Here is the layout of our family celebrating my 39th birthday. We went roller skating at a rink near my hometown that I frequented as a teenager. (What a fun blast from the past! The place hadn't changed a bit.) I took a ton of pictures, but there might be no worse place on earth to try to get decent photos than at a roller rink. I ended up printing the eight best photos, but as you can see, I only used four of them.
Sometimes, I print just the right number of photos because I know exactly where I'm going to put each one and what the finished layout will look like. In this case, I didn't. So I pulled out these:
Years ago, I cut down some sheets of chipboard to make a set of templates. Each is cut to a common photo size, then labeled with its dimensions. There are multiples of each size. I can't tell you the number of times I've used them. They are so handy!
When I'm stuck on a layout, I pull out one template for each of my photos (in this case, eight 4x6's- five vertical and three horizontal) and start playing with them. As I move them around on a piece of white cardstock, I look for a pleasing arrangement. If I decide I might be cropping one or more photos, I swap out the template for a different size to see how that will look. This lets me make design decisions before I ever cut a photo.
Once I like a layout, I grab some random chipboard letters to plan where my title will go. In this case, I knew my title would be really short ("39"), so I just put a few letters down as a place holder.