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10 Top Terrific Tips on Creating Your First Photobook

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This post is part of a series called Printing.
How to Photograph and Create the Perfect Christmas Card
Finishing Your Photographs: Picking Your Medium

In the last few years, it seems that one of the latest photographic fashions has been to creating your own photobook. Now widely available through online services and in-store facilities, it has become an extremely popular choice for photographers wishing to preserve their work in print.

Putting together your first book can present you with a vast array of choices that can be slightly daunting, so hopefully these tips will guide you through the decision-making process and set you on your way to creating your first photobook.

Step 1 - Motive

First up, you need to work out why you'd like to put together a photo book, as this will affect how you progress with the project and layout of the book. Is it going to accompany a body of work that is to be exhibited? Are you planning on selling it? Might you want to send it to potential publishers or galleries? Or are you simply just looking to share it with friends and family?

Next, it's important to decide on a software programme with which to put together your book. There are many online sites that enable you to download photobook layout software, such as Blurb, but it's worth having a look around, trying a few out and working out which one works best for you.


Photo by rthakrar

Step 2 - What Type of Book?

Once you have your motive and software set up, it's time to begin thinking about the actual type of book that you want to produce. This will be influenced partly by the purpose of the book, the theme of the content and also the budget available.

Traditionally, photobooks are hardback and come with a slip cover, but there are no constraints, it's your book, so feel free to present it how you wish, whether that be A3 hardback or A5 paperback. Think carefully about the type of photos that you want to include, whether they'll be better suited to a larger layout on fewer pages, or whether you want a pocketsize collection of work.


Photo by Halasi Zsolt

Step 3 - Themes and Content

The best photobooks have a cohesive theme, they are not just a 'best of' collection of photographs by a certain photographer. A body of work taken with a specific motive or subject matter will work well, or you could work with shots taken within a specific time frame, for example, a shot a day for a year. It's important that the photography included has this restriction upon it in order to give it structure and coherence. It will force you to work more carefully and will create a more considered finished product.


Photo by Halasi Zsolt

Step 4 - Image Selection

Careful image selection is absolutely vital when putting together your first book. The inclination is to include all your best work in order to produce a book of the highest standard, but it is important to remember that as a book, it needs to have a rhythm and completeness that tells the whole story.

If you just include your best shots, it's likely that a lot of background will be missing from the book. It's important to build up a context for the stronger images by including what you may regard as slightly weaker images. However, I'm not saying just to include anything and everything. It's right to be selective and critical of the work you are considering for the book.


Photo by FarTripper

Step 5 - Image order - Telling the story

So once you've selected the images that you want to include, you now need to consider the order in which they are to be presented. As I mentioned before, the book should almost tell a story, so consider the flow of the 'narrative' that the pictures offer, don't just stick all the landscapes at the start and the macro shots in the middle, you need to construct a balance of images that will inform and engage the reader and pull them into the scenes.

One option is to put the shots in order as they were taken, which will offer a natural progression, however, you may feel that certain images from the selection compliment and inform one another and would be better on adjacent pages.


Photo by OmegaForest

Step 6 - Layout

So you've got your shots and they're all in order, now it's time to decide how you want to present them on the page. There are a surprising amount of options, so it's important to take your time and experiment with different layouts before settling on a final selection.

Firstly, consider whether you want your images to be 'full bleed' or have a border around them. Full bleed simply means that the image fills the page. If you select this option, be sure when constructing the book to extend the image and overlap the edge of the page to ensure that when it gets cut, a thin white line doesn't get left along the edge. If you select a border option, think about how much space you want to leave around the image in a similar way to mounting a print.

Next you'll need to decide on your two page layout. Traditionally, the image will be on the right hand page, leaving the left hand page blank with space for a small caption if required. By no means do you have to adhere to this, you may well want to have images on every page, but whatever you decide, keep it simple and be consistent. An amalgamation of shot sizes and layouts with a book makes for a very unsatisfying read!


Photo by awrose

Step 7 - To Include Text, or Not To Include Text?

Captions are by no means compulsory within a photobook, it is only necessary to include them if you think they will add something that the photograph does not already offer. These details may be a location, name, date, details of the event or the type of print. Don't repeat what is already obvious from the photo. If you do decide to include captions, make sure you incorporate it within the layout, don't just stick it in wherever it will fit, it needs to be discrete and understated using a font that suits the style of the book as a whole.

Step 8 - The Cover Shot

The image that you choose to put on the front of your book will be the first point of contact for any reader. It needs to be an engaging image that invites the reader in. It should also be of high enough quality in order to excite them enough to want to see more. If you can, find an image that most fully represents the theme of book so that it is obvious from first glance what the book is about without the reader having to read any blurb or captions on the back.


Photo by Mel Toledo

Step 9 - Convert It To An Ebook?

First and foremost, you are creating a book that will be printed, that you can hold in your hands, that you can give to friends, family, photography enthusiasts who can behold your work in all it's visual glory presented as it should be, on paper. However, with today's modernity being dictated by technology, you do of course have the option to present it online as an ebook.

For the purists this will be a major faux pas, this will be significantly cheaper as there are no printing costs and has the potential to reach far more readers than a print version. So by no means am I suggesting that you should only create an ebook, your photographic work deserves to be printed, but it is an option which may expand your horizons and make your work more accessible to many.


Photo by OmegaForest

Step 10 - Give it a try!

So there we have it, a simple guide to putting together your first photobook. It may seem like there are a lot of processes to go through, but the careful consideration required will be all the more rewarding once you have your first collection of work printed and in your hands. I strongly encourage you to try and collate your work in a photobook. It will document the work that you are undertaking and mark significant points in your photographic journey.

If you know of any other tips or resources for creating photobooks, please share them in the comments!


Photo by Halasi Zsolt
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