Don't Just Shoot, Do Something With Your Photos

Don't Just Shoot, Do Something With Your Photos

Digital photography has changed the way we take pictures.  We care able to shoot, and shoot, and never run out of storage space. But at the other hand, it did not change the way we treat all those photos. So I wonder: what are you doing with all the photos you took over the last year?It used to be so simple. We bought a negative film, or slide film, for 12, 24, or 36 images. After you shot that number of images, you needed to develop the film and print the photos you liked. For slide film it was a bit easier; after developing the film you could project the slides on a large screen with a slide projector.

A real slide show. It took a complete evening showing the slides from your holiday. It was not something you just did; it took a lot of effort.

After a first evening showing the slides to your family, and maybe some friends, the slides were stored in a closet and almost never looked at again. It wasn’t that different for printed photos. You had to buy a photo album and glue the photos inside. This happened for a few albums, and then slowly, gradually, the photos were stored temporarily in a shoe box. After all those years, the photos are probably still inside that same shoe box. 

After the first few photo albums, a lot of photos ended up in a shoe box, just waiting to be selected for a page in an album. How many of you still have a shoe box with photos somewhere?

The digital world has made some changes. Now we have our photos directly available. We can see the result on the back of our camera, on our computer screen, or on a big screen television just a few minutes after we get home. Perhaps it takes a little longer if you need to post-process the photos first. We also have a lot of photos. After a day in the field you can easily end up with thousands of photos. You need to import these, make a selection, post-process that selection, and perhaps you will place a few on social media.

But what happens next? A lot of times nothing much. You go out shooting some more and almost forget about the previous photos. If we look at it that way, nothing has changed from the old days. We still end up with a digital closed full of slides, or a digital shoe box full of printed photos we never glued into an album.

We all know how nice it is when people look at your work. We love the likes on Facebook or Instagram, but the photos are also forgotten before you blink an eye. Perhaps you make a few large size prints from your best work, for in your living room or diner. You can organize an exhibition if you have the opportunity, and invite the world to visit. I had a few exhibition in the Netherlands and Poland, and I found really satisfying to see people look at my work and enjoying it.

My exposition in Poznan, Poland, back in 2013. It is wonderful when you work is seen.

An exhibition is not always possible, and often it takes an investment. Not everyone has the means to it. A large size print for your living is also nice, but there is only a limited amount of space available. But it is a waste if your wonderful work ends up somewhere on a hard drive, forgotten among tens of thousands of photos. There is a simple solution that a lot of photographers tend to forget. Make a photo album.

A collection of albums I made throughout the years. It is so easy to grab an album, and browse through it. This way is more inviting to look at your photos than opening a folder in a computer.

The digital world gives us a lot of possibilities. We no longer need to glue photos onto a sheet of paper. We can make a professional looking photo album with just a few clicks of a mouse button. I started to make the vacation albums some ten years ago, and albums of our weekend trips. I made sure all albums have the same size, so it looks great on a book shelf. The only thing that is more difficult than in the pre-digital age, is the selection of photos you want to use in an album. Today we don't shoot three films of 36 images in one vacation, but hundreds of photos per day. It is maybe the downside of the digital photography.

Don’t limit yourself to vacation albums. Make an album of your best photos of the previous year. If you do model photography, make an album from those photos. If you shoot birds, make an album containing the best bird photos you took. You can do this every year, and you will end up with a wonderful series of albums that are very easy to take with you, to show on events, or to share with family and friends. And the best thing is; you will look into an album more often than to the photos on your computer.

I took a lot of amazing photos at Lofoten. The most beautiful photos are gathered in a great album.

I was doing startrails for about 10 years in 2017. A good reason to make an album with the best startrail photos.

My advice for every photographer that hasn’t done anything with his or her photos; make an album of your best work. It is so easy to take that album from your book shelf and browse through it. This way you will enjoy photography even more.

One last tip for making an album exactly to your liking: most shops have their own album software, which may be limiting your designer skills. You can also make a spread in Photoshop with the exact page dimensions, adding text, photos, effects, layers, and masks. These spreads can be placed easily into the album software, as one image over facing pages.

An example of a spread I made in Photoshop. It has the exact dimensions of the album I am going to order. And I am not limited to the album software of the printing company. This will be an album about our trip to the Faroe Islands

I made a Photoshop file for every spread. This is a small selection of the Faroe Islands vacation album. I will export these to JPEG and place it across the spread in the album software of the printing company.

What do you do with your photos? Do you make albums, or are you enjoying your work in another way? Please share it with me in a comment down below.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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Any recommendations for good album makers based in London or UK in general? I would love to have my fave film photos from the past year in a book

Unfortunately I cannot help with that. I hope someone can help you find one.

Good idea to have those images realized and easy to view. The organization and selection process might save you a whole lot of time looking back through hundreds of digital images, as amusing as that might be. The books would seem to be more fun.

I think custom templates are useful when certain styles are decided after many years of creating photo albums. For the album software I'm working with, I am not limited to the templates the software has. The main limitation though is using custom fonts and artwork, but for now I can still love with these limitations

If it works, it works. And if you are satisfied with the result, that is all that matters. :)

Your albums look ike they are high quality. I've never thought to put my pictures in an album before and definitly would want to use a high quality product. Would you provide some advice on how to start the process to find such a company? I'm here in the US and would like to known how you decided to trust your art with.

It is difficult to find a good album manufacturer. I have ordered a view albums with a wedding album / coffee table book company. Those albums are expensive, too expensive for those regular vacation books. The Lofoten book is printed by ASUKABOOK, and expensive.
I am convinced you can find some reviews from US located album companies. Make sure you find the best quality/price combination.

I like the idea of the photo books, those in particular look very professional.

I also recommend curating your best-of photos and putting them in a spot where they can be used as a screensaver for your television. We've enjoyed hours of watching old photos go by with our kids.

That is also a nice idea (although it would not work for me - the television is always turned off when we don;t use it. :) )
Using the television with a screensaver sounds a bit like the ancient slide shows. I like it.

Nice article and a great reminder of something nice to do with our photos. A UK site called was recommended at my camera club but I haven’t got round to making one, months later. I like to publish a ‘best of’ every year on Flickr... 24 to 36 highlights (that I consider to be technically and aesthetically good).

I agree it can be difficult to start making an album. Often I use the Christmas holidays for that, during the long cold and dark winter evenings, while listening to nice music and drinking a glass of wine, or a single malt whisky. :)

Really agree with his. I made several photo books (though Blurb) some years ago, and they have been great for sharing pictures. Sometimes, we have them out on the coffee table and guests just pick them up and browse, which is great. It's not a trivial amount of effort to do this well, and I have been too busy, so have not made a book in years. This will prompt me to get back to that.


I would love to find a good way to display big prints in a way that makes it easy to change prints, too.... or to use one of these electronic picture frames (but a large one)... anyone have experience with that?

Good idea to place (new) albums on the table when friends are coming over. Its an great invitation to look into the albums without the need of pointing out you have a new one :)

An electronic picture frame in large size... perhaps a screensaver function on a television?

one difference between 'then' & 'now' - is that I'm always finding orphaned photos / photo albums..sometimes negatives and slides - at garage sales, thrift shops, etc.... I cherish these 'found' images... where will all your digital stuff be in 30 years?

That is something I ask myself also. All those digital files will fade into nothing eventually. Perhaps an album will survive
Do you ever wonder what will happen with all those hard disks full of photo files after you die? Will your children keep it, or just throw away?

I have for years taken a years worth of pictures and made gift calendars filled with memories. Also I have had books/booklets made of yearly memories with my excursions and moments with my grandchildren. So fun to look back on