Have you been thinking about putting together a photograph album for a child? Whether it’s for your own child, a niece, nephew, grandchild or god child, designing an album specifically for little ones, means thinking differently to when we are designing an album for an adult. Younger audiences have totally different needs when it comes to capturing their attention and often the younger your intended audience, the more specific your album needs to be. Think about how the storybooks aimed at children change at each age group. Each book (hopefully!) carefully caters to the attention span and concentration of the age group they are aimed at. In effect, when creating a children’s photo album, you also are creating a storybook for them, but with real people and not fictional characters.

What story do you want to tell?

One of the first things you need to do when creating an album for a child is work out what story it is that you want to tell. Ask yourself the following; who are the key characters? And where should the story be set? Is there an overlying theme for the story which could be portrayed in the choice of backgrounds? Think about what is important to get across about each character; perhaps it is where they are based, who else they live with, something which you think of when you think of them such as hobbies, favourite colour, or something key about where they live (do you have a relative that lives in Southend-On-Sea for example, where the pier is the world’s longest pleasure pier, or that lives near Hampton Palace?) Keep it to only a few points about each person; the more points you want to get across about the person, the more pages you need to allocate to them. 

Remember each page in a child’s book has very limited information for them to take in, although older children can cope with more information than babies and toddlers, so the pages can be slightly more complicated.

Once you know the idea behind the album you can work out what you want to say about each person. Maybe the aim of the album is to introduce your child to members of their family that don’t live close by. Is it important for them to be familiar with where they live too? The very first book I did for a child was for my niece who lives in Australia. My husband and I wanted her to feel like she knew us, and so we designed a book which introduced us both and explained why we never saw her. We turned it into a story book, adding illustrations such as a drawing of Australia and England, with an aeroplane flying between them. Remember, you don’t just have to use photos, the backgrounds of the pages can also help you to tell your story.

The book we made for our niece wasn’t just photos

So, for each person, it could be something like, “This is your Aunt Flo. This is where she lives in London. This is the Tower of London which is also in London. Would you like to visit it one time when we go to see Aunt Flo? Aunt Flo likes doing cross-stitch; she did the picture in your bedroom when you were born. Aunt Flo has a dog called Jet.” But remember, tailor the pictures and then what you talk about, triggered by the photos, to the age of the child. Avoid posed shots where possible to get a better feel of the people and places. 

If your album is for an older child, perhaps you want to remind them of memories from a holiday with extended family so that they feel closer to them even when they are far away. The photos need to trigger excitement and fun as well as reminding the child about their extended family. The aim is to feel like you are being transported back to when the photos were taken so images which seem to have action and spontaneity in them are best for this type of album, rather than too many posed shots.

The younger the child, the shorter the album should be, to keep their attention. However, it still needs to be colourful and fun to look at as well. If it is too basic, they will soon look to something else to do! So, there is a balancing act between the content, the layout and the length.

Once you have an idea of what you want to get across, then it is time to start selecting possible photos. You can always choose more than necessary and then cut out those that don’t fit so well when you have your draft layout.

Choose your photos

So how do you choose photos? Generally, you don’t want too many people in a photo. If you are designing the album to help your toddler recognise family members, then this is even more important, as you want your child to know which person is associated with the name you are saying (or may have written in the album). Unless the album is of a specific event or holiday, ensure photos are up to date, i.e. how the person will look face to face now. So, think about things such as glasses, hair styles, beard. If the person sometimes wears glasses and other times not, then maybe include both options in your selection. Make sure you have clear photos of their face, and maybe a side profile too.

Make sure the background of photos is not too distracting or has something really distinct, unless you want that person to be associated with something specific. If their home is very different to yours, maybe photos of the person in their home will help your child feel more comfortable when they visit.

Think about including messages.

For a child who can read, you could also include messages from each relative to make the album even more personal and more of a keepsake for years to come as well.

Once you have picked out photos of everyone that you want to include, you need to start thinking about how to lay them out in an album. Depending how many people you are including, there are various ways to segment your photos.

If the album is of a family holiday, you can have photos with each person as the main subject first of all, followed by photos of key places visited during the holiday, which can have people in, so that the place is associated with the different people.

If the album is more of an album to get to know relatives, then you could work from eldest to youngest, so grandparents/great-grandparents, then aunts and uncles and finally cousins. If there is a large family, you could separate by family groups too, so that the child learns who to associate with whom, and you could include a photo of their house.

Messages can be written into an album as part of a story, or included as short letters to the recipient

Pets are also an important part of many families, and where applicable should be included. This can be particularly helpful in getting a child get used to a pet they don’t know well and may help them to see the pet as just another member of the family. It is important to include photos of the pets with members of the family having fun and the pet looking as friendly as possible, especially if you don’t have pets yourself as it can help the child feel more comfortable. It can be a great way to help get a child over their fear of dogs/cats etc.

Maybe if groups of the people in your album live in different countries or very different parts of a country, it would make sense to organise the photos in this way, maybe with key things linked to each region as well.

For older children you could include a country map or a map of Europe/the world to show where different families live.

You could finish the album with group photos to link the various families together.

Once you have your draft, ensure that you are focusing on the key people, so that the child learns them first, for example, if the grandparents are key, ensure you have enough photos of them, and not more photos of one of their cousins! Make sure your photos are linking the correct people together; maybe it is confusing to have nieces and nephews with an aunt, rather than with their parents, so the option could be to select a different photo or edit the current one, if the main subject is a great photo.

Page Layout.

You have your revised photos now but need to do your page layouts. The key here is to keep it simple. Try and ensure that everyone on a double spread should be linked together, and don’t have too many photos on a page. 

Use a double page to show the different ways a person could be seen, e.g. hair up, hair down, with glasses, without glasses, different colour hair, to help the child understand that they are all the same person. And use double spreads to link couples or families together as well. When thinking about page layouts, also think about page backgrounds, and any décor that is applicable which would make the pages more fun. One idea would be, like some storybooks you can buy, that there is a specific item hidden on each page to be found.

Or for slightly older children, it could be different things, but all linked, or perhaps letters to spell something out at the end, such as a family name? Think of your album like a storybook, you can add page décor to make the page more fun. Extra details such as those suggested can make the book that much more interesting and attention grabbing.

Now is the time to finalise your photos, when you see which work best for the flow of your album; maybe you need to find a couple extra or remove a few to get the emphasis and balance right.

Make sure the layout will hold the attention of the child it is designed for; the younger the child, the simpler and more repetitive it will be. Older children will need more diversity to stay interested even if it is to help learning about relatives and remember to add an element of fun such as an item or letter to find on each page. Once you have the final layout, it is time to send it to the printers, and eagerly await its return!

Having something to find on each page helps keep little ones attention, such as this traditional storybook with lift up flaps

This all sounds great right, but what if you don’t have the time or skills to put something like this together?

The good news is, that so long as you select a range of photos, that includes everyone that you want in the album, identify each person in a clear photo , say how everyone is linked and who the target audience is, I can put an album together for you, which we can then fine tune to create an amazing album for now and as a keepsake for the future.I can also help you collate messages if that is appropriate as well.