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


Adorama is more than just a seller of photo gear. They also offer lab services, including photo books. The AdoramaPix website (www.adoramapix.com) provides a nice overview of some of the features that set their books apart—including pages made of silver-halide photographic paper.

AdoramaPix makes it possible to share your book online so you can provide a link to a virtual preview (for clients, customers or fans), and they can order books for purchase directly from the site. That might be perfect for my project, a photo book that documents an urban arts renaissance.

Getting Started. Click the large Create a Book button, and off you go. I sign in with my Twitter account, but you also can use Facebook. I choose the custom printed cover instead of the leather-bound option because I want the "lay-flat" nature of that binding. My only concern is that I don't want it to look too much like a wedding album. For wedding photographers, though, this look is likely to be a hit and a huge seller.

Time to choose a theme. to help you decide. I settle on the "simple and versatile" style called "Classic."

For most of the companies that offer book printing, the process is as simple or as complicated as you would like it to be. There are templates for easy uploading of images and captions, and many also allow you to design your own layout.

Uploading Images And Working The Layout. The next step is to upload photos. I want high quality, so I use JPEGs that are between 12 and 20 MB each. The upload takes a while. Interestingly, AdoramaPix will let you upload TIFFs, too. If you have the time, they'll let you send them for the utmost in quality. Clearly, they cater to photographers. For professionals with an online portfolio at any number of photo-sharing sites, the software allows you to import image files directly from Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug and more.
Now it's time for the layout. Working with the cover, this interface takes some learning. Once you get the hang of it, you can begin to work more efficiently within the framework. There are several theme options in the Layout tab to the left, but I find that simply dragging a new photo onto the blank page after deleting the default frames and backgrounds works just as well as dealing with a template—especially once you're comfortable with resizing and repositioning tools.

When in doubt, go minimal. Let the images do the talking with full-page bleeds and simple text in a simple font. There's a Save button at the top of the page, which is good. The fear of losing work via a poor connection is ever present. The Shift-S shortcut is nice, too, as are the undo/redo buttons. An undo option is critical to any layout process.

Final Tweaks And Placing The Order. Additional page options are limited, which I realize as I near the end of my book. You can add pages by the dozen, totaling 14, 26, 38, 50 or 74. I needed to add a couple of images to fill out the 26-page book. It does show you the prices in the same window so there are no surprises later. The preview button helps verify that everything is in place, and a running total cost displays in the top right.

The order button provides an alert, as well as advice on how to interpret it, such as: "Empty photo frames detected. If your book looks fine in preview, ignore this message." Ordering provides the option to apply recommended Photo Correction. I click the box. Next, I choose between pro luster and high-gloss pages, sticking with luster as it seems like a good fit for this "not overly slick" subject.

The order form also offers the current lab turnaround time, which is five days. I can expedite that to two days for a rush charge. Pickup in the New York store is free, U.S. Mail is $6, and Second-Day Air is $12.95. I choose the last.

My grand total is $70.90 after shipping. For a high-quality, professionally printed (on photo paper, no less) and bound photo book, this feels like a steal.


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