There is little more satisfying to a competent and enthusiastic photographer than to see his or her photos in print in the form of an attractive coffee table style book. Until a few years ago, this was a prohibitively expensive dream. Now, with the advent of online print-on-demand printers, it is a matter of a few hours work and $30 or $50 (or more for a really huge book). When you do produce a book of your own and it arrives through the mail a few days after you have hit the final “Buy Book” button, it really does seem like magic.
So how do you produce your own photo book?
Well, start off by browsing a few websites that offer these services. Typically they let you choose your book size and format (hardback, paperback, landscape, portrait) and in some cases paper quality, etc. Then they either walk you through the process of uploading the photos you want to use and designing the book online on their website or downloading their design software or, in fewer cases, uploading a print ready PDF based on your own design done with a program such as Adobe InDesign or other page layout program.
Let’s look at some websites. There are many more than the ones listed here. These are just some of the ones I have some familiarity with.
If you’re on a Mac and use iPhoto or Aperture then you have a whole range of printed books just a few clicks away, and you can take advantage of Apple’s superb designs as the software builds your book for you.
Another very well known one is Blurb:
Blurb offers a wide choice of high quality books, probably a bit cheaper than Apple’s and almost as good quality. You can turn your photos into a book online or download their software and design it on your desktop and then upload or, if you know your way around Adobe InDesign you can download templates and then do your entire book page by page to have it look just the way you want. Then you upload finished PDFs, one for the cover and one for the inside pages and you’re all set.
Then there is Lulu:
Costco offers a PhotoBook printing service
Mpix also offers the service:
Kodak has a photo book publishing service.
There is no attempt here to make the list exhaustive. There are many options and you can google “print on demand photo books” and shop around. But the above will give you an idea. I have personally used Apple iPhoto and Blurb and was delighted with both. Apple probably has the edge quality wise but is a bit more expensive. Blurb gives me the complete freedom to design my own book from scratch using Adobe InDesign and the finished book looked exactly the way I wanted to. Apple does a great job of the design but with less control. You can get more pages for your buck with Blurb. The others I have simply not tried so cannot give a personal opinion.
Don’t expect to sell your books in any numbers or make money out of this. The printing is too expensive to allow any kind of profit margin.
Here are a few tips:
Use only your best photos. If you include even one poor photo, it brings the look of the whole book down.
Edit your photos. Crop them. Adjust exposure, color balance, contrast, sharpness, etc.
Don’t OVER-edit your photos to a point where you start degrading the image.
Save your photos at 300 ppi at the intended print size or larger.
Group your photos so there is a theme, common thread or subject.
Use text, captions etc. to help the viewer/reader.
Above all, DO a photo book. You’ll be thrilled with the results. They can be really spectacular.
Here is a link to a couple (of mine) so that you can get an idea.
David © Phillips is a professional writer and photographer living in Seattle, WA. You can find out more about him and his work at www.dcpcom.com. Photograph(s) in this article are © David C Phillips, All Rights Reserved.