Inspiration for my LifeStory Books Format

Working on my own family’s LifeStory book has been way tougher than I could ever have imagined. I knew that one day I would find inspiration that would meet my vision but it was becoming painfully clear that I had found myself at a standstill. Literally. I haven’t even posted here for months  because I found myself kind of stuck but it was always in the back of my mind that when I saw it, I would know it… and after so many years, it finally happened.

 

Scrapbooking? Genealogy? Me?

For some readers, the whole concept of digital scrapbooking may seem like a foreign concept and for others, the process of looking into one’s family history is quite foreign and new. Part of the beauty of this site is that I can document the process as I discover my perfect mix between the digital scrapbook world and my genealogy research to bring my own LifeStory Books to life and maybe it will inspire and encourage one of you to possibly add one or the other into your own mix!

 

Inspiration

Some things just seem like destiny and just when I was seriously considering whether or not I could bring this “vision” to life, I came across a posting of a layout made with a Paislee Press digital scrapbooking kit and it just about brought me to tears. In so many ways it felt like I had been given a present that I had wanted my entire life. I have been looking for that magic mix of documentation, photos and stories for a long time but found myself stuck because I could never settle on a style with which to present it.  Finding a style for a LifeStory Book is such a personal thing but sometimes it is harder when it is for yourself. Isn’t that always the case? We can see what other people need to do, but when it comes to ourselves, the decisions become harder. But, for me, it was important to get this right because I want it to be exceptional when I present it to a wider audience.

 

 

[I want to insert a quick disclaimer in here. Right now I’m using each of the digital kits that I mention below with a “personal” license. If and when I can get things figured out to the point that someone might like to hire me to produce a similar book for their family, then I will definitely be changing my license to a business license. The digital artists work very hard at what they do and I fully applaud their talents!]

 

Here’s the Details…

Just to get my mojo going in the right direction, I thought it would be appropriate to start with a kit named Generations which was a collaboration between Paislee Press and One Little Bird. I did add a bit of ephemera from a kit by Sahlin Studio called, Ephemera Stacks. All of these kits can be found on The LilyPad website. If you should go there, make sure to look at the layouts and their gallery — I literally spent a good portion of an afternoon just clicking through the images, one after the other.

 

Now… how to pull it all together and not look like a jumbled mess? Because this project will include so many combo layouts that include documents, photos and stories, I decided to try the pocket page format once again, but this time I used a template by Lynn Grieveson Designs titled, Messy Pockets {no.06} and it is also found on The LilyPad website. It gives me a jumping off point. I’ve always been a fan of the Becky Higgins’ Project Life format for creating nice compact little areas to add color, photos and stories, but bringing documents that aren’t all that visually pleasing to look at into the mix has also been a roadblock for me. This Messy Pocket template seems to fit the bill and give me plenty of room to move things around as needed.

Who is your audience?

I want my kids to look at the pages and get a sense for what a census record or some other type of research document would look like and see the rich amount of information that you can get out of it. But I know them and if it looks a bit like all my research binders, their eyes will glaze over and I will have lost them. This layout gives me some larger places for the documentation as well as plenty of room for photos and stories — perfect! And a bonus is that it takes some of the planning out of the picture (no pun intended… really!) and I don’t have to think so much about the basic design and can enjoy the process. I’m not that big of a user of templates, but this set has really been the perfect solution.

 

I have my family heritage photos scanned with dates and names attached along with my documentation that I’ve been collecting for over seventeen years. And now I have a style and look to start my LifeStory Book. I’m not sure that it will end up in this 12×12 format, but is a beginning and I’m feeling very happy to be moving forward! To be fully honest, I’m skipping my parents’ generation to begin with because I know that it will take a great deal of time and I want to make sure that I get all the pieces together. With so many pictures and stories for my parents’ generation, this is the generation that I think it would be best to leave for last so I have all the major decisions all ironed out.

 

Can you tell I have a big smile?

While this style isn’t for everybody and it might still glaze over a few eyes, but it makes me very happy to share this with my family! Most importantly, I know that this might not be the format that I eventually decide to follow, but I am actually back into the game and it feels really good. The only puzzle piece that I’m really not sure about at this point is the size of the pages! But that is why I’m going ahead and jumping back into this. Sizes can be adjusted at a later point. Seeing the stories begin to take shape along with the all goodies I’ve been collecting for so many years is a work of love — my gift.

