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Old 12-16-2010, 12:57 PM   #1  
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Default Interesting article on professional scrapbooking

This is from the Wall Street Journal today:

Everyone, it seems, except the most compulsively organized, has hard drives or boxes full of family photos waiting to be placed in albums or scrapbooks. All too often, that day never comes, and the psychic burden of their presence grows heavier with each passing year. To solve this dilemma, we tried four different custom scrapbooking services that would do the work for us.

Two of the services created old-fashioned glue-and-paste books using colored card stock and fanciful embellishments to showcase our photos; the other two arrived at these effects digitally, in printed albums or album pages. While the former offered textural variety and richness, the latter were less bulky and accommodated more photos. Our experience taught us that professionals really do know how to scrapbook better than we ever could, although each book required some investment in our time as well as money.

Nancy Nally, editor of Scrapbook Update, an online trade journal, says that custom scrapbooking services are "a quiet underground" niche within the larger $2 billion a year scrapbooking industry. One byproduct of the recession is that consumers have begun to place greater value on handmade gifts, even as their leisure hours seem to shrink, Ms. Nally says. Many commission scrapbooks as a gift for a child graduating from high school or getting married, or as a tribute or anniversary gift, she says.

Every service we considered has an online gallery showcasing sample pages of its work. Some we found too saccharine or "gee whiz" for our taste, but many were beautiful and creative. Price per page varies widely, from about $7.50 to $50 per page, with less labor-intensive digital versions priced lower than hand-made albums.

The first service we tried was Colorado-based Generation Scrap (generationscrap.com). We ordered a 10-page, 8.5"x11" ($15 per page) album that would cover our trip to Italy two years ago. The price included all paper, supplies and a handsome leather binder. Although owner Renee Bernhard gave us the option of sending digital images by email, on a disk or flash drive, and have the cost of printing them added to our bill, we opted to send her prints. We liked Ms. Bernhard's clean style ("I don't cut pictures into shapes like hearts or stars," she told us) and her use of high-quality papers. All services now use acid-free, archival-quality papers, but price and quality can still vary.

We learned that the trade-off in scrapbooking is that the more photos we wanted on the page, the less room for embellishments such as buttons, ribbons or trim. A crowded page also left less room for "journaling," the captions that explain and comment on the photos. Since our focus was on the photos, Ms. Bernhard instructed us to send two to three photos per page. We mailed our photos and memorabilia and emailed Ms. Bernhard the titles and journaling for each page. Two days after she received our package, Ms. Bernhard emailed us suggestions for a color palette (earth tones), and asked if our style preference was "more casual/cute" or "more regal." We opted for midway between casual and regal.

We loved the sample layouts Ms. Bernhard sent (including brand names and colors of card stock, borders and embellishments she used), except for the line that read, "This is what I'm thankful for today," which was a little too greeting card for our taste. Ms. Bernhard eliminated that sentence. Three weeks after we mailed our photos, our elegantly designed album arrived in the mail. We could have done without the plastic sleeves covering the pages, but Ms. Bernard later told us this is the standard way of preserving carefully crafted pages for generations. Total cost including tax and shipping: $166.28, plus the cost of photo printing.

Our next scrapbook, from Seattle Scrapbooking Services (Seattle Scrapbooking Services.com), was more ambitious, a 30-page 12"x12" ($300) memory book of our son's middle school years. Owner Patty Fouts instructed us to fill one envelope per page with photos and memorabilia. Instead of labeling photos by writing on their backs, she suggested using post-its, as some inks contain print-damaging acid.

We spent days sorting through hundreds of digital images, ordering prints and writing short captions and titles. When she received them, Ms. Fouts complimented us on our organization, but asked us to shoot more pictures of our apartment and son's bedroom. A problem with her email server temporarily impeded our communication. Two-and-a-half weeks later, we received four layouts by email. We were taken aback to see that Ms. Fouts had added some of her own journaling to our minimalist text. A perfectionist, she had also researched some of the places included in the album, adding factual guidebook-type information. In one happy case, she even dug up the digital logo of a sports club our son attended and used it to create a handsome banner.

Ms. Fouts agreed to change the parts of the journaling we disliked for no charge, noting that we were the first customers to object to either her journaling technique or the childlike stick-figure decorations that we found a little young for our son's age. A little over a month after we shipped our photos, our completed scrapbook arrived via FedEx. Although it required the most work on our part, the scrapbook was an amazing labor of love: charming, personal and filled with delightful surprises. On one page, Ms. Fouts used digital photos she had asked us to send to create a complex layout of small photos embedded in a larger one. Ms. Fouts later told us she shops for embellishments to match the book's themes and colors. Total cost: $370.74, including an extra page and leather album.

