The Rusty Lens » Photography and Lifestyle Blog

Masthead header

A Project Life Story | Why, How, and Where…



I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet per say, but I’m not here, at least not as here as I was in the past. For a long while, I was everywhere. I moderated groups, I taught classes, I mentored, I wrote ebooks, I did challenges, I moderated challenge pages, and I was always available. And then I had another baby, and remodelled a house, and moved, and remodelled another house, and got pregnant with another baby, and even more than all of that… the internet got shitty. So I quit! I quit moderating, I left groups, I unfriended hundreds of people, and I pretty much stopped posting and blogging.

Truth be told, I was never very good at this. I love taking photos, I learned a lot, I wanted to be able to share that, but I’m not a seller. I’m not great at marketing. I was never that IT GIRL. And that’s totally fine. I’m thankful that I was never one bothered by likes, followers, fans, comments. None of that. Sure it was nice. But I knew from the beginning that I could post my best photo and one of my best friends could post a photo of dog poop and she’d get 1000 likes. lol. It’s the nature of the beast. And I’m SO okay with that. And here’s why:

I’m living a life over here. I have an amazing family. And I shoot for me. I tell stories for me (and you know, for my family). And I am truly happy. And more than I am happy, I’m busy.

And as if I’m not busy enough, I picked up a new hobby. Well, new again? A revived hobby? I don’t know. But I’m scrapbooking, which I don’t feel is the right way to describe it. I’m documenting. In an even bigger better way than before. Now, I would call myself a storyteller.

Let me backtrack just slightly. A few years ago a story crossed my feed, a mother of five died and very suddenly. And it could have been me. If I died that day what would happen? I’m not even sure my husband knows our bank account number. What do I have to leave my young children? An epic amount of photos sure, but what record have I left? What would they remember? About me, about them. So many stories would be lost. And it really changed me.

I started by printing my photos. I was really behind. Years and years and thousands of photos behind. I needed a system because my old method of 1-3 photos per page wasn’t going to cut it. I would die of old age before making it to 2012.

Insert Project Life.

Which is kind of funny. This went in instalments. First, I purchased a kit. Then I let it sit for two years. Then I bought another kit. And still, it sat. Well, okay, in my defense I was working full time and had a house full of children, but whatever. I was intimidated. First, I needed to change my notion of what scrapbooking was. This was less about the creativity and “art” than before. I needed something more practical. And then I finally dug in.

And you can see the progression.

I started just printing the photos. I often used two sizes, a full 4×6 photo and then a 4×6 photo that contained 4-2×3 photos which could be used whole or cut into two of the 3×4 pockets. This was the “getterdone” phase. I was able to catch up on YEARS quickly. And the best part is if I want to go back and add some extra stories, I can insert a new page protector and add some details. It doesn’t bother me that these pages are so bare. OK, it kind of does, but one day at a time.DSC_8956z

Then, when I felt the need or had the time, I would add some decorative cards. They were premade and easy to work with. They helped break up the photos and make it feel like less of a photo album. DSC_8953z

Then, I started getting some details in there. It started with just doing a “month in review”. It’s an easy way to get some of the larger specifics out of the way!DSC_8955z

And somewhere around then is when I really got into this. I’m going to tell the stories. For Pippen’s birth page I took the birth story I wrote in the hospital and printed the whole thing. The answer to the question, “what if I died today” could be answered with these books. I have the stories here in print. I have a record of the life I lived. The things we did. What we like, don’t like. I’m still pretty sure my husband doesn’t know where our money is, but at least I will have something to pass on about this life to the children who won’t remember. They will have my words and voice telling them how much I really loved them. And that is so priceless to me.

DSC_8951-EditzDSC_8952zAnd that brings me to now. Now I’m just really having fun with it. I’m thinking of extra ways to capture our week and what I want to include. I keep a sticky note on my computer of the cute things the kids have said. Or I use the Day One app and write down things that happened that day.

And this is where you can find me. It has changed how I shoot. How I spend my time on social media. It changed everything for me. I don’t CARE about the perfect photo. Because my kids won’t. I care about the moments. The stories. I care about being authentic. I wish I lived in a nice bright clean house. I wish I didn’t have laundry in every room at the moment. I wish my remodel would magically be finished. But THIS IS REAL LIFE. And it’s perfect. So it discarded any notions I had about making sure the light was great, or the composition, or hell, even the focus. I just want to capture every stage and phase before it evaporates. I want to write down the details that I will be sure to forget whether it’s in a day, a week, a year, or ten years–

 About Project Life

I’ve been asked a TON of questions about this. I have some basic information on a previous Project Life Post.

