I made some mistakes with really pretty paper that totally overwhelmed the photos they were intended to preserve and "frame." And I learned to love understated simplicity. I learned that my photos showed up better when there was less "stuff" on the page to distract from the photo. A background paper that was subtle and in the same color family as the background of the photo, or leaning toward black or dark green, became my preference.
A decade and a half later, I began to embrace digital scrapbooking, which works nicely with our digital cameras. I played around with all the fun backgrounds and the many "embellishments" like foliage, ribbons, bows and a multitude of stuff. I'll pat myself on the back and mention that, from the beginning of my digital scrapbooking odyssey, I stayed away from the wacky frames that have tons of the aforementioned embellishments already attached to the frame. As an artist, I know better than to use those.
After my initial euphoria with all the new "toys," I re-learned the need for simplicity. And as I read scrapbooking blogs on "how to" or "here's what I have for sale," I feel really sorry for all those folks making scrapbook pages with one tiny photo surrounded by tons of patterned paper, embellishments, ribbons and bows and other stuff, to the point that the photo is lost.
I really do appreciate all the artists out there creating papers and frames and alphabets for purchase (many offer these for free!), and I've patronized several, and applaud their efforts. However, I've communicated with several and they know they need to cater to the general public, and therefore include in their kits a lot of stuff that I don't want or need. But they do work hard on their art, and they do appreciate input from customers, and if you have an idea or a request for particular patterns or colors in kits, they love to get that inspiration and make you happy, and even they will recommend that you don't have to use everything in the kit; they are just trying to appeal to the masses.
Tips on scrapbooking with taste:
- Frame the photo with complementary colors, or dark colors to make the photo "pop." The eye should be drawn to the photo on the page. Background means background.
- Keep the "stuff" out. Embellishments for embellishment's sake does not make a pretty page. I like the 30 year rule. In 30 years, will you or your descendants say "Oh good grief, that was made during that awful period when people put everything but the kitchen sink on a scrapbook page, and I WISH I could see the photo instead of all that silly stuff."
- Stick with the right era. As I begin to organize all the 50 and 100 year old photographs that I inherited, I work to make sure that any backgrounds, frames or fonts are in keeping with the era of the photo, not the era of now.
- Instead of using somebody else's photo for a background, use your own! That anonymous photo not only may confuse your future audience (where was that taken?), but it means nothing to your family, friends, descendants.
- Journaling. Tell the story. What good are these photos in 30 or 50 years if nobody knows who is in them or what they were doing or where they were taken?
I just finished creating photo pages for my son's graduation ceremony. He's limited to 5 photos, which will be shown on a large projection screen during his part of the ceremony. I made every page count, and used some of our own photos for backgrounds, placing smaller photos over the less important areas. Simple, tasteful, and packed with memories. Yes, I did use a digital scrapbook kit for the last 2 pages, the pages in which he's a young man and wanted to look cool. But it was no frills, no doo-dads, and when he admired an embellishment in the kit (cool pocket watch, Mom, put that in!), I responded with "Let's take a photo of YOUR pocket watch; that will be much more meaningful... you will recognize it, your friends and classmates will recognize it, and we'll keep this real."
And we did. And he loves it. It looks really cool. Tasteful, too.