Out-of-the-Box Ideas for Making Your Photo Book Truly Unique

What's your family listening to? Add a playlist to your photo book to add yet one more fun layer to your memories!

What's your family listening to? Add a playlist to your photo book to add yet one more fun layer to your memories!

We’re all about high-end books here at Modern Heirloom, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the fun factor! Heirlooms shouldn’t be stuffy or overly conservative: They should reflect the values and real lives of their subjects. And—we hope—for most of you that means lives filled with joy, music, and good company.

When you come to us, we will do way more than design a book for you—we’ll help you sift through ALL those photos, make suggestions for storylines and book angles, and ultimately curate and visually edit your story to create a wonderful end product. And we’re always open to creative twists and add-ons.

Sometimes, though, you might just want to create your own books. We know that not every photo book needs to be handcrafted and archival (though, we’re always here for you to create those!). For example, you might want to create a cheaper book for your toddler with pictures for every letter of the alphabet, or with pictures of faraway relatives—something that your child can actually play with, and get pureed carrots on without consequence. Or you might want your teens to put together their own version of a family annual, so you memorialize their point of view and favorite photos.

No matter the reason, there are times you’ll want to do your own thing. With that in mind, here are a few out-of-the-box ideas for adding color to your homemade books.

Blow some cartoony thought bubbles.

You might not be a designer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a few graphic elements to your book that’ll look professionally done. One of my favorite lighthearted design additions is the classic thought bubble. We’re all used to annotating our images these days on Instagram and Facebook, so why not let that sense of humor shine through in your photo books, too? Click here for a few differently styled thought bubbles that you can download for free and import into your photo books—just add type!

Add a book soundtrack.

Did you know that sensory cues can help trigger memories? Like the smell of bread baking eliciting memories of Grandma’s house, for instance. And while smell may most strongly evoke emotions, I have yet to find a way to produce a scratch-and-sniff photo book. You can, however, create a good old-fashioned print book and add in a musical component. 

Brainstorm a music playlist to listen to while viewing your book. If it’s a family album, ask everyone to check back on their devices for their most played songs; think of the songs that marked occasions such as summer road trips or your kid’s camp performance. If your book is celebrating an occasion, record the obvious: songs played at the bar/bat mitzvah or wedding reception. A fiftieth wedding anniversary? Maybe you select a couple of songs per decade that have meaning to the golden couple.

Definitely typeset the list of songs and artists and include as a Playlist Epigraph in your book. If you’ve got the means, burn a CD of the music as well and keep in a plastic sleeve at the back of your book. For Modern Heirloom Books customers who decide to purchase a digital version of their book in addition to the hard copy, we can include the digital music files on the same flash drive.

Have some fill-in-the-blank fun.

Go a little Mad Libs with fun fill-in-the-blank statements scattered throughout your book. This is not appropriate for certain topics, of course, but there are a few that would benefit from the levity. One we love: A mini book in celebration of a half-birthday. Some ideas:

In these past six months, I have gotten so much more ________ and __________. I’m __________ now.

All I want for my half-birthday is ________________________.

Typeset the sentences and fill in the blanks with your handwriting, which makes the photo book that much personal, adding the human touch.

Animate your story with flip book corners.

Do you remember those little books when we were kids that you flipped the pages and the stick figures moved? I haven’t seen one of those in ages, but Pinterest and YouTube are filled with creative ideas for making them.

If you can draw, why not create a series of illustrations that grace the bottom right corner of your photo book, so there is an animated story running parallel to your photographic one? If you’re working with us and want to incorporate this idea into a book, we can hire an illustrator to customize your book corners with your own flip book. We especially love this idea for a Proposal book—share the story of your relationship through photographs and simultaneously show a cartoon-you going down on bended knee to pop the big question, flip-book-style!

We'd love to hear other creative ideas you have—or see the results of your own designs! Please share in the comments below or on social media.