First, I use a system called Project Life. It was created by Becky Higgins. The concept is to take the “work” out of scrapbooking. You buy special pocket page protectors that have several variations, but for the most part come with two size pockets: 4×6 and 3×4. And then there are decorative cards to go with it.

For people who have the photos printed already, it’s easy to just slide them in, or trim them to fit the smaller size. But the system is also designed with premade cards to slide in for those sizes that either has designs or room to write the stories down. So it could be as simple as sliding in your photos, grabbing a few cards, sliding them in, and then writing down the memory and being done.

And this is where I recommend most people start because you’ll get a good idea real quick of what you like and don’t like. On the Becky Higgins website, you can buy what they call a core kit and bundle and save extra money. You buy an album, the protectors, and a kit. This is ALL you need to get started.

I use these Project Life items the most:

Black and White Album

Type A Protectors (but I would recommend a variety pack so you can see different ones and depending on how you shoot you may need different orientations)

Everyday Core Kit

But, let me enable you further because I like having options.

I subscribe to The Lily Pad’s monthly kit. It gives me cards and details that go with that month or season and since they are digital I can just print what I need without cluttering up my super small house.

I have really poor handwriting so I tend to print my journaling out, but I do like the subscription to Elles Studio, again it’s affordable and has monthly goodies each month including some accent and doodads to go with it.

And lastly, there is Ali Edwards. She has a mix of both digital and physical items. And I signed up for her story kit because I really took on this storytelling challenge head-on. And it’s nice to have some extra physical product to play with. Her kits usually have chipboard, or stickers, just some extras that add dimension to the stories and pages. Her blog is extremely helpful, she shares tons of videos. She also has digital kits.

And lastly, there is printing

I use Lightroom to organize and edit all my photos. When I’m going through the week or month looking for photos I use the star system to determine what will get printed and how large I want it to be.

I use the Lightroom Print module to size my photos ready to print. I have several templates that I’ve created based on what works best for me. Here’s an idea of some of them:

4×6 full photo

4×6 with thick white border (for extra white space)

4×6 with 2- 3×4 photos

4×6 with 4 2×3 photos which can be used for 2- 3×4 slots

and a million others, 6×8, 6×12, etc. I have several grids of 2×2 inch photos that I use when printing my Instagram photos.

You get the idea… I can add text later before printing so I just look and select what I want. No matter what, I use the templates to load those photos in.

I use Photoshop to send my photos to the printer. I do this for a few reasons. One, I can make an action that has the printer selected with the border or borderless option and press the button once and print a set of 10 or so photos. Two, I can add text before the print process. And I’m sure there are more reasons, but this is just how I’ve been doing it. I open all the saved photos from Lightroom and send them off to my printer.

I print at home. It’s convenient and it allows me to make changes or try different things. And my printer has done a really great job. I have used a few printers over the years, but the one I’m using and loving is the Canon Pixma 7720. It has two trays so I can keep 4×6 photo paper in one tray and then regular paper or photo paper in the large tray.

I use Costco’s Kirkland photo paper. It’s cheaper and it works like a charm. I have it in several sizes: 4×6, 8.5×11, and 11×14. I trim the 11×14 down to 8.5×12 and I’m able to print 6×12 photos when I want which add a cool look to my book and allow me to showcase a photo or write a longer story.

Hope that helps! Happy documenting! XOXO

(Visited 140 times, 1 visits today)



  • December 28, 2017 - 3:19 pm

    Sarah Beth Chamberlain - I need to be better at this, and this really helps. My Lightroom library is SO unorganized and I’m probably 5000 photos behind on printing. These albums look great and will help a lot. Question: with the print module, to you export and then reopen in Photoshop? I didn’t think to print from Photoshop.ReplyCancel

    • December 28, 2017 - 3:42 pm

      admin - I hit the print, which prints to file, and then I open all of them in photoshop and print from there. There might be a way to send it straight to photoshop, I’m not sure. I like printing from there so I can add text, or make other changes. It also works so I can use actions to batch print and not have to select print on every photo.ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *