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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
The binding looks OK. Will it last? Only time will tell.
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.
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.
Layouts – already included for the different page settings above.
Guides – not used.
Page – background colour was white, obviously.
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.