I love serendipity. I happened to come across an amazing photo book recently—on Pinterest, of course—that had been created to document one big, beautiful baby photo every week for a year to commemorate the life of a brand-new baby named Arden. I was drawn to the look of the book because it was clean and simple, but still brimming with warmth and personality. When I looked more closely, I realized that not only was the book created using none other than Mixbook (try our Black Portfolio design for the same look)—it was created by an old friend and colleague. What a fun coincidence! So I called up Reichel Broussard, who now authors a great blog about decorating with high style on low budget called Copy Cat Chic. And after we caught up about life, babies, freelance, and the like, I asked her a few questions about her beautiful project. Here’s our chat!
Marielle: When did you start your Baby’s First Year photo book? Surely you didn’t have a lightning bolt moment of creativity in the first few weeks at home with a newborn?!
Reichel: I actually did start thinking about the project a couple of weeks after my daughter Arden was born. So the first couple of pictures in the series were not planned out, but they're still cute anyway ;) I had seen other bloggers who documented their children's growth, either monthly or weekly and thought it was a great idea.
M: What was the process like? I'd love to hear specifically how you created the template and then how you applied it to what looks like every page in the book.
R: I wanted the backdrop to be the same every week as well as not be too distracting. I figured white would be perfect. At first I just used a couch cushion, but toward the end of the year Arden was just too big (and squirmy) to fit on a single cushion. That's where a white sheet came in handy! The white backdrop translated very well when converting the photos to book format (a happy accident). I created the template in Adobe Photoshop and each week would just plop the latest picture in and update the date. Easy peasy!
M: What does the book mean to you now? What do you imagine it will mean to you—and Arden!—in 20 years?
R: I love the book and so does Arden! She loves flipping through the pictures. I like being able to see the growth progress in the shots, some weeks it's so noticeable and in others very slight. I would have loved to have a book like this of my first year. I have a feeling that it will be Arden's favorite book for a long, long time. Thankfully I can always reprint it through Mixbook if *ahem* something should happen to this one ;)
M: How was your experience using Mixbook to make your photo book?
R: Mixbook was pretty user-friendly. I had an issue with a couple of the photos being out of order, but Mixbook customer service stepped right in and was VERY helpful!
M: Is there anything you'd do differently if you were to do this project again?
R: I think I would make sure to always take the pictures with a good camera. I got a nice camera about halfway through the series and you can really, really tell the difference!
M: From the sections of your book that I've seen, it looks like you were pretty dedicated to capturing photos in exact one-week increments. Since babies have a way of throwing obstacles into our daily calendars, I'm wondering if you ever missed a week or if you have any funny stories about wardrobe (or worse!) malfunctions.
R: I think having an exact schedule (every Tuesday in fact!) actually helped me in the long run. I knew that in order to get the picture I had to have everything ready to go right after her first naptime ;) So, outfits cleaned and backdrop ready, etc. I usually didn't dress her in "the" outfit until right before I took her picture. A couple of months before her 1st birthday we took a trip to Europe and as you can see we veered a little bit from the template during that sequence, but I think it actually adds to the book.
M: Anything else you’d like to add?
R: I got a couple of suggestions from blog readers about using the same toy in each picture to get a sense of scale, which is a great idea! In some of the pictures you can see Arden with a toy in her hand because it was her favorite at the time. I kind of liked that idea better. Also, of all of the photo series that I've seen, most of them use the same outfit (ex: white Onesie) and backdrop (same chair or rug). I thought it would be more fun to show Arden in her (my) favorite outfits at the time, so we could remember them.
Reichel followed her instincts and stuck to a pretty simple format, but wasn’t afraid to diverge from her template from time to time. This really gives the book a lot of heart and a wonderfully homespun, but somehow still chic, feel. Of course, the most important outcome is that Reichel’s child will have a book like this that she’ll giggle at when she’s six, laugh at when she’s 16, forget about when she’s 20, discover again when she’s 30, and share with her own children someday. That’s a beautiful thing. But I also believe that when you set about actively chronicling the beauty in your life, you not only find more of it but you end up making connections, spreading joy, inspiring others to be creative—and maybe even crossing paths with someone lovely from your past.
Get started on your own Black Portfolio Baby’s First Year photo book now!