Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

May 5, 2008

words + photos : monday

Hello words + photos.
For me, this is really the heart of scrapbooking. When I look back through all my layouts the ones I love the most are the simple ones that really focus on just the photos + the words. As so many of us know, it is way too easy to get caught up in the latest & greatest product, the desire for more, and never feeling like you have “just the right thing” to complete your project.

This week I am going to consider the following: What if I used all my creative energy towards the words + the photos and forgot about the rest of the stuff for one week? Imagine if all that creative strength went into my story (or the way I take my photos) rather than worrying about matching patterned paper and choosing embellishments?

What if I just told the darn story?

Is it still scrapbooking if no “extra-stuff” is present? Of course it is.

Now there should be no doubt that I love to play with products. I love to be inspired by new (and old) stuff and enjoy the creative process of working with patterns and embellishments. By taking a week out to focus on the words + photos I am challenging myself to really pay closer attention to the way in which I tell my stories.

Want to play along?

To begin this week I want to introduce you to my favorite layout. What I love most about it is that it completely tells a story from point A to point B. There is a balance between the words + photos and the only other product on the page are some chipboard letters.


[ from my book Life Artist ]

I love this layout for the design and the concept. It is organized and graphic. There is nothing extra distracting from the subject at hand. The photos show a variety of different angles and distances. These photos are not perfect (especially the one of the three of us which was taken while holding my arm out and pointing down) but they capture our routine authentically and accurately. The colors, the chaos, the winding down, the emotion – it’s all there in the photos with support coming from the words.

This is a layout I will look back on in ten years and treasure.

Another thing I love about the above layout is that it is a concept that can be repeated. If I was to complete another page on this same theme this week the story would be similar but different. The PJ’s are different now (he has outgrown all the matching sets and now wears big boy pants + white t-shirts to bed), he is doing more things on his own, etc. This is an evolving story. A part of our story I want to tell.


Here’s another favorite from a few years back:


[ from my book A Designer's Eye for Scrapbooking ]

Again, the focus is on the photos and the words. The photos are the “decoration” as well as the content. They could tell almost as much of the story even without the words. Choosing which photos to take and which to use (and/or enlarge) are a big part of the way in which I tell my stories.

The enlarged photo of the boots was printed on cardstock and the title was added in Photoshop.


And here’s a new layout using 4×6 photos:


Each photo was printed using the “white border” option on my small portable Kodak printer. The words for this layout came directly from a blog post back in February 2007. As you may be able to see, I took photos of photos and photos of displays (as well as of the monuments + friends). So many things to capture in DC.

Again the emphasis here is on the photos + the words with just a bit of patterned paper and embellishments – those extras were added mainly because I had left too small of a space for any white bordered photos to fit where the “travel log” embellishment piece was placed.

I created variety with the photos by not lining them all up from one level to another. Also notice that there are no white borders around any of the edges of the layout – any photo that came in contact with the edge had the white border removed along that line.

Over the next couple of days I will go into more detail about the way I choose my photos and the way I choose my words. Come by tomorrow for my philosophy on taking photos and some fun ways to play with printing your photos (and a cool giveaway).


[ The full words + photos series can be found here: monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday. ]


  • 1.
    annie said…

    Ali, I love this concept. It’s inspiring (and manageable!)to think in terms of photos and words. Love it.

  • 2.
    Helene said…

    hi, it’s so true, we get caught in a consumer race for latest products, and forget the most important part; thre most important for me anyway : why I scrap, the story I want to remember, and share ! Eager to read tomorrow’s post ! have a nice day !

  • 3.
    Leslie said…

    THanks for reminding us of why we’re scrappin and for the inspiration!!!

  • 4.
    Ida said…

    You’re so right Ali! This is what I try to explain to my fellow friends. Now I can direct them to your blog. Kudos!

  • 5.
    sue said…

    I’m really looking forward to this week and after looking over your blog post this morning, I know I’m not going to be disappointed. I love words and combining them with the photos looks great. Thank you and keep ‘em coming!

  • 6.
    noell said…

    I love your weekly idea and I’m excited to see how it plays out and to follow you as you go in-depth with a topic each time.
    I was so curious to hear more specifics of how you were enlightened when you pulled out all your layouts a while back to rearrange them. I’m guessing that the decision (or confirmation) of which layout and which type of layout was your favorite came from that experience.
    One thought I’ve always had as I look through your layouts is how specific you get with your everyday layouts for Simon. I find that I can do this for layouts for myself. And I’ve done it a little for my youngest who is mostly home with me. But it seems a little daunting to try to do this for all three of my kids. It seems it will be harder to get the intimacy with a night-routine, for example, because there are three of them.
    But I’ve been revving up to do it anyway: to go capture both the group routines and the individual ones. This post is a nice kick in the pants to start working harder to do that.

  • 7.
    amber said…

    This is really exciting to me. I enjoy scrapbooking and all the fun little things that go along with it but all that fun can get in the way of documenting what is truly important sometimes. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed w/what I’d like to get done w/my pics before baby #2 makes her appearance. This is going to give me the right direction. Can’t wait to see what’s next! As always, thanks for sharing.

