Birthday Man with his paper cone hat on. But there are so many more shots you can take that will deepen the story and give your photo book a journalistic touch. Try these:

  • Balloons on the mailbox or the approach to your party location
  • A shot (from a low angle) down the decorated table
  • Close-up shots of any hanging decorations (beautiful if they’re by some lights or a window)
  • Close-up shots of the stack of wrapped gifts
  • Are the kids playing a game? Be sure to get in close to try to capture smiles and laughs (even blurry!)
  • Ask your child to close his/her eyes and make their wish while you snap the perfect wishing photo
  • Capture candids of all the guests
  • Measure your child against the wall, and snap a photo of you marking their height
  • Will the kids make a craft? Get right down to a close-up on small hands, glitter, glue, and the supplies they’re using, as well as a finished craft.
  • Capture your child giving out his or her goodie bags to their friend
  • Be sure to capture any goodbye hugs and smiles as the guests leave

(Image by AlietaE)

Birthday celebrations – no matter when they happened – can make beautiful photo books with the right approach. I hope these suggestions have helped you for birthdays past AND future!

Jessica Sprague


  1. rsheedy says

    Wow, I absolutely love the ideas in this article. There are so many ways to capture one of the most exciting events in our lives. I will definitely be referring back to this article the next time I make a birthday themed photobook. And congrats to Shutterfly. Happy Birthday!

  2. scrapsage says

    Jessica, GREAT ideas to put some pizazz in those birthday albums! I’m one of those folks in the “pre-digital” era for a lot of my son’s life. I’m going to try the 1-5 year combination using the few photos I have. So glad to have this article to get my creative juices flowing! And Happy Birthday to Shutterfly!

  3. jewel99 says

    Great article – loved a lot of the ideas. Thanks for Sharing.

    Love shutterfly too – did up a really nice book for my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary last year.

  4. Katie2002uk says

    Personally I enjoy a year by year approach. Usually adding a page or two from prior years to just to recap and compare, but dedicating a whole book to one birthday is my approach. Thanks Jessica- LOVE your classes! Happy Birthday Shutterfly- LOVE your products!

  5. ladipierce says

    Jessica, one of your classes inspired me to do a scrapbook page that included a picture cropped to show just the hands of the one-year-old as she checked out her cake and grabbed those first hunks of frosting. It’s adorable. We have TONS of pictures of our 3 girls blowing out the candles on their cakes, sometimes that is the only photo of a birthday we have (that must have been the most fun part!). I’d like to group them into a book called “Make a Wish” or “Just Blow”.

  6. kristinfitz says

    I can’t wait to use these ideas for our Great Grandma’s (G.G) 95th birthday! Thanks for the chance to win.

  7. tigergrad says

    great article jessica!! LOVE LOVE your classes!!!!
    i’m working on a 40th birthday photobook for my brother and have some great ideas to use the pictures.
    one thing we did for my grandmother’s 90th was add blank “guestbook” pages to the back of her photobook. that way the book was her gift, and she had the guest messages.
    thanks again!!!

  8. gothamgal says

    Love the ideas you set forth in this article, will have to note and use them now. Thanks for the chance to win…

    I personally love the idea of a blank guestbook.

  9. kepalm says

    Love the article Jess. Maybe now I will tackle a birthday book for me!

    I like to take photos of my daughter’s birthday outfit. She loves to get dressed up for her parties and I make sure I take a photo of it.

  10. babybear says

    Love the article…An album compiling a chronological history of birthday celebrations for the same person sounds fun and the blank guestbook idea…and the birthday interview…oh my, so much to choose from. Thanks for the ideas.

  11. paws says

    Thank you Jessica for these great birthday album ideas! I recently made one for a daughter of a friend and we left guest pages and one really cool idea her mom had was to have guests write down favorite verses/blessings for the birthday girl. She loved it.

  12. tnscrapper says

    Love the ideas and your classes Jessica!
    My idea for bithday photos is to take a picture of the birthday child (holding the gift) with the gift giver and then make Thank You cards which include the photo! Also, if you are making a book, leave some blank pages so you can make pockets to include memorabilia like invites, cards, and themed napkins.

  13. nbergqui says

    I do a photo book every year for each of my boys. I do a two page spread per month. I always take their picture on the actual day of the month they were born and make that one picture a single page. On the other page, I place a variety of photos from that month. I use Shutterfly to do it and have mastered it to take me about 30 minutes to do an entire book. I love them and use them as gifts for grandparents.

  14. bonniebax says

    I had a cute little rocking chair as a little girl (which my mother also had as a child and my grandparents had it recovered for me). I recovered it for my kids, and we take a picture of them in that chair every month in their first year of life, and then after that, just on their birthdays. I’d like to do a book of those photos someday, much like you mentioned with the ice cream cake photos! It is miraculous to see them grow and change from year to year, and reminds me of how very much I have to be thankful for!
    Thanks for the great ideas, and chance to win – I adore your classes! :)

  15. dadon says

    After thinking about it, it would be fun to do a photobook of a Year of Birthdays. On one of the family, throughout the year, we always get together for family birthdays. I think would be enough for a book in covering one year. If not, could always make it more than one year. This idea sounds flexible and thank you for the class giveaway.

  16. says

    I love all of these ideas. They are great. Next party for my oldest daughter who will be 10… I am going with the photo both ideas. That seems the perfect age for the girls to be silly and take pictures. For a grown-up party you could have the camera on a tripod and go the “do it yourself” mode. That would be so much fun. Photo booths ! Yeah!

  17. tralynray says

    I love to make “Faces” books. My 4 year old daughter loves to make all kinds of faces, from scary to sweet. My 2 year old has also picked up on this. I use one picture per page. For instance, I put a picture of my daughter on the left with a crazy spaghetti stained face and the same of my son on the right. Everyone gets a good laugh from my Faces books.

