Show your photos like a Pro with a Photo eBook

Show your photos like a Pro with a Photo eBook

The following post is co-authored by DPS author Neil Creek and his wife Naomi. Naomi is a graphic designer with twenty one years experience as a layout professional. They recently colaborated on a photo book – A Roadtrip Through Southeast Australia. This post draws upon that experience.

You can give your photos a more professional appearance, show your work to a wider audience and add impact through story, by creating an electronic photo book from your work.

The Solo Photo Book Month, or SoFoBoMo project called on photographers to “make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time.” Neil loves participating in photography projects, and we were planning a short roadtrip right in the middle of the project window, so it was a perfect opportunity. We’ll use this book as a case study.

Why a Photo eBook?

  • It forces you to select your very best photos
  • It presents your best photos in a neat and attractive format
  • You can tell a story and increase your photos’ impact
  • People are more likely to look at a small collection of high quality images than a big unfiltered gallery
  • Being in a self-contained book format makes it easy for people to pass around to their friends
  • You have complete control over the presentation, look and associated information rather than being tied to a web site’s style
  • You sound so much cooler saying “Would you like to see my book?” than “Would you like my flickr address?”
  • It’s something novel and will make people more likely to remember your work

Why Electronic Format?

  • It’s essentially free, a high quality printed book can be very expensive per copy
  • It’s easy to put together without worrying about the often mysterious demands of print
  • It can be done with cheap or free tools that anyone can download
  • You can include interactive elements such as hotlinks and multimedia content
  • You can reproduce and distribute it with little effort
  • For the above reason it can be seen by so many more people
  • You can easily make revisions or corrections, even once the book has “gone live”

Where to start

Image Selection
Selecting photos for your book can be challenging, however choosing the best ones out of a group is important and will really make your book shine. For SoFoBoMo, Naomi selected images that were the sharpest, most colourful and had the best composition. Once the images were selected, she then roughly grouped them into destinations, for example, the best Twelve Apostles photos.

Design Elements
Putting images onto a white page with nothing else can be very boring, so adding some design elements will help bring your book to life and give it the personality you want it to have. Colours, lines, borders and text are some of the things you need to decide on before laying your book out. However, balance this with simplicity and subtlety or the book may become visually overwhelming. Think about the mood you want to set for the viewer. Muted, dark colours, such as used in our book can give a professional, calm feel. Brighter colours would suggest a fun and fresh feel. In general though, neutral colours or white will show off your photos to their best potential.

Given that a photo eBook is made to showcase your photos, type is generally best kept to a minimum. Small captions for images are nice and viewers often like to know what each photo is about. You may wish to have one or two introductory pages with some text to explain your inspiration for the book, perhaps include a map if you are showing travel photos. It’s also a good idea to have a small paragraph with your copyright message. If you want to tell a bit of a story along with your photos, small strips or blocks of text can be used in the design.

Laying it all out
Now that you have your best images and design elements worked out, it’s time to lay them all out. The size and orientation of the page you decide on will determine the shape and amount of images that will fit on it. If you have grouped your images, for example by destination, this can make laying out a little simpler.

Example layout process

As an example, this is how Naomi laid out the spread featuring the Twelve Apostles:

  • Four images from this location were chosen
  • Naomi wanted to feature an image on a whole page, so the best of the four was placed on the left
  • One of the remaining three was a vertical image, so it was placed on the left of the right page, the same height as the photo on the left page
  • The remaining two photos were horizontal, so she split the remaining space between the two
  • For the rest of the book, a similar method was used lay out the images

There are endless layout options and it does come down to personal taste, but some important things to consider are:

  • Make the most of the space, tiny images are not going to “wow” the viewer
  • Use similar margins throughout the book to tighten the design
  • Choose shapes to suit the photos you are using
  • Line up the edges of images with each other to give a clean and balanced look
  • Have a variety of image layouts throughout the book. Having images in the same spot on every page can be boring.

Here are a few example layouts:


For laying out the book for SoFoBoMo, Naomi used Adobe InDesign. This is an exceptional layout program with enormous flexibility and tools to get precise placement of objects and text. Other layout programs you might try are Microsoft publisher or a free one called Scribus.


