Using Lightroom to create a photo book with Photobox.

Closescapes book cover

Closescapes book cover

A few months ago I had an offer from Photobox, a UK based digital print provider, to get a nice 70% discount on photobooks. As I had often thought of making a photobook I took the plunge and paid for 2 A4 books in advance. The offer allowed you 3 months to use the credit, and I decided that was a good timeline for making the book. The book credit allowed 100 pages and included removal of the Photobox logo from the back of the book. The price for one of these is normally around £100, the offer I took up gave me two for around £56.

When I looked at the Photobox software for laying out the book I discovered some of the options were not ideal for my purposes. For example the boxes for placing photos were in different formats to the normal 2 to 3 ratio from the camera. I had a play at trying to resize the boxes but was soon thinking that shuffling every picture into place in a 100 page book was going to be unworkable for me, and there was a chance that the shuffling would result in small differences in the layout on the page.

So I searched on the web to see if I could discover answers to creating a book in a simpler fashion. After reading through dozens of pages I was getting worried, I just didn’t find anything that sounded like it would help. Then I found a post from someone who had used Photoshop Lightroom to make correct sized pages for Photobox, and had then used the Lightroom print module to lay out photos on the pages. The key seemed to be the page size setting, you needed to use 3366 X 2646 pixels.

First off, you need to select the photos for your book. With a hundred pages to fill, at first this seemed to be an easy task. With thousands of photos available, finding enough to fill the book wasn’t the problem, it was choosing a selection to represent different subjects and areas. This is where Lightrooms  collections were invaluable.

CollectionsI decided on the twelve broad categories shown in the grab of the collections panel above. As can be seen there was a split for UK and New Zealand, and further divisions for some key subject areas. I’d like to say it was a simple matter to find images, but I soon found myself struggling with the decision making process. When you have hundreds of photos of bluebells or autumn colour, which do you choose?

What I decided to do was to overload the selections initially, then cull images when they didn’t really fit together or follow nicely in the layouts. So, the next step was to decide on some layouts. Not wanting to complicate things too much I settled on four main layouts, and got to work setting them up in Lightrooms Print module. Each is described as follows.

Horizontal single image layout.

Book 1 H

Horizontal single image

An obvious and simple choice, allowing the showcase of one image on the page. As can be seen from the Layout tab, the image is positioned slightly above the centre of the page using a bottom margin of 1.00 cm. This leaves a little more space below the picture, which could be used to add text, and feels nicer to me than a dead centred or bullseye positioning.

Two vertical images layout.

Book 2 V Fin

Two vertical images

Once again, this is an obvious and simple choice. I shoot quite a lot more images in the vertical format as against horizontal, so would be using this layout quite a bit. You can see the different layout settings needed to achieve this result, again keeping the images above centre.

Three vertical images layout.

Book 3 V Fin

Three vertical images

This is a less obvious choice, creating a nice triptych effect on the page. Initially I was unsure about this layout, as quite a lot of the page is lost to white space. But it soon became a nice addition, creating a bit more variety in the pages. These were very nice laid out over a two page spread, and, if anything, the extra white space proved effective to my eyes.

Four horizontal images layout.

Book 4 H Fin

Four horizontal images

This was my final main choice of layout. I was concerned that the images would be a little on the small side, but it allowed the use of more images, and in the final result they are actually quite a good size with plenty of detail. What did become noticeable to me, in the printed book, is that there is perhaps too much space between the top and bottom rows, pushing the top row up a bit too much. I would change the settings, using the layout below, to correct for this if I print another book in the future.

Four horizontal images layout with changed settings.

Book 4 H Corrected Fin

Four horizontal images layout with changed settings

As mentioned above, the different settings used here leave less space between the two rows, giving the page a more balanced look. Changing the top margin from 0.50 cm to 1.00 cm and clearing the vertical spacing was all that was needed here. Actually I’m not sure the vertical spacing should have made a difference, maybe that was a bogus setting.

Panoramic layouts.

