Advice From a Been-There Beginner

One thing every scrapper will tell you is, “When I first started scrapping, I wish I had known…” It’s true: as with any new experience or activity, you learn as you go. That’s part of the fun! After scrapbooking for almost eight years, there are a few things I wish I had known when I started—and a few things I’m glad I did. Want to hear?

Wish I Hadn’t: Cut pictures into all kinds of shapes. When I first started scrapbooking, I thought it was really neat to cut my photos into different shapes. I’m not talking about squares or ovals or trimming excess grass or sky from a picture. I’m talking about cutting photos into hearts and stars or cutting around the silhouette of a person. I advise scrappers to keep photos in classic shapes, like squares and rectangles. And as you get better at taking photos, you’ll need to trim them less and less.

Glad I Didn’t: Learn to scrapbook with one-of-a-kind photos. Please don’t learn to scrapbook with your heritage or wedding pictures…please! I’m eternally grateful that I started scrapbooking with my newest photos. Why? Because I have the negatives, so when I did cut those photos into shapes, I could make more from the negatives.

Sorry That I: Shopped as if there’s no tomorrow. When I first started scrapbooking, I discovered a wonderful album and page protectors. I guess I was afraid the album company would discontinue them, or that I would never be able to find them again…so I bought 4 albums and 400 page protectors. I still have some of those page protectors! Just remember, there are lots of supplies out there, and many manufacturers have websites so you can always get more later. And don’t forget, your tastes will change!

Glad I Always: Thought the journaling was important. You might look back on your first pages and think, “gee, my style has changed since those early days!” (or “yikes, what was I thinking?”) But I promise you will never regret putting a lot of journaling on your page.

Happy I Can Resist: Buying everything that fits a certain theme. Recently I wanted ballet items for a few photos of my daughter. I went to a scrapbooking convention, where the shopping choices are abundant. I had to resist buying ALL the ballet themed things I saw—after all, I only had a few photos. My solution? I used generic background paper that matched my daughter’s clothes, then accented the page with a few ballet-themed stickers. Otherwise, I would have ended up with a lot of leftovers.

Sorry I Thought I Had to: Use every photo I had on a page. Now that I’ve been scrapbooking for awhile, I’ve learned to edit my photo useage. Instead of cramming six 4”x6” photos on a page, I’ll pick 2-3 of my favorites. The rest I store in a photo file. Tip: I’ve come to realize that all it takes is one good earthquake and my photo file will be completely disorganized, so I make sure the date written on the back of each picture with an acid-free pen.

Glad I Trained Myself to: Shop with a list. You know how overwhelming it can be to shop for supplies—there’s so much out there, and it’s easy to overspend. I always shop with a list so I don’t lose track of why I went shopping in the first place. I also set a budget, estimating how much money I need to spend, and then tacking on a little extra in case I find something really wonderful.

Wish I Hadn’t: Overused embellishments. I love embellishments like stickers and other accents—and it’s easy to get carried away. When I look back on my albums, I find the pages I really love are very simply done with minimal embellishments, not those using all the stickers on the sheet. All you need to get started is a piece of background paper, some black or white cardstock to mat your photos, and maybe a few embellishments and a pen or computer to add journaling. That’s it.

Sorry That I: Went overboard with patterned scissors. Pattern-edged scissors (think of pinking shears, but in lots of different patterns) were a big deal when I first started scrapbooking. I can think of pages where I used several different patterned scissors on a page—on my photos, on my photo mat, on my journaling…everywhere. It was total overkill! Now I find I like straight lines and simple shapes best.

Wish I Hadn’t: Created large, obvious titles for every page. I used to be title-obsessed, and felt every page had to have a title (sort of like a newspaper headline). I put giant titles reading across every page, created with alphabet stickers or template letters…that’s not bad, but I spent a lot of time making them: embellishing the stickers with fancy mats (probably cut with patterned scissors!) or taking forever to cut out lots of letters from a template. Unfortunately, the work wasn’t worth the effort. I ended up with pages that simply state the obvious: “Lauren 2001” or “Beach Trip 2002”. Now I put my energy into telling the story behind the photos.

Yes, I’ve learned a lot in the years I’ve loved this wonderful hobby. Do I ever redo those old pages? No, I don’t. I consider them to be benchmarks in my progression as a scrapbooker. Years from now, I’ll probably have even more tips to share!

Yet one thing I always tell new scrappers is this: Don’t feel like you have to create page after page of masterpiece scrapbook pages. Scrapbooking magazines and idea books are great inspiration, but many new scrappers are more intimidated than inspired. You don’t need to create visual masterpieces on your very first try…or even your twentieth try. The people who create those pages have usually been doing it for a very long time, and have access to lots of supplies and techniques. My biggest tip? Scrapbooking is for fun and personal fulfillment, not a chore. Enjoy the pages you make, and the things you learn as you go!

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