  • 8.
    kitty whitlow said…

    Oh Ali, thanks so much for sharing this. Can immediately think of 2 pages I want to create right now using this method. Looks like a great way to incorporate more of my pictures into a layout instead of the one photo that I usually use.
    Thanks for sharing this concept I can’t wait to see more.

  • 9.
    Amy said…

    I always think this same thing when people say to me, can you teach me how to scrapbook. And I think, what do you need to really learn? You take photos and you add words, it’s that simple. My grandmother was a scrapbooker and she never saw an embellishment in her life. Her albums are still cherished and read and re-read. I think people make scrapbooking into some sort of science when it’s really very simple. Thanks for the reminder! And I love the layouts!

  • 10.
    Artful Yogi said…


  • 11.
    Suzanne said…

    What a great idea. Sometimes I feel my pages are incomplete if I dont put many embellishments on them. Also such a simple approach makes scrapbooking less intimidating.

  • 12.
    Cinnibonbon said…

    Woohoo..thanks for this. I just spent the weekend wishing for more embellies (LOL). I know it’s not neceassy, yet I can’t get past the latest craze. You’ve sparked a great notion, yet again!! Thanks

  • 13.
    Ady Abreu said…

    I will definitely playing with you this week. I have a lot of wonderful photos that tell a story but because I’m one to always need that perfect paper to go with the pictures that I’m forgetting to just tell the story. I will play tonight. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • 14.
    Ady Abreu said…

    I will definitely playing with you this week. I have a lot of wonderful photos that tell a story but because I’m one to always need that perfect paper to go with the pictures that I’m forgetting to just tell the story. I will play tonight. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • 15.
    Molly said…

    I will be joining you too, Ali.
    I’ve been considering my approach pretty carefully lately, and have concluded that I intend to do just this type of “scrapbooking.”
    My motivation is not (and never has been) to be published, [although I reserve the right to change my mind. ha ha. ] But rather, to create keepsake books that go beyond a typical photo album by providing more perspective through words.
    Thank you again for being such a thought-leader in this industry and keeping the focus REAL.

  • 16.
    Michele Attaway said…


  • 17.
    kate said…

    While we all love the embellishments, the words and the photos tell the story. It’s nice to get back to basics, thank you

  • 18.
    Farrah said…

    I haven’t scapbooked in so long its not even funny. This is just the inspiration I need to get started again. Thanks for the reminder of what its really all about :)

  • 19.
    Sarah Heroman said…

    love it.
    need it.

  • 20.
    Mary said…

    This is exactly what I am needing right now. I think this approach also helps us chronological scrappers to get and stay “caught up” which will free up our thoughts and energy to do those artistic LO’s we really want and need to do from time to time.

  • 21.
    Angi Smith said…

    We are a family of three, like you are. I envy your ability to take shots of the three of you. I have a SLR and I just cannot get it turned around to get a self-portrait of us like you do. I love the Night, Night page, too, by the way. It makes one feel as if one is a part of it or looking on.

  • 22.
    Jen said…

    Thank you, I have felt disenchanted with scrapbooking lately and I think you’ve made me realize why. I love this concept!

  • 23.
    cindy b said…

    AWESOME! This is gonna be a great week!! thank SO MUCH Ali!! peace and blessings, Cindy

  • 24.
    RUTH ALLMART said…

    Ali- I love this concept. I look forward to following your blog entries this week. How fun :o )

  • 25.
    Michelle said…

    I’ve been very into just the photos and story lately. And I’ve been making my favorite projects and pages in a long time! I think simple can still be very beautiful.

  • 26.
    Heather R said…

    Oh I love these LOs…so what I love to put in my own albums. Looking forward to what you have in store the rest of the week!

  • 27.
    Amber said…

    Love it, love it, love it!! So inspiring, and so true. I really focus myself to not put so many embellishments and “extras” that you don’t even see the picture {like I’ve seen SOO often lately in scrapbooking}. Thank you for being a “scrapbooking purist” :)
    Love it!

  • 28.
    mary said…

    this is SO great. . . .it’s the way I scrap. I feel like so many layouts in magazines have so much product you lose sight of the photo….the heart of scrapbooking. (Although I do like to play with a little product as well. :0>)
    Thanks for doing this, Ali!

  • 29.
    Denise said…

    Amazing layouts and photos. You give me great inspiration for getting to all of my loose photos!!

  • 30.
    Sarah said…

    I wish I had half the creativity that you have! Thanks for the all the creative ideas each day!

  • 31.
    Maria said…

    I love this concept, Ali!! Thank you so much for sharing ~ I am looking forward to the great inspirations to come :)

  • 32.
    BethW said…

    I’m pretty sure I love you. thank you for reminding me what it’s all about. I actually like to tell length stories about the memory-but I never have enough room because of the STUFF! I had my own epiphany last week-it doesn’t matter if the pictures are perfect, it doesn’t matter if the layout is beautiful-what matters is if the memory moves me.

  • 33.
    krisfred said…

    THANK YOU, ALI!!! Your insight and generosity are very much appreciated!!