Book Pano Fin


I did include a few panoramic frames in the book, and really just changed the width of the single horizontal layout cell size to suit. These were made to suit the particular image, as there were only a few I didn’t worry too much about saving a layout for them.
Single vertical layouts.
To add single vertical images I simply used the single horizontal layout. This positioned the images nicely and there was no need to create a different layout for them.
What about text?
Well I started adding text to the pages and found it distracting, almost ruining the look and feel of the clear layout of simple pictures on the page. As the book was more about the images I ended up deleting the text making the book more like an album. The only pages with text are the first page, second page introduction, and the last page with website and blog details. Sometimes less is more, and when people ask you about a particular image it’s nice to talk about it, and find out why they like it.
So how did the finished book turn out?
Probably the best way to show the result is with some photos of the finished book. But, I have to say I am very pleased with the end product. Even though there are only four main layouts, plus single vertical frames and a few panoramics, the finished article seems nice and clean to view. Leaving out the text seems to have worked well for that, obviously others will have different plans for their own books, but it certainly worked OK for me.
There is one fault with the quality of the printing, and that is firmly down to user error. Some fool included a web sized image in one of the layouts, must’ve added the wrong one to the collection, but even so it hasn’t turned out terrible. No one who has looked at the book has mentioned it, yet! And I’ve neglected to point it out…..I think that Lightrooms Print module may have attempted to upsize the photo to suit the final page size. And if so, it wasn’t the disaster it could have been.
I like it. Everyone who has seen it likes it too. That’s pretty much all you need.

Single horizontal

Single horizontal 2

Twin horizontal spread

Single vertical four horizontal spread

Two vertical

Two vertical 2

Three vertical

Three vertical 2

Four horizontal

Four horizontal 2


The binding looks OK. Will it last? Only time will tell.

Close up

This is a fairly big close up of a vertical image printed using the single horizontal layout, the width is around four inches, or ten centimetres.  Looks good to me, remember you won’t be viewing the book this closely.

detail at 1:2 in Lightroom

This is a 1:2 zoom in Lightroom, showing the dot pattern of the print. I have examined this page closely, using glasses (I do need reading glasses), and the dot pattern is invisible to my eye. Compare it to the previous close up and you should get an idea of the detail.

Overall I think the end product is very good, and am pleasantly surprised. And at the offer price it was a bargain. Not sure I would get one at the real price of around £100 though.

There are some other settings in the Print module of Lightroom that you need to know to create a book like this, and they follow below. I expect you can get very similar results using other online photo book suppliers using Lightroom this way. All you are doing is printing the separate pages as JPEGs to  create a book. It saved me plenty of time and frustration, I’m sure.

Print module settings.

Layout Style and Image Settings.

Layout Style and Image Settings

Layouts – already included for the different page settings above.

Guides – not used.

Page – background colour was white, obviously.

Print Job.

Print job

Print job

I can’ t really describe the process of selecting the images and deciding which worked together. It really must be a personal decision and there is just no way I can explain that. I also would struggle to remember myself what the process was, as it took many hours over many days to get it sorted out. There are pictures missing from the book that I really should’ve put in, but it would’ve meant removing others. Some pictures really worked well together IMHO, others needed to be on a single page. If you plan to create one of these books you would do well to start planning well in advance. The three months I had for this project went whizzing by…..

If you have any questions after reading this post please feel free to add a comment. I will try to reply as soon as I can.

Posted in Computer Help, Lightroom, Photo Book, Photobox, Review, Software | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Dust Spotting in Lightroom – Nice and easy trick to find the spots.

Dust spots on the filter over the sensor of your digital camera will show up in your photos, and can be a problem to fix. Adobe Lightroom has a straightforward spot removal tool in the develop module, and it works well. But it can be a problem finding the spots to remove. Here’s a nice and easy trick to help find those hard to see dust specks in Lightroom.

In this image we have a snow scene zoomed in to 1:1 to look for dust spots, there is one there but it is not exactly obvious.

LR Spot 1

Snow Scene Zoomed in at 1:1 in Lightroom Develop

So let’s have another look. This time with the Detail Masking selected and holding down the Alt key to view the affected areas of the mask.

LR Spot 2

Snow Scene at 1:1 with Detail Mask view in Lightroom

Hello, what’s that strange halo shaped mark below the tree branch? That’s right it’s dust!

All you need to do now is click on the spot removal tool (or press “Q” the keyboard shortcut), position the spot removal circle over the dust and click. It should be gone.

Here’s a quick overview of the process I use to remove spots in Lightroom.

  1. Open the selected image in Develop (Shortcut key “D”).
  2. Zoom in to 1:1 using the Navigation panel on the left (Shortcut key “Z”). Make sure that 1:1 is selected in the Navigation panel if using the shortcut key, Lightroom uses the last zoom level you used, so if it was set at 1:2 this will be the result. You must be at 1:1 to view the masking.
  3. Use the Home key on your keyboard to position the zoom at the top left of your image and check for dust.
  4. Open the Detail panel and click the cursor on the Masking slider, moving it to the right, and hold down “Alt” in Windows (or “Option” for Mac) to see the masking affect. You must have a sharpening amount enabled to see the change, if there is no sharpening set nothing will happen. You can just click on Sharpening to set the default amounts in Lightroom if needed, this will reset the Masking to zero so you will need to adjust the slider.
  5. Look for dust spots again, you might find something that was not easily visible in the normal zoom view.
  6. Use the Spot Removal tool to remove the spots if there are any. (Shortcut key “Q”). You can adjust the size of the Spot Removal circle to use a good size to just cover your dust. You can also move the spot circle if it isn’t quite in the correct position. You can also move the sample area circle to choose a better match  to clone from.
  7. Once happy with your dusting move to the next area of your image using the “Pg Dn” key on your keyboard. Note that you will need to move the cursor off the Masking slider to do this, otherwise the “Pg Dn” key will adjust the slider amount instead of moving the page down.
  8. Repeat as necessary until you have cleaned your image of dust spots.

