24 Jul 2023


3 Mins


Just for fun

Combining analogue and digital memories with QR codes

Combining analogue and digital memories with QR codes

Combining analogue and digital memories with QR codes

tldr; My mum wanted to link her iCloud photos to a QR code, which we achieved by using Shared Albums and Shortcuts. If you just want to grab the shortcut, here's the link

The situation

My mum likes to scrapbook. Whenever she goes on holiday she collects tickets and receipts and trinkets, combines them with fancy ribbons, buttons and twine, and sticks them all onto decorative papers alongside photos from her trip

These scrapbook pages are great, but present two problems. Firstly, there’s only so much space to include her photos - and she takes a LOT of photos. And secondly, there’s no way of attaching any videos to the page - and she takes a LOT of videos.

So a few days ago she wondered whether she could add QR codes into her scrapbook pages, that when scanned, would link to the additional photos and videos she wanted to include - combining her analogue and digital memories.

All of her photos and videos are in iCloud so we wanted to avoid having to upload them to another cloud storage service, and she wanted these QR codes to be accessible to anyone who scans them, without uploading the photos anywhere public like Facebook.

The solution

I've been playing around with Shortcuts recently, and remember spotting a 'Generate QR code' action, so I figured that’d be a good place to start. I found that each photo in the camera library has an iCloud link but they expire in 30 days - not ideal for a QR in a scrapbook that might sit on a shelf for years and years

It took a bit of digging around but I finally found a solution using Shared Albums. Shared Albums also have iCloud links, but they don’t expire. And as they’re albums, it’s a little bit easier to manage linking multiple photos and videos to the same QR code

How to set up a Shared Album on iOS

  1. Head to the Photos app and over to the Albums tab. Tap the + in the top left corner and choose 'New Shared Album'

  2. When prompted, give the album a name and tap 'Next'

  3. The next screen will prompt you to invite people to this Shared Album. You can do this if you want someone else to be able to to contribute to the album, but for the purpose of these scrapbook QR codes, this isn’t necessary, so just tap 'Create'

  4. Tap the large + icon and add whatever photos and videos you want (you can add and remove photos whenever you’d like, so no need to do them all in one go)

  5. When you’re ready, tap the ••• in the top right corner, then 'Invite people'. On the following page, enable the 'Public Website' toggle and then tap 'Share Link' and then 'Copy'

  6. You can share this link wherever, and with whomever you’d like, and they’ll be directed to an iCloud webpage where they can see the contents of the album

The next step then is to add this link to a QR code. As mentioned earlier, I used Shortcuts to set this up as it’s a) free and b) easy and convenient to use over and over again. If you just want to copy the shortcut as is, here’s the link

How to set up the Shortcut

  1. Add an 'Ask for input' step. Tap 'Text' and change this to 'URL', and tap 'Prompt' and enter the prompt that will appear when the shortcut is run. I just set this to 'iCloud Link' so that my mum knows what’s being requested

  2. Add a 'Generate QR code' step. The variable should automatically update to the value you entered in the previous step i.e. 'iCloud Link'

  3. Then add a 'Show result' step that again should pull the variable from the previous step; in this case 'QR code'

  4. And that’s it! Press play the 'Play' icon in the top right to test that it all works how you want - it should ask for a URL, and then once submitted, display the QR code

Further development

My mum is happy with this simple set up, as she can just screenshot the QR code and add it to a pages document. She’ll repeat this several times and then print out a sheet of QR codes that she can cut out and stick into her scrapbook.

If you wanted to build on this shortcut though, you could send that created QR code into a Note, Pages or many other apps. Or, if compatible, you could send it immediately to your printer, skipping the need to screenshot and format it

If you use this shortcut, or if you’ve got any suggestions for further developments, let me know on Mastodon!

And if you read this far, here's the finished scrapbook page that my mum made (she was happy to share this with the world, but the QR code is covered up)

Thanks for reading!

Alex :)

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