Photo Books

Photo books are an excellent and fun way to preserve those special personal and family memories.  

The focus of this tutorial is "making a paper based photo book", but the first few sections deal with some alternatives and initial stages in gathering your thoughts and materials together, which apply to any production method. 

The order in which I've suggested you tackle this might seem a little strange - but it works!

At the end of this tutorial you should be able to build paper based photo books from your digital media, however the principles apply to any of the other output media suggested in step three.

Step One - What Are You Trying To Say?

 You need to decide what it is that you're trying to say in your photo books...
Some examples might be

  • my holiday
  • my family
  • the last night of freedom before the wedding
  • a special anniversary
  • how we built our garden

photo books mixed format

This sample photo books page illustrates the following ideas which will be explained as we go through the tutorial.

The page gives an example of one subject, flowers in New Zealand and includes ...

  • Similar tone range
  • A background which does not detract from the images
  • A mixture of sizes and shapes of image, sympathetic to each other

Step Two - Some Decisions

Now for some decisions ...

  • Who is your audience - who is going to see the finished work?
  • Is it purely for you?
  • Only on demand?
  • A record for all to see?

Step Three - The Output

There are so many different ways of presenting the pictures and artifacts, and even more software packages to enable you to get there, for instance ...
  • Calendar.
  • Postcard.
  • Photo book.
  • Web page.
  • Social network page.
  • AV presentation.
It's worth just checking what you actually have on your computer, because often tucked away are some little gems hidden as plug-ins, cut down version, and plain freebies. 

Most commercial printers have free downloads of book composing software, and surprisingly similar they are too.

But it's essential to check the range of outputs available as not all suppliers and software are comparable.
My bare minimum list (other products do exist) consists of ...

  • Corel Paint Shop Pro to edit the images.
  • Microsoft Power Point to make AV presentations.
  • CEWE/BOBBOOKS/JESSOPS software for paper products.
  • Google PICASA to share photos on-line.

Step Four - Miscellaneous Items

Miscellaneous items you might want to share in your photo books ...
It's worth considering what might be included in the collection.
  • Photos.
  • Scanned postcards.
  • Scanned tickets.
photo books speech bubble

This picture (little Maisie) illustrates the following ideas which will be explained as we go through the tutorial
  • The image was created in POWER POINT.  Click here for instructions ...
  • The speech bubble and text were applied directly to the POWER POINT page.
  • The file was “Saved as” a JPEG and can then be imported into various other applications.  TIFFs are equally transferable.

Step Five - The Extent Of The Project

Before you actually put the ideas and items together you should think about the overall size of the final production.
  • The number of photos or scanned artifacts.
  • The physical size of a paper production in terms of pages and area and thickness.
  • The quality of paper or output.
Making paper-based photo books ...
So now you have your thoughts sorted - you can start to put your book together

Step Six - The Short List

As a very rough guide you'll use 2 to 2.5 pictures to the page, but this figure will depend on the specification you wrote for yourself in steps 1 through  4.

  • Not all the pictures will sit comfortably together (more on this later in step 8).
  • You'll need some pictures in reserve .
  • You'll need to be ruthless in the production of the shortlist.
  • AND even more so, when you come to your final version.
So for photo books of 50 pages, you'll need ...

Between (2 x 50) + 10% to (2.5 x 50) + 10% - which is 110 to 140 pictures

Step Seven - The Editing Step

You need to read the small print on the help pages about the file types and sizes which the software can read.

As a rough guide the files are best if they are ...

  • JPEG.
  • Less than 10 Mega pixels.
  • 300 dots per inch.

Step Eight - Borders

photo books borders

This picture illustrates the following  ideas which will be explained as we go through the tutorial.
  • The images are of different orientations.
  • A mixture of sizes and shapes of image, sympathetic to each other.
  • The images are of similar subjects.
  • The images have been given similar treatments, which is simple to experiment with, and is described below.

book brush strokes

In Paint Shop Pro, the effect is chosen from the menu strip Effects>Art Media Effects>Brush Strokes.

The layout - the bit that you can only do by trial and error - but there are some rules you might need to consider on each page ...
  • The subject of the photos.
  • The style of the photos.
  • The colour range  of the photos.

NOT putting highkey and lowkey pictures onto the same page or across a double page spread.
  • Placing portrait layouts on a landscape orientation page.
  • Placing landscape layouts on a portrait orientation page.
  • Grouping portrait layouts with landscape layouts.
  • The background colour of the page should complement the photos NOT contrast with them.
photo books background

This picture illustrates the following  ideas which will be explained as we go through the tutorial ...

  • The images are of similar shape and size.
  • The images are of similar tone.
  • The images have been colour toned (see the Toning Page for help with this). 
  • The background is sympathetic to the images.
  • Using borders around the photos so they look as though they're in a photo album.
  • Rotating the photos at a slight angle to accentuate them OR make the album less formal.
  • Using decorative effects such as Paint Shop Pro picturetubes OR speech bubbles with text
photo books picture tube

This picture illustrates the following  ideas which will be explained as we go through the tutorial
  1. The original image was edited in Paint Shop Pro X3.
  2. The ring of butterflies was added in Paint Shop Pro X3.

photo books picture tube menu

You choose the picture tube tool from the toolbar.  There are 4 main parameters which you can set.  It is worth experimenting with the settings (Edit>Undo and Edit>Redo are wonderful tools!)

Text is important. Add that at the end, since it is often difficult to move text boxes in the software
  • The font should complement the photos NOT contrast with them.
  • The font size should not overpower the photos.
  • The "white space" in between the words is just as important as the words, since this makes the words more readable.
Save the file.  

Make yourself a drink.  

Go for a walk.

Don't send the file for printing for 24 hours;  until you've had the chance to review what you've done and given yourself a chance to reflect on your hard work.

Photo Books
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