If you have a number of images with the same framing you can copy the spot removal over to the next shot, saving having to go through the process for each image. To do this right click on the dusted image and select setting / copy settings. This will bring up an option panel where you can select the Spot Removal check box (top right), then press copy. Generally I will select the Check None button first to make sure I’m not copying something else over. Then select the images you want to copy the Spot Removal to, right click and select Develop Settings / Paste Settings. Using this with images that have different framing can have drawbacks, you might find the selected areas are now copying parts of objects over to the Spot Removal. For example a slightly different framing of the snow scene could result in copying twigs or branches over, with disastrous results!

Posted in Computer Help, Lightroom, Software | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Ice Butterfly & Lightroom 4 White Balance Adjustment Brush

My earlier Ice Butterfly post was an image I was pretty happy with, but I really felt it could be improved with a warmer white balance on the birch leaf. The shaded conditions had been perfect for creating a beautiful blue reflection in the ice, but the same shaded conditions had given a strange colour to the birch leaf, a really awful colour in fact.

I could have created two versions and adjusted the layers in Photoshop Elements to fix that ….. but there was a new version of Photoshop Lightroom (my main editing software) coming out soon, and the blurb mentioned it would have white balance adjustment brush options. So rather than make myself lots of work I decided to hang on and see how I could use the adjustment brush in Lightroom 4 to try to fix that. I have many, many, many ice shots that have the same problem, and the idea of creating two images at differing white balances for each and merging them in PSE was frightening to say the least.

Finally the software has arrived, and I was keen to check the possibilities of the white balance adjustment brush. For those without experience of Lightroom, the basics of the adjustment brush is that you click on an area in an image that you want to alter, and then you paint over the area you need to fix. Then you can tweak various settings to change that area. You can change all sorts here, exposure / contrast / saturation / sharpening / noise; but then new addition to LR4 that interested me was white balance.

So I gave it a go, and was immediately disappointed.  Why? Because it doesn’t let you paint a particular white balance. If you have a area in the image that needs a warmer white balance, you can’t just choose cloudy or shade, you have to tweak the colour temperature and tint from a setting of zero. Now if it was a colour temperature setting in degrees kelvin (say 5500 for daylight) I could move it to cloudy (6500) or shade (7500). All you can do is move in numbers from + or – zero. What does that mean? I downloaded the manual, totally useless, doesn’t even tell you that your options are above or below zero.

So what to do? Play with the controls, and see what you get!

Here’s the shot processed in Lightroom 3 as per my original post of the ice butterfly.

LR4 DaylightYou can see that the blue sky has given the ice a lovely reflection, but you can also see that the leaf has also taken on the blue, creating a cool colour cast.

So what does this shot look like with a shade white balance setting?

LR4 CloudyYou can see that the blue sky colouration has faded , removing the cool blue feel on the ice. But, you can also see that the leaf has lost the blue, creating a more natural colour.

Now, at this stage you could be forgiven for thinking that the cloudy white balance has a more natural feel to it. And, to be honest, you are forgiven. However, I do like the extreme of the blue in the daylight image, and would like to keep that. It is what I felt I saw when I was looking at the subject, and on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. When I took this shot I saw blue ice. No argument as far as I’m concerned.

So, lets play with the adjustment brush in the Develop module in Lightroon 4 and see what we can achieve.

LR4 Wb Adjustment Brush.OK, for me this works! The ice has the blue, and the leaf has the shade white balance look – not the insipid cool blueish tint of the first frame. Job done.

Now, I know that people like to know a bit about settings when converting photos, so I think I should share them.

First, the original image was tweaked in LR3 in the develop module to get the result I was looking for. I was happy with the overall contrast and exposure for the shot. But the leaf colour was way off what I would call a natural result.

Second, the same image was made into a virtual copy in LR4, and the white balance was changed from As Shot (Temp 5150 / Tint +6) to Shade (Temp 7500 / Tint  +10).

