© 2010 photobookgirl Photobook America cover

Q&A: Top Tips for Making Great Photo Book Templates and Layouts – My Photobook America Preview

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Tiny Prints Cyber Monday

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Update: 11/21/2010 – Part II of my review on my actual book printed with Photobook America is up!

I thought I would share some of my layouts that I finally completed for my Photobook America photo book (Photobook Canada for our Canadian neighbors :) ).  I sent it in for printing yesterday (126 pages, 8 x 11 portrait size) and I have been getting several e-mails from readers asking about sharing more of my photo book templates.  These are low res proofs (with “proof” watermarked all over them!), so it may be kind of distracting, but I think you’ll get the idea.  Part II on print quality will come after I get my book.  Check out Part I of my review of Photobook America focusing on the book design software.

As some of you may be following, I have a series of posts on how to make your photo books online.  I didn’t start out to make this post a part of that series, but I guess it would fit into my intended “how to make your own photo book templates” post, so maybe I’ll add a link on that page later.

***By the way, this post goes out to my lovely friend Ann who said she’d like to see some more of my photo book layouts to get ideas.  I knew that she started making photo books after I told her about my blog, but when I went to visit her recently, I saw this huge stack of photo books on her coffee table, featuring her adorable son and their family vacations.  I was honestly shocked at how many she had done (and so happy she took to photo books as much as I have!)  My husband joked she was the only person he knew who had almost as many photo books as me!  She did such a beautiful job on her books!***

I’ve added some notes on each of the layouts so you can see my thought process in putting the pages together.

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CENTERING YOUR LAYOUTS

This first layout below is skewed to the left for a reason.  The green sea turtle was more in the middle of the original photo, but we know that with most books (unless they lay flat), there is a gutter to consider.  Generally the more pages you have in your book, the more the image will get hidden in the center because of the binding.  I didn’t want to have my main subject swallowed up by the binding, so I purposely shifted the photo to the left and added a neutral black background on the right.  I then added smaller photos to the side, to compliment the main photo.

“VIGNETTE” TOOL

On this page of featuring an aerial view of Pearl Harbor, I tried the “vignette” function available in Photobook America. As you can see it gives a dreamlike edging to the photo and you can make it any color you want. I chose white here to match the clouds. I believe this is one of the few photo book printing companies that offers this function (sometimes known as “masks” or “frames” in other companies) and although I generally keep my photo book layouts pretty clean, and let the photos speak for themselves, I have to say this one worked here. The secondary photo of the map makes sense here – I was actually using it to track our location as we were flying over the Hawaiian Islands. We were on Island Air, which flies at a much lower altitude since it’s a smaller plane (a 37-seat turbo prop jet). I got several great photos from my plane ride from Kauai to Maui and the flight attendant gave us all a narrated tour – bonus!

CUSTOM COLORS FOR BACKGROUNDS

The next two layouts show the impact of color.  I did custom colors for the next two pages.  I was bored of black (my standard “go to” background color), and I love the color chocolate brown. It’s a neutral earthy color that matched the landscapes.

On the birds layout, I loved the green grass color in the background.  I decided to use the custom color tool (looks like a magnifying glass) to copy the color and use it for the background of the adjacent page.  You know the two pages will harmonize since it’s a color already on the spread.

See my review post on Photobook America software for a quick step-by-step tutorial on how to pick a custom color (and also draw a color out of any photo to use as a background).

(Hmmm…chocolate brown and pea green happened to be my wedding colors! I wasn’t thinking that when I did the spreads – the subconscious at work!)

CAPTIONING

This photo had a built-in caption since I took a photo of the sign. I mentioned in an earlier post how I often take photos of signs or plaques at various places so that I can later properly identify and caption my photos. Most times it’s just for reference, but as it turned out, I love the way this photo came out. I like the typography of the sign and the color, and my hubs is in the background. I also love taking photos of food. I even take photos of food I make for my husband and me at home. I have a plan to make a photo book of the dinners I’ve cooked him – so maybe he’ll appreciate it all more when he sees it all together! ha ha… b/t/w you may have read about the fun make your own cookbook project I’m doing with my friends!

BE EFFICIENT AND REUSE YOUR LAYOUTS

The three layouts below illustrate how to save time when making your own templates. They are the same layouts repurposed! So once you get the boxes lined up and of correct size (very easy to do with the alignment tool) you can duplicate the spread and then reuse it.  The “Duplicate” tool for copying photo boxes (or entire spreads) is your friend cause you know that the boxes are the exact same size if you use the duplicate function.

Don’t worry about recycling your layouts, these pages are spaced out within the book so they don’t get boring.

Plus once you get a layout that you like, there are several ways to tweak them to save time but still be creative:

1) Take the same layout and make some simple style changes like rounding the corners (see the third image below);

2) Change the background color or use a photo as a background;

3) Resize – make some boxes smaller and others bigger, to put the focus on one photo over another;

4) Remove and Replace – remove the two smaller horizontal photos and replace it with a single vertical photo box;

4) Flip the layout – put the left side on the right and the right on the left;

3) Rearrange all the boxes – since you know they will fit on the page, you can change them all around – like a puzzle!

