How to Print with a Photo Developer and Maintain a Simple Scrapbook Process


I don’t print at home. I send photo orders to my local Costco Warehouse and I drive the ten minutes to pick them up.

Sounds inconvenient, you say?

Well, I disagree. I find it totally convenient.

I actually have an Epson printer that will print photos, but I happen to like using my developer. It’s true! It’s the reason I’ve felt no incentive to use my own printer!

I know a lot of you print through a developer like me. Others of you print at home, but would like to save money and ink by doing some printing through a developer. If you’ve been agreeing with the masses, though, and feel inconvenienced that you can’t print at home, you might want to take a look at my process and see how I make it work well for me. Maybe just a little tweak here and there to your own process will give you the same ease in your workflow that I feel in mine.

Get Into a State of Flow by Task-batching Your Scrapbooking Steps

I scrapbook when I want to scrapbook, and I play with photos on my computer when I want to play with photos. I don’t make myself do one activity when I want to be doing the other.

Each of the two activities uses a very different mindset and different tools, so I don’t combine them. What I mean is, I don’t think it’s as effective to creative flow when you want to scrapbook, but first you have to get on the computer and pick the photos, edit the photos, and then print them.

There’s nothing wrong with it, and I know there are many scrapbookers who do it that way just fine. But it does require that you change mindsets, and you’re less likely to maximize the potential of your photo editing if you’re hurrying through that process because what you’re really trying to do is scrapbook. Plus, it’s no fun to be doing one thing when you’re wanting to do another. Right?

Of course, this method means that some photos must be ready and waiting for you when you have the paper urge, and want to get into a paper flow.

Here’s my scrapbook process from digital photo to the actual page layout.…

Photo Prep & Printing

When I’m in a computer-photo mood, I spend time prepping my photos by doing any of these steps:

  • Identifying the ones I will want to print, share, or scrapbook.
  • Editing only those chosen ones.
  • Adding journaling into the metadata of my chosen photos.
  • Digitally cropping those favorite photos to the sizes I want for scrapbooking.
  • Ordering my photos for printing.
  • Uploading them to share in sets and collections on Flickr.

For more details on my process, you might want to read my article, How You Really Can Tell All of Your Stories.

How to Organize It:
I have a folder within my Pictures folder on my computer that I called, “Photos In Progress.” Within that folder I add even deeper folders for any picture groupings I’m working on over time. For example, I had a lot of pictures from Aiden’s birthday party and I spent a couple of days choosing the photos, cropping them, and adding multiple small photos to single larger canvases for me to crop later. I kept these pictures in that folder until I had it all finalized.

Screen shot: Pictures Folders

When I have a single photo I’m excited to scrapbook, or a folder of photos that I finished prepping for print, I send them to a different folder on my desktop that I call, “Print.” As soon as I’m ready I upload them to Costco and then pick them up while I’m running errands.

Print in Small Chunks Instead of Big Batches
I no longer wait until I have a big stack of pictures to print. When I did that in the past I found that I had hundreds and hundreds of photos that didn’t motivate me; or that weren’t in the sizes I wanted when it was time to scrap.

What’s working amazingly for me now is to order prints for just the handful I’m most excited about. I order just enough to last me about two weeks of scrapbooking. It keeps me motivated to scrapbook, and I don’t get overwhelmed by the process of organizing a big stack of photos, especially since I love to print in various sizes.

Customizing Stacy Julian’s Library of Memories System
Many of you know I follow Stacy’s system. How am I doing it now with this new process? I do it digitally. I organize my favorite digital photos into quarterly albums in my photo manager (instead of in actual tactile albums), and then when I’m really motivated I keyword photos by Library of Memories categories (instead of putting actual prints into physical category drawers).

Scrapbooking With Prints I Have

I find that after I’ve edited, journaled, and cropped the digital photos I’m most excited about, I’m almost always motivated to scrapbook them right away. I’m working on making a landing spot for the small handful of pictures I’ve printed to serve me over the next week or so.

What if I ruin a photo? Someone commented recently on the large focal point photo that I cropped with the Fiskar’s Apron Lace Border Punch, asking me how I dared to take such a risk with my photo, since I print them at a developer.

4 July

I don’t see this as an issue. If you mess up your photo you just order it again. It’ll be ready within a couple of hours and you can continue scrapbooking with your messed up photo until you can replace it with the good one!

