© 2010 photobookgirl Photo Book Preparation

How To Select and Edit Your Photos for your Photo Book



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.



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


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.


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. 🙂

Take more photos

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!***


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…




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  1. Alex
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:17 am | #

    Hi Photobookgirl- Love your website! We just got married, and are eagerly awaiting your next posting of your how-to guide for creating our own wedding book. I’ve even started the process for a lay-flat book based on your reviews, but there seems to be just too many options, templates, backgrounds, etc. It’s very confusing on which pictures to use that will look best!

    Looking forward to your advice on selecting pictures and using pre-built vs custom templates. Keep up the good posts!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted August 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm | #

      Congrats on your recent wedding! I’m glad you like my blog and that you’re finding it useful. The lay flat books are really nice – are you doing a Picaboo or AdoramaPix one? There’s a Picaboo Groupon out there today if you’re making a Picaboo one (75% off). I have a post up on the blog today (8/25) for it. There are so many options and backgrounds that it can make your head spin, but you’ll probably notice from my posts that the background I like to use most is one of my own photos and if I do use other backgrounds, I pick pretty subtle ones so they don’t compete with the photos. I also limit them to just a few ones for a cohesive look throughout the book. Anyway, I’ll be putting more detail in the series about all that so stay tuned! 🙂

  2. Jodene
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm | #

    Is it possible to save your Picaboo pages separately, then transfer them to photoshop to fix them up more? Picaboo X is easy for putting pages together, but I’m picky and like to have more choice with borders, shadows, and such. Is that possible or not at all?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:59 pm | #

      Hi Jodene,

      To my knowledge you can’t download your Picaboo pages. It would work the other way around – design the pages first in Photoshop to have maximum control over your design, save as jpeg and then upload to Picaboo as a full page bleed. It’s nice to have Picaboo’s design tools, but I don’t think that would work unfortunately. I would recommend confirming this with Picaboo customer service, but I’m pretty sure it can’t be done in that way. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Erica
    Posted March 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm | #

    Thx for the post processing part of this post. I dont know if its my camera, i may need an upgrade, but some photos arent looking their best, im going to try out those photo editing websites and see how i do.
    Also, this may be a dumb question, but how do you reformat your memory card?? 😉

    • photobookgirl
      Posted March 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm | #

      Hi Erica,

      Not a dumb question – I reformat my memory card within my camera after I’ve backed up the photos. There should be something in your menu that says “reformat card”. It is different than just deleting the photos. If you don’t have the camera manual anymore, most manuals are online now and you can google them and usually find them on the manufacturer’s site.

  4. Rayni
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:07 am | #

    Regarding SD card readers for USB that you posted about–you write that you bought one for $35 with a 16GB card. That’s fine if you want the 16GB card, but your readers should know that if they only want to buy a card reader, they can buy it off ebay for a couple of dollars including shipping. I’ve bought a couple from different sellers for $2 each including shipping. (I have no idea how they make any money.) They worked great.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:14 am | #

      Most definitely – I agree wholeheartedly. I love my card reader as I hate having to lug a million cables around on trips. My last trip I had three cameras with me, the chargers for those, plus a laptop, iPhone, iPad and all those chargers! One less cable to take along is worth it! 🙂

  5. Ellen
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 8:44 am | #

    500 to 700 photos per weekly outing isn’t bad at all. I shoot over 1000 on a week long trip. It all depends on the ‘scenery’ too, doesn’t it.
    I just recently bought a new desktop computer with it’s own card reader in it. It’s a good thing, because the Canon proprietary editing programs don’t recognize the card inside the camera anymore.. at least not mine! (could be too old).Or maybe Canon is getting a little less proprietary.
    So, like everyone else, I have to take the card out and insert it in the card reader.. I have a travel card reader also. Just can’t go anywhere with out one! OR extra Cards.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 1, 2011 at 10:40 am | #

      Looks like there’s lots of fans of the card readers! 🙂

  6. Hannah
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm | #

    I like how the pictures look better with edits,but how do I edit the pictures? Do I download an app or do I buy it?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm | #

      Hi Hannah, this post is part of a how to series on photo books. The next two in the series address your question. Happy reading!

  7. Photo Editor
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 10:08 am | #

    Great post. Very informative. I was wondering if there was a photo editing program you preferred? I’ve been using Corel Paint Shop Pro and it’s been working great, but I don’t fully understand it yet. I guess I just have to keep messing around with it. Thanks for the posts.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted December 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm | #

      I typically use iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop. Aperture and Lightroom are also popular. You can try free trials of all of this software on the manufacturer’s site.

  8. Posted January 21, 2013 at 4:22 am | #

    your can use Paint.net as your photo editing software. It nearly has the same editing features as Photoshop at zero cost. You need to find the plugins to do some other advance editing which are also free somewhere online.

  9. Alise
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 10:15 pm | #

    Great website! I am just starting to get into making photo books of my family so this is such an amazing resource for me. I just wanted to mention that if backing up to a CD or DVD, it’s a good idea to backup in a different way as well (like you mentioned- external drive, online, or cloud). It’s important not to rely on JUST the CD/DVD method. The discs are not made for long-term storage. If I remember from one of the computer classes I took for my business degree, they are tested for like 5, maybe 10 years max? Now this info could have changed since my class a few years ago (it’s worth a google, maybe the discs are made better now?), but I just wanted to mention that it should not be a long-term storage solution or the only backup you make if you want your pictures to be passed down.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted August 21, 2014 at 11:14 am | #

      Hi Alise,

      Yes you’re right 5 to 10 years is about it for disc media. You may be interested in this 4 part series I wrote about online photo storage. The last article outlines what I decided to do for myself. I’m now working on scanning all our pre-digital photos 🙂 http://www.photobookgirl.com/blog/category/online-photo-storage-cloud/

  10. Jessica C
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 12:56 pm | #

    I have a question…I’ve been a digital scrapbooker for years, however, lately with Shutterfly I am finding that my “real camera” a really nice Nikon’s photos are turning out fuzzy in my albums that I create, whereas they are clear and crisp on my computer..but once entered into my album they are not. I thought at first it was just a glitch, but printed a small album for a gift (thankfully with a coupon otherwise I’d have been ticked) and all the pictures were fuzzy. Any ideas? I’m checking out some of the other companies you have on your website, I just found you thanks to some Stampin Up friends, as we are all merging from our My Digital Studio software into other formats since our company has stopped supporting that software. I’d appreciate any suggestions you might have.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:42 am | #

      Hi Jessica, Glad to hear from you and nice to hear you were referred by friends. Sorry it took me a while to respond. That stumps me a bit. I wonder if you asked for a reprint and whether that resolved it. Perhaps there was an error during upload? As a digital scrapbooker, do you upload completed layouts as jpegs from external software? that’s what I do for most of my books from Fotofuion. I just did one and placed an order which I should have soon and I’m happy to update you when I get it. That hasn’t happened to me before. Another reader recently emailed me saying that she was having trouble and that customer service told her they weren’t going to support photos that have been externally edited which doesn’t quite make sense to me. They referred to photo editors such as photoshop elements and Apple Photos that perform nondestructive editing. Makes no sense to me. I told her that I would update her when I got my book. I just made it less than 2 weeks ago. Hopefully your issue was resolved? Please let me know – I’m curious 🙂

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