SIMPLE LAYOUTS ARE OKAY

Your book should have a mixture of layouts – a blend of the simple and the more complex.  Vary your layouts to keep things interesting.  The next two layouts are pretty clean.  Below I did a very simple four photo spread of equal size.  I added a thin white line to make the photos pop off the black background.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR BEST PHOTOS

Naturally you should give your best photos center stage.  The best way to do that is to let them breathe and have their own dedicated page or spread.  After a series of pages with 4 to 8 photos per spread, a big full page spread will have impact. Just drag the photo to the page and right click “Fit to Spread”.  Can’t get much easier than a single photo layout!

THE COVER

The cover is the very top spread.  I normally do the cover last because it gives me a chance to review all the photos and see how the spreads end up coming together.  Hawaii is very green and I love the color green so that photo became the background.  I normally just pick one photo for the cover and one photo for the back, but I decided to do a full page spread on the cover and picked some favorite photos to help illustrate some of the main highlights of the trip.

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There’s so much more I can say about photo book layouts and design, so this is just a start.  I didn’t plan for this post to be so long – but I hope you picked up some tips!  If you have any great tips, I’d love to hear them, please share them here…

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28 Comments

  1. Ann Pham
    Posted November 9, 2010 at 12:51 pm | #

    Awwwwwww Chica! Thanks for thinking of me. This is the review I’ve been waiting for :) Since you’ve left I’ve made 4 more photobooks but none that have come to 126 pages! Maybe on our next trip to Cabo. I do love a lot of your scenic photos and need to experiment more with those. i haven’t tried photobook america yet but do love the flexibility when you can organize the page yourself compared to something like shutterfly when they are all set templates. haven’t used the copy template option but will start that on my next picaboo project. i do also tend to stick with the black or white backgrounds but was a bit more adventurous when I worked on my Halloween photobook via Shutterfly and used their Halloween templates to add a little fun. thanks for the layout ideas and photos. it’s always great to see shots through another photographers eye and how you look at things.

    I am a devote follower and always look forward to your posts and photobook deals!

    Love ya,
    Ann

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 9, 2010 at 10:09 pm | #

      I bet your Halloween photos are so cute – love to see them!

  2. Carla Siler
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm | #

    I read this post before but wanted to comment. I really like the tip about the captioning from inside the photos.

  3. Ann
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 2:07 pm | #

    Thanks for the post, it is so helpful to see other people’s layouts. The thing I am usually unhappy with in the pre-made layouts is that they leave too much “white space” for me. I keep thinking, but the pictures could be larger.

    Backgrounds can be a problem too. Maybe you could start a page that would let us upload and share backgrounds? Some of my favorites are of rocks or cement or relatively mundane things that give color and texture without overwhelming the pictures. I would love to see what some other people have come up with.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 10:05 pm | #

      Hi Ann,

      I will definitely think about putting together a page to do that if folks are interested. I’ll probably also do a post about backgrounds for my how to series on making photo books!

  4. sharon
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 9:16 am | #

    I like how you used the “vignette” feature with the aerial photo. Beautiful photos!! Great layouts!!

  5. Judith Moore
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm | #

    I love all of these great ideas! We are taking a trip to San Francisco next year and this article is giving me inspiration to to take more scenic photos ( as well as family:)). I can’t wait – I’ve never made a Travel Photo Book before! Exciting!

  6. Posted November 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm | #

    Helpful tips! I always get so overwhelmed trying to make a photo book and the layout is never quite right.
    Thanks! foxsquirrelrabbit at gmail dot com

  7. Tamar
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm | #

    thanks so much for posting this! i’ve been really interested in photobook america, given all its recent groupons and deals!

  8. April
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 2:55 am | #

    Thanks for going over how you do your layouts, it definitely gives me a new perspective on things! I just finished two books from Mixbooks, and they were definitely more of a scrapbook feel, but I did “spread” things out with some pages by only focusing on one or two pictures. Letting your skill shine or showing how special that moment was, both are good reasons to get that change of pace in a photo-book. Now I can’t wait for whenever my wedding comes! XD Getting pumped!

  9. Sarah Plants
    Posted November 30, 2010 at 12:00 am | #

    THanks so much for posting such great info!!!

  10. Joha
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 2:38 am | #

    Great article. Could you please share how you can use a photo as a background when doing a project on Photobook America? I’m kind of dissapointed by the lack of backgrounds and scrapbook items. I would like to be able to use some other files. Any ideas?

    Thanks!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted July 27, 2011 at 10:17 pm | #

      Yes, you would just layer the photos. You pick your background photo and drag it over to a blank spread or page. Drop the photo, right click and then pick either “fit to spread” if you want it to cover both pages of a layout or “fit to page” if you want to do just the left or right side. Then open up another photo box by going to the “Inset” pull down menu, select (“Picture Box”) and then drag and drop your second photo into that box. Then just repeat to add more photos on top.