  18. fotojojo says

    After I complete a Christmas book of all my Christmases, I’m going to do a book about my birthdays. Each birthday is going to get a one page layout. There are a few birthdays that are only going to a photo or two, but there are some that are going to have a ton. I want to keep track of all those wonderful memories…like my aunts coming to my slumber party in their robes and hair in curlers to entertain us at my 5th grade b-day slumber party. However, I do have a special birthday that I’m going to make a smaller book for. When I was turning 25 I was also graduating from college. My family threw me a surprise party that was in the musical theme…most people dressed in costumes like the 50s, Madonna, the village people, etc. It was so awesome that it deserves it’s own book.

    I gave my cousins a softbook of pictures I had taken of their son for his first birthday. It included photos from the day he was born up to about 10 months. They loved it!

    My niece is turning 1 in August. I plan on making a small book with all the pictures and details of the day. And then the album I’ve been making for her first year (which will probably have a volume 1 & 2) will end with a 2-page spread of pictures highlighting the birthday party.

  19. motslm says

    I loved this article! I love you Jessica Sprague! I think YOU are AWESOME too!

    So actually, just about all of the scrapbooking that I have done is about my little boys’ birthdays. I always have a theme for the party and I have a picture taken of every guest and I have them fill out a page during the party. To break up the redundant happy birthday message over and over since not everyone is especially creative, I pose a question that correlates with the theme of the party. When I did the Incredibles party, I asked the parents to tell me which super hero their child is and why. I got some really cute answers like, Tornado-Boy because every time he leaves the room it looks like a tornado hit it and Mr. Invisible, because when he closes his eyes he is invisible. Right now I am working on my other son’s birthday scrapbook. For his party we had a Toy Story theme and the question is what is the child’s favorite toy, and bonus question, what was mom/dad/grandma/grandpa’s favorite toy when they were a child. It is a work in progress right now, but I think it is going to be totally awesome when it is finished because I hope to also include pics of grandma with her Barbie doll from the 60s. If we can just find that photo…

    I love the photo booth idea and I think I will have to include it in our parties!

    I would really really love to win the free class. I love the few classes that I have taken so far, but would love to take all of them.

  20. christinaspinella says

    Jessica has such great ideas! I will definitely re read this article when my son’s 2nd birthday gets closer!!

  21. sonjawever says

    I have lots of birthdays coming in the next couple of months and a new camera. Sounds like an album to me!

  22. says

    I love all the ideas, I so need to sit down and do some scrapbooking. I have years of photos and three kids, with a fourth on the way. I love the signature idea. Letting my child choose the cake has been a hit lately, my 4 four year old asked for a cake just like she got when she turned 3. A Blue’s paw print cake (thankfully so easy!). Jessica, I’d love to win your class I so need to figure out a good work flow for me to hopefully feel like I have a chance of getting “caught up” once the new baby is born in 6 months. Thanks for everything.

  23. Cathy2476 says

    I take the year-by-year approach for my kid’s albums ending with the birthday. For the first year, I love to include a picture of Mommy and Daddy at their first birthday. As the kid’s get older it’s harder to find pictures of Mommy and Daddy at their ## birthday party but it would be neat if you could. Another alternative is to add siblings at the same age – either to a year-by-year album or maybe this would be a variation on all birthdays – the two-page spread could have all the first birthday, second birthdays, etc.

    One other thing not to be missed at any of our birthday parties is a picture of all the cousins. It’s a unique opportunity for everyone to be together and it’s great to see how the kids grown and which ones have been added :)

  24. wurfie says

    I don’t have children yet but i have puppies. So I have started taking pictures of them in the same place every 6 months or so. My oldest dog turns 1 year old in a couple weeks. I have a picture of her by the stairs with her head through the stair spindles when she was only 2 months old. I recently took another picture of her at the same place. It’s amazing to see how much she has grown. We are having a 1 year party for her and inviting our friends dogs. I’m going to make an invitation, a doggie cake and take lots of pictures. I’m hoping to keep this up and create a photobook of her birthdays. So I probably sound crazy because this is my dog but oh well! Thanks for all the awesome photobook tips.

  25. LiveLife says

    Loved your “Photo Booth” idea… great way to get everyone a little out of their traditional element. I like to also add, inspirations, quotes, and stories from the other guests, especially the “older” genenerations. Reading how grandma celebrated her 6th birthday is a priceless memory for my children and myself.

    Thanks you for all your great tips, I will definately be incorporating some of these into our next “Birthday Party” which is only about a month away!

  26. says

    Love the ideas! I started taking a photo of each of my kids on their birthdays at the time of their birth. I was lucky – they were born at 2:19pm and 5:53pm. I probably won’t be able to keep it up for very many years, but so far so good.

  27. Scrapinthyme says

    Wow it sure would be a great gift album for a Birthday, thanks for sharing the ideas to get us motivated Jessica. :)

  28. BarbaraJ says


  29. Tiffany M says

    Very inspiring! I have done a book for every one of my son’s birthdays… he’s only 2.5. A lot of these ideas spark some goals for future plans!

  30. Tiffany M says

    Very inspiring! I have done a book for every one of my son’s birthdays… he’s only 2.5. A lot of these ideas spark some goals for future plans!

  31. Natalie says

    Hey Jessica,

    This was a really great post with so many great tips and ideas! My friends and I do something very similar, of course we celebrate all of our birthday, but at the end of the year i make a photobook through Shutterfly of all our events, birthday parties, hang outs, projects, etc… and I include blurbs from each one of them about their year, favorite event, hang out, projects, saying, movie, etc… and we print them out and sign them! Just like a school year book but with more pictures of us! Thanks for the great tips!
    Natalie B

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