There was a time when I was chronically behind on printing my personal photos.

There were months upon months of my children’s lives that were documented on the computer but were nowhere to be seen in print.

I had many good intentions to create a photo book of each year, but somehow they never materialized.  I would get overwhelmed comparing books and book templates and reading reviews, and was left paralyzed with indecision. Meanwhile, I was still photographing my children and our lives and the images kept piling up on my hard drive.

After the birth of my second child, I decided that I had to start printing my photos from that moment on, and that my system had to be simple and easy.  I wanted something with more visual impact than 4×6 sized prints, but I saw the appeal of slip in pocket albums and the longevity of real photo paper over a press album.

That lead me to find this photo album that holds 5×7 prints.  5x7s are a nice size for visual impact, and the expense of them forces me to be a little more choosey on what makes the cut for printing.

personal pictures in a photo album by Elicia Graves

I would not be able to stay organized and on top of my printing without Lightroom.  I’m able to keyword my images upon import, and quickly edit them, crop for printing, and export. Most professional photo labs have an option to order proofs.  Proofs come in various sizes, and there are certain guidelines that you must follow to prepare your image file as a proof.  The trade off for cropping to the proper size and resizing to a set dimension is that the print is much cheaper than ordering a standard print.  It would be a huge pain to have to select the appropriate resizing dimensions indicated by my lab each time I selected an image to print, but Lightroom makes this easy for me with the use of an export preset.  In Lightroom, go to File > Export.  Select the export settings desired by your lab, and then select User Presets at the far left and at the bottom of the dialog box select the Add button.  You will be able to name your preset and save it, and from that point forward when you go to File > Export, you’ll be able to select your saved preset when you are ready to export and prepare your file for printing.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned from keeping up with my prints over the last few years:

1. Export for print right away.

Try to export your photos for print at the same time you sit down to edit your images, when they are fresh on your mind and you are eager to go through them.  It’s hard to make yourself go back to older images after you have new material to upload and work on.

How to create an export for print preset in Adobe Lightroom by Elicia Graves

2. Make a list to print.

If you get behind, do make a list of important events that you want to go back to and print.  It makes it less overwhelming and you can print a few events or occasions at a time and feel a sense of accomplishment.  If you use Lightroom, I would encourage you to come up with your own system for marking photos that you want to print.  Perhaps by using a 5 star rating, a color code, or just keywording with print.  You can then create a smart collection within the Library module of Lightroom (left-hand column, towards the bottom under Collections) and set up a rule such as one that will filter all of your red coded images.

Read more tips to organize and print your photos here.

example of smart collection in Adobe Lightroom by Elicia Graves

3. Write down some thoughts.

My albums have a few lines next to each print where I can write down the location of an image, the names of the people in it, or just a few memories from that image.  It’s helpful down the road when you flip through an older album.

Notes in a photo album by Elicia Graves

4. Don’t forget your cell phone pictures!

I’ve printed with a variety of different companies and my favorite product is ProDPI’s Mini Snapshot prints.  They look like little Polaroids and I love that they are printed on photographic paper (again, for archival purposes.)  They are a nice size too, being 4″ on the long side allows me to slip them into 4×6 album sleeves.

Learn more about printing your personal photos here.

iPhone pictures printed by Elicia Graves

5. Go ahead and start printing from this day forward.

You can always go back and work on catching up later.  I’ve found that this is less daunting than trying to go back to a preset point and starting at the beginning.  It is so enjoyable to go back through your albums and see your photos from the last few years.

5x7 prints by Elicia Graves

I hope these tips inspire you to start printing your photographs!