  11. Posted February 7, 2012 at 11:15 pm | #

    Could you share how to round the corners in the pictures? I can’t figure it out. Thanks!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:08 am | #

      Yes, in the toolbar that goes vertically down the right side of the workspace, make sure you’re on the first tab at the top (looks like a container with four corners). You’ll see “Shape” at the top. Look down to where it says “Corner” and slide the bar, you can get varying degrees of curvature depending on the radius you choose. Best of luck on your book. I’m working on my pregnancy book with them right now :)

  12. Etznab
    Posted September 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm | #

    Have you ever got the “proofs” from photo book America to not show the word “proof”? Some of my books generate the watermark, but not others. I wish I could figure out what I was doing differently, so I could share some clean digital versions with the family.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted September 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm | #

      Yes, I was surprised about that too. I recently made a pro book portrait sized. That one didn’t have the proof watermark on it. I thought it was an update they did. Were your books pro books? Maybe that’s what the difference is?

  13. tech
    Posted January 8, 2013 at 6:52 am | #

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to
    say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog
    posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  14. Posted February 12, 2013 at 6:49 am | #

    Hi, i am making another photobook for my mother-in-law and would like to repeat some same exact pages from my own one since we were on the same trip. How can i copy one whole spread and paste it on hers?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm | #

      Best way to do it is to duplicate the whole book – you’ll see that as an option when you go to open the existing book file. “Duplicate Project”.

      • Posted February 14, 2013 at 9:48 am | #

        Hi, unfortunately, I’m already halfway through my mother-in-law’s album. We met her in Spain on the latter part of her trip so i started with the places she was before i met her. Is there no other way to duplicate pages? If i duplicate the project now then the first half i already did can’t be used anymore, right?

        • photobookgirl
          Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm | #

          I don’t understand your question? If you duplicate the project – it’s a completely separate book file and you can rename it something else. You can then delete the earlier pages you don’t need in your book, or add extra pages in front or do anything you want with it. You can duplicate pages within the project for use in that project, or you can save the layout for use in other books. I don’t know if I understand what your question is.

  15. Ellen
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:29 am | #

    Hi:-)
    I found your website to be very helpful in trying to make my photobook on photobookamerica.com. I also bought a groupon last year but am just now getting to making my book. I was wondering if you know if there is any way to put the scrapbbok items directly ON the pictures? Whenever I try to do that, it fills the picture box and I have to hit “undo”. For example, the funny scrapbook pieces like the moustache and glasses, is there any way to put them on someone face? I know you can send things back and bring them forward but I can’t seem to get them to the picture at all without a warning sign coming up and the photo box filling up…I’m also trying to “group” some photos together and move them but I can’t get that right, either. I right click on “group” after I have chosen the pictures by pressing “shift” but then they never move together, even though I have clicked “group”…any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. My groupon ends tomorrow!!

    Thanks,
    Ellen

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 15, 2013 at 11:41 am | #

      Hi Ellen,

      I’ve definitely put scrapbook items on top of other things, but without going into the program, I can’t recall how to explain how to do that. I know I’ve done it though… The shift select group should also work. the only thing I can think of with the latter issue is that perhaps there’s a glitch that may be cleared by saving and then reopening the project? Also, do you have the latest version of the software? If you need more time to make your book, I have been able to ask them to extend my deadline before. Just try contacting them and explain that you’re having trouble with the software and I think they will extend it for you so you feel less pressure. If I get a chance later today, I’ll try to see if I can duplicate your issue and explain it, but I have a lot of errands today, so I’m not sure I’ll get the chance. Definitely try to get an extension and let me know okay? :)

  16. Meredith
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm | #

    Hi,
    Do you have any tips for making unique layouts in MyPublisher? I’m guessing you make them in Photoshop and import them, but I was hoping you might have a solution to use with their software. :)
    Meredith

    • photobookgirl
      Posted August 11, 2013 at 11:54 am | #

      Hi Meredith,

      Sorry for the late reply – I do make some layouts in external software like Photoshop. Fotofusion is also another good option. You can still make unique layouts in MyPublisher’s program, but there aren’t certain features like drop shadows and corner rounding. What I do to keep it manageable is just to make some layouts externally instead of all of them which can get time consuming. I have an article about my MyPublisher books here that may help explain it more: http://www.photobookgirl.com/blog/mypublisher-deluxe-photo-book-review-make-your-own-custom-pages-for-your-photo-book/

  17. Linda
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:44 pm | #

    Hi,
    I love all your tips on Photobook America—your photos are beautiful! I made 2 great books with this company in 2012. I am trying to make a 6×6 softcover (from a Groupon offer) but the format is so different that I can’t figure it out. I used their customer service phone help before but now there is no number. Video chat wouldn’t pick up—help!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 10:31 pm | #

      is it new software? my last book with them was a while back (my prego book). When you say the format is different you mean the way you make the book, or you’re not sure how to lay out a book of that size and shape?

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