You Have the Urge, But Not the Photos

Recently my urge and scrapbooking speed got fairly manic and I found myself needing to scrapbook two stories for which I did not yet have prints. No problem. You can see in the photo below that I went right to work without the print. I could see what the photos looked like on my computer and I used my understanding of design principles to help me make decisions.

My Work Table on 4/19

Left Layout
On the left I used my understanding of scale and proportion to know how much bigger I would want my photos to be than my embellishments. In this case, it was actually better for me that I started scrapbooking before printing, because had I not started this way, I would have printed my photos either too large and they would have dwarfed my embellishments, or I would have made them too small and my embellishments would have competed.

In this case, the embellishment choices were important to me because they are ephemera. I wouldn’t have wanted to just change my embellishments to fit my photos.

Right Layout
On the right I used a stand-in scrap piece of paper with a similar size and a similar visual weight as the photo I wanted to use. This worked perfectly fine, as you can see in the final results:

N 38

An Easy Printing and Scrapbooking Process

As long as you live fairly close to a decent photo developer (mine is ten minutes away, not close to other places I go), this is a very easy process for scrapbooking! Sometimes I get the impression that scrapbookers feel inadequate for not having a printer at home. I choose not to print at home, though I have the tool to do so.

I just find the common viewpoint to be incorrect. Printing with a local developer can be very convenient if you fit your scrapbook workflow around it!

This Week at Paperclipping

No Paperclipping Event for (Inter)National Scrapbook Day

In the past we’ve had some fun and awesome live online events, plus a donation drive. I’m so sorry to say that this year I can’t do it. I have been looking for an opportunity to take a weekend workshop with an artist I admire, and she finally scheduled one fairly near me on that same weekend! I had to jump on the opportunity!

I know there will be many other fun events happening around the web. I will be looking for a different day where I can do a live event in the next couple of months, so please keep watching the newsletter for the announcement!

  • Lynnette

    I don’t do all your steps but this is pretty much how I do it too. I don’t have a photo-printer at home and think the prints from them are WAY too expensive anyway. My Costco is just a 10 minute drive so I do small batches when I feel the urge and always have some photos ready to scrap all the time. Works really well for me.

  • Thank you Noell! What a great post :)
    I was thinking about printing this week and your post make me look for a developer near me and guess what? They are cheaper and they will print the pictures also in matt (which I prefer but didn´t got at my old developer) I can reach the by walking in 10 minutes. I´m starting PSE right now and will look for some test photos which I will sent to them.
    Can´t wait to get them!
    To scrap without the pictures in my hand I can´t imagine at this time, I have to see it together on the page :)
    Thanks again!

  • I send my pics online and pick them up 5 min from home :) If all of them are 4×6, they take a couple of days, but if I want enlargements, they take a bit longer, but it’s worth it!!

  • I’ve been really happy with Costco printing, tho the two closest ones are 25 miles and at least that many minutes away. It does become a dedicated trip to me because that becomes almost a 1.5 gallon round trip. $6.+ Fortunately, I’m almost a totally digital scrapper, so my layouts come to me in the mail!

  • This is why I’ve ended up scrapping almost totally digitally. It’s easier, I can shop for supplies in the middle of the night when I discover I need something, and I get beautiful pages photographically printed at No fuss, no muss, no waiting for supplies or prints. Otherwise the process is exactly the same. Best part is I can interrupt what I’m doing and not have to leave something sitting out. I put it away (save the file) and when I come back everything is right where I left it!

  • Kelly

    I recently got Aperture (on your recommendation!), and I also usually print at Costco.

    I’m wondering about your process as it relates to Aperture, under the heading How to Organize It. Are you exporting the edited pictures from Aperture into those folders as you edit them? Curious about a few more details of your process related to Aperture, though I know it’s not what everyone uses. But since I’m getting started and learning a new work flow, I’d love to know more about how you do it.


  • Gela

    I have a small printer that I use for events. For example this weekend is my sisters 40th birthday. We are having a small family gathering. I have made a mini book for the event. As we take pictures I will glue them to the book and give it by the end of the day. Otherwise I only print as I scrap. Seeing stacks of pictures is not inspiring at all. There are so many things going on national scrapbook day. Ella Publishing, Big Picture, scrapbook.coom, Laura Denison is hosting a ustream-a-thon. So many choices. I’m sure there are others. Maybe you can host a post scrap day. I would be interested to see what everybody did that day. …… Your class……. Have a great day.

