Online Scrapbooking

Brag books with a global reach: Photo blogs. Here's how to set one up, keep it up, and give your family access, with a few tips on safety.

A new generation of parents is bringing the family scrapbook into the 21st century with a fresh, decidedly modern twist: The photo blog. These wildly popular online journals allow parents to record and share their everyday lives through images instead of words.

"This is a great way for families and friends to stay in touch and boost their bonds," says Adam Seifer, the co-founder and CEO of Fotolog.com, the world's largest photo blogging community. "Photo blogs have become an intriguing, real-time window into everyday life."

Once you create your own photo blog, friends and family members will no longer cringe when you jam their in-boxes with dozens of photos of your latest birthday party or amusement park excursion. "I used to get about two or three e-mails a week from my sister with tons of .jpeg attachments of pictures of my one-year-old niece," says Jamie Frazier, 36, of St. Louis, Missouri. "The files were always huge and I felt nervous about downloading them at work. But now I can just go to one site and check them all out at my convenience. It's like one-stop shopping!"

Unlike sites like Shutterfly.com where you can share 58 pics of your kids at Chuck E Cheese all at once, most photo blog sites subscribe to the less-is-more philosophy. So many photo bloggers post only a few snapshots a week -- the best of the best. Some sites even put limits on the quantity of photos you can post: For example, Fotolog.com allows you to upload one photo per day for free. (If you upgrade to gold photo status for $5/month, you are allowed to upload six photos per day.) This forces you to be discriminating!

How to get started
Go to a photo blog site like fotolog.com, fotopages.com, or my-expressions.com and follow their step-by-step instructions for setting up your own blog. (On each of these sites, you can set up a blog in less than 15 minutes.) If you're more technically savvy, you can always create your own blog by purchasing a domain name, choosing a company to host your site, and buying the software needed to create and maintain your photo blog. Two of the most popular photo blogging software packages can be found at sixapart.com/movabletype or wordpress.org.

Keep it up
Bloggers like Kate Simpson, 43, update their blogs every day. "This helps me document my kids' lives in a way I probably otherwise wouldn't," says the Los Angeles-based mother of two. For other bloggers, the process is more organic. "If I take a good picture that I think is worthy of sharing with my friends and family, I'll post it," says Micah Gordon, a 32-year-old mother of one from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. "So some weeks, I'll post one photo and others I'll post ten. It really just depends."

Give friends and family access
Provide your friends and family with the web address and let them know they can check out the blog anytime they like. (Photos are archived, which makes browsing even easier.) Some sites such as fotopages.com allow you to enable password protection on your blog, so only visitors who have a username and password will be able to view them. In these cases, just send out an e-mail to your friends and family with the pertinent log in information, and you're good to go.

Be safe
When creating your own photo blog, it's important to take some crucial safety precautions. If a stranger stumbles upon your site, you don't want you or your family to be trackable. That means you should never post personal information such as your last name or home address, or divulge identifying details such as the name of your child's school or where you work. "I've never had any privacy issues come up with my photo blog, but I'm always careful about the kind of information I post," concludes Gordon. As long as you use common sense, photo blogs are a fun, safe way to share the unique moments of family life and make your close relationships even closer.

Julie Taylor is a writer, editor and mother of two from Los Angeles, California. She just started her first photo blog.

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