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