I sort of consider myself the unofficial family historian. I make about four photo books a year, plus two for my mom, and occasionally I make books for other family members.
I scrapbooked for several years, but quickly found myself falling behind. I started making photo books when I got a coupon for a free book from Shutterfly. I quickly put a book together and was very pleased with the results.
At first, I intended for photo books to merely supplement my scrapbooks, but I quickly abandoned that idea and switched entirely over to photo books. With my transition from film to digital photography, the change made sense.
Making a photo book can seem intimidating. I want to make every detail perfect, which sometimes makes it hard to get started. So here are my tips for making a photo book:
- Write – Sure, you can make a book with only (or mostly) just pictures, but how then will you remember all the things you want to remember? I generally write at least a sentence or two about each event, describing context and my feelings about it. Names and dates are especially important to record.
- Buy the extra pages – Most companies give you a certain number of pages and you have to