How Do You Scrapbook?: Traditional and Digital Scrapbooking

This entry is part 66 of 86 in the series Scrapworthy Lives Results

Each Wednesday, I usually write a post from my dissertation.

I conducted my interviews in 2008. I focused on scrapbookers who scrapbook conventionally or traditionally (i.e., with paper, adhesive, and printed photographs). I did not set out to explore the world of digital scrapbooking. I had no idea how extensive this side of scrapbooking was at the time and my primary source for respondents was through a local scrapbook store that did not do anything with digital (or digi) scrapbooking.

Regardless, I did have some respondents who had digital scrapbooking experience. Some do a little of each and others combine the two doing what is called hybrid scrapbooking. Only one of my respondents digitally scrapbooks nearly exclusively (she started out as a traditional scrapbooker and still intends to complete a traditional album she has started but plans to then only scrapbook digitally).

Most of my respondents are traditional scrapbookers and do no digital scrapbooking. Traditional scrapbookers may use a computer to edit photographs or type up journaling, but they still consider these scrapbooks traditional rather than hybrid. Most of the industry workers have little experience with digital scrapbooking because that is not the product they are selling. The owner of Scan Your Story has the most experience with digital scrapbookers because her business digitized photographs for people making it even easier to just create a digital scrapbook.

The owner of Scan Your Story finds that younger women are more drawn to digital scrapbooking compared to older women because younger women are more comfortable with the technology. Older scrapbookers in my sample support this respondent’s assertion. They mention they are “too old” to figure out digital scrapbooking on computers, though this is not true for all older respondents. Future research on scrapbooking should make sure to account for younger scrapbookers who may be overlooked because they are scrapbooking digitally instead of traditionally.

Respondents, for the most part, say they are drawn to traditional scrapbooking instead of digital scrapbooking because they like all the “stuff”—the ribbons, the stickers, and so on. Digital scrapbooking, though may include digital versions of these embellishments, is seen as just not the same. Digital scrapbookers say that it is less time consuming and easier than traditional scrapbooking and they are on the computer anyway. It is interesting that digital scrapbooking is described as easier than traditional scrapbooking because it requires computer knowledge whereas traditional scrapbooking ultimately boils down to just gluing pictures to paper. The imagined “simplicity” of traditional scrapbooking is one reason outsiders often do not view it as art.

Some respondents have no interest in learning about or ever trying digital scrapbooking. They see the computer as for work and do not want to work on the computer for fun, too. The lack of interest in digital scrapbooking among most of my respondents boils down to the process. Many enjoy the process of traditional scrapbooking and “getting their hands dirty” that they feel that is lost by digital scrapbooking. Others think that digital scrapbooks are “not as warm and fuzzy.” If scrapbooking is only about the finished product, then it would not matter what the process is to get to the finished product.

My respondents who have digitally scrapbooked usually are very purposeful. For example, one respondent makes a digital scrapbook of her blog (the blog company she uses allows the blogger to purchase a printed and bound copy of the blog posts). Another respondent makes digital scrapbooks as gifts and makes traditional scrapbooks for herself. Some respondents express interest in scrapbooking digitally but do not really understand the process. For example, they may have bought or been given software to make a scrapbook digitally but do not know what to do next. Do they just leave the digital scrapbook on the computer? Do they print it out themselves? They are hung up on the logistics. For example, if they are used to scrapbooking in a 12” x 12” format (as most traditional scrapbookers are), then they would need to purchase a printer that could accommodate that paper size or scrapbook in a different size altogether.

The point of this post is not to get into a digi vs. traditional scrapbooking argument. My interviews took place at a point in time when digi scrapbooking was becoming more mainstream, but was not quite mainstream yet. Despite the historical moment, I do think that there are traditional scrapbookers that do still have some of the same apprehension surrounding digi scrapbooking as my respondents.

Are you a digital, traditional, or hybrid scrapbooker? How do your experiences compare to my respondents?

