Another Year, Another Family Yearbook

MyCanvas Products By September 26, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

*Insert groan here* That’s how many of us feel when it comes time to compile all our photographs and start making the family scrapbook. Of course, you want to be able to make an annual family yearbook, but it’s so overwhelming. It’s hard to find all your photos or narrow them down. And honestly who has the time?

We’ve compiled a selection of where and how to make a photo book online. Ideas for themes and moments to capture. And we would be remiss if we didn’t give you tips on how to manage the #FamilyPhotoAlbumChallenge. (Ok that’s not a real hashtag, but it should be!)

Let’s get started!

The Where

Alright we know there are a lot of options out there for creating photo albums. We mean a LOT. There’s always the DIY path, but unless you’re a crafting god or goddess that can be incredibly stressful. We’ve narrowed down a list of possibilities just for you.


four photo books lined up with different style coversTo begin, we’re obviously going to recommend our site, MyCanvas photo books are high quality. Everything from the paper to the cover is made and held to a high standard. MyCanvas offers different styles and sizes of books. Covers can be customized to be photos, or they can be bound in leather.  And for simplicity’s sake there are a wide array of photo book layouts to get you started. Once the creation process is underway there are plenty of choices to change things up and add your own little flair. The platform is simple and easy to use. Just upload photos, then drag and drop into the chosen layout’s photo squares. Another awesome feature—you have the ability to hide already used photographs from your photo uploads. No more worrying about if you already put that picture of Aunt Ellen kissing Tommy’s cheek. Super simple!

See this guide if you have any questions about how to make one of our books. Or if you’re a creative soul and want to make your photo book completely your own, we have a guide on how to make one from scratch.

A quick little side note: You will need Adobe Flash Player on your browser. Internet explorer usually has it pre-installed. But if you are using a different browser it can easily be downloaded and activated. If you need a little help you can always go to Adobe’s website. They have step by step instructions.


Our next suggestion is for those who want it as simple and easy as possible. Chatbooks offers photo albums that can be made directly from your Instagram, Facebook, or smart phone photos. To make the deal even sweeter, Chatbooks offers a subscription with 60 pictures to a book. Of course, you can edit out any unwanted images and change things around before you give the go ahead. Because its a subscription basis, you can customize how often you want to receive your books. Once you get it set up, Chatbooks does the heavy lifting for you.

However, if a subscription isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry they also have lots of one-off options. For example, you can make a completely custom photo book, cards, or basic prints without having to buy every month. Test the waters, if you love the simplicity then you can always join later. Chatbooks also includes a ‘Love it Guarantee’ to keep customers satisfied.


Shutterfly at a glance is fairly similar to MyCanvas. What makes Shutterfly unique is their options. Follow the simple route of choosing your book size and layout that are ready for you to drop your photos in. Or you can blaze a trail and make a completely custom one, just like MyCanvas. What truly makes Shutterfly stand out is the third and final possibility; The Make My Book Service. Shutterfly has a staff of designers on hand ready to layout your book to perfection. Once it’s designed, you get to go in and add captions, final touches, or make adjustments. This really simplifies the process for you.

If you don’t love the book curated for you, you have no obligation to buy it. Of course, who wouldn’t love a book that was hand designed for them. If you purchase the book a $9.99 service fee will be added for the work of the designer. Totally worth it if you want to save time.


photo book laid out on couch

And last but not least, Etsy. Perfect if you want that hand crafted, made with time and love feeling. Not that the other choices aren’t, Etsy shop owners just create a more personalized experience that’s hard to find from traditional stores. There are a wide range of possibilities and styles available. Many of the creators can make completely customized books you won’t find anywhere else. Everything from wood burning, fold out boxes, and velvet covered books to traditional styles.

It is important to note most of the shops only create the album, meaning it’s still up to you to print and input pictures. They’ve just made the layout and cover. This option is a little more work, but also has the most customization opportunities. One of these books will undoubtedly be eye catching.