Bringing Photos to Back to Life

How many of you can picture the place in the Wizard of Oz classic movie where it changes from black and white to color? That always seems like the point in the movie where it actually comes to life. I am a fan of some of the old movies but when color is added, it does something that jumps up the enjoyment factor ten-fold for me. That must be why Spring and Fall are two favorite times of the year as far as season beauty goes for me – the Spring flowers and Fall foliage are all considered eye-candy.

Photos are our Windows into the Past

As you may or may not already know, photos are a soft spot for me and as fate would have it, I have had the great pleasure to help out several people with their family photos – photo restoration and colorization. As far as instant gratification, this field seems to push all my buttons. When I have finished work on a photo, I am busting at the seams to show someone – anyone –that is close enough that I can get to take a look.

While I would love to post a tutorial on how to do colorization and photo restoration, it is one of those things that really takes some background knowledge of Photoshop and the willingness to dive into lots of classes and tutorials on best practices in the field. I can certainly point you in the same direction that I took though. For me, it truly combines my love for family heirloom photos, computers, photoshop, and a passion for understanding the importance of a single photo.

The Best Side of FacebookUnedited Photo of Grandmother as Young Woman

I have the privilege of being a part of a creative group of women in a Facebook group called The Rising Tide Society. Granted, I am probably on the older side of the group, but I love to read their posts and feed off the energy of this group of young entrepreneurial women. Recently, I received a text from my oldest daughter, also a member of this same Facebook group, that a photo had been posted that I needed to respond to ASAP. Well, it’s hard to not immediately stop everything and take a look at what could possibly be so important and also involved me!

The Photo

The exact moment that I looked at the group’s Facebook page, I knew without even reading further, exactly what she wanted me to look at. There, on my screen, was the most amazing photo of a young girl with beautiful background colors surrounding her. I could feel my heart start to beat faster as I tried to calmly read the request made by the group member. She quite simply asked if anyone in the group might be able to help restore her grandmother’s photo that had been damaged over the years.

It didn’t take me long and I quickly messaged her directly that I would be honored if she would allow me to try and fix it. I sent her a link to my website and my email and then just had to hope that she might consider sending it my way. There were so many offers of some wonderful members so I kept reminding myself that she might choose someone else.  I literally checked my message box continuously for the next day and a half in anticipation. When I didn’t get any response, part of me was terribly disappointed, but the other part of me still wanted the opportunity to try to restore this beautiful photo and see if I was up for such a challenge.

The laugh was on me because she had tried to send the photo immediately and had mis-typed the email address. When she sent it the 2nd time, it was received and I proceeded to plow through and finish my other work so that I could focus all my attention on this project.

Grandmother as Young GirlAnd here she is!

As I worked through each technique, she began to come to life – quite like that point in the Wizard of Oz movie and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. As you can tell from the picture above, part of her arm had to be restored – not all that easy since she was not looking at the camera directly so one side is definitely different than the other side. But it was really satisfying to see all my little tricks and techniques actually work so well with a little tweaking here and there. That’s the point where my artist/photographer side really came in handy.

Staying True to the Original Portrait

This portrait was originally colorized and I wanted to keep that feel so I didn’t even try to take it back to black and white and then colorize it myself. I really loved the colors and the softness of the photo. In the original, the left eye was a little red from the “blush” that was applied and I did correct that so that her beautiful eyes could show their sparkle once again. As you can tell, I didn’t change the lips or teeth either. I started to make changes and it seemed to change the look of the photo so, I quickly turned off those adjustments and just left it the way it was originally meant to be.

I’m okay with that, since the point of my work on this portrait was only to restore it and not make changes; really, in my mind’s eye it didn’t need any changes. It still has some of the mottled look of the original and I kind of like that as well since it almost gives the illusion of being a very soft painting. What do you think?

I wish I knew her story or even her name, but she is hopefully gracing family members as she steps out from behind all the wear and tear to be enjoyed for many more generations. When I look into her eyes, I see the hope of youth and the promise of a life filled with wondrous journeys.

