Digitally created photo books are definitely a step up from slipping our snapshots into plastic sleeves or behind magnetic sheets. More like the creative memory scrapbooks you use templates to create albums of photos on embellished pages. The difference being that the photos are digitally printed and bound. There are many online companies that offer different sizes and styles. You can completely customize the book or simply drop pictures into a template.
Several of the companies work with an app directly from your smartphone, but I prefer transferring my photos to my computer and working on a larger screen. It is much easier to organize and edit my photos there.
There are plenty of companies that print photo books. I have found that if you are using a company site that is glitchy or hard to work with, their printing and customer service probably won’t be much better. You get what you pay for. Each site works a little different but these tips will apply to all the platforms.
THEME AND PHOTOS:
The best books tie pictures together with a theme. This can be a vacation, a year in review, a person or specific event. Choose your best photos but also choose photos that tell a whole story. Once you have your selection of photos take your time to choose a template or layout.
- Select an average of 5 photos per page. So if you plan to create a 20 page book select 100 photos. You may not use them all or you may end up adding more but this is a good creative starting point.
- Choose photos that are a good resolution and quality.
- Select a cover photo with a subject representative of the book theme. Choose a good quality photo since it will be the eye catcher.
- Edit your photos before uploading. The editing tools on most of the sites are clunky and not very robust. Photos tend to print darker so lighten up your selected photos if necessary.
- Most sites have a quality indicator that will pop up and tell you if your photo will not print properly. If the photo is important, you can sometimes adjust to a smaller version of the photo and be fine.
- Double check your photos for focus, red-eye, level horizons, light and dark. If it doesn’t look good after editing, then look for another photo.
- Separate your selected photos into a folder on your computer for easier uploading. This will also help you save money by staying in your allotted number of pages.
Most programs allow you to easily customize layouts. Alternate between vertical and horizontal, full page photos, double page spreads and collages. To create a consistent look choose a color theme and background to run throughout the album. Consider which pages will be “full bleed” (with the picture going to the edge of the page) and which will have a border.
- Double check that all your pictures are aligned along the side.
- Unless you are paying extra for a lay-flat book, make sure nothing important will be lost in the ‘ditch’ of the book. This includes faces and text.
- Double check your margins and be sure pictures are not going over the edge. You don’t want anything important oddly cropped from your photo.
- Check the full bleed photos to be sure important aspects are not falling off the page.
- If you want to change the look on different pages but want to keep a consistent look, consider adding the same border around each photo.
You will also need to decide if you wish to include text. Do the pictures tell the story or do you need to add an explanation to guide the reader?
- Be sure you are consistent with no more than 2 fonts and font sizes. I use one for the narative text and one for the headers.
- If you choose to overlay your text on your pictures, be sure the color, the size and weight of the text show up.
- If you change your mind on a text block, don’t forget to delete it. You don’t want a random word or letter in the middle of your page.
- Double check your spelling and grammar. There is nothing worse than a beautiful book with a word misspelled. Someone will point it out.
- Don’t forget to put the date somewhere on the book – the spine is a good choice.
Preview and proof your book. I often leave it and then come back later with fresh eyes to proof read. Several of the companies have a preview option that allow you to send a preview via email, allowing another person to proof the book.
- When previewing, check the fonts, the colors and the background for a consistent look.
- Look at the placing of each picture. Are they cropped the way you intend? Are any photos in the margins? I have found that when working on one photo on a page can affect the placement of another. So look carefully at every picture.
- Double check your text. Is it where you want it? Is your spelling and grammar correct?
- Look for odd text or embellishments that you tried and decided against. Be sure you remembered to delete it.
- Look at all the pictures for duplicates. While you are building the book, most programs warn you if you have used a photo in the book already. But sometimes when choosing the photos, we accidentally upload similar photos or a photo twice. You don’t want to waste valuable space with the same photo.
- Do you have any warning signs for photos with bad clarity or resolution? Sometimes if the photo is important to the story, I keep it in the album despite the warning. It is a judgment call.
Just a few more things…
- Look for coupons and Groupons for your book but remember all companies aren’t equal and all books ordered aren’t equal.
- Most books come with a set number of pages and additional pages are extra. These extra pages can add up quick! Just be aware.
- There are upgraded covers and features. These items add up but at the same time can make the book so much more professional.
- If the software is difficult to use you probably need to try another company. The process should be fun.
- Set aside some time to be creative. Some companies have an option to upload your photos, click a button and your book is made. However, part of the fun is putting the story together yourself. It takes some time to create your own templates but if you know that going in, the final project is your work of art.
- My favorite companies for quality, ease of use and moderate price are MixBook, Shutterfly and Snapfish.
For more in this series:
Free your photos part two: Additional tips and tricks for creating a photo book.