I wish I could tell you that every photo book I’ve done has been a wondrous masterpiece – inspiring the amazement and admiration of all those who are fortunate to gaze upon it. But admittedly even I make mistakes sometimes (gasp!). Honestly, I don’t think I would feel qualified to write this blog if I didn’t hit a few bumps along the way (and learned from those mistakes). It enables me to share my experiences with you and hopefully I can help point out potential issues ahead of time. This blog is all about encouraging everyone to make a photo book and to not be intimidated to give it a go. I’m a firm believer in trying everything at least once (okay correction – most things at least once). I bet when you see your photos in a designed book (or when that special someone gushes over the professional-looking gift you made them) you will be quite addicted to photo books as I am and will want to make more and more!
Here are some of my best tips. Before you hit that order button make sure to go through this checklist!
1) Consistency – typically I advocate using no more than 1 to 2 font styles in your books for a cohesive look. Go back and make sure that you’ve been consistent in both font size and type. I usually use one font for the main narrative, and a different font for the titles. I have accidentally used a different font on a couple pages of a book before, but luckily they didn’t look that noticeably different (except to me because I knew!) Had I checked more closely I would have caught it. Most times, where the software allows it, I just copy the same text box and paste it on the new page so I know that the size and font have remained the same without having to reselect any settings. Some software allows you to make global changes to the whole book at once which is helpful if you later decide you want to change the font. Regardless, make sure to go back and double check that your global font change hasn’t altered your layouts unexpectedly;
2) Alignment– are your photo boxes and elements aligned properly? Many companies offer an auto alignment tool where you can click on multiple boxes to make sure their left sides or right sides (or tops or bottoms depending on your design) line up. Typically you can hold down the shift key to select multiple elements on a page and then click on the appropriate menu or button in the software for an instant fix;
3) Margins – did you put anything too close to the edge? Most programs have guides that show you a safe zone. Anything inside those borders will print, but anything outside may get cut off when the book is printed and bound. Sometimes this safe zone is rather generous, but the printers have to have some leeway. If you have chosen one of your photos to be printed as a full bleed (where your photo fills an entire page or spread) make sure there’s nothing on the edges of the photo that is essential. If there is, then you may want to think about making the photo a bit smaller than the entire page (and add a background) so you’re guaranteed no image loss;
4) Gutter – “mind the gap” – similar to #3, make sure nothing important is in the center of the spread, especially text or people’s faces. Unless you are ordering a lay flat book that has no gutter, (not all lay flat books are “gutterless” by the way) every book is going to have a gap in the middle where it is bound;
5) Spelling and typos – use the software’s spell check where possible. If it’s not available, copy and paste your text in your own word processor (like Microsoft Word) to double check your text. For more on the right way to add large amounts of text from an external source such as a document you already typed in Microsoft Word or Word Perfect, check out the link. I can’t stress this enough – if you choose to paste directly from Word or an e-mail, chances are you will also copy some formatting code that will be “invisible” to you and will not show up as an error in the preview, but will only show up after you get the printed book – eek! It also may be helpful when possible to have someone else check your narrative or captions – spell check won’t catch errors such as missing words for example;
6) Photo Quality – most if not all the sites have a quality indicator that pops up telling you your photo is not of sufficient resolution, but keep in mind that it’s not an indication of whether your photo is too light or too dark or whether your subject has red eye for example. So make sure to scan through your pages to see if any photo stands out in a bad way, or appears off in comparison to the other photos. Sometimes you can’t tell a photo is a bit off (such as one photo being considerably darker than the others), until that photo is put along side another photo. I have often gone back after running the preview to adjust some photos and re-upload them to the book. Some photo companies have some photo editing tools within the program, but many do not or they are very limited. Err on the side of brightening your photos – most photos end up printing darker than what you see on your screen (it’s hard for printed matter to match the luminosity of our computer screens). Don’t have post-processing software? Check out my posts on free photo editing tools here.
So, there you have it! Be sure to run the photo book software preview before you order while keeping these tips in mind!
Are you new to photo books? You won’t want to miss my “How To” series on photo books. This is the best place to start and has my best tips!
Looking for FREE photo books to try out with minimal risk to your wallet? (okay, you still gotta pay shipping and handling…)