Saturday, July 4, 2015

Finally, A Good Profile Book Day

You are probably sick of my whining about this profile book project. However, today I have good news! We had a day, almost a full day, of working on the profile book yesterday and there were NO TEARS! There was no sniping! There was minimal defensiveness! And we made progress, a LOT of progress. Still no official draft, but we are closer and have a good handle on the project. So far, so good.

So, in my last post, I had relinquished control over to Bryce for designing the book using Publisher. He was in there, working away, and when he was done for the night I came over to see. (Note: This is NOT the positive day we had yesterday.)

And oh god, it was terrible. I was kind of shocked, because I had thought it would be like this Mona Lisa of profile book designs, and maybe I was putting a bit too much pressure on the guy.

The layouts were really, really busy. There were these setting-sun-over-the-ocean and sunrise-over-a-one-tree-meadow photo backdrops to things like our Dear Birth Mother letter, and a lot of mixed photos on the cover and three pages that he'd designed. It was super busy. It was hard to read. The font was tiny. I really fought the urge to burst into tears.

"It's pretty busy, isn't it?" I asked, the words flying out of my mouth before I could think of a positive thing to say first.

And then he freaked out.

"YOU HATE IT! Ohmygod, you HATE it, and I just wasted FOUR HOURS of my life!"

"Nononono, I don't hate it, not all of it, there are things I like, the pictures you chose are great... it's just really really busy and I thought we agreed that simple was best..."

"ARGH! I hate it too! I HATE it! Four hours and I HATE it!" And then he slammed his laptop shut.

So then we had pretty much the last argument over the profile book so far, but it was valuable, because Bryce was all, "you're right, this is really hard" and I was all "Yeah, it is really hard, but now you know what you DON'T like" and we agreed that it sucked but it was a good learning moment.

And then I managed to convince him that rather than starting from scratch with Publisher, we could use, which was also very customizable but a much easier platform to use. And I read him my blog. And told him I wanted a dinosaur card and some cupcakes, because he was pretty bitchy about the book that day, too. (Which I have yet to receive, but we had a lovely dinner out last night which counts!)

So, we took a two-day break. Which was beautiful and needed, and cleared away the foggy fug of failure and desperation.

And then we set out yesterday, TOGETHER, to work in Mixb.ook. We each tried out some backgrounds and layouts and putting things in different places, and it worked GREAT.

We spent the better part of a gorgeous day inside, at the computer, uploading photos and tweaking layouts and backgrounds and captions and headers. BUT, we have a preliminary layout for the book, and we have the first 5 or so pages done to a point where we feel really good about it.

We decided to make the book without a photo shoot first, and see if we have holes that need filling after we do that. We do have several professional or professional-ish photos as is, so it was surprising that I didn't feel like we were missing too much. And then we did a little photo shoot of our own on things like me gardening and me reading (the camera battery died before we could get better shots of Bryce in the workshop), and we had professional photos of each of us playing our instruments.

We have this for our primary cover photo, which was on our Canon Elf and actually taken by a random pedestrian who happened to be a professional photographer, originally used on our Christmas cards a few years ago. We haven't changed much in the past few years other than me being a bit chubbier, so I don't feel bad using photos from the past five years. Here's that photo:

The actual photo is a little bigger, and I look a little boobzilla in it,
but that's kind of my reality. I just love how happy we look here.
And it was a really good hair day. 
It's fine, right? This is a copy of the original, but it's quite good quality.

Here are some things that we have discovered as we do this, that we wish we'd known before:

- If you think you might be pursuing adoption, for the love of all that is holy, TAKE PICTURES WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Do it. We like to enjoy the moment, and forget to take pictures, but now we are left cobbling things together a bit. Take pictures every opportunity you can.

- Take pictures before there's booze on the table. If you're out to dinner, take a picture before food/booze comes out so you're not poster children for gluttony.

- Take pictures when you aren't boobed out, although if you are endowed as I am, that can be hard to do. But go for modesty more often than not. I'm guessing that potential birth mothers aren't looking for cleavage at the top of their list of wanted attributes for prospective adoptive parents.

- Take pictures of you doing what you do. We need to take pictures of Bryce in his workshop. I wish I had a picture of me in my classroom where I wasn't dressed like a leopard. Or decked out for St Patrick's Day. Seriously, those are the only pictures of me in my classroom that I have:
Oh, Zoo Halloween theme.
Yup, I stayed like this ALL DAY LONG. 
I don't take the holiday spirit lightly.
- You will find that you have too many pictures, actually, for what you're doing. It's so hard, but this isn't a novel. It shouldn't be too long. And a zillion pictures on a page is probably dizzying, and doesn't highlight what you want to say as much as a few carefully chosen pictures. We're finding this with our families, and our friends, and our "what we love to do" spreads. Even our home spread was like, "wow, we have a lot of photos of our outdoor spaces. But we don't camp out there, so maybe some interior shots with us in them?" This is the hard part. It's like that writing quote, "Kill your darlings." Editing is really hard.

