Every year the holiday season puts me in distress as I’m always having trouble finding the right gifts for my family and friends. I always want to go for something special and too often end up last minute shopping another random perfume bottle. Luckily, since I have started taking photos more seriously I now have more options and can hope to put a smile on peoples faces by giving them a photo book or a photo canvas of my favourite shots of themselves, the family, the kids. For quite some time I was considering creating a book for my friends with images I have taken over the last 1.5 years. As I am leaving Berlin for Australia in a few weeks, I thought it’s the perfect occasion to finally put that into action. Of course, there is a variety of options when it comes to creating a photo book. As I love coffee table books of professional photography I wanted to go for something high quality. I first came across Blurb through a photo student who used it to put together a book for her graduation project. I decided that this is the best tool for what I had in mind. However, I had a few setbacks during the process which is why I want to share with you my first experience in case you are considering using Blurb for your photo project. Scroll down to the end of this post to see some photos of the finished book.
1. Use Lightroom to do your basic retouch
I use Lightroom to catalogue and retouch all my photos. The software offers an easy way to organise your images and to make selections (“collections”) for your projects. You don’t need to create additional folders on your hard drive and unnecessarily overloading it by duplicating the files you want to use. Lightroom also has a strong development tool which gives you a great variety of options for editing. For example brightness, clarity, colors and contrast. If you haven’t used Lightroom before, like me, you’ll find lots of YouTube tutorials either from Adobe itself or from other users. You’ll see you'll get the hang of it in no time. One thing I want to point out in particular is when exporting your final photos, make sure to set the image resolution to 300 ppi which is the professional standard for print products. Otherwise your photos will look a bit flat.
2. Use BookWright to layout the pages of your book
Lightroom itself offers a Blurb book tool which is integrated in the software. I couldn’t really warm to it so I decided to use the BookWright Software from Blurb instead. It seems to give you more options in terms of creating individual containers for your images or captions and the overall user experience seemed more natural.
3. Proof print some or all pages
After importing and placing the first photos I immediatly noticed the overly vibrant colors. All photos seemed overly saturated even though they looked perfect to me in Lightroom. After hours and days of changing color and saturation settings in Lightroom and also replacing the photos in BookWright over and over again, I realised that when printed on a normal office printer and on standard paper the colors looked really pale. So I basically redid all of it and slightly increased the saturation again as I assumed printing the initial book will still bring out the colors more than it appeared on the display of my computer. Anyway, I received the book and I’m pretty happy with the result however the colors are still a bit pale which in my case can get away as the overall style of the book. What I finally learned though is that I could have saved so much time if I just kept the very first saturation setting or just a slight decrease.
4. Choose your favourite format, cover and paper
Blurb offers several options in terms of format, covers and paper. I chose the standard landscape format (10×8 in or 25×20 cm) but it really depends on what kind of book you want to create and on the quality of your photos. I actually would have chosen a larger and more expensive format if I had ordered only one instead of eight books. Before you start placing your photos, you need to pick the final format. Regarding the book cover, you can choose between three options: softcover, imagewarp hardcover or dust jacket hardcover. I went with dust jacket. In order to make the right decision which paper I want to have my photos printed on, I ordered a Swatch Kit to get an idea of the different options and finally picked Premium Matte.
5. Check for season vouchers or promotional codes
Once I ordered some copies of my book (which turned out quite pricey), I realised Blurb offered a promotional code for Christmas which I didn’t see before. Luckily, the support team of Blurb applied the code retroactively as a courtesy and I saved 35 % off the original price. Make sure to search for promotional codes on the website or on Google before you place your final order.
I was so excited to hold the final book in my hands and was really happy when it was delivered. After years of just scrolling through photos on my computer I have forgotten how nice it is to look at printed photos. I hope you found this useful. I’d love to hear about your experiences or any additional tips you might have.