A little note: we only covered the surface. There are TONS of options out there. It never hurts to do your homework and figure out which one is the best for you.

The What

Ok this is where it’s starts to get overwhelming. You’ve picked out what site you’re going to order from and you’re ready to go. It’s time to upload all your pictures from the dawn of time until now, right?

… or maybe not.

Don’t get discouraged. It’s best to pick a theme. Whether you stick to a family yearbook, big milestones, vacations, birthdays or any other idea; pick it and stick with it. You can always make more books later. Having that basic theme to guide you will make it easier when deciding on what photos.

Can’t decide on a theme? We’ll go through some of our favorite ideas.

Annual Family Yearbook

These are always fun to look back at your year and see everything you and your family have done. It also makes a great gift for grandparents. It’s like the family Christmas card that gets sent out each year, but with more pictures than the ugly Christmas sweaters cards. These books can be divided up by months, by events, by family members. There are tons of ways to go about putting one of these together. Find your favorite pictures from the last year and go.

Book of Firsts

Have a new baby? Or are you going back and putting together a child’s birth story. A book of firsts is an awesome way to capture your memories of that year. First time you caught their smile on camera. Or the first time trying new foods. Even the first time meeting their siblings. There are a lot of little milestones in that first year and a half. It’s hard to remember everything. Therefore, putting it all into a book is the perfect way to preserve them.

Or consider doing a birthday to birthday book each year. That way it’s not always at the end of the year, and you get to see everything from age 1 in one book, age 2 in its own book and so on. You’ll never need to question how old they were during specific events. It’s all documented.

Letters From Parents

If we are being honest this might be our favorite idea. Don’t feel like making a book full of a million pictures? Or do you want to include more than images. Pick out your very favorite photos for each person in your family. Consider uploading images of artwork, cards, stories they wrote; anything that you want to remember. Divide the book by sections for each family member. At either the beginning or end of each section include a letter to that person. Talk about their accomplishments. What they learned. Your favorite memory of them from that year. This gives an added touch of sentimentality. It will also be a great way for you to reflect on little moments you otherwise might have forgotten. As your kids get older not only will they appreciate the pictures of their childhood but cherish the letters as well.

grandpa holding baby


This one is a beautiful idea that extends out to grandparents and great-grandparents (Even further back if you want). Include snippets of their history and where they came from. Think of it as the prologue to the beginning of your story. They are, after all, how you got here. Don’t forget to put in favorite family traditions inherited from them, and family sayings. Bring it up to today with all your family. Put in pictures of those traditions that have been passed down. Photos that mix the older generation with the new. For example, have a picture of four generations—include it. That’s a precious fleeting moment. A photo book like this is educational, and sentimental. It’s a great way to help children build a connection with their grandparents and learn more about where they came from.

Even if none of these themes are what you are looking for there are so many more out there. Don’t feel limited by our suggestions.

Time to bring it all together…

The How

Now to get into the nitty-gritty. Photo choosing, uploading, and sorting. This could very well be considered the most daunting part. To keep the process smooth, and not a midnight mad dash at the end of the year, we have some suggestions.

Monthly Check-up

At the end or the very beginning of each month go through and upload all the photos from that month. Keep them in their own individual folder or saved spot. This makes it simple and easy to keep track, and it takes about 15 minutes a month. Easy Peasy.


Even better, once you upload them sort them. Seriously. Put the pictures you want to use in another folder. Use the month system and include sub-folders for the images you want to use (or don’t want to use). There is always the option to divide the pictures up by family member as well. Or events. However you choose to do it, make sure you keep up with it. This will save a lot of time and frustration down the road.

Be Aware

If you’ve looked through the aforementioned websites, hopefully you noticed that certain book types, and different sites have different requirements. Such as how many pictures can fit into one book. Or how much it might cost you per page if you go over the limit. Keep this in mind while choosing your photos. Was your baby’s first birthday the cutest thing ever? Probably. Do you need all 50 pictures of their cake smash? Most likely not; well unless it’s a book dedicated to their first birthday. If that’s the case carry on.

