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


For my third book, I consider choosing the fancy suede option from Mpix (www.mpix.com), but ultimately decide on something a little more feasible as a leave-behind for clients. I choose a small softcover book of which I can print several copies affordably and hand out like candy.

I'm making a small book to document a recent project. I was hired to photograph the creation of a wetlands forest along the Mississippi River, a nice theme around which to build a unified, visually interesting book.

Image Upload And Book Layout. Because the Mpix system is web-based, the first step is uploading image files to the server before a single page can be laid out. It isn't quick, so it's a good time to take lunch.

With the upload complete, I move on to the layout selection. A family vacation template pops up when I choose my softcover book. This isn't the sort of template I want for my project, but then again, I'm in the "simple" category. There's also a "complex" option, which makes navigating to your ideal comfort zone pretty easy.

Dragging and dropping the photos into the correct order is simple, and the software tells me how many I need in order to avoid being charged for blank pages. Be sure to settle on a template before you begin layout or you risk losing your work.

You have to click Customize to really gain control over design elements. Otherwise, your hands are tied and you can't resize or reposition photos and text.

Fine-Tuning And Turnaround Time. Auto-alignment and other guides make it fairly easy to position page elements accurately. Font options are limited, but all things considered, it's a fairly intuitive and functional workflow—especially since it's web-based software. When you're done with a page, you click next and watch the screen flip.

Image-quality pop-ups as I mouse-over reassure me that my images will print nicely. As far as alerts go, this seems ideal. The preview button is a plus, but relatively unnecessary since the design mode already shows exactly what pages will look like.

A 48-hour turnaround is standard on press items, perfect for a working photographer. If you order before 11 a.m., your order begins that day, and $10 gets your book delivered the next day. I skip Next Day Air and still get my book, ordered on Wednesday afternoon, by Monday morning.

This $15 book looks great, though I wish I had converted the image files to SRGB before upload. I think I created a subtle, out-of-gamut color shift because of the ProPhoto RGB profile I used. It doesn't lay perfectly flat, but it has a nice feel, and the print quality is very good. It's a great option for a promo or project add-on with minor expense.


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