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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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