Also pay attention to file size requirements. Or if you upload a photo and it looks grainy or loses quality. Some sites have specifications for pictures like how many pixels a picture needs to be. Or the file size might need to be less than a specified megabyte.

Double Take

We already mentioned this before, but it’s still a good idea to go over. Take out ‘repeats’. We aren’t referring to the exact same picture. But we are hinting at multiple photos of the same subject/situation (i.e. the smash cake example from above). Consider how similar they are. Do you need both? Is one clearer than the other? Keep in mind, having ‘doubles’ of a specific moment is taking away spots for other photos. Would you rather have two almost identical cake covered baby photos, or do you want the cake covered baby being cleaned by the dog licking the frosting off?

With everything being said and done there are still thousands of ways to go about creating a photo book. What it comes down to is what you want it to be. Figure out where you want it from, how you want it to look, and start organizing your pictures now. Also, many of these photo book making sites let you store your images on their server for free. That means you can start building the book as you go.

Whatever you decide, it’s going to be amazing because it was made by you.



Family History: Public Records Search

Family History By September 6, 2019 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

Doing genealogy can be an exciting mystery to solve. However, knowing how to start and where to look for leads is sometimes overwhelming. There’s a lot of information and databases available. Some are free. Some cost money. Of course, there is always Google. But Google’s expansive database requires you to know exactly what you’re searching for to get the desired results. Naturally we highly encourage using family history websites such as Beyond genealogy websites, there are some other fantastic sources to search through. Public Records, specifically, hold tons of information.

We’ve compiled a list of some great public records worth examining.

The National Archives

Every ten years the US government conducts their census. In those census records you can go back as far as the 1790 Census, and as recent as the 1940 Census. Within the records a plethora of demographic information is contained. It is important to note that a Census record must be so old before the information is accessible to the public due to privacy concerns. The census’ currently available are found at The National Archive website. Along with access to some military records and other historical documents and data.

Military records are an awesome way to find enlistment and discharge dates of specific family members. There are plenty of other resources to search for military records outside of the National Archives, but if you’re already there you might as well scan their records. Not all information is available to preview online, but you can request copies from the National Archives.

Immigration Records

Immigration records are a fantastic way to search a specific family members name and find out exactly what year, their age, and what country they arrived from. If a name change ever happened down the line Immigration records will also often show those. You can make a free online account at the Ellis Island website, which will give you access to immigration records, pictures, and ship information. Many genealogy sites include immigration records as well.

Criminal and Court Records

Besides immigration records, court and criminal records can be a great help in learning more about your ancestors. This doesn’t necessarily mean your relative killed someone if they have records showing up in court cases. Minor infractions such as speeding tickets will also show up on their records. Some court records will also hold birth and death certificates that can be beneficial to your search.

Cemetery Databases

The next database we recommend searching is cemetery archives. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for someone from a small town. Cemetery databases will often have birth and death dates, images of headstones, and where they’re buried. You no longer have to go to graveyards to find this information, however, if you decide you are on the adventurous side and want to physically visit gravestones here are some tips for when you go.

Public records only scratch the surface for all the information out there, but they are fantastic starting points. For more great genealogy resources and guides check out The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Genealogy.

Now that you know where to start looking, wondering what to do with all your newly found information. We have a suggestion!


Selecting a Color Scheme

MyCanvas Products By August 2, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

Have you ever decided you were going to paint the walls of a room, and then when you arrive at the home improvement store to pick out paint, get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of paint chips? Or tried to pick out a color scheme for a wedding or formal event? Similarly, choosing a theme and colors for the photo book you’re making can be and endeavor. You want it to look good and match your theme. But when it comes to color, the wide spectrum of color makes for endless possibilities. So how do you decide on a color scheme?