  • A ten-minute WALK! How nice! I love when I van walk somewhere!! I hope this new developer does a great job for you (it really depends)!

    Love that you’ve taken immediate action!!

  • Hi, Kelly! When I want to print in unusual sizes, I export from Aperture to
    Photoshop to put them in the various sizes onto single canvases. Then I save
    them into folders from there.

    But if I’m just doing single photos on standard printing sizes like 4×6,
    5×7, 8×8, 8×12, I export them from Aperture into a print folder and I upload
    to Costco from there.

    Please feel free to ask any other questions abt Aperture!

  • Yes — that is the one reason I still think I might eventually try my
    printer! For those events where I want to be able to print immediately!

  • Cindy Wick

    Noell, I have a completely different question. :) What is the name of the tool you use to work on your layouts? I absolutely need one just like it! The angle is perfect for designing pages. :)

    I am currently printing all my photos at home. Mostly because of the size issue ~ I can print the odd sizes that I need. I’m finding that I am using a whole lot of photos that are 3×2 ~ half of the 4×6. I used to make myself only scrap 4×6 and I might have to do that again, but it sure isn’t what I want. We are really cutting back in spending though, and it’s definately cheaper to send them to Costco. So I’ll have to think about if I can work your system into mine. I think I don’t have the program knowledge that I need. I definately need to check out Aperture ~ my 10,000 pics I take every year are difficult to sort and manage using conventional methods. Thanks for the ideas ~ it will help me work on an area of weakness.

  • i think you have a mistake in the links on this piece – the link that should be to your article is the Flickr link, just with a different text label – would like to read the article, if you don’t mind fixing the link. Thanks!
    PS – signed up for Finding Photo Freedom today, had saved my paperclipping coupon just for that class – hoorah! (and yes, Izzy, I went to bpc via the paperclipping link so you guys get the affiliate credit)

  • Cindy Wick

    I’m sorry ~ I have another question. After I typed my last comment I went out to the web and looked up Aperture. It has many reviews that say while it a fabulous program it’s unstable and crashes allot. These were all people who had Macs. I have a pc. Have you had this kind of problem? Years ago I published a homeschool news letter and every edition, my current letter crashed. I know from my expereince then that I wouldn’t do very well with a program that crashed every time I used it, lol. I seriously came close to throwing my computer out the door into the yard! I’m sorry to report, my character hasn’t improved that much since then, lol.

    Thanks Noell. :D

  • Kelly

    Thanks, Noell! That totally helps — I think I somehow was envisioning something more complicated; this is basically what I’ve been doing in iPhoto.

    What do you do with the pictures in that Print folder later? They’re basically extra copies, so do you delete them? Organize them?

  • I have a question about your photo folder system. I’m assuming that these folders are separate from your iPhoto or Aperture libraries… are the photos copies or have you moved them? Also, do you do your highlight “albums” in iPhoto/Aperture (can’t remember which you use!) or in the folder system?

    Thanks so much!
    Julie S

  • Thanks for the heads up on the links, Dana! I had two links that weren’t
    supposed to go to that Flickr page but did. It’s fixed now!

    And thank you for your support of the Roundtable with your Photo Freedom

  • that’s FRED, I think. I think if you google “F.R.E.D.” you’ll find it – and the site is

  • Vera

    I print locally too. I do the same as you: play with photos when I’m in the mood and scrap when I’m in the mood. Sometimes, if I’m in the mood to scrap something that I don’t have photos for, I’ll just print the photos on plain paper to ‘stand in’ for the real photos. That’s been working for me, because sometimes I’ll decide later to change the size of the photo or add photos, or take away, etc. Then, once I have the layout the way I want it, I’ll get the photos printed. I also have been printing a lot more 2×3 photos and I just open up a 4×6 document in photoshop and then crop two photos to 2×3 and then place them in the 4×6 document. That’s easier and cheaper than printing a larger print with lots of photos on it. If I want, I can create a larger collage with several of the 2×3 photos if that’s what I’m going for at the time. At least that works for me now. : )

  • I use Photoshop to put 2 photos 3×2 photos onto a 4×6 sheet. You can do this
    in Elements, too. It would probably save you money to buy Elements and print
    at a developer if you’re thinking about doing that. It’s not that expensive
    compared to multiple ink purchases over time.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t do it with Aperture, though I plan to look into
    it, just in case I’m wrong!