For our first foray into digital scrapbooks, we contacted Rachel Wright of Minnesota-based Captured Time Custom Scrapbooks (capturedtimebooks.com) and ordered a 12"x12" 20-page book ($70 for design services, $80 for printing by scrapbooking supply business Creative Memories). As a consultant for Creative Memories, Ms. Wright earns a 30% commission on scrapbook printing fees and any supplies she sells. She suggested planning for one to 10 images per page, and advised that we let her edit the photos, since each time an image is digitally altered it degrades slightly. We selected 127 images, copied them to a disk and mailed it to Ms. Wright, emailing her our journaling.

Except for Generation Scrap's book, our albums ended up larger and more expensive than we intended them to be. Usually we were informed of our choices, but with Captured Time, the process was less transparent. By the time we realized we were facing a $63 increase in price, Ms. Wright had sent us a link to a 34-page online proof, though she sweetened the deal by offering to design four of the extra 14 pages free. In the future, we would do well to set a price limit up front and stick to it. Later, Ms. Wright told us that cutting pictures "is always the hardest part" and acknowledged our complaint, saying, "feedback is important." We also realized after the fact that unless we specified which images were our favorites, we ran the danger of having average pictures put on the cover or blown up to full-page size, and some of our favorites relegated to montage status. Despite these quibbles, the finished product was well designed and handsomely embellished. Total cost: $233.55.

For our final album, we ordered a 10-page 8"x 8" digital scrapbook ($130) of snapshots from this year from Colorado-based Catching Keepsakes (catchingkeepsakes.com). We emailed 40 jpeg images to owner Tania Settje, receiving beautifully designed email proofs a week later. Once again, not all our photos fit, so we agreed to a discounted $26 for four additional pages. It was not until late in the process, however, that Ms. Settje realized that we needed a minimum of 20 pages to have the book printed. Concerned about our mounting scrapbooking fees, we opted to have the pages printed singly and placed in plastic sleeves in a post-bound album. The final product, though it would have looked better in a printed book, made a charming keepsake. Total cost: $163.50.
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Old 12-16-2010, 12:58 PM   #2  
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P.S. The WSJ is notoriously bad about making their online content available, so I thought I better cut and paste the article while I still could.
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Old 12-16-2010, 01:08 PM   #3  
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That is a very interesting article. I didn't know there were "Professional Scrapbookers". I had always figured that the only way to get the pages how I want them is to do it myself. I can't imagine doing other peoples scrapbooks since tastes vary so much. I feel so much better about doing it myself now that I see how much it is if you have someone else do it. Thanks for sharing the article.
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Old 12-16-2010, 01:08 PM   #4  
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I don't think I have ever heard of that! I was blown away by the price range too...up to $50 a page. Wow, that's pretty pricey. Interesting article, though.
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Old 12-16-2010, 04:24 PM   #5  
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I did this for several years as a second income. I was always very nervous about the customers liking the pages but I had sample pages that they could look at and tell me what they liked and what they didn't. I would send a sample page after I made one or two. Although some people did not want to see anything till it arrived (like opening a gift) Out of all the people I made scrapbooks for I only ever had one customer who was not satisfied with 2 of her 20 pages, and that was worked out. I remember one particular album was such a joy, beautiful wedding and honeymoon photos for a bride. I was scared to death I would not do these photos justice, but she actually called me to tell me how much she liked it.
However, this is very time consuming, I did quite detailed pages, nothing simple, and adding time and supplies, you really are not making a bunch of money. Interesting the WSJ doing an article on this. They should have done some reporting on some of the awesome pages that sell on ebay for over 100.00. People do not believe that when you tell them that goes on, I think it would have been even more news worthy.
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Old 12-16-2010, 04:31 PM   #6  
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I make custome mini albums for people and have charge anywhere from $50 to $200 for them. People who have no time and little talent for arts and crafts are willing to pay a pretty penny.
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Old 12-16-2010, 05:54 PM   #7  
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The WSJ did the article as part of their "Cranky Consumer" feature, where they pick a service/product and then compare/contrast different providers. The article came with a table describing the pros/cons of working with each professional scrapbooker.
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Old 12-16-2010, 06:19 PM   #8  
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really interesting article. I don't want to loose thread so I can pass it on to DD1.
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Old 12-17-2010, 04:54 AM   #9  
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My good friend's daughter-in-law just had her baby's first year professionally scrapbooked. It was 12 x12 scrapbook - not digital - don't know how many pages. She paid $250 down which she thought was half. When she picked it up cost was over $700! Unbelievable! My friend said there were so many embellishments it really took away from the pictures. I sure would like to see this scrapbook.
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