For a little design inspiration let’s start by going over the basics of color theory.

A Splash of Color

First off, the color wheel. The primary colors are Red, Yellow, and Blue. These three colors mixed together make every other color in the color spectrum. For example, secondary colors are made by mixing two of the primary colors. Red + Yellow = Orange. Yellow + Blue = Green. Blue + Red = Violet. All three of them together create brown.

Next let’s break down common terms: Hue, Saturation, Tint, Shade, and Tone.

Hue is the easy one; it’s just another name for color. Whereas saturation is how much pigment of the hue is being utilized. If it’s highly saturated it’s going to be a very bright pure color. Low saturation, on the other hand, is going to make it dull and soften the color. Completely desaturating color takes all the pigment out leaving a grey tone behind. Tint is lightening a hue by mixing in white. It softens colors and gives you pastels. The more white that’s added the whiter the color gets. Shade, on the other hand, is adding black to a hue. Darkening the color. The darker it gets the closer to black it gets. Lastly, there is tone. It’s when Grey is mixed with the hue; the more grey there is the duller the color gets.

Fortunately, technology makes it easy to find all the colors you need. No need to hand mix colors.

Color Schemes

There are many different types of color combinations and schemes, also known as harmonies. We will only be covering the more basic ones here.

color harmonies


Let’s begin with the Complementary color scheme. Looking at the color wheel, colors directly across from each other are considered complementary. Possibly one of the most famous complementary color schemes belongs to Christmas: red and green. Many sports teams also utilize opposite colors, think navy blue and orange. Sometimes putting together complementary colors can feel jarring. When using this combination, it’s a good idea to choose one of the colors as the dominant one and the other as an accent.


Another common combo is called Analogous. It involves using colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Depending on how technical you want to get it can mean red, red-violet, and violet. Or it can be used as blue, green, and yellow. Either way the colors are considered next to each other on the wheel. For example, you see these types of combinations frequently in patterns and retro eras like the ’70’s.


Then there is the triad. Three colors evenly spaced apart from the color wheel. A perfect example: the primary colors. It gives good color variety and touches all sides of the color wheel.


This brings us to our next color harmony: Monochromatic. It’s one hue in various shades and tints. This may sound overly simple, but it can lend itself to creativity and unity in design.

Black & White

And last but not least there is always black and white. It’s a classic. If you want to add a little more variety, choose an accent color or two. This combination looks very clean, and elegant. It’s a great color scheme for wedding or formal event photo books.

Color schemes can be used in everything from photography to interior design, or a garden. These harmonies are helpful when considering what colors to use, but don’t be afraid to play around and experiment with any color combinations that you like.

hand holding a camera. Tips for photos.

Photography Tips: Capturing Photos Indoor & Outdoor

Photography By June 28, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

outdoor photograph of girl playing in mudYour kids are outside playing, and you see the perfect opportunity to snap a picture of your children covered in mud. The image is vivid and colorful with their squinting, freckle-faced smiles. Then they go inside. Mud gets everywhere. The dog is rolling in it; your kids are making a bigger disaster trying to help clean it all up.  The moment might be stressful now, but in a few months, you will be laughing over the whole situation. So, you decide to take another picture for memory’s sake. Once everyone and everything is *mostly* clean, you go back to look at the photos you took. You notice the indoor picture’s coloring is different than the outdoor picture. It might even seem dark in comparison even though you can see the image just fine.

Lighting and location are a huge part of photography and can completely change how a photograph is captured. Both Indoor and outdoor shoots give you options for creativity; they just require different techniques to capture the image you want.

Capturing Inside Photos

First things first, make sure you have plenty of light. Artificial light can be difficult to take photographs in if there isn’t enough. Utilize windows, open doors, or bring in additional lighting. Second, find walls or backdrops in more neutral colors and tones. While bright colors are fun, they cast color onto your subject. That could be the effect you are going for, but if it’s not, walls with whiter tones help reflect light making your image brighter. If you can take the picture without the flash do it. If you absolutely need the flash, use an off camera one. Point it at the ceiling or a wall to make the light bounce onto your subject. Avoid aiming the flash directly at your intended target; it flattens the image, creates awkward shadows, and the light from the flash doesn’t reach very far.

