It was my friend Jane who first gave me the idea of making photo books about four years ago. She was showing me one that she’d made for her little boy, and I knew straight away that that’s what I wanted to do for Angus and all our other children. In fact, after going home and doing my research into printers and pricing, I decided that I would only make photo books from there on – they would simply replace the photo albums I had been doing prior to that point (more about them in another post).
To me, it made sense to change: photo books would allow me to better showcase the ‘hero shots’ (ie. the photos we loved the most); they took up less room on the bookshelf; it would force me to only print the best photos; each photo book could have as many or as few photos as I wanted; and when you compared the cost of printing a photo book to processing photos at a decent Kodak centre plus the cost of purchasing albums, the extra expense was not ridiculous, especially considering the benefits.
But before I even began, I knew I needed to do three things first:
1) Choose a supplier/supplier
2) Choose a photo book size
3) Choose a cover option.
I wanted to get these decisions right from the very start, because I knew that I would want my photo books (or at least my first batch of photo books) to be consistent across the board. I wanted them to have the same printing quality, the same paper, the same size and the same type of cover. (For those who have been to my home, this should not come as a surprise as even my photo albums come in identical batches).
Back then, I hadn’t heard of Shutterfly, but I did know of Blurb and Lulu. I’d also come across Photobook Australia, and of course I knew that Apple printed photo books as well. After what seemed like months of online research, I decided on Photobook Australia for a number of reasons:
- They made albums for professional photographers, so I was convinced that their quality would be somewhat decent. Also, their Facebook page was inundated with positive reviews and feedback so I was at least 90% confident to take a punt on printing my first photo book with them.
- Their response turnaround time on Facebook with queries was very impressive.
- Their pricing, at first glance, was substantially higher than Blurb and Lulu, but when you took into account the numerous promotions they run throughout the year), it was quite comparable.
- They offered a range of different binding, photo paper and book sizes, including the size that I actually wanted.
- Each photo book could be up to 400 pages long, which meant that there was great flexibility in terms of the number of photos that could go into any one book.
- They were based in Australia, which meant I wouldn’t need to pay for internationlal shipping rates.
Having decided to go with Photobook Australia, I then faced the momentous decision of what size and cover to use. I knew I wanted my photo books to feel like coffee table books – solid and weighty, with a decent surface area. I also wanted the cover and spine to be fully customisable. The final product needed to fit on my Ikea LACK bookshelves and also in my Kikki K A3 storage boxes (in case I decided to store them in there in the future).
In the end, I decided on the large landscape size (15 inches x 11 inches) with a full image wrap hard cover. And yes, even now, three years down the track, I am completely happy with my decision (in fact, I recently tried to make a square photo book and ultimately came back to the landscape one because it just worked better).
Photobook Australia (as well as Blurb and Lulu) offers templates that you can use, once you download their software. I’ve had a look at these templates and I think they offer a great range of page layout options. However, me being me, I decided not to use the templates as I didn’t want to be limited in any way and I also wanted to let the photos determine how I would layout each page (having said that, a good friend of mine used the software’s templates to make a photo book from her wedding last year, and it turned out beautifully.) I have to confess I fussed around for a long time in the beginning trying to come up with fancy page layouts but in the end, I settled for simple and clean (which is my mantra for all my memory-keeping projects). No embellishments, no frills – just white space, clean lines and photos in the right places.
I decided early on that I would only use photos taken on our Canon DSLR for photo books. This works out nicely with my Project Life albums and the boys’ first year journals, which primarily showcases my iPhone photos. Also, I would only use photos that I’d rated either five stars or four stars in Aperture – in other words, photos that were judged (by me) to be of somewhat ‘professional’ quality and thus actually ‘worthy’ of being printed in a large photo book.
For all the boys’ first year photo books, I have done the photos chronologically. The reason for this is mainly because I feel that this allows the photos to tell the story more effectively, thus eliminating the need for much text at all. Instead, I simply have a title page with their full name, another page where I write the date they were born, captions for the photos where they first appear with immediate family and godparents, and then a page near the end of the book that reads ‘You are almost one.’ The rest of the story is simply told in images.
Lastly, I have been very happy with the books I’ve received from Photobook Australia. I think they’re a fantastic mid-range option. The quality and feel of the photos books are exactly what I want them to be. For people outside of Australia, they have a global site as well, and remember that if you follow them on Twitter, you can tweet them and ask for a 40% discount code.
There is a lot more to write about photo books (e.g. deciding what to actually turn into photo books, tips for laying out photo books, etc.) but I’ll save these for future posts as I have lots more photo books to share. If you have any questions though, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
(Oh, and if you are curious about the bandaid on Angus’ forehead in those latter photos, read this. Not for the faint-hearted though – don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
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I’ve recently set up a Facebook page where I’m hoping to share all the lovely things and lovely people that inspire me. I would love for you to connect with me there if you are a Facebook user yourself!
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