Definitely Adding a New Service 

As I continue my own journey into helping others bring their own family stories to light, this might be that special moment when I finally could see what it is I would like to do when I grow up! (Does anyone else feel like they haven’t aged past high school or college?) 🙂 Here is my big announcement: … drum roll please… I am officially adding Photo Restoration and Colorization to my list of services! I have never felt more confident about forging ahead with this website! More updates to follow…

CreativeLive – Tutorials to Get You Started

If I have sparked that inner artist in you and you love a little challenge, let me recommend a wonderful set of tutorials that are found at CreativeLive. This website originally started out as a way to share tips and techniques with photographers and has grown to full entrepreneurial resource for Creatives. They offer everything from money courses to Photoshop courses to my three personal favorites listed below. Twenty-four hours a day they stream courses for free. If you missed a course or would like to have it to be able to review over and over, you can purchase the course at a very reasonable price and have full access at any time. (Tip: When they run a course during the day, typically it will run from Noon (Eastern time) to 7:00 pm (Eastern Time). Then they will repeat that day’s broadcast over and over through the night until the next day when the new broadcast is then offered.)

These particular photo restoration classes are fairly short but as a warning, you do need to be fairly proficient in Photoshop. That is where all the magic begins and these classes are geared for the more savvy users. Here’s the promised list that I used: “Photoshop Restoration Rescue” by Matt Kloskowski, “Photo Restoration in Photoshop” by Suzette Allen, and “Photoshop Mastery: Retouch and Restore” by Ben Willmore. They all have different techniques but as you will quickly find out, each photo is different in what it requires to retouch it; options, in this case, are a really good thing!

Up Next: Colorization

If you have a lot of black and white photos, stay tuned because I am going to show you the difference that a little bit of color makes to a black and white — breathing new life into them and helping us to picture them in real life full-color!

For those that might have a similiar photo in need of some TLC, go ahead and email me with a snapshot of that photo and I’ll be very happy to give a quote. And if you have had photo restoration done in the past, I would love to hear your stories of the impact of seeing your restored photo for the first time!

Calling All Heirloom Photos

Heirloom app comparison_canvaEverywhere I turn, it seems like someone is telling me about a new phone app that I “need” to have. While I have an iPhone, I am always pretty hesitant about filling it up with too many apps.  This one though, is one that I have been telling everyone about.  It is just too good to not have!

Drum roll, please! Ok, that is way overboard, but Heirloom is an app that has so many uses for me as a genealogist and digital scrapbooker, that I can’t help but try to pass it around.

Here’s the beauty of it: we all have cameras on our smartphones and tablets, right? Well, if I wanted to take a picture of a picture that was glued down in my childhood photo album, I would need to take the photo, edit it and then crop it. With Heirloom, I just have to take the picture. Yes, you heard me right. I just have to take the picture and it adds some contrast, boosts the colors and crops to the edges of the photo.

I recently took a picture with my iPhone, using Heirloom, of an old photo that I had been meaning to run through my scanner so that I could edit it and try to bring up some definition. I was planning on using Photoshop to edit it because it was in such bad shape.  This particular photo was taken back in 1967 and was terribly faded and yellowed. I have attached the collage of the two photos so that you could see the difference. The photo on the top is taken straight from my camera on my iPhone. The bottom of the collage is the photo taken with the same iPhone but using Heirloom.  You can’t really tell from the collage, but the straight camera shot did not crop the photo and you can see the fading.  The Heirloom photo is just heads above the quality of my original photo.

I do have access to Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and Lightroom — all the digital goodies that would turn this same faded photo into a pretty good photo, but let’s get real.  With this app, I have skipped three steps and I can now start using it immediately.

And it keeps getting better. (Get ready because my geeky side will be readily apparent real soon.) I don’t make it a habit to contact companies to make upgrade suggestions, but this app has touched my inner-photographer/family historian so I didn’t think twice about going ahead and hitting the SEND button in my email!

You see… as much as I love this app, there is one area that I felt would take it from a super heirloom photo uploading machine into a necessity for all family history folks — no matter what your focus. I felt that this app lacked the ability to add information that would follow the photo no matter where it landed — on a scrapbook page or in Ancestry.com or wherever. I suggested that they consider adding the ability to add metadata information to the photo.

Guess what?  Not only did I get a response by the next morning, but it was from the owner. He explained that my particular request was indeed a popular one and would be available in the next update of the app! What does this mean for you? Well, now you can take your newly-taken photo and add some details to it such as a date and names. You could also potentially add a story to go along with it.

If you have ever used a photo editing program before, you would have noticed that your photo had the information about the camera that took the photo, the date, and a lot of other information that may or may not have seemed useful.  Now you will be able to add the really important stuff to the background of the photo and it will follow the picture around.

How amazing is that?  Family historians have been known to do a happy dance when they find an elusive bit of information — this is pretty close to making me do that happy dance. Don’t worry though, I won’t be posting any videos of me doing that dance!