Be aware of your camera settings. If your ISO, the camera’s light sensitivity, is too high it can create grainy pictures. Shutter speed generally needs to be lower as well—especially in low light conditions.

Getting Great Outdoor Snapshots

woman posing for picture outside

In contrast with taking photos indoors, capturing photos outside has plenty of awesome natural lighting. There are a few tricks for using that bright light to your advantage. To start, use the ‘golden hours’ also known as the first and last hour of daylight to capture photos with the best lighting. Obviously, that isn’t always feasible, and the elements need to be factored into the equation. Avoid direct sunlight as it can make harsh shadows and/or cause a lot of squinting. Shaded areas are ideal. On top of finding the perfect lighting and time of day, the weather can also be a huge factor on shooting outdoors. If it’s cloudy or stormy, light is naturally diffused. This will affect the settings you will need to use on your camera.

Lighting Tricks

For those who have a lot of experience with photography, you probably know, or even have a reflector. Reflectors are great to help direct and soften lighting in your subject area. If you don’t own one, it’s alright. Utilize a plain white sheet as your very own DIY reflector.

To create softer diffused lighting, you can set it up to shadow your subject so there isn’t any harsh lighting directly on them. Due to lighting, you may have trouble with deep shadows under the eyes or chin? Have your subject sit on the sheet. Because it will bounce the light up under their face to soften the shadows. Another trick is if shooting in the shade is lacking the lighting dynamic you want, place the sheet on ground in the sun on the edge of the shadow. Move your subject to the edge of the shadow close to the sheet. As a result, the light will bounce off the sheet creating more dynamic lighting.

The great thing about photography is everything you learn is a great foundation for you to get comfortable with your camera. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes “breaking the rules” can create beautiful photos. Most importantly have fun capturing the moment.

wooden family tree

Why Make a Family History Poster

Family History, MyCanvas Products By May 29, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Family history is on the rise with technology simplifying the process for hunting down lost relatives. It has also made it that much easier to put together family trees—whether digitally, in a book, or a poster. Each way to store your genealogy has its own perks. We are specifically covering the benefits of a physically printed family history poster. But no matter what your preference is having access to your family history is amazing!

Bring on the benefits.

It’s Decorative

family history posterLet’s start with the more obvious reason; it’s easy to display. A family history poster adds a beautiful personalized touch to any room decoration. It’s something that is completely unique to you and your family. Not only is it a lovely piece in your home, it can easily become a family heirloom that’s passed down. If you’re worried it won’t match your style, there are a plethora of websites available to create custom posters; making it easy to match your aesthetic perfectly. It’s also a much simpler process than creating an entire book. Of course here at MyCanvas we print high quality family history posters that include customization options.

This leads us to our next reason.

It’s all About the Stories

Growing up did you hear stories about infamous ancestors from your grandparents, parents, aunts or uncles? Imagine having easy access to pictures or your family line showing exactly how you are related—all while listening to another retelling. A family history poster does just that. Being able to visualize as well as hear the orations not only makes it more captivating, it adds a sense of realness; becoming more than just a story.

It’s in the Research

Doing your family history can be captivating. You become a family detective piecing together the puzzle of your ancestors. As you begin to dig you might find changes that need to be made, updated information, or just cool stories to add. Having your family tree online is great for keeping information relevant, however, it can be complicated keeping track of your findings in the process before you are ready to update. Creating a great reason to have a physical copy of your family tree nearby is a great way to track it. Use sticky notes for each time you discover something new about a relative and stick it to the correlating relative. Now you have a visual map of exactly where that ancestor falls in your line, and it simplifies the updating process. It’s similar to a good student who writes out research points before starting their paper.

