How to make a great photo book

Many people who dedicate their time to making photographs also dedicate time to printing those photographs. The photo book has always been considered the ultimate final statement when it comes to printing one’s images. But how do we make great photo books? What are the main ingredients? What about tips or secrets? For me, it all begins with fun. Making books is one of the most entertaining things you can do, but sometimes the idea of a book can seem daunting, and the fun level can suffer, but just remember to focus on the spirit of print, even if you aren’t entirely sure about every single detail.

What do you want to make?

Travel book, portfolio, catalog, cookbook, etc. Defining your project is a quick way to establish the basic needs in terms of size, page count, design, etc. Next up is the edit. Editing is truly an art form and something that can make a good book great. Think of editing as the giant puzzle of photography, so start with the edge pieces first, those images that contain critical moments or information and allow the reader to fully understand what it is you wish them to experience.

Organize away

You can’t tell a story if your images aren’t organized. A good way to start your organization is to ask yourself why you are taking pictures. Answering this question will help with your story and define the way images will be placed from page to page.

Save the low-quality images for your private collection, and don’t feel tied to any image that does not fit with your storyline. Group images of similar interests so that you can organize them on your photo book pages. After you group images, you can then more easily determine their order within the book.

Don’t be afraid to go back and review each image and its text. Every book needs to be revised and edited, so always go back to review the images, organization, quality, text, and layout.

Once the images have been chosen, it’s now time to put them in order or sequence. Just because you have a favorite image doesn’t mean that image will live on the cover. What if your favorite photograph carries more weight at the end of the book? Sequencing photographs for a book is the secret step that many beginner bookmakers overlook, but sequencing is the roller coaster ride you are asking your readers to undertake. Next up is the cover. But don’t feel you need to create the cover first. Sometimes the book needs to play out a bit before what makes sense on the cover becomes apparent.

Limit photos to the best ones

For new photo book creators, it’s tempting to add a majority of images. You should limit the content to only your best images. Don’t feel obligated to add all images to your book. Images should follow the topic, but they should also be high quality to ensure that your content is attractive to readers. The images you choose should also fit your design without leaving awkward space on the page and fit the layout for your text. As readers flip through your book, the images should complement each other to tell a story.

Choose a topic

Most photo books are based on an event such as a birthday or vacation, but you aren’t limited to these topics. You can make a photo book out of your hobby or area of interest. Just make sure that you stick to a topic so that you know the direction that you want to go with each picture and page. For example, you could make a photo book of your life as you progress through different phases of marriage and family, or you could make a simple photo book of the sunrises every morning to appreciate nature.

Be consistent

Borders, number of images per page, image size, etc. Staying consistent allows the reader to engage with the flow of the book. You can throw in a surprise now and then, but overall consistency leads to readability. And when your masterpiece is complete, get a second opinion. Another set of eyes can save us from ourselves. That image you love in your heart might not resonate with anyone else, and a trusted friend or editor can add insight and offer suggestions without damaging anyone’s feelings.

Think in double-page spreads

Some photo books use double-page spreads where the photo covers more than a single page and spans across the gutter of the book. The center gutter in a physical book can clip part of the image, so you should design your book so that the important sections of the image do not hit the gutter. To design a double-page spread, take your pictures and determine if any of the important sections fall into the gutter. If they do, your photo book may need another format.

Pick the perfect format

You have two types of formats: digital and physical books. You could also sell your pictures to trade magazines, where they will appear on either one page or both pages as a two-page spread. A personal photo book can be in any format you choose, but should you decide to distribute it to the public, you must ensure that every picture fits in a reader such as Kindle and on tables and phones. 

It’s easier to share images digitally, but you can also sell your photo book in print. Printed photo books make great gifts and coffee table decorations. Before printing your photo book, design it so that images and text fit nicely on each page.

Use photo editing software

You need a photo editing application, especially if you plan to distribute your photo book digitally. You can edit and lay out your photos based on the dimensions of a physical book or digital reader and completely design the way every image will display on a page. You might also want to make changes to images, and photo editing software will do this for you. For example, you might want to crop the image to make it smaller and remove undesirable sections. These changes can be done in a good photo editing application.

Add text to image descriptions

Even though your focus is on images, the text is also important in a photo book. Text has several purposes in a photo book. If your photos are based on your life and hobbies, they can solidify memories of your past so that you can remember what you were doing when you took the picture. If you decide to make a photo book to sell to the public, good text describes “where,” “when,” and “why” for the image. It explains the purpose of the photo and where it was taken as a reference for the reader. If you are printing your book, choosing the best font for print is something else that you should consider.

Focus on quality

It should go without saying, but you should always focus on the quality of your photo book and its images. Some authors struggle with the right lighting and editing, so you could hire an expert to help with your layout and photos. Also, you should choose the best quality images to include in your photo book. Get third-party feedback on photos to choose which ones will look best in your photo book. Use photo editing tools to add filters and effects so that your images compel readers to continue flipping through your book.

Choose the right paper type

The right photo book paper can make or break your design. Do you want a matte finish or would you like high-quality glossy pages? To decide on the best paper, browse a bookstore and look at the different page finishes to determine the right choice for your own photo book. Matte pages could give your images texture, but glossy pages could make your photo book stand out against others.

Hit print

Don’t be afraid. The beauty of Blurb is that you can order one copy at a time, and that copy can remain private until you are ready to unleash it on the world. Even after making hundreds of books, there is still nothing more exciting than receiving a new book on the doorstep. Good luck, and have fun!


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