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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

Making A Photobook

I love photobooks! As an artist who uses visuals as the preferred way to communicate and learn, I have always loved books with lots of pictures in them, so it should be no surprise that I love this kind of book. It consists of mostly images and very little writing or reading is involved. Recently, I have become more and more interested in making my own photobooks. Putting images together in a book is much more difficult than just the simple act of physically putting photos in a book. Don’t get me wrong, making a photobook can be a fun project, but there is a lot more involved than what you see as the finished product. The best books are the ones that are well thought out and planned down to the smallest detail. Of course, like anything else that is worth doing well, this too requires an investment of time and effort.

Similar to exhibiting a body of artwork, the planning of a photobook uses some of the same criteria. A theme is used to link all the images in the book from beginning to end. This theme acts as common ground that connects all the photographs. Curating the images is a crucial step to figure out the order that the images will be presented within the book that best supports the theme. Determining which images show well together or what specific order images need to be placed to make sense is also known as the flow. Curation, or in this case organization, can have a major impact on how a narrative is built and what the narrative is. The narrative or story that the images depict should be clear for the reader to understand. The theme and any associated text, such as image titles, can support and add clarity to the narrative.

Once a theme and narrative is determined for the book, the selection process can begin, by choosing images to include. I recommend starting with a larger selection of photos and down size from there. Knowing how big or small your book will be, meaning the number of pages in your book, will help to determine how many images you will need. The format or style in which you layout the images across the pages will also help to determine the number of images required.

To design the layout and format, look at other photobooks that your favourite photographers and artists have made, to find your preference and get an idea of how you will layout the images in your own book. Will you have one image per page, one large image across a spread of 2 pages, several images to a single page, will there be a lot of clean white space around images, do photos bleed off the edge of the page or will you use a combination of these options throughout the layout of the book. Another important consideration in designing the format of the book, is whether or not the book will be divided up. Will there be chapters or sections that act as natural breaking points throughout the book. At each of these points will there be a small amount of text such as a brief paragraph at the beginning of each chapter to describe what that section is about or will the text in the book be limited to labels that accompany each photograph indicating the title of the image and the year it was taken.

Once you have reached this point in the planning stage of your photobook, you can gather all the images. Carefully go over each image to make sure you are happy with the way it looks. If you are not satisfied with an image, now is the time to edit the image before you begin to assemble your book. Because these images will be printed, it is usually recommended that image files are saved as jpegs with a resolution of at least 300ppi (or pixels per inch). Depending on what company will be printing your book, guidelines may vary and it would be in your best interest to contact the printer or visit their website to see what they recommend for image file types and sizes for use in your book.

If you are using an online printing company that makes photobooks and other image related products, the company may have their own editing software for photobooks. Generally they are fairly easy to use, but initially, it will take a little while to get familiar with the program layout, find tools and other controls. Often there are book page templates that you can select and edit as needed and photos or text boxes can be dragged and dropped into place. Making a photobook can be very time consuming and I have found it beneficial to take a break and come back to the project with fresh eyes. Most online editing software will let you set up an account and save your book project, so that you can come back to it at a later time to continue editing.

Once you are finished assembling your book, proofread by going over every detail to ensure that there are no errors and that you are completely satisfied. To proofread, look at all the images to make sure they are in the correct spot on each page and that the images are in the correct order that you intended. Go over all the text in the book to ensure the same font type, colour and size is consistent and that text is found in a similar location throughout the book. For example, all image titles on each page could be located on the bottom corner next to the page number under the image and all brief paragraph descriptions fall on the first page of a new chapter below the chapter number and title. Remember to also look for spelling and grammatical errors when proofreading text. Ensure that you are pleased with the design and layout of the book and even go the extra mile, by asking someone else to proofread your book. They may find issues that you have overlooked. Finally, when you are 100% satisfied, save the project and come back to it the following day and repeat all the proofreading steps over again. It can’t hurt to double and triple check your work, but if you miss a mistake and the book is printed with errors, it will bother you and look unprofessional.

Finally, after proofreading until you are cross-eyed, save your photobook project and place your order! If you are thinking about making your own photobook, I hope the tips in this blog are helpful.

Here is a look at the result of my first photobook. I really enjoyed the process and overall experience. I would definitely consider making more books in the future.

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