Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photo Book Basics

From high-end leave-behinds to prototypes for a pitch to a big-time publisher, self-publishing your work is an ideal solution that’s within reach of any pro

This Article Features Photo Zoom

In the digital age, when putting up an online portfolio often requires only a few clicks, there's a tactile appeal of offering a physical book of your photos directly to clients and publishers. A physical book is far more compelling than a slideshow or an online portfolio, and in a world where standing out among the seemingly infinite amount of competitors on the Internet is tantamount to finding success, being creative in your approach to marketing can give you a leg up. Mass emails are easy to delete. Photo books have to be held at least once, and they can sit right there on a shelf or table as a constant reminder of your work.

PhotoBook Press
For example, just go to the Blurb website to get a sense of how popular analog books—the kind with paper, hard covers and spines—are in this digital environment. That's because a book has weight. It has a presence that bits and bytes can't equal. And that's not just for the dads-and-grads set anymore. Personal gratification and ego aside, there are some practical reasons for photographers to look at self-publishing their work.

Most obviously, a photo book filled with carefully selected images is literally a portable, customizable portfolio, and it's one that you can leave behind after a meeting. The perfect storm of digital imaging, high-quality, low-volume printing and Internet connectivity has made it possible for everyone to publish their creative endeavors, and thanks to that, high-quality photo books are inexpensive enough at this point that you can create your own and perfectly tailor it for a specific potential client, even personalizing it with their name hot-stamped right on the cover. If you're pitching a cookbook publisher, for instance, you can assemble your best cuisine collection, or if you're actively pursuing fine-art or even commercial representation, agents and galleries will be far more receptive to analog representation. Whether specializing in a niche market or looking to expand your client base to other areas, photographers who work in an area can flaunt it or contrarily compile the best examples of their photographic efforts outside their normal genre to show that they're versatile and diversified.

For photographers who are seeking a publisher for a collection of work, a self-published photo book also can serve as a prototype. This accomplishes several goals. Even though an art director or editor may modify the layout of the final, mass-produced version, it can be valuable to show your personal concept of the project to an agent or a publisher, whether trying to inspire initial interest in a project or giving them an idea of your creative vision for the layout once they have been hooked. As many portrait and event photographers can attest, photo books can create a revenue stream, as well. Although the stream may never become a raging river, selling books of photos at a modest profit can serve to boost a photographer's income while spreading notoriety as a marketing tool.

A Few Publishing Tips
Start with a small project first. Gain experience with both the layout software and the publisher before you tackle something more ambitious. Starting small also allows you to experiment with paper finishes, compare cover styles and evaluate vendors in terms of printing quality, service and turnaround time. If you're a real stickler, publish a test book before pursuing the real one. Include a shot of an X-Rite color checker and other reference images, including some with blacks, 18% gray and deep, rich primary colors.


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