5 Top Tips for Designing Good Photo Book Layouts

5 Top Tips for Designing Good Photo Book Layouts


A Guest Post by Photo Book Girl.

We all know that composition is important to keep in mind when taking a photo, and it’s just as important to think about composition when you’re designing a photo book layout. Here are my five top tips for designing good photo book layouts.

1) Less is More

Don’t try to crowd in a lot of photos in a single layout, give your photos some breathing room. In fact, consider placing a single photo per page. It allows your photo to take center stage.


If you are planning to create a whole spread with several photos, think about the end size of your photo book. A very common size offered by photo book companies is an 8 x 8 inch book. How many photos to put into a spread should correlate to the size of the book. For example, laying out 12 photos on a single spread (two facing pages) of an 8×8 inch book is going to print very differently from 12 photos on a single spread of a 12×12 inch book. Doing the former may make each photo appear rather small in the final product and you don’t want folks squinting at your layouts. If you don’t have the benefit of a large monitor, so you can zoom to actual size, many companies display the measurements of your photos so if you have to, grab a ruler so you can see what end size you’re going to end up with. I typically don’t try to place more than 6 to 8 photos on a single spread of an 8 x 8 inch book and even then, you probably don’t want to do that for every page.

2) Establish a Focal Point

If you have a beautiful photo of which you’re especially proud, as mentioned in #1 above, highlight it by letting it have its own spread. Place it in a full bleed spread, or if the book size you’ve chosen is going to cut off key areas of your photo, then choose a container size smaller than the spread.



Another way to establish a focal point when you have more than one photo in your layout is to display one or two larger photos with smaller supporting photos.



A big pet peeve of mine is when companies provide very boring, unimaginative stock layouts based on the number of photos you want to lay out. If you place your photos into a layout of eight equally sized photo boxes, which photo is the focal point? Not to say that a layout like that would never work, but picking one or two photos to highlight tells your viewers the focus of your design.

3) Vary your spreads

I have done a “portfolio” type book where I only placed a single photo per page, and that makes sense with that type of book, but if you’re doing a book of an event like a birthday or graduation, you’re most likely going to place more than one photo per spread. Try to vary your spreads so the viewer doesn’t get bored. With that said, I often reutilize a layout more than once, but scatter it throughout the book. Similarly you can take your layout and reconfigure or make a slight change to it so it doesn’t look exactly the same. By reusing layouts, you can quickly design your spreads. The key is to not bore the viewer.

4) Tell a Story

Just as with any other book, your photo book is meant to tell a story, especially when making a photo book of your vacation photos for example. When you show off your vacation photos, you’re sharing your experiences with your family and friends. You want to make them feel like they were on the trip with you – seeing the sights, taking in the picturesque views. Think about how you want to tell your story. The typical event-based book will likely be chronological. But don’t be afraid to break from that, by grouping photos that make sense together for impact. For example the following layout highlights all the delicious food we ate on vacation!


5) Do your Prep Work Ahead of Time

Designing your pages will be easier, if you haven’t upload all 1000 photos from your event or trip into the photo book design software. You’ll easily lose your mind going through all of them. I’ve found that in a 100-page book, about 300 photos are more than enough and even then I don’t end up using all of the photos. Edit down the number of photos to the best ones, or the ones essential to telling the story you wish to convey. Also make sure you’ve done your post processing using your own software before uploading, as there are typically very few in-program photo-editing tools.

The author is the blogger behind Photo Book Girl – a resource for finding the best photo book companies, the latest photo book deals and helpful tips on designing your own photo book. For more tips, check out her ongoing series: “How to Make Your Own Digital Photo Book“ and her prior guest post for DPS on the same topic. You can also find her on Facebook discussing all things photo book!

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Some Older Comments

  • Lynn Chappo August 27, 2013 05:53 am

    Hey there! Quick question that's entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My weblog looks weird when viewing from my iphone. I'm trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to correct this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share. Thank you!

  • Sherwood May 24, 2013 12:36 am

    Very nice article.

    If you prefer to create a photo book on your iPad or Android tablet, and want to customize the layout as this blog suggested, rather than using PC/MAC, there is a simpler way to do that - Tapsbook. (Tap-able photo book). http://tapsbook.com. Tapsbook automate the entire photobook creation process starting from photo upload, and because the photobook is stored on the Cloud, it is instant-on when you share to your friends, there is nothing for your friends to download to view them...

    Disclaimer: we are the team created Tapsbook - Try it and let us know your comments

  • Rosemary October 29, 2012 09:02 am

    I would like to make a photo book for my brother and sister-in-law's 40th wedding anniversary. It would reflect their marriage, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents (they are deceased), vacations, holidays and more. Since I do not know what I am doing, any suggestions on how to accomplish this task for someone who is clueless would be greatly appreciated. Would Wal Mart be an option or another company for a beginner & are their sample books online to use as a guide?

  • Rushad October 24, 2012 09:24 pm

    Hi! If you're looking to make a photobook but don't have the time or patience to make one (it does take a LOT of time), check us out at www.pikperfect.com.

    Our team of photobook experts custom-designs your albums to make each one of them unique and personalized to your pictures. We're not restricted by templates or themes, so just tell us what you want and then sit back and relax while we design your beautiful book!

    Our book are all professionally printed and bound by a leading German book-maker.

    (PS: I'm a co-founder at PikPerfect.com. Would be happy to answer any questions you may have).