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  • I started as a traditional scrapbooker in 2005 and tried digital scrapbooking in 2008. I find it difficult to jump back into Photoshop Elements if you have not used the software in a while. In time, I found a crafty balance of making cards with traditional supplies and making some digital scrapbook layouts with the software from Stampin’ Up. I have also been making photo books since 2009. I still make some traditional layouts, but I do not keep up with printing my photos. I find it easier to print a batch of 12×12 layouts from a service a couple of times a year.

  • I have *gasp* never used Photoshop. The only digi scrapbooking software I have used is with Creative Memories software (or on a printer’s cite like Shutterfly or Blurb). Like you, I find it easy to jump back into that software with a long absense.

  • tericamp

    Good read and thank you for sharing! I have scrapbooked traditionally for about 20 years. Over the past five years I changed to hybrid scrapbooking mainly because of cost, making a photo collage of my pictures, printing them at home and putting them on paper with embellishments. I work with Photoshop at my job and use PhotoShop Elements for home use. I love it.

    I began thinking of ways I could cut back on the need for storage and supplies and began to put thought into “What is my daughter going to do with all these scrapbooks after I’m gone?”. At the rate I’m going, she will have to pay for a storage unit for
    all the scrapbooks I’ve made. I want her to have documented memories, but not
    so many it is a burden. I just completed my first digital album (8.5×11) using for 2012. It only took me a couple of weeks, amazing! (I
    normally am still working on the previous year when the next year beings) It is
    48 pages and I’m so very nervous. I haven’t even gotten it in the mail yet.

    I’ve searched high and low on the internet for discussions on this same topic and only found one thread. (Sorry, I don’t know where it is now.) The lady stopped scrapbooking all together and just makes cards and such. That breaks my heart. I hope that my digital books will be a treasured family heirloom. I plan to continue to make small mini albums for gifts, cards and home decor (I love to make canvases with my photos for my home for current and favorite pictures).

    I am excited about how I can minimalize and focus on other projects like jewelry making and more sewing. Digital scrapbooking has given me a freedom and lifted this burden of never ending scrapbook pages. I feel like I can actually spend quality time with my family instead of looking for that “Kodak moment” for my next layout.
    Isn’t that what life is about anyway? I would love to read more of your thoughts. Thank you for letting me ramble on.

  • Thanks for commenting. I organize all my paper layouts chronologically and have manged to fill three albums for 2011. This is not counting a couple of mini books for the year, too. I switced to 3-ring albums from post bound so I can more easily add and move pages but the trade-off is that they hold significantly fewer page protectors. One of the albums is specifically for my daughter and will stay in her room once I buy a better and larger bookcase for her. I’m tempted to switch over more to the divided page protectors (ala project life). I’ve done this a bit in the last few months simply to fit more stories on one layout and conserve space. I really do not want to swtich to digital. I like doing digital sometimes, but prefer traditional scrapbooks. I am definitely thinking more carefully about how to limit how much space these albums take up.

  • Oriana Vianey

    Hi! I´ve been a digital scrapbooker since 2005. I can´t cut a straight line even if my life depends on it, so, paper was not an option. I thinks all the papers, and the ribbons are cute, but I have those in digi too. I tried hybrid for a while, but find it too time and space comsuming. I don´t know if you can say digital is less expensive… I guess it depends on how adicted you are. i.e. I have 1 TB of digi supplies, that is more or less 3 thousand kits (a kit usually includes an average of 15 papers and 30+ elements) and each kits cost around $7… so in theory should be less expensive as you can use your supplies again and again… but that is up to you.
    i´ve heard often that digi looks “fake” but that is also up to you too. There are lots of different styles of digi scrapbooking and how realistic it looks depends totally on your skills (shadowing, layaring, etc).

    The best things about digital are: no mess, undo button (you don´t damage your pictures), and you are a click away of what you want, no need to wait till my next trip to Michaels

  • Thanks for commenting! You are so right. Digi can become as expensive (or more so even) than paper scrapbooking. I agree with you on hybrid scrapbooking. I can’t imagine designing something on my computer, printing it out, and then adding it to a traditional page. That really isn’t something I’m interested in doing, but many people love it.