How to make the best photobook

The popularity of photo gifts are on the rise – and for good reason. As a present it ticks a lot of boxes: it’s meaningful, personalised and inexpensive yet valuable – plus they’re fun to make. You can go for a simple option, like a keychain or a mug or go for something that needs a bit more time and effort, like a photobook. Photobooks don’t need to be reserved for presents either – creating one is a great way to reflect on a holiday or capture the details of an event.

I’m assuming you’re making the photobook about an event, trip or person. I created one for my sister about our 4-week holiday across USA in January and February 2015 and gave it to her for Christmas. I’m not going to lie – it was time-intensive. Between choosing which photos to include and which to ditch, arranging the layout and picking backgrounds I spent hours on this project. But in the end it was worth it. I do remember being overwhelmed before I got started, and with this in mind, I thought I’d put together a few tips to help anyone else who might be in the same boat.

Choosing a site

I went with photobookshop.com and was happy with the results, but not without a few minor issues. Using this company you can either work online or download some simple software to create the project. I found working online was far too slow a process and had to download the software, which did freeze a couple times (I didn’t lose any work though!), but overall it was easy to work with. When my photobooks arrived (I ordered two copies – one for my sister and one for me) I noticed a couple of the images were a bit darker than I would have liked. They didn’t look that dark on the computer and while I knew it wouldn’t look exactly the same, I wish I’d known they were too dark – I could have easily lightened a few images. However, the majority of the photos turned out amazing and I was really happy with the book. There are lots of other websites out there though, so take a look around and go for a good deal or a sale if you can.

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A lay-flat book was perfect for showing off the best photos. 

Number pages / quality of book

Before I’d even started creating my book there were a lot of decisions to make. Do I splash out on a hardcover? Go for 30cmx30cm or a rectangle shape? Is this a coffee table book or something closer to a scrapbook?
In the end I went with a hardcover, lay-flat book and was happy with my choice. I had  2 pages (so one spread) per day of our trip + 2 or 3 extra pages for full page images and rounded up to an even number. So for our 26 day trip I rounded up to 60 pages.

If it’s not an event that you’re creating the book about it might be a little harder to decide on the number of pages. A good way to work it out might be to curate your photos and then devide the total number of images by (an average of) the number of images you’ll use per page. My book contained about 250 photos and averaged about four photos per page – some had six, even nine images, and others had just one or two. Don’t worry about it too much though – thankfully you can always add more pages, or delete any if you need to.

Theme, style and fonts

After choosing the photos, the hardest decision to make can be settling on a theme. I wanted to keep a bit of consistency, so I found it was best to stick to three fonts only. I added a fourth and found it looked silly. I also tried to pick background colours that suited the images. An easy way to do this was using the weather, eg a page of photos taken at night had a dark background, sunny day shots with a blue sky background, pictures of snow and cityscapes had a light grey background. Using a landscape photo as a background can also be a great way to include more photos.

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This photo was great, but unfortunately a bit too dark.

Words

Are you telling a story? Most likely yes. Do the images speak for themselves or do you want to add a narrative? I wanted to keep my words minimal and focus on the photos, but my auntie who is also a big fan of photobooks has added poems, anecdotes and summaries to create albums that resembled story books. A little writing can also help trigger memories when you’re flicking through your book and reminiscing.

And a few things to remember…

  • The final product won’t look identical to what you see on the screen. Keep an eye out for images that are too dark/bright and do the necessary edits before you upload them.
  • Images that are low-quality or a small file size can only print up to a certain size before they appear pixelated and fuzzy. Photos downloaded from Facebook, for instance, have been shrunk to fit the site and will often be too small to blow up any larger than a phone screen, so see if you can get your hands on the originals.
  • Don’t underestimate how much time this project will take. If you’re creating a gift for someone start working on it at least 2 months in advance. It’s better to work on it a little at a time than trying to jam it in one or two long days. Remember, also, to allow the time for it to be made and delivered (estimated times should be available on your chosen company’s website).
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