  • 34.
    Susan G said…

    Ooooo, something wonderful to look forward to on my favorite “creative” blog. I can’t wait to see the next post. Thank you Ali!

  • 35.
    Sara said…

    This is going to be a great jumpstart. Immediately I thought of the stack of pictures I have from my brother’s wedding. I’ve wanted to scrap them for quite awhile but was overwhelmed. I need to just pick a few stories I want to tell about the weekend and construct the layouts based around those stories and the pictures. Forget about including every picture I have. thanks!

  • 36.
    ToneF said…

    I love this way of thinking and scrapbooking! I love the focus on the pictures and the journaling – telling the story. I so much agree that those are the layouts that become the most prescious, the ones that tell you that particular story! And me neither, I don’t care that much to have the perfect pictures. In fact, I nearly never have perfect pictures because it is nearly impossible to get perfect pictures of an active 3 year old…hihi…
    I love your philosophy and I admire your work! Thank you so much for all the inspiration :)
    Have a lovely day!

  • 37.
    MariaM said…

    Ali — This is great! I am looking forward to the whole week … reading your thoughts reminded me about the first time I picked up one of your books (designer’s eye for scrapbooking} and seeing that layout about simon’s boots — it clicked, it really is that simple, the words+photos philosophy has guided me ever since. And even so, there are times that I look at something I have created and think there must be some fancy stuff I should be putting here or here, etc. We really do need a reminder at times to keep form overwhelming ourselves :) thanks.

  • 38.
    michelle said…

    Ali, thanks so much for sharing this concept. As I look back over the last two years of pages since my son’s been born, for the most part, the story is missing. There’s surface stuff, sure, but the real story is missing. I’m challenged (again!) to write our story. Focusing on words+photos will really help! Thanks again!

  • 39.
    Amyb said…

    Thanks for the inspiration, Ali!

  • 40.
    Bree said…

    I love this!
    I am a mostly beginner scrapbooker who is one of those “overwhelmed by all the options” people. I end up making pages with just words and pictures and feeling like they are really boring. Feeling like my pages won’t make the impact I want them to because I cannot afford to keep up with trends and embellishments…
    Thanks for teaching about what really matters — it puts things back into perspective for us all!!!

  • 41.
    Wendy Tienken said…

    This is the best thing ever! I have such a love for photography and scrapbooking, but often times I get so intimidated by all the product out there. It’s easy to forget the purpose of our scrapbooks. TO tell the story! I will definitely be doing this. Thanks, Ali!

  • 42.

    Love the concept in the last layout where you cropped the photos so no white space touches the edge of the layout. An interesting concept I would not have necessarily noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out. I would have know I liked the layout, but I wouldn’t know why. Thanks for sharing your process! Ever inspiring as always!

  • 43.
    traci said…

    i am needing this right now.
    i am trying to see how much scrapping i can get done w/o going out and buying any more scrap supplies.
    off to order some prints of photos!

  • 44.
    Scraptician said…

    Sometimes I get so sick of all the embellishments and feeling like I never have it right, that I don’t even want to walk in my scrapbook room. It’s like I feel guilty if I don’t get “the look”. Really, all I need is the story, and a few (or a lot) of photos. Those are the things I’ll treasure in the not-so-distant future, not the the latest and greatest from the manufacturers. Thanks for reminding me of this, Ali. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a scrapbooking room to go to.

  • 45.
    Linda Beeson said…

    hmmmmm – you mean the “story” is why we do this!!?? Good points.

  • 46.
    Camille said…

    Oh my gosh, this is just a complete carbon copy of how I’ve been feeling lately!!!!! I’ve had to remind myself to not buy more until I’ve used more, gotten frustrated at not being able to decide how to use this or that, etc.
    But then finally realized… it’s not the embellishment, ribbon, or chipboard that I’ll be treasuring 10 years from now, it’s the STORY AND PICTURES!!!!
    So thank you, thank you for keeping the focus on the important stuff, and teaching/helping along the way.

  • 47.
    Kathi K. said…

    I just love your simple approach. As a graphic designer, I really subscribe to the ‘less is more’ philosophy!
    One quick question if you have time. I read on your blog a while ago that you limit yourself to a small palette of cardstock. One you mentioned is plain kraft colored CS. Where do you get it? I can not for the life of me find plain kraft cardstock!
    Thanks for all the inspiration,

  • 48.
    Michelle B said…

    Ali – this is just what I need right now. Back to basics. i like to play in some online scrapbooking challenges – but I took a break from it – because it seemed more about creating the most “trendy” layout instead of telling the story. This week I will try to leave the “trendy” at the door and concentrate on the words + pictures. As always I love your style and your inspiration is always amazing to me.

  • 49.
    Nathalie said…

    In the same line, I realized looking back at LOs that my favorites are the multi-photo ones… (unlike what you see in most magazines). Your point of view is VERY inspirational. Thank you!

  • 50.
    jennifer said…

    I am really looking forward to you sharing some of the “secrets” to your process…especially the “choosing words” part…it seems that is always the hardest part for me. You are always so inspiring!

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