They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to photo books, your cover is an important element to consider, as it sets the tone for the rest of your book. I’m sure a lot of thought goes into cover design when it comes to commercially sold books, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give some thought to a your photo book’s cover.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, it’s probably no surprise that I favor custom photo covers, where you can have your image wrap around the front, back and spine of the book. Other cover options include leather covers and linen covers (usually with a keyhole to display a photo of choice) as well as some high end options such as metal or acrylic materials, but since those types of covers don’t offer too many image placement choices and are more about the material rather than individual design, the focus of this post is on custom cover photo books. Most if not all of the photo book companies offer this type of cover in their product lines. Variations of this product include being able to have the image span across the spine, while others only allow the image to appear on the front and back (and not the spine).
I typically design my photo book covers last. You may wonder, if the cover is so important why do it last? Saving the cover for the end is more practical for me as I’ve had a chance to “live” with the design of the interior book pages for a while. Since you’re most likely going to choose your favorite photo or photos for the cover of the book, you need to go through and narrow down the likely candidates first and that’s easier if you’ve already reviewed all the photos. As I’m laying out the interior pages, that’s when I get the best look at all the photos and when I’m working on figuring out which photos make the cut and which don’t.
Here’s some of my favorite design ideas:
1) Single Image Full Photo Cover
This is simplicity at its best. A single photo wrapped from front, spine to back. You should have no problems doing this resolution wise unless your book size is considerably large (bigger than a standard 11″ x 8.5″ book). The photo book company’s software will pop up a caution sign or similar warning to let you know if your photo isn’t suitable for doing this.
I don’t have a shot of the back of this book, but you can kind of tell by the glimpse of the bottom inside of the back cover that it extends all the way around.
2) Single Image Not Full Bleed
Your image doesn’t need to cover the entire page. See my baby shower photo books below. Pretty clean and simple. For these books, I just did the same solid color on the back cover. (The color I chose was the color of my dress by the way, which is a nice way to complement the overall look or theme you’re going for.)
2) Two Images Full Photo Cover
It is very hard for two full-bleed photos to line up correctly so proceed with caution. Full-bleed means that the photo goes all the way up to the edge (rather than having a border around it). I know this from firsthand experience that it’s nearly impossible to get it lined up properly (and believe me I’ve tried several times unsuccessfully). Here’s one attempt below. You can see how the photo from the front encroaches on the back. It doesn’t look that bad, but it doesn’t look intentional either.
I’m assume in part this has to do with the photo book software’s lack of capability to know the thickness of your book (the number of pages) and to render that properly in the preview. So, as the thickness of your book’s spine is variable because it has to change with the number of pages in your book, you can’t know whether the image will line up properly. So, in this case I may recommend not making the rear image a full bleed, or purposely using the spine as the dividing line and making the spine it’s own solid color (like black or white) with just a title and no image.
3) Photo Collage
There are so many different ways to lay out a collection of photos for your cover – this is just one of them. Here I chose a variety of photos that encompassed several decades.
There are times that I’ve used the photo collage in combination with #1 – the single image full bleed. The main image is used as the background for the collage. It’s a great way to give folks a preview of the photos to come and the overall theme of the book.
There are numerous variations of the above, especially when you get into selecting a font or fonts for the title and how you lay out your title, but I hope you find these tips helpful!