- Break up text. Too much text just won't get read. We aren't sure if this will work out well, but we broke up our jobbies about each other into paragraphs, and then put pictures up of us doing those things that the other person loves so much. It makes it chunkier, and from what I've read and been told, chunking is good. Illustrating is good, too. The photos can tell the story as well as your text, just in case the text gets skimmed. Because I just can't imagine what it must be like to look at all these books, picking out a possible family for your unborn baby, but I imagine you probably don't feel like reading something Nathaniel-Hawthorne-esque in terms of text.

I am by no means an expert, but these are things we're finding as we trudge through this project.

Divide and conquer, but together, seems to be a good strategy for us. I want us both to own it. I don't want to be the captain of this ship entirely, and so we have broken it into sections. We both did the cover, and Bryce is in charge of colors and fonts. I wrote the letter and Bryce approved it. We each did each other's "About ___" pages, and chose the photos of the other person that we loved best. Which is working out great. I went and dumped a whole bunch of pictures into the rest of the pages, and will be editing it together.

This really worked out well. And oh wow, Mixb.ook is the BEST for setting this up. You can do "Blank Canvas," and design it totally from scratch with anything you want. You can use their photo/text layouts, or you can create your own. You can add little design elements. You don't feel like you are doing a cookie cutter project at all. And it's reasonably priced.

So, the next steps are to get a draft actually finished, edit and tweak, add some of those finishing touches, and then email it to a couple people for reviewing. Just to be sure that we didn't do something stupid, or a photo looks weird, or we accidentally included a license plate or something. And then... we print and send it! I think we probably have at least another week or so on this, but it would be great to have it done by the time we take our Maine vacation. So we can really relax.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and we spent it at our computers, but it wasn't a waste of that day. It was a day spent working on this so that we can spend an infinite number of beautiful days outside with our FAMILY. These intense days are bringing us closer and closer to that day that we are a family of more than two and can look back on this fondly, as the hair-pulling project that helped us bring our baby home. Hopefully it's like labor and you forget the pain (har, har, HAR) once that baby's here. Because holy hell, this book sure feels like paper labor pains to me.



  1. I'm so glad that you're making progress on the profile book, although I'm sorry that it's been such a process to get to a good place. The picture of you and Bryce is beautiful and the pictures of you in a leopard costume and St. Patty's day paraphernalia are cute and humanizing! I don't think that I'll be making a profile book anytime soon, but I think your picture taking tips are good in general. It's hard to balance taking the time to take pictures and wanting to be in the moment. Good luck finalizing the rest of the book!

    1. Thank you! It's coming along. We took another little break so that we could enjoy the holiday weekend. I think that leopard one is definitely making the book! :) Isn't it hard, balancing capturing the moment in pictures versus being in the moment?

  2. Yay, so glad you are making progress. It's so interesting to read your experiences as you work through this. I actually did some research on profile books after reading your posts, because you got me curious about them. I feel intimidated just thinking about taking on a project like that, so I'm getting more respect for you and adoptive parents by the minute! Anyway, I'm keeping Mixbook in mind for my next photo book project. I used KodakGallery way back for wedding / honeymoon photos, and it was OK but not great. So much better to not be trapped in a template.

    1. Thank you! Yes...intimidating is the PERFECT word for it. It's such a tricky balance, and there's so many ways to do it. I bet in researching you found a whole bunch of different approaches! Yup, Mixbook is a new favorite.

  3. That's a great photo of the two of you together and I love the leopard costume. Not only does it suggest that you're a fun teacher, but it shows that you'll be the mom who also gets dressed up when you take your kids trick-or-treating.

    1. Thank you! Oh, and GOOD POINT! That is totally the mom I will be. I will be so very embarrassing... once our FutureBaby knows enough to be embarrassing, that is. That photo has earned a place in the book! Thanks!

  4. Awesome news and sounds like you guys broke through the frustration and have successfully moved on together to finish the book. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. Good luck as you work to finish the book! Very glad to hear the program you are using is much more friendly to your customizing needs. :)

    1. Thank you! We are not quite finished, but it doesn't seem light years away anymore. It is tamed, sort of. I highly, highly recommend Mixbook for this purpose. It has made life so much better. I agree--getting a good start is definitely the hardest part. Now we have momentum!

  5. Congratulations on getting through some of the big stumbling blocks on the book! Getting started is sometimes the hardest thing.

    Your photos are great, by the way.

    Good luck on the finishing touches as you move forward!

    1. Thank you for all the good wishes, and for the photo props. :) Absolutely once we stumbled into a rhythm for this, it's going much smoother. Getting a good start took a while but now we feel SO much better. Thanks! I can't wait to be done with this thing... :)

  6. I can imagine how hard it would be to synthesize your life/likes/etc. in one book but it sounds like you guys are making great progress!

    And I agree with Jane- I would keep the leopard picture in. It's awesome!

    1. Thank you! Definitely a leopard photo in the book. It's ridiculous, but then so often so am I, so it works! Woo hoo to progress. This is easily the most difficult project I think I've had to do. Planning a wedding was cake next to this. (Har har pun har har)

  7. Beautiful photos! It is tough to collect picturesque snaps.