Now that your book is all laid out, it is ready to publish. There’s no best way to do this, but the most popular format for ebooks is Adobe PDF. We have seen other books published with Flash or HTML, but for our book we chose PDF. We own Adobe Acrobat, a tool for creating PDF documents, but there are cheaper or free options for creating PDFs which can be found online.

If you are creating a PDF book, you will need to adjust the export settings to specify the resolution of the final PDF. Because the book will be viewed on computer screens, change your settings for images to 150dpi or there may be a preset called ‘ebook’ which will be suitable too. Now you have your PDF, if you have Acrobat Professional, you can open it to add interactivity and reduce the file size. Making your document as small as possible is important for the viewer who has to download it. In Acrobat, you will find a feature called “Reduce file size” under the “Document” menu. Select this and it will remove any unneeded bits from the file which can substantially reduce the file size but preserves the resolution. If you don’t have Acrobat for this step, it doesn’t matter, it just means your file will be larger. Now you can upload your book for the world to see!

Once your book has been published and is online for the world to see, get the word out there! Blog about the book, link to it in your Facebook status, tweet about it. If you’re going to tweet the book, make sure you hashtag the tweet with #photo so that it will be seen by many more people! To read more about why photographers should hashtag their tweets, you can read Neil’s earlier post on the subject.

Our Book

If you would like to see our photo book, you can download it by clicking on the cover below. We hope you enjoy it!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Neil Creek is a professional photographer from Melbourne, Australia. He has been shooting with a DSLR since 2004, and blogging about his experiences since 2006. Neil has authored five ebooks and a video training course, all designed to help others improve their photography. View Neil's folio at his home page. Learn about his publications here.

Some Older Comments

  • Notoca March 29, 2012 09:43 pm


    I could not access your PDF Photobook on your trip.The web page comes up empty.


  • Tom Leparskas March 16, 2012 01:47 am

    Hey, not getting linked to your pdf book - is the link still valid? Thanks, Tom

  • elfpix April 28, 2011 09:12 am

    Never mind. I see it's not under books, it's under PDFs. How do I make it into a secure PDF? Do I have you buy Acrobat Pro to do that?

  • elfpix April 28, 2011 08:22 am

    OK. I've got a printable PDF from InDesign CS3, it's been through blurb. It's 300 dpi.

    How do I get it so that I can read it on my iPod Touch?

  • Vilmis @ World Photos October 15, 2009 07:27 pm

    @Naomi & Neil, it also comes down to what size screen you have :)
    I will try not to forget next year to join SoFoBoMo. Should be fun :)

  • Naomi Creek June 28, 2009 10:54 am

    Hi Chris

    Please have a read of my comments further up the page about the layout. One other reason for the layout too is that it is already in a perfect layout for getting printed. Just re export at high resolution and its done, no relaying out.


  • Chris June 27, 2009 11:03 pm

    Kind of wondering at the format you have chosen, seems a rather bizar way of laying something out, especialy as its for display on monitor, counter intuitve would be the kindest words I can think of.

  • RoyReddy June 27, 2009 04:42 am

    I agree - this is a very creative display approach, I have begun experimenting with this also.

    Noone has raised the issue of Photo/Image ownership and potential theft.
    For family ... 'here's my trip' it not a large issue == But for Sales materials it is

    Not a concern with the target audience?
    Or are the images very low dpi and so not really usable execpt in the PDF Book
    or does PDF provide no-copy, no theft protection?


  • Brigitta Cuadros June 27, 2009 03:15 am

    I love the idea of the photo book, but worry that as my photos are not copyright that anyone can use and profit by them. Any suggestions?

  • Melissa Punti June 26, 2009 02:52 pm

    My family and I are currently living abroad. I did this for Christmas gifts for the grandparents and they loved them. It was inexpensive and easy to do! Also, I enjoyed choosing my best photos of my son for the project. I used Check it out! ;)

  • Shannon June 26, 2009 12:57 pm

    great idea! can anyone tell me where i can create my own?

  • Christopher June 26, 2009 04:45 am

    I wish I knew about this sooner, I would have probably given it a try.

  • Kristine June 26, 2009 02:52 am

    Fabulous book ! Thanks for sharing. Now I'm inspired, must give this a try.

  • Kathy Burkman June 22, 2009 11:12 pm

    This is a great idea, and one I will definitely try. Love the series on the Remarkable Rocks. They are, indeed. Thank you for the information. I never cease to be inspired by what I read on this blog.

