Create a Photo Book that Tracks a Hobby or Project

Most every family has something they do together that’s more than just a pastime. Something you tend to regularly—with the hope that you’re seeing it through to some sort of fruition and having fun together along the way. And chances are you have a lot of photos and other memorabilia associated with your hobby that turn up often, but never in any sort of organized or coherent way. Some families work together to update a classic car. Others collaborate to build a miniature railroad. Our family makes wine. And like any project that a family would engage in frequently, it’s the subject of many, many photographs over many years. Between picking, crushing, barreling, aging, tasting, adjusting, blending, and bottling, our lives are punctuated with afternoons at the vineyard. When I scroll through my pictures, I see lots of shots of vines, chickens, wine glasses, and bottles pop up from time to time, but no real story coming through.

So I set out to make a photo book that tracks our experience making wine for the past six years. Depending on the project your family works on together, you may have a slightly different approach, but here are some general tips that worked for me—and will translate to capturing any prolonged undertaking.

  1. Let Time Be Fluid We started making wine the year my first child was born. Which should tell you something about my mental state that year—and ever since. Needless to say, I am allergic to the thought of trying to sort out exactly what happened when. And I suspect that a lot of projects get held up on the desire to keep to a rigid calendar. Once I let go of the expectation that my book would follow a linear trajectory, I felt freed up to just gather pictures, words, and labels that capture the overall feel of our experience in wine country doing something we all love to do together.
  2. Create Vignettes Once you flout Father Time, you can let yourself think more about general themes, repeating patterns, and seasonal stories. I structured my book by creating little mini-chapters that keep loosely to the following themes: fruit on the vine, kids on the farm, crushing the grapes, bottling our vintage, friends we make wine with, the big blend, and labels over the years. If you look closely, you’ll see that my kids are different ages throughout the book— sometimes on the same page. And I love that on a couple pages I can even compare their expressions during regular activities associated with making wine—like feeding the chickens living in a sweet little coop next to the vines!
  3. Think Beyond Action Shots Remember that your photo book can include lots more than just pictures taken in the thick of your project. You can also scan paper memorabilia of any and all kinds. For my wine making photo book that meant including a few of our wine labels, but for your project it could include anything from certificates of authenticity to awards won at the county fair. You can also take photographs of objects associated with your project. It can be really impactful to take close-ups of any tools or accessories used in your project. For my book, I made sure to include images of the bottling process showing multiples of wine bottles, bags of corks, and rolls of our custom wine labels. Whether your project requires beads and raffia or washers and screws, consider taking close-ups of the tools you count on to pursue your hobby. Use these shots to add texture to your robust visual story.
  4. Captions Are Optional While you’re creating your book, keep in mind who you’re making it for. If, like my book, it’s for a small group of friends and family members for whom the experience is close to the heart, you can feel free to pass on stating the obvious. If, however, you’re creating your photo book to share with a friend or family member who wasn’t able to participate in the activity, a few notations next to pictures and scans can be really helpful. For my book, I let the images tell a visual story—and simply included one powerful quote from the movie Sideways that summarizes our initial enchantment with our hobby—and one of the reasons we’re compelled to follow through with it year after year.

Have you made a photo book to track a family project or hobby? I’d love to hear about it!

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