Hey Disney fans (and photobooking fans), as I mentioned on my Facebook page, my current project is a photo book of the Disney cruise we took this past November. From the response I got from many of you, there’s a lot of interest in this topic in general and I’m not surprised – Disney resorts, theme parks and cruise ships are some of the most popular travel destinations for families everywhere. And when I say everywhere – I do mean everywhere – Disney commenced construction on a new theme park in Shanghai slated to open in late 2015.
Now that I have a family of my own, I’m sure our Disney cruise is just the first of many trips we’ll take to Disney destinations. I’ve only been to Disney World once and that was when there was just Epcot. I’ve also been to Disneyland once sometime in high school. (Boy I was deprived as a child ha ha…) For this trip, our good friends who have a lovely little girl who is a few months younger than Photo Book Baby, invited us to join them on a cruise of the Western Caribbean on the Disney Fantasy. My husband and I have cruised on Royal Caribbean and Carnival before, but never with Disney Cruise Lines so it was a new experience for us. There’s so many tips I could share with you now that we’re back from our trip, but many of you know I have a tendency to ramble, so I better save that topic for another day. I will say that my husband and I are convinced that it would be hard for us to travel on another cruise line after seeing how well Disney caters to children and how good they are at making everything as convenient and as stress-free as possible for parents. I’m also happy to report that Photo Book Baby turned out to be a very good traveler. He slept well (like a baby) and ate well as we all did (two entrees and two desserts at dinner anyone?). He also loved watching the nightly musicals (to our surprise sitting attentively through three separate one-hour shows) and enjoyed spotting all the Disney characters.
But, back to the topic of photo books, I’ve been doing a lot of online searching to find inspiration and resources for making not only a Disney photo book, but “The Ultimate Disney Photo Book”. What makes it the “ultimate” book? I don’t know why I feel so much pressure for this particular photo book to be the “end all be all” of vacation photo books, but I suppose it’s because this trip was an extra special one for us, as it was Photo Book Baby’s first ever vacation – our first as a trio. Also being that it was a Disney trip, I want to include a lot of special touches to add some of that “Disney magic” to it.
Although the focus is on Disney here, the tips I have for this book can easily translate to any vacation or themed photo book. When planning a photo book here’s my typical workflow for the preparation phase:
STEP 1: Upload Photos
I’m on a Mac and I upload my photos to iPhoto which comes pre-installed. Photo management software is essential for organizing your photos, especially for the thousands of photos you’ll probably take while on your Disney vacation. For PC and Mac users, Google Picasa is another program that works well and is free to download. I always bring a laptop on vacation with me and upload my photos every night as a backup. I leave the photos on my camera’s memory stick so I can do another backup after returning home.
STEP 2: Review Photos
I look over my shots (in this case all 2100 of them) and create a subset of photos I want to use in the book. Here’s where I eliminate the photos I know I obviously don’t want to use like ones that came out blurry. If I’ve taken multiple shots or different angles of a single subject, I pick one or two of the best to make the cut. iPhoto allows me to flag a photo so I know I want to use it. After I’ve gone through all the photos, I can create an “album” from the flagged photos so I can easily copy the images into a single folder, while still keeping all my photo files in their original “event” folders. Don’t upload all your trip’s photos willy nilly into the photo book software – you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to go through all of them when many of them shouldn’t even be uploaded in the first place. I got these photos down to about 800 and even less will make the final cut when I’m putting the layouts together.
STEP 3: Edit Photos
Now that you’ve narrowed it down, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do some post-processing on your photos. Post-processing is just a fancy way of saying editing. I’m not talking about some major retouching here. A vast majority of the time, all I do is brighten and increase the contrast of my photos and maybe a little sharpening. There’s so many photos that can go from so-so to excellent with just a few tweaks. It may sound time-consuming, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty fast, and there are so many excellent free online photo editors now, you don’t have to even pay a cent to make your photos look their best. Keep in mind that the photo editing tools provided by photo book companies in their software are typically limited. I only use them in a pinch and prefer to do all my editing before uploading my photos to any given company. What you get is only as good as what you put in. I saw a drastic difference in the quality of my photo books after spending just a little time editing my photos.