  • Barry Finlay June 22, 2009 09:46 pm

    There are some amazing images in that book. That is a great idea and to be honest I have never thought of doing that. It is a great way for potential clients to get a hold of your work and distribute it amongst colleagues and friends, digital word-of-mouth and like you said it looks a lot more professional that giving someone a URL. I will definitely be giving this a try. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Naomi & Neil Creek June 22, 2009 10:44 am

    @Martin & Vilmis - Thanks for the feedback. Yes, you have a point with the wide layout, the layout could certainly be done as single pages or narrower pages resulting in larger viewable images. Two of the layout examples above show a narrower design which could be used.

    The reason we did it this way was that each spread was displaying a destination, so telling a bit of a story The wider shape of each page lends itself to a landscape image, so to us this shape made sense. If the pages were more square shape, you wouldn't be able to maximise the space of each page. We also felt this was a good medium by showing a large picture and smaller supporting images. If you reduce your view to fit the screen, this eliminates the scroll bars. We felt this design still showed the images large enough for the viewer. It really comes down to personal taste and how you like to view images.

    Naomi & Neil :)

  • Vilmis June 22, 2009 08:59 am

    Nice ebook, but don't you think it should have smaller width? I have dual monitors, so there is no problem to see all images in full size, but usually I am skipping photo galleries which have horizontal scroll bars.

    BTW how can I see panorama on page 18? Or is it just snapshot from panorama viewer?

  • RoyReddy June 22, 2009 12:53 am

    I am keen to try an e-book but stuck with the InDesign layout.
    Can anyone point to a source to download the 'Example layouts' for InDesign.?

    thnx Roy

  • Nitin June 21, 2009 11:50 pm

    You have rightly said that PDF is the right format for any ebook. I even create PDF photo albums. I think mailing photographs to friend in PDF format is better than sharing it on online applications.
    Contenta Images2PDF

  • Retesh Patel June 21, 2009 02:41 pm

    Wow, very nice idea!!! Thanks for sharing it

  • Matt Cauthron June 21, 2009 05:27 am

    An excellent product to sell to clients!

    Apple's Aperture let you create a very nice hard or soft cover book right from with in it's digital work flow.

    Check an example @

  • Reznor June 21, 2009 12:38 am

    Really good idea, I was thinking about creating a photo book but since I can't afford printing a large number of them, I just never actually tried. This is a good alternative and I wonder why I didn't think of that. Thanks for the tip.

  • Mike Duggan June 20, 2009 09:18 pm


    Beautiful book and a very nice idea. I will be traveling to Germany and Italy this July and this would be a great way to share the road trip.


  • Martin June 20, 2009 02:44 pm

    Great idea, but because it's designed as an ebook, I think a narrower pagewidth would be more appropriate. When viewing at 100% magnification, I had to scroll left and right on each page to view all images (and that's on a screen at 1600x1200 resolution). Reducing the zoom to view the entire page width results in the images being too small to properly appreciate them.

    Using a narrower page width would allow the entire width of the page to be viewed on the screen at once, and would remove the need to scroll left and right, allowing the viewer to just scroll down to the next page.

  • Sherri Meyer June 20, 2009 08:10 am

    Neil - this is very inspiring! I published an ebook several years ago. Technology has come a long way since then.

    Your book is beautiful and I wish you the best of luck with it.


  • photoeffect June 20, 2009 07:21 am

    In fact the most difficult part, it's to find the right layout.

  • Mandy June 20, 2009 06:47 am

    There're just like portable portfolio's aren't they!

    I'm in the process of putting my photo book together for SoFoBoMo at the moment, and I'm really enjoying doing it. I've never produced an ebook before so my learning curve has been to do with creating the pdf itself. I was a graphic designer so the layout side isn't a problem, and I did use QuarkXpress (don't have a copy anymore) a lot so I'm hoping other design packages are similar in layout...

    I better get a move on I've only got 10 days left...

  • Brent June 20, 2009 05:25 am

    Also, as a recomendation. In Adobe Acrobat, make sure to have it open in 100%. That way, the opening images don't look distorted or fuzzy. I believe if you click: File>>>Document Properties>>Magnification, then choose 100%.

  • Federico June 20, 2009 02:21 am

    Great idea! I'm going to give it a try!