  • Yes, Thanks Dana!

  • It’s not that Aperture is unstable. It’s that it’s an incredibly powerful
    piece of software and you need to have a powerful computer with a MINIMUM of
    2 GB RAM (I suggest just maxing out your computer with it) in order to run

    You also need to make sure you have at least 10% of your overall GB

    It’s all in the systems requirements. I don’t have problems with it
    crashing. I love it!

  • Yes — they’re just copies and I delete them!

  • Yes — the folders are separate from software. They’re just right on my
    computer with my operating system folders. They’re just temporary holding
    places for while I’m working and printing. Once I print and am done with my
    layout/project, I delete the photos — because they are just copies. The
    originals stay untouched in Aperture.

    And yes, I use Aperture. That’s where my quarterly “highlights” are. I don’t
    actually move the photos into those albums, either. Aperture shows the photo
    in both places. If I edit it in my highlights album, I see the exact same
    edits in the yearly project, as well. And the original stays untouched
    because of how Aperture works.

  • We’ve fallen into the same system! I think it took me longer to realize it’s
    cheaper/easier to print on 4×6’s than on larger canvas sizes, though! :)

  • cindy wick

    Of course ~ this makes perfect sense. I’ll remember that for the future. I’m sure my current machine would die a thousand deaths running something that powerful. :) In the meantime, I’ll at least learn Elements (I have it still boxed up ~ from Valentines Day of 2010! How does that happen?? lol) and then work on getting photos from Costco again. That’s an excellent saving strategy, and something I should do to help my dh with expenses. :D

  • cindy wick

    Thanks you guys! I just ordered one of these ~ it’s my mothers day present! I’m really excited ~ I think it will be perfect for my needs. The timing was perfect too, as dh & the kids hadn’t gotten me anything yet. So it will be one of those groups presents. It’s a good thing they are all teenagers and have a little bit of money, lol. Plus it helps that there are 6 of them, less per person..:)

    Thanks again! :D

  • Congrats! :)

  • Deirdre

    Great post! Since I heard you mention adapting Stacy’s LOM to your computer folder system, I’ve been wanting to see a screen shot of it. This explained it well, and I completely agree about how a small pile of printed photos motivates me much more than the large stack.

    I wish we had Costco nearby (it’s 4 hrs to the nearest, 200 miles to the nearest Target!), so for now I still rely on online printers like Shutterfly, which means I wait until I have a coupon or they have a sale to print huge amounts.

    Can you share more about how you choose what size to order when you don’t know the exact layout in advance? That’s what I find most challenging.

    I’d love to see your retreat idea become a reality—maybe Flagstaff in the summer? They have a new LSS owner who would probably love to team up with you—About Memories and More. Keep us posted!

  • I’ll work on putting a post up soon on how I size my photos!

    As for the retreat — if I ever do it it would have to be someone else
    coordinating it, running it, doing ALL of the logistics, etc. I just can’t
    do it, which is why I never have even though I’ve been dreaming it for a few
    years now. :)

    I was thinking I would like it to be in my hometown some year in Feb or Mar
    so I can take people to my favorite places. But there really are no plans to
    do it — just an idea.

  • Daylilyj

    Great post Noell. I am very overwhelmed right now with photos that have to be edited. I love sendiong them out. I have never used Costco and we are thinking about joing as our Sam’s Club membership expired. Do they do the variety of pages – 12×12, 81/2 x 11 that scrapbook pictures and persnickety do?
    Thanks Again.

  • Costco does 8×8, 8×10, 8×12, 12×12, plus an even larger size or two in
    addition to the usual 4×6 and 5×7.

    I don’t know about Sam’s, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t!

  • Sherri

    Noell, thanks for the motivating article. Can you tell me how you built the ‘easel’ for your layout pages to lie on?

  • Deirdre

    Sherri, I came back to read a comment response & saw your question. If you scroll up, you’ll see the same question asked about the “FRED” easel and a link to where you can buy one. They are pricey but they do look awesome…