Photo Books: A How-To Guide

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A New Twist On The Photo Album,
Photo Books Come In All Sizes And Styles

Montana Photographs by Patia Stephens

Back in the days of film photography, pictures that didn’t make it into photo albums languished in shoe boxes under beds or on closet shelves. However, the modern equivalent of a shoebox - a computer hard drive – is generally a far less safe location .

On a computer, photographs are extremely vulnerable to being lost in hard-drive crashes, unless they are regularly and securely backed up onto an external hard drive, CD or DVD. But while archival digital storage is important, it’s not much fun for viewing.

The best way to enjoy photographs while ensuring they last for years is to place them in a photo album or its more recent variation, a photo book.

Photo books come in all sizes and styles – from small brag books that can be carried in a purse to oversized, glossy books that look at home on a coffee table. They can be softbound or hardbound; covered in paper, linen or leather; playful or elegant.

Photo books are perfect for preserving wedding memories, making multiple family reunion albums or showcasing a lifetime’s worth of your best travel photos. They also make great gifts – think wedding favors, reminders of home for kids going off to college, memoirs for your children and grandchildren, and thank-you presents.

Costs for photo books range from less than $10 for a pocket-sized album to $300 or more for professionally designed and bound tomes. Most average-sized photo books are in the $30 to $70 range.

Design your own photo books online at sites like the Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, Snapfish and Lulu. Or download software from Picaboo (for Windows), iPhoto (for Mac) and MyPublisher (Windows or Mac). Online or off, these programs make book design easy with templates, themes and drag-and-drop editing. Some also have an auto-fill feature, which will do the layout for you.

Photo Book Press takes a more personal approach, guiding you through the hands-on process of selecting photos and writing captions, while they scan your images and arrange page layouts.

Montana Photographs by Patia Stephens

Some interesting possibilities for photo books:

  • The Martha Stewart line of classic designs on the Kodak Gallery.
  • Personalized “Adventure Books” for children from Shutterfly. Also, ABC books, recipe books and the “Love Book.”
  • Hundreds of colorful backgrounds and more than 40 fonts on Snapfish.
  • MyPublisher’s “Storyteller” style, which offers lots of room for text.
  • Lulu’s option to mix in professional stock photos from Getty Images. (Great for vacation albums.)
  • Professional-looking wedding albums and memoirs from Photo Book Press.

Finally, check to be sure the photo books you order are printed on archival, acid-free paper, so they’ll be enjoyed for decades to come.

– Text and photographs by Patia Stephens


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  • Diane says:

    One area that needs to be covered is customer support service, especially when attempting to publish the book leads to difficulties, and especially due to glitches in the company’s software. I met with such problems with My Publisher and the problem is still not resolved. There is no way to call the company, which wants to deal with the problem only by e-mail.

  • Patia says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, Diane. It’s probably a good idea for people to check out customer service options before they commit to a publisher. (I personally prefer email or better yet, online chat, but it’s nice to know whether they’ll be answered promptly.)

  • rachelorans says:

    I just created 25 photobooks for a family reunion and was very impressed with the company. They are called Ubuildabook (www.ubuildabook.com)
    They had volume discounts that were much better than the Blurb. The paper used standard was 80# glossy and I paid 3 cents more a page for 100# glossy.
    The books were hardcover , thick and sturdy, and laminated.
    The photobook software was very easy to use, but being the newbie I really needed customer service. Each time I called them they were kind and gracious and answered my many questions (some of which would have been silly to a professional).

  • Christena says:

    Just came across this, thanks to Digg. I don’t know if you have checked out the Rocketlife software? Their creation software is great, and their customer service is awesome (I had to call and email, and had no problems talking to someone and getting my questions resolved right away). I have a website with the software, as I really felt that it was far superior to the others. Way more themes/backgrounds and the ability to move your pictures and edit them easily. I have ordered the calendar and the mug and the calendar shocked me with how thick the pages are. The mug is used every day by my husband and still looks like it came out of the box yesterday (gave it to him as a Christmas gift). With the free photo book offer, I plan on ordering one and a couple of other things, so that I have products to show people the great quality of the products. http://creatingphotomemories.com for more info.
    Thank you for your review here.

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