  • Rekash Sinanin August 3, 2012 08:02 am

    Use indesign.....

  • Laura July 28, 2012 08:06 am

    Hi Kayleigh,

    What size photo book would you normally use for filt pictures (i.e. March- July pictures). I would try to have pictures to a certain number to fit the size? Also, for quality and cost would you recommend Adorama, Blueb, or Shutterfly? Thanks for your tips. They are helpful!

  • Scottsdale Wedding Photographer February 11, 2012 06:57 am

    Thanks for the tips. Book design is and has always been the harder part of what I do. I look forward to trying out some of your suggestions.

  • Jeets February 7, 2012 08:12 am

    Thanks for the tips. They are easy to remember :)

  • Photo Book Girl February 2, 2012 05:27 am

    Hi Kayleigh, for a book that size (I'm assuming 20 cm which is roughly 8 x 8 inches). I probably wouldn't go more than 4 to 6 photos per page at most, if that. At that size about 200 photos would be a good amount to choose from but still be manageable. You could always upload more if you find that you need to. I have some more tips in my other DPS post and in my multi part series (see the tagline at the end of the post above). You'll find a lot of more detailed info that would be too long to include here. Best of luck with your book!

  • Kayleigh January 29, 2012 01:51 pm

    Hi Photobook girl!
    Great advice...I'm thinking of making a Photobook for my dad's 50th and my brother's 21st..how many photos do you recommend for a 20x20 book of 26 or 40 pages?! I'm clueless!

  • Photo Book Girl January 26, 2012 06:32 pm

    Hi all! I'm glad there's been interest in my post. I've noticed there's been a few questions about software. Basically, there are two options: 1) Use the company's software; or 2) Use your own software. The latter will give you the most flexibility and will keep your options open as to which company you use to print your book. That will also give you the best chance of getting a good deal as you can follow the sales and promos and not be tied to one company. Photoshop is probably a common choice for creating photo book layouts but I agree with Lina from firsthand experience that it can be a pretty tedious process. Professional design tools such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress which are meant for designing layouts, would make the process easier. In any event, creating a set of templates for yourself will help you save time, but it will require an initial investment of time to set up your stock layouts. Once you do that however you can reuse them for different projects and just tweak them when necessary. There are also companies like Creative Memories, Lumapix, and MyPhotoCreations that sell photo book making software that have a more user-friendly interface with drag and drop capability that makes designing go a bit faster. iPhoto and Aperture are available for Mac users. I would suggest trying out the free trials where possible to see if you like the functionality. Currently I'm working on using InDesign and seeing how that goes. As for using the photo book company's free software, I have a tool on my site that tells you which companies have fully customizable layouts versus fixed templates. http://www.photobookgirl.com/software/ You can also narrow down the companies on other criteria as well. Hope that helps!

  • Peter Davis January 25, 2012 03:36 pm

    www.blurb.com is a great service for getting photo books printed. It has a full online tool for layout. No idea on the quality of the prints. They also have plugins for Photoshop, In Design and Lightroom

  • Lina Faller January 24, 2012 07:55 am

    Great article!

    I have made a few photobooks, and so far, I've always done them in Photoshop. However, it's quite a hassle to open every single photo in Photoshop and then drag and drop it on my page template (especially if your computer isn't the newest).

    Does anyone have any recommendations for software that helps with the layout?


  • Annie Wong January 20, 2012 02:07 pm

    Its a pleasant surprise to see you as the guest contributor as I have been following your blog for sometime. Thanks to your practical advice, I have started my own creation of photobooks. Cheers !

  • Suraj Majumdar January 19, 2012 12:53 pm

    Good tips! But can u name some photo editing software, which will allow me to create a photo book?

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog January 17, 2012 03:51 pm

    This is going to come in handy, because I'll be creating photo books this year for Mother's Day and Father's Day. Thanks for sharing what you know!

  • ArianaMurphy January 17, 2012 03:24 am

    Thanks, for the article, PhotoBookGirl! I have been thinking about doing an actual photo book, and your tips will help make it better. :)

  • ArianaMurphy January 17, 2012 03:23 am

    I set up and printed a book of poetry written by a friend, illustrated with some of my photos. It was a simple set-up (pic/poem then poem/pic) but it was very effective, and showed off my photos beautifully. It was printed at Blurb, very easy to use, and the result was gorgeous!

  • JohnP January 16, 2012 11:09 am

    I prefer to prepare the pages in Photoshop (I use P. Elements) rather than use the templates provided by the photobook program and just transfer the completed page to the book program. I think it looks more professional, it gives you much more scope for page design and you then have a photoshop file for each page you can also transfer to DVD, slideshows, etc.

    You need to setup a template page in Photoshop of the page size for the book allowing space for binding. You need the file size to be one acceptable to the photobook program. You can include a border of your choice and different page colours in your templates. It's then just a simple matter of dragging photos onto the template page and adjusting them using the full power of photoshop (layers etc). I add text ex word/PDF - a bit fiddly but good for large blocks of text but you could just use Photoshop text. When complete drag the pages into the book program, check they fit ok and you are done.

  • raghavendra January 16, 2012 04:12 am

    every photographer needs a photo book!


  • Barry E.Warren January 16, 2012 04:02 am

    Thanks for the idea of photo books, and the lesson on the subject. It was very well written. I'll have to start my photo book.