Third, another virtual copy was made, and left at the As Shot white balance. Now I had to start playing in the Develop module. I selected the adjustment brush and painted over the leaf  using the following brush settings: Size 3 / Feather 66 / Flow 55 / Density 64 with the Auto Mask option ticked. Obviously this will depend on the file you are using and the camera the original image was taken with. I can’t pretend to understand that side of things, and there can not be a recipe to follow from what I understand, so will move on.

I now played with the Temp and Tint sliders to try to replicate the leaf colour of the Shade image. I found by using the left and right arrow keys to swap between the 3 images, tweaking the adjustments, the leaf colour of the As Shot image could be changed to almost match the leaf colour of the Shade virtual copy. The Temp setting ended at +70, and the Tint ended at +28.

Well I expect I can now copy these setting to every photo I have of the same type of subject and get a perfect result. Or maybe not.

It would certainly be a lot simpler to be able to adjust the white balance settings in the camera style settings of daylight, cloudy, shade, etc.. But LR4 doesn’t work that way.

I wish it did, but it doesn’t – so I am slightly disappointed that Adobe call this a white balance adjustment. That’s not how I read the blurb.

But I think the possibilities for adjusting differing white balances within scenes is incredibly useful. I will certainly be thinking differently about what Lightroom can do now, and once you try it yourself, I’m sure you will too.

Posted in Close Ups, Computer Help, Fishpool, Ice, Lightroom, Software | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Polarisers and Ice.

In my earlier post Ice Butterfly I mentioned that a twist of the polarising filter on ice patterns can give quite different results. To show what I mean I’ve created a few slide shows that include the same framing with varied settings of the polarising filter.

It can be difficult to see the effect due to the fades of the slide show. As an alternative, you can change the slides manually, just hover the cursor over the image and you will be given clickable arrows to change the slides yourself.

Notice the changes in the patterns in the ice here. The edges vary in contrast and tone, as does the surface of the ice.

Here the sharp edges of the ice patterns are also picking up colours from the surrounding vegetation. If you think of the edges as angled mirrors, you can see that the different angles they are leaning to will create a different reflection depending on the area they are reflecting from.

With the reflected birches in these images there are some subtle, and not so subtle, changes in the pool surface reflection.

Ideally you should decide on the position of the polariser at the time you take the photograph. I took the variations seen here so that you can see what the possibilities are. What you choose is……your choice.
Of course with digital you can shoot all the different frames you want, finding your favourite on the computer afterwards will probably be a real headache though!


Posted in Chobham Common NNR, Fishpool, Ice, Surrey | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some more favourites from other photographers best of 2011.

Oops, somehow I missed Jim’s personal selection – a must see!

The following are all nice work and worth a look.

Chris Moore.

David Patterson.

Sven Seebeck – the dark wave at the top could be cropped but I love the bark on the trees.

Zach Frailey – painted snow.

Younes Bounhar.

Craig Ferguson – varied Taiwan.

Clark Crenshaw – Lake Martin Egret.

Jeroen Mentens – insects.

Asif Patel – HDR but why not?

Patrick Gensel – Land of the Golden Sun.

Edith Levy – oops, more HDR!

Eric Strensland.

OK, I have looked all the way through to 100, and only added 12 that weren’t *** in Jim’s list.

What I am finding is that some are not getting added almost immediately, here are some of the reasons…

  1. Images too small to see – thumbsize as opposed to thumbnails!
  2. Navigation difficult.
  3. The set up you are using is odd – but I find 500+ is nice (though Google+ not so nice?). And some of the flikr ones.
  4. What’s your name? (I’m adding posts by name + URL).
  5. Text too difficult to read.
  6. Not my cup of tea.

Notice anything about that list? Content is coming last, the rest make it hard to view the post!

Minna Kinnumen – I already view this blog, but the text is pretty small.

Jeff Revell (I think) – Death Valley – loved the dunes against the mountains.

Roman Schatz – 2.

Amanda Herbert – seashore/pier images – some nice portraits too.

Anne McKinnell – boneyard.

Fred Mertz – a few.

John Lemen – not sure if the architect should get the glory though…..still a great shot.

Pete Carr – Little Time Machine – JUst go take a look at this site. I might even get interested in HDR after his really great explanation of it in his HDR Tutorial.

Fedor Pikus – I have to get here, another one for the bucket list…

Sudheendra Kadri – Grass and reflections – could crop some to make a pano.

Steve Mattheis – Owl on perch – that has to be the best perch ever.

Shirley Lo – co existing -amazing shot.

Wndy Baker – bridges and river.

Well I finally finished, I hope there are some pictures you enjoy here. Now I better get on with something else…..

Posted in Favourites | Tagged , | 2 Comments