After a trip to Moscow in the summer of 2000, I had two choices on how to catalog my travel photos to show off to my friends and family. The first involved sliding photos into crinkly plastic photo sleeves; the second, pulling out glue sticks, scissors and craft paper for a do-it-yourself memory book. Neither option gave me the opportunity to show off my images to their full potential.
Recently, I took a trip through Italy, and I’m excited that my choices for book publishing have advanced exponentially, with polished, stylish layout options and technical advancements to keep up with my digital workflow. Now, I can create a professional coffee-table book that looks like it’s straight off the shelves of my local bookstore.
Each book publisher has a different type of editing and layout software. Some software allows you to make significant photo edits within the layout (including cropping, exposure, rotation and resizing). Other software doesn’t allow for any edits whatsoever, so it’s important to have a designated folder on your computer for your book images, all edited, sized in proper resolution, and in the order you’re planning on displaying them. It’s also a good idea to create a backup folder with duplicate images—just in case. Most basic books include 20 pages, with the ability to add more pages, as desired. Depending on how many photos you place on each page, this could mean preparing anywhere from 20 to 100 photos.
As you edit your photos, start to think about the theme and layout of your book. Publishers offer basic layouts that you can customize, or you can create your own from scratch. Until you have a lot of experience with bookmaking, you’ll most likely want to keep your layouts simple so you’re not pulling attention away from your images. Pay attention to the way each page is balanced. For instance, if you have a full-page landscape on the left, you may want to balance it with four detail shots on the right. When mixing images, be aware of how they relate to each other. Are you creating a color story? Where are the eyelines meeting? While it’s easy to have the same page layout through the book, it’s important to keep it varied so the viewer stays interested.
Some layouts give you the option of adding your own backgrounds and text. This is your opportunity not only to personalize your book further, but also give your reader more information with location captions, journal entries, quotes, maps, tickets or playbooks.
Mpix (www.mpix.com) gives you the option of creating both hardcover and softcover books in eight sizes, ranging from 5.5×5.5-inch squares to 11×8.5-inch landscape or portrait orientations. The minimum and maximum page counts are dependent on the cover option chosen, anywhere from 12 to 50 pages. The software is basic and intuitive to use, following drag-and-drop methodology. Once you load your images into the software, you can place them into templates, switch templates for each individual page, customize image and text positioning, and add borders or backgrounds. If you prefer to do your work unplugged from the web, you can download the Desktop Solution software directly to your computer. Hardcovers are available in various colors or can be custom-printed. Text stock, pearl and linen papers are available. MyPublisher (www.mypublisher.com) offers four books, ranging from a Mini Book (at 3.5×2.75 inches) to a Deluxe Hardcover (at 15×11.5 inches). Once the Book Maker software is downloaded to your computer, you have the option to let the software arrange your photos in chronological order, creating a book in as quickly as two minutes, or crafting your own story through drag and drop, custom layouts, image brightening and cropping, and text formatting. Books are autosaved as you edit and customer service is available by phone. Choose between standard pages or lay-flat pages in a variety of papers including standard, super gloss, superior or heavier deluxe. Covers can be customized for a photo finish, book jacket, linen or leather. Additional final touches include end sheets, slip cases and gift boxes.
Blurb (www.blurb.com) provides five sizes of books, from seven-inch squares up to 13×11-inch landscapes with softcover and hardcover options. Similar to Mpix, Blurb has proprietary online software for organizing and creating your book layout. Additionally, Blurb offers Bookify and BookSmart, two book creation plug-ins for Lightroom. Bookify keeps things simple, letting you add captions and titles before hitting export, where your images are automatically filled into the book format (text and all), and you’re taken to an online preview page. With Bookify, if you want to make an edit to an image, you’ll need to re-export the image to do so. If you want more control over your book creation and photo editing, BookSmart is the plug-in you’ll prefer. BookSmart is set up through Lightroom’s publication manager, and your images are imported as a collection. Once your images are imported to the book layout, you still have full Lightroom integration, where any adjustments made to exposure, color, saturation or contrast are automatically reflected in the book layout and no re-exporting is needed. Blurb offers four paper choices: standard, premium, proline uncoated and proline pearl photo. Blurb also gives you the opportunity to market your finished product through the Blurb Storefront or directly on Amazon.
If you want more options in terms of size, materials and a quick three-day printing turnaround, Bay Photo (www.bayphoto.com/bay-designer) is your publishing site of choice. Sizes range from 5×5 inches to 12×12 inches with multiple square and rectangular options in between. Pick out a photo for your cover, or from 50 other cover material choices. Bay Photo has several ways to create your book. You may be familiar with the ROES software for creating books, as well as cards and other personalized items. But Bay Photo has just rolled out the new Bay Designer software specifically for books and albums. Bay Designer provides drag-and-drop functionality into customizable templates, as well as designer backgrounds and a full suite of easy-to-use tools for creating your own book layouts. If you don’t have time to design a book from scratch, you can use the Wizard feature to auto-fill templates to get you started. Bay Photo offers full professional color correction on all of their products, as well as an option to manage your own color.
AdoramaPix (www.adoramapix.com) is another publisher that provides high-quality materials (with staff inspecting each book before shipping to ensure it’s error-free). Printed on archival-quality silver-halide paper with a luster or high-gloss finish, you have the option of a custom photo and text cover or leather with metallic stamp. Sizes range from 6×4.5-inch portrait to 12×30-inch panoramic with lay-flat pages for no-gutter double-page spreads. The custom PixPublisher software is online-based, so you’ll need a network connection to create your book. There are many themed templates to choose from, or you can create your own. Images can be uploaded from your computer or social media accounts such as Facebook, Google+, SmugMug and Instagram, then dragged and dropped into the template spaces with basic sizing, panning and rotation editing. Webinars and phone support are available.