We are the first to admit that we get so caught up in getting gifts for others (and recommending them for you all!) that sometimes, we forget to devote the time to¬†our own memory-making keepsake gifts. One great idea that Kristen puts to use every year: once the holiday craziness has died down, she hits the photo book sites (some of which offer great post-Christmas discounts) and makes an end-of-year family photo book. ¬†That way she can actually include all of those special Christmas morning and New Year’s Eve photos which never make it into holiday photo book gifts.

So we’re really happy to put these ideas together on behalf of our sponsor MyPublisher, a fantastic, affordable photo book service we’ve recommended quite a few times before. They’ve actually been making photo books for 20 years (that predates¬†Internet access, for lots¬†of us!) using really¬†high-end papers and inks, then assemble everything in-house to keep the quality up. Plus the downloadable software is easy to use and the books start at just $19.99 which…pretty sweet.

If you want to put together a year-end, keepsake family photo book to start your own annual tradition, here are some of our favorite tips that you might not have considered.


1.  Find clever ways to organize chronologically
Obviously you can just put together your favorite photos of the year, but it might be nice to separate each section with the name of the month. Or get creative, and use the¬†image of a dry erase board with the month written on, or even a photo of a used family calendar page that hangs on the wall. Scribbles, cross-outs and everything. It’s pretty¬†cool being able to look back at all those appointments and sports practices and rehearsals that lead to the big events that you eventually photographed.


2. Flip back through your calendar to jog your memory
Speaking of calendars, don’t just go through your photo roll on your phone or PC¬†to pick which ones to feature; flip back¬†through your calendar. That way if you’re missing photos of an important event that a friend or a relative might have, you can get a copy to include in the book.


Keepsake family photo book tips for a special annual tradition

3. Give each child a few pages to his or herself
Kids–especially those with siblings– love feeling like they have a space all their own. While photos of the kids together can be incredibly charming, make sure to include your favorites of each kid alone. That’s especially smart if you’ve got more than a few kids, as mom-of-four Kristen can assure you!


4. Include handwritten thoughts
Ask each person in your family to jot down a special memory, a list of highlights of the year, or to answer the question The best part of 2014 was________. Then photograph it in their own handwriting, and use those pages throughout the photo book. It makes it feel a lot more personal than even the handwriting fonts offered in photo book software. (Though of course those can be great too, especially for kids too young to write themselves.)


5. Steal an idea from the baby books and ask some fill-in-the-blank questions
Similarly, you can print out a page with questions like My favorite memory this year, ¬†My best friends, and One thing I learned. Ask each member of the family to fill it out, photograph them, and include them throughout your year-end photo book. ¬†That way you don’t just see how the kids’ faces change and their bodies grow, but how their ideas, interests, and values evolve year to year.


6. Don’t forget the kids’ artwork
While you’re busy gathering all your favorite family photos, also grab shots of the kids’ artwork if you haven’t been doing it throughout the year. It’s one of our favorite tips for getting rid of clutter, too; should the very precious original popsicle stick house somehow “disappear,” you always have it preserved on film. And in a beautiful keepsake photo book.


7.  Try a different structure besides chronological
MyPublisher¬†has a Simple Publisher option that uploads your photos chronologically so you can have a photo book in two minutes. (Really.) But want to try your hand with¬†the Custom Publisher?¬†Try a “Marsh Family A-Z” photo book, for example. Get creative and it could be really cool; perhaps A is for your trip to Atlantis, B is for blowing bubbles in the summer, C is for your new cat, and D is for¬†Daddy’s awesome stories–complete with a photo of him reading to the kids.

You can also focus on the milestones. Like sorting by family trips, for example, including more photographic detail to fewer but bigger events.


Tips for making the best keepsake year-end family photo books

8.  Pare it down. You can do it.
Think about the most beautiful photography books you own. The best ones feature a combination of  groupings of smaller photos, with some really spectacular ones that take up full pages. While we know how hard it is to delete photos of people in your life you really love, think about giving the spectacular landscapes and favorite close-up portraits a full-page to themselves.


9. Imperfect can be wonderful.
Not every photo has to feature your perfectly clean, well-behaved children, smiling perfectly for the camera. Sometimes the tantrums, the silly faces, the dirty noses, and the photobombs¬†end up being our favorites. It wouldn’t be a family photo book in our homes without at least one rabbit ears shot.


10.  Make sure you are in the photo book too!
Earlier this year, we put together tips for family selfies, knowing first-hand that we snap-happy parents are not always in our own photos. As much as you love your kids (and may not like yourself in photos) you will really appreciate being in your family photo book later. And we can guarantee your kids will appreciate it.


11 tips to make truly special family photo books as year-end keepsakes

11. Order more than one.
Once you’ve got the template down, it’s easy to add additional books. We know quite a few aunts, uncles, and grandparents who would be thrilled to get a year-end photo book each January. And who doesn’t love getting a gift long after it’s expected?


 Thanks to our sponsor MyPublisher, for allowing us to share some of our favorite tips with you! Be sure to check out their beautiful, affordable, custom photo books, and go to their site to claim your discount code: 25% off orders over $50 and 50% off orders over $100.

Keep an eye on their site, where they offer new deals each week! And if you’re pressed for time, consider¬†Picture Perfect by MyPublisher, a photo retouching service that helps enhance your photos so you don’t have to.

You can follow MyPublisher on  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.