Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Feel As If I've Joined a Cult

Okay maybe that's not the smartest first thing to say about my new venture, and cult is probably too strong a word, but it is the truth. I don't like to sell things. I even cringe when asked to solicit donations for my kids' school from their grandparents. So I'm not the type of person to try to sell things and I dislike it so much I've never had a sales job of any kind and I'm in my 40's. In fact, I've always been afraid of direct sales companies and the people who sell their products. That is why it is so incredible that I've decided to become a Creative Memories consultant. For those unfamiliar with the company it is the Tupperware/Amway/MaryKay of scrapbooking. They offer high quality scrapbooking supplies and have a pretty loyal following. I too am excited about their products and I'm pretty picky, but that doesn't mean I'm going to try convert or recruit my friends and family. Please don't be afraid. Wink, wink.

Those who know me personally know how passionate I am about taking pictures. Recording memories is extremely important to me and scrapbooking them digitally is the perfect extension of that. As far back as I can remember I loved to look at family pictures. In the 5th grade my mom let me borrow her camera to take pictures at camp which I promptly added to my baby scrap book. I've been collecting momentos and taking photos ever since. Now days I mostly take pictures of my kids, other peoples kids (I have friends who swear I have more pictures of their kids than they do) and special events (weddings, parties, baby showers etc.) Sometimes I actually take the time to photograph nature and other things of interest that aren't related to my home and family life. I need to get better about that.

I'd always loved to make old fashioned style scrapbooks, the kind your grandma had with black pages and photo corners, with tickets stubs and other momentos, long before it became a popular hobby. Although I admit I always hated how the pages would get caught up on each other and the books wouldn't lay flat (this was before you could find scrapbook albums with page protectors, or maybe I just didn't know where to find them) so after I got married and started accumulating more pictures I opted to switch to traditional style albums because it was faster and kept the photos better protected. In the days before going digital I managed to put ALL of my pictures in albums. It felt great! And it was so fun to be able to pull those albums out whenever I wanted. But that ENDED literally the day I got my first digital camera. Sadly, I haven't made an album since. It's not that I can't. I know the services are out there but life was busy with 3 little kids and for a long time it was impossible to make the time to do it. But I've been painfully aware that the problem just gets harder to tackle the longer you wait.

When I realized you could create the look of a scrapbook without the bulk, by creating a photobook, and could therefore store far more photos in less space I was really excited. I wanted my kids to be able to enjoy our photos and memories now. So, a year or so ago I started the process of creating a photobook through Shutterfly. I discovered quickly that their layouts were far too limiting for what I wanted to do. My biggest complaint was that after spending all this time uploading pictures I couldn't reposition the layout to include the exact pictures where I wanted them on each page or oriented the frame to match the picture's orientation. Frustrating! In other words, I had to work completely within their template choices. And, there wasn't enough room in the text boxes to tell my story the way I wanted to tell it. I knew right away that I needed more flexibility and room for creativity.

I figured there had to a program out there but honestly I really hadn't heard of any. Only a few people I knew had even created a photobook on-line. After asking around some internet friends told me how much they LOVED Creative Memories Storybook Creator Plus 3.0 . It did look really cool but I was turned off by the business model and was afraid I would be forced into using their scrap elements and photobook printing. I found out that wasn't true but I still proceeded to look into other top rated software first, hoping they would be just as good or better.
  • I downloaded the trial of Adobe Photoshop Elements. This software is preferred by many serious scrapbooker designers because you can do anything in it. But it is more difficult to learn with a less intuitive interface and in my opinion it is harder to keep your scrapbooking elements organized. Being a very organized person this was a big drawback to me. Elements looks and functions quite a lot like it's big brother Photoshop.
  • I also tried Memory Mixer. They had a 30 day money back guarantee so I tried it. This software was simple to use but I was very disappointed to find I couldn't recolor custom photo frames or use papers to create my own frames. So for example if I got a PNG scallop freebie frame I couldn't actually change the color of the frame using this software (like you can in Elements or Storybook Creator). While this program is probably great for some people I knew I would want to do far more than it was capable of.
After watching all the video tutorials on Storybook Creator Plus 3.0 I felt this software was really going to be the best for me. I was ready to order it but found at checkout that I had to give a consultant ID# to make the purchase. I starting looking through their consultant finder so I could buy it and found a lady in Bellevue who is a Creative Memories Unit Leader. She was really nice and helpful. After talking with her awhile on the phone I made the decision to become a consultant myself. My kit is ordered and should arrive any day. She and I are going to meet in person in early March. I'm not sure where this could lead me. Time will tell.

Hopefully I'll get over my initial embarrassment about this new endeavor of mine as time goes on. First and foremost I'm really excited about starting the process of getting my own photos organized and into albums. This is something that most of us struggle with in the digital age. People need help! And I'm going to attempt to do just that. I'm excited, and this is just the beginning. I don't want to be that person that people avoid. So please do me a favor, if you feel like I'm trying to convert you please ask me nicely to stop.