This is Part 2 of my series on making your own digital photo book. Check out the overview of my step-by-step photo book guide.
As with all things, organization and preparation is key. After shooting my photos, I take my camera’s memory card and use a USB card reader to upload my photos to my photo organizing software. If you don’t have a card reader, I highly recommend getting one. I bought one (actually I should say registered for one on our Amazon wedding registry) for about $35.00 and that’s including a 16GB SD card! It’s much easier than finding that ever-elusive camera cable.
Since I have a MacBookPro, by default the program I upload to is iPhoto ’08 (Version 7.1.5) – the software that comes already factory installed to your Mac. Mac users looking for more advanced photo editing and organizing tools will most likely prefer Apple Aperture 3. PC users may opt for Windows Live Photo Gallery or Adobe Photoshop Elements (PC and Mac). There are several online options such as Picasa or Flickr.
Regardless of the digital photo organization software you use, the key is to organize.
ORGANIZING YOUR PHOTOS
STEP #1: BACKUP
Boring, but necessary.
- After you upload, make a backup of your unaltered files.
- It’s best to immediately burn a CD or DVD of your photos and keep that disc in a safe place as hard drives are known to fail and computer files can get corrupted with viruses.
- Those who are very serious about photo storage would probably recommend a second set of burned discs be archived at an offsite location like a friend or family member’s home on the off chance that a fire or natural disaster occurs. It’s not unusual for businesses to keep redundant backups of their computer files either on hard drives or in the cloud – why not make sure that your cherished memories are just as safely stored and backed up?
- At a minimum, periodically back up your photos to an external hard drive.
- Free online sites such as Flickr or Picasa can also serve as online backup
STEP #2: DELETE/MOVE
Weed out the good photos from the bad photos.
- Now that you’ve done a backup, it’s okay to delete the photos that are obviously bad photos like the ones where Uncle Bob’s eyes are closed or ones that are blurry (unintentionally).
- At this point, don’t delete a well-composed photo if it appears overexposed (too light) or low in contrast or a bit off, you may be able to make a few fixes and end up with a good looking photo (more on that below).
- If deleting files makes you nervous, don’t delete, but have a way to put all the photos you intend to use in a separate folder or flag them in some way that distinguishes them.
STEP #3: FILTER
Pick your best shots.
- To filter even further, select the best photo from each series of photos of the same subject. You should be taking more than one photo of any given subject you decide to photograph.
In photographing this sunset over the water for example, I took multiple photos from multiple angles and tried different settings on my camera. Similarly, the pros don’t just take one or two shots of their subject during a photo shoot. If they can’t get the best shot in one shot, you or I won’t either.
Now that most everyone is shooting with a digital camera, there’s no concern over the cost of film or processing. You’re only limited by your memory card, so make sure to have plenty of them. I have two 16GB SD cards, which can each fit approximately 3264 photos taken with a 10-megapixel camera (see digital camera memory card storage capacity chart on Amazon). I have yet to fill it up and I take a lot of photos on an average trip. For a week trip, I normally end up with 500 to 700 photos. (Hmmm…tell me, is that a lot?)
***Photo Tip: After you’ve transferred your photos and backed them up, reformat your memory card instead of just deleting from it. I learned in photography class recently that doing a reformat of the card will give you a fresh start and recapture all of the space on the card.***
- Because I’m taking so many more photos now of the same subject than I used to when I was shooting film, you have to filter out the better shots from the group. Some software like Photoshop Elements, Aperture 3 and Adobe Lightroom have a “stacking feature” so you can place similar photos on top of one another. It’s a way to group them visually to take up less space in your workspace.
- Regardless of how you do it and the specifics of your software, get your photos narrowed down to a workable number – you’ll have a much easier time creating your book and you won’t get overwhelmed.
- If you’ve shot a vertical version and horizontal version of the same subject, keep both – when you’re laying out your book, you may be glad to have the option of using the one that best fits your layout.
For the Picaboo travel photo book I’m currently working on of our trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, I’ve narrowed down 500+ photos down to about 200 photos.
- While you’re filtering, think of the overall theme of your book. If you’re making a travel photo book like I am, think about the key photos that will tell the story and give your friends and family a sense of what the place was like, what you experienced, what you ate…etc.
***Photo Book Tip: It’s hard to know exactly how many photos you need to upload (as that depends on the size of the book) but assuming you’re making an 11 x 8.5, landscape, 20-page photo book, I normally range anywhere from 1 to 5 photos per page. Selecting 80 to 100 photos for that size book is probably a good rule of thumb and should give you a number of options, while still being manageable. I personally have a hard time stopping at 20 pages!***
STEP #4: POST-PROCESSING (ENHANCING YOUR PHOTOS)
Photo-editing software is your friend.
- Use photo-editing software to enhance your photos. I used to not do any post-processing on my photos, but after seeing the difference and how much better my photos (and photo books) came out, it’s become part of my photo book workflow to do some enhancing to the majority of my photos to either bring out details, boost contrast, or increase color saturation.
- Beginner photographers should note that pro photographers do some type of post-processing or enhancing of their photos. They don’t always come out perfect out of the camera – though that would be a goal to work towards. When I used to make prints in the darkroom, I remember using filters to enhance contrast and changing the exposure of certain areas of a photo by blocking the light source on the enlarger. Photographers still do that, but now with a computer instead. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention to important factors such as lighting and aperture settings when taking photos, as there’s only so much you can do with photo editing software.
- Some limited tweaking can be done within some photo book making software, but for maximum control, it’s better to use an external program.
If you don’t have photo editing software, check out these FREE photo editing tools:
You can download a free trial of Photoshop at the Adobe website; or
Try one of several FREE photo editing programs online:
1) Upload and backup your photos;
2) Delete or separate out the obviously bad photos;
3) Filter out even further the photos that tell the story or go with the theme you’ve selected to get a good subset of photos;
4) Use a photo editing program to adjust your photos to show them in their best light;
5) Save your selected photos to a single folder for easy upload to the photo book software.
Doing these steps will take some time, but you’ll be happy you did them before uploading your photos to the software. It will cut down drastically on upload time and you will have condensed things down to your best shots, making it easier to find the right photos for a given layout.
STAY TUNED: In Part 3 of this series on how to make your own online photo book, I’ll show you step-by-step how to make your photos look better with photo editing software. It will feature lots of before and after examples. The difference will surprise you…