Creating a photo book with your Windows Phone

Creating a photo book with your Windows Phone

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I remember very little about my childhood. (Heck, these days I can barely remember what I did last week.) I have snippets of memories—running down our street yelling Cowabunga!, sledding with my sister, breaking my arm. We didn’t have a camera growing up, so memory-jogging photos are few and far between. Because I have a sister, my parents often blur our childhood milestones together. Image

When I had my daughter, I wanted her to live a better documented life. I wanted to remember Nikky’s tiny feet and funny first words when she became a sassy teenager. And I wanted her to have a record of her earliest years and the adventures we had.

My parents tell me that they took me places and made Super 8 movies of it all—film that I’ve never seen. For Nikky, I wanted something a little easier to deal with, and more likely to survive changing technology.

So I decided on a printed photo book.

I’d experimented with a few before, cobbling them together with the help of services such as Picaboo, Snapfish, or Shutterfly. Now I use SmileBooks to create an annual 12x12-inch coffee table-quality record of my daughter’s year. Many of the pictures that fill it come from my Windows Phone.

It’s a year-long project that I work on a little bit each month. If you’ve been meaning to do something like this, read on to learn my tips on how to actually make it happen.

1. Check your camera settings. If you plan to print 12x12, 12x24, or larger size photos, make sure your phone’s camera is set to the highest or best resolution available. From the camera app, tap More (…) and then tap Photo Settings.


2. Take lots of photos. My Nokia Lumia 920 is my go-to camera to capture my daughter’s life as it unfolds. It’s always in my pocket or purse, and being able to instantly turn on the camera by pressing the camera button while it’s still locked means I rarely miss a picture. It takes amazing low-light photos, so I can capture even more with it. The new Lenses feature of Windows Phone 8 makes it easy to add cool effects or fix shots right on my phone.

3. Take notes during the month. Write down funny quotes, movies you watched, places you went, etc. If you share your life on Facebook, your status updates could be your notes.


4. Type it up while it’s fresh in your mind. For me, that’s at the end of every single month, without fail. I also send it out in a monthly email to my family and some close friends so they can keep up on what’s going on.

5. Sort photos monthly. If you wait until the end of the year, the task of picking photos for your book can easily overwhelm you. So I select the best 20 to 30 shots each month and upload them to SkyDrive.  By uploading curated photos to SkyDrive, I also free up more room on my phone for new shots and video, but still have access to the uploaded shots from the Photos Hub.


6. Set aside time to compile the book.The hard work has already been done and now the fun part begins. I usually spend a few hours a day for about a week creating my book. I copy and paste in the text from those email updates throughout the year. Then I go to SkyDrive and the monthly folders with the best photos. In SmileBooks, I select the layouts that I want, make the text fit, and experiment with arranging the photos on full- or double-page spreads.

7. Buy it and enjoy. Every year, I order two copies. (SmileBooks has great promotions, so I usually hold out for a deal). One is for me and my daughter, the other is for my in-laws. We enjoy reading the books throughout the year to re-live our fun memories.


My dad, by the way, is finally digitally encoding our family’s Super 8 home movies. His technique is really low-tech: He’s projecting them on a wall and recording them with a digital camera. Still, my daughter is mesmerized by them. She’ll watch for hours, then pepper me with questions: “Mommy, do you remember the time you chased the dog? Fell in the water? Jumped into the pool?”

I look forward to showing her kids the stories and photos from her own childhood.

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  • @thrashee - Um, this is a Windows Phone blog site, so that's why this blog post is about, you guessed it, Windows Phone.  This is not a site that compares Microsoft products to other manufacturers - it's a Microsoft official blog.  If you want to engage in conversations about competing technology, I suggest you use Bing to search for popular tech blog sites, like Engadget or theVerge.  Thanks for your comment...

  • True that IPhoto has been around for a long time and it is a nice product. I use it. But this has everything to do with WP8 because the Lumia 920 is a WP8 device. And the amazing camera in that phone simply crushes the competition. At least for now it does. So although the WP8-Skydrive concept isn't without peer, the final results are stunning and not possible until now.  And don't be too amazed if there is a crime fighting app soon. :)

  • Wait...what does this have to do with Windows Phone?

    So you take pictures with your phone--or really any digital camera whatsoever. You can upload them to SkyDrive, but this too has nothing to do with the process, really. Take notes separately--with Facebook statuses or just a pen and napkin. And then send the whole shebang off to a third party company that creates a printed book for you.

    So...maybe this showcases the phone's camera--which all smartphones have now--and maybe this showcases SkyDrive--but you can do the same thing with a memory card or any cloud service like DropBox--but it showcases absolutely nothing that's unique to Windows Phone.

    Contrast this with Apple, which has had a similar concept for ages now within iPhoto--complete with cradle to grave service. Your photos are already imported, there are your templates for a coffee table book or a calendar or whathaveyou, and you can order directly from the program.

    I suppose next week we'll read about how you can stop crime with Windows dialing 911?

  • jader3rd
    24 Posts

    Do you know what would make this easier? If pictures uploaded to SkyDrive could be found easier, say if SkyDrive would consider adding a picture to an album as modifying the album, and that way the Mobile Uploads folder would get floated to the top of the SkyDrive list of albums?

  • Hi,Lisa,nice to read your nice blog for w8phone.I just got my new Lumia 920 and plan to record my two years old daughter daily life.Thanks for your warm suggestion.Do not know if smilebook have Chinese business.

  • Lisa,,, This is the type of WP usage that we have been saying for years would make good commercial's. For example, showing what a WP device can help you achieve in real life outside of the smartphone, showcasing the device, and its features, and showing how WP integrates with other services in the ecosystem like SkyDrive.

    I think you just posted the storyboard for a really great TELEVISION commercial.. Good job,, maybe you should be in advertising.