Our final reason is a personal favorite.

It’s About Bringing Family TogetherPeople Playing Tug-of-War

Last, but not least family history posters are great for family reunions. Because extended families are sometimes overwhelmingly large; keeping track of everyone’s relationships can be difficult. And there isn’t always going to be Wi-Fi access for you to pull up your genealogy and figure it out in the moment. But coming prepared with a family history poster of the whole family makes it significantly easier to find the connection. On top of that as a family you can share findings and make corrections together. It’s a great focal point for any family reunion. You can find even more great ideas for family reunions here.


Making Mother’s Day Special: A Gift Guide For Mom

Family Fun, Family History, MyCanvas Products By April 30, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. With it comes the struggle of finding the perfect gift for the woman who has given us everything. It’s a challenge to find the perfect present for mom, but we compiled a list of thoughtful gift ideas that she will love.

1. Photo book

photo book standing open


To start off we suggest a customized photo book as an awesome option! It’s scrapbooking made easy. Save all of mom’s favorite pictures in one place for her to enjoy. If there are too many pictures to choose from you can always create a theme. For example, a past vacation, family reunion, or her growing up years. It’s a touching gift that’s completely unique to her. What’s not to love?

Create your photo book here.


2. Ancestry DNA Kit

Who doesn’t want to know where they originated from? Get mom a DNA kit from Ancestry to find out exactly where her family originates. You never know what cool surprises you might learn about your mom’s history. And it’s the perfect time to start making your family tree because it not only shows where her family’s from it will connect her to living relatives as well. The kit is $99 and totally worth it.

And speaking of family history…

3. Family History Book or Poster

Stories about your ancestors are an awesome keepsake.  Make a family history book about your family’s heritage. Compile stories you heard around the dinner table growing up or at family reunions. Call your grandparents to get more details about their parents and grandparents. Another option that coincides is to gift mom with her family tree. Map out a few generations and have it printed on a poster she can display for everyone to see. Either one is a wonderful sentimental gift that is sure to be passed down.

If creating a family keepsake sounds perfect, check out our next suggestion.

4. Family Cookbook Recipe Cards

Food is a central part of family traditions, and mom’s cooking will always be number one. Make it easier for her to recreate all your family’s favorites by compiling all her recipes into one family cookbook. No more digging through old index cards and worn out hand written recipes. Preserve great grandma’s cookie recipe forever. The book is sure to be a hit with your whole family. It’s also a great excuse for you to get all your family recipes for yourself. You can easily make a beautiful cookbook through MyCanvas.

Find tips on creating an awesome one of a kind cookbook here.

5. Recreate Childhood Pictures

Kid in Superhero capeOur next idea has been a fun trend on the internet. Gather together your siblings. Find some favorite pictures from your childhood to recreate. Get creative. Try matching the original photos as closely as possible. Find clothes and accessories needed by checking out local thrift stores.  Snap those updated pictures. Put them together in one of the following options: making a calendar with the snapshots of then and now. Print them out and display them in a photo cube. Make a photo collage with them all in one place.

This is a gift that mom will love, and it will make her cry—from laughing too hard.

6. Flowers

This idea is a classic. Pick up mom a stunning flower arrangement. The beautiful bouquet will brighten up her kitchen. Or if you want to go a more non-traditional route, instead of getting her a bouquet, pick her up some flowers she can plant. She will be reminded of you each time she’s out gardening. As a nice bonus the flowers will live longer than a bouquet.

7. Family Photos

If it’s been a while since your family has had family pictures taken it may be time to update mom’s photo wall. This makes for a great gift to coordinate with your siblings, as hiring a photographer may be expensive. It’s something mom will love, especially if she’s not the one having to hassle everyone to get the pictures done.

No matter what you do for your mom, she will love it because you thought of her. Make sure to make mom feel a little extra special this Mother’s Day.