Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Photo Books 101

The revolution in self-publishing has opened the door for professionals to create commercial-quality photo books for portfolios, promo pieces and leave-behinds

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Digital image files have made it simple for any photographer to upload and print his or her very own high-quality photo books. A few of the available options online include Bay Photo, Blurb, Mpix and AdoramaPix, and each offers a variety of customizable designs and features for making your book stand out from the pack.

So much photography is created for digital delivery that holding one's printed work—especially in photo book form—is a more pleasurable, tactile experience than ever. The self-publishing industry is thriving due to affordable digital printing, and there are more options for making a photo book now than ever. I recently explored four of the most popular services—Blurb, Bay Photo, Mpix and AdoramaPix—in order to make my first photo book. Here's what I learned.


The first book I wanted to create was an art book, like a monograph, to highlight a personal project. This paired nicely with the template options provided by Blurb (www.blurb.com).

Blurb first asks you a fairly basic question: Do you want a simple book or a book with custom options? I choose the custom option, confident that I'll be able to navigate it effectively. This requires a download of the Blurb BookSmart software, which is up and running in no time. (The simple option takes you to Blurb's Bookify software online.)

It's the robust font and design template options that sway me, and pretty quickly I'm glad I made that choice. The last thing I want is for my book to look like a cookie-cutter project.

The next choice is format. Hardcover or soft, what size, dust jacket are all considerations that boil down to personal preference. For me, I choose a large, square book—large for gravitas and square to match the format of the images.

When you inquire about price, Blurb takes you back to its website for this information, laid out in a fairly helpful format so you can hit a price point that works for your budget.

Pricing varies depending on the service you choose and the final book presentation. Affordable models are great for leaving behind as promotion, while more expensive books can be sold online or used to drum up interest from professional publishers.
Uploading Images. Next up, you choose a layout template—I choose the photo book—and import a folder of image files into the project. Then you can autoflow them into the layout itself for an automated head start. I do, then rearrange the images in the order that works best for me. Note that it's JPEGs only since BookSmart is eventually going to transmit these files to a server for printing.

At this point, Blurb gives me a few warnings about my images. A few of them aren't quite large enough to print perfectly as full bleed in my 12x12 book. You always can reimport larger files or let Blurb interpolate them and probably do fine. I want to have some images smaller and centered on the pages anyway, so this is a good opportunity to minimize any printing problems from low-resolution files.

Fine-Tuning Page Layouts. You can drag pictures to subtly include or remove items from edges and bleed areas. You're not stuck with "centered" on a page or templates that feel restrictive. And the controls to adjust the layouts are intuitive, which is nice for something so deliberately simple. I like that it let me remove the header across all pages with one click and change the overall font usage with just a few more. This is very helpful, as is the preview book feature and a built-in spell-checker that saves me more than once.

Finalizing Book Upload And Payment. Upload happens automatically when you place your order, and you're taken to the Blurb website to complete payment details. You even can edit binding and cover details once the book is uploaded before completing the purchase.

Once you order a copy of your book, Blurb keeps it on file in your account, and you always can reorder it. You also can sell it to customers and fans via the Blurb e-commerce site.


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