STEP 4: Pick Theme/Style of the Book
While looking through my photos and editing them, I think about what type of book I’d like to make. I approach a wedding album much differently than how I approach a vacation book, so subject matter is key. When I think about Disney, the words “fun”; “lighthearted”; and “entertaining” come to mind. I also think about those famous Disney characters. We were treated to many photo ops with Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and the Disney Princesses. For sure I know that our photos with the Disney characters are going to figure prominently in the book. This book is also not going to be as “serious” as some of my other books. I’ll probably opt for more color than I normally use. Typically I favor, neutrals like black, grey, tan, beige but have been branching out a bit with backgrounds of varying textures and colors. I will probably also change up my layouts a bit more too and perhaps relax from using a grid like I normally do, or if I keep with a grid layout, I’ll layer other elements to break things up more visually.
STEP 5: Gather Online Resources
Disney Clip Art
Another way to make a book more lighthearted is to go with a more digital scrapbooking style with clip art and colorful backgrounds. In keeping with the theme, I decided to see if I could find some Disney clip art. Just a quick Google search of the term pulled up several sites with thousands of backgrounds and Disney characters in many types of poses and outfits. The best sites for clip art are the ones that provide the image already cut out (no background behind the image). I found a lot of these fun images on Disney fan sites Wonders of Disney and Disneypicture.net and had no trouble finding Photo Book Baby’s favorite characters. You can typically identify transparent images by their file designation as a .gif or .png file (jpeg files don’t allow for transparent backgrounds). You can still use the ones where there is a background, but you’ll also have to use a white background for your layout so you don’t have a white box showing around the image. Alternatively, you can use a photo editor or design software to erase the white background from the image.
Credits: The sample images are from the two sites I mentioned above and the background is from Lucky Day by Emeto Designs.
I was able to find plenty of PNG and GIF files so I don’t have to worry about erasing anything, but you can check out this tutorial if you find an image you want to use and need to create a transparent background in Photoshop.
Note that not all photo book companies will be able to support PNG and GIF files – most will only support JPEG files (which is the typical file type in which you automatically shoot your photos), so you have two options:
1) Use external design software to create your layouts, save them as jpegs and then upload the final full page layouts to the photo book company. This will offer the most flexibility and creative placement; or
2) Use a photo book company that will support the other file types. Mixbook, Blurb and Picaboo are three companies that support PNG files. GIFs aren’t mentioned, but you can convert the GIFs to PNGs with photo editing software. I have also used PNGs with Photobook America (Photobook Canada) and didn’t have any issues, but one of my readers had an issue with using PNGs in his Photobook America book, so it’s not a sure thing with the latter company. If you really want to use a lot of clip art however, I advise going with option #1.
You can also find lots of other (non-Disney) clip art with themes like “travel”, “cruising”, “beach” or “kids” that will complement your layouts in Mixbook or Picaboo (for free) or on the multitude of digital scrapbooking sites (also for free or for a fee as well). I also tried my hand at creating my own chalkboard backgrounds that may work well for this Disney book as well. I will likely use this in my own book. You can download my chalkboard freebie here!
Other than images and backgrounds, font choice is important in creating the effect you’re going for. I instantly thought about the iconic Disney font – apparently based on Walt Disney’s own autograph. I actually found two versions of the Disney font, one called Walt Disney on urbanfonts and the other Waltograph on Dafont. Both are very similar with some differences in the characters provided but both are FREE!
Other fonts to consider for your book are what I would call “cartoon fonts”. I found a nice selection of free whimsical fonts on Fontspace.
So, that’s Part 1 of making your Ultimate Disney Photo Book – the preparation phase. The next installment will be about including things other than photos in your book. Stay tuned for more photo book tips! Also if you’re planning to go on Disney cruise, I plan to do some general cruising and photo-taking tips as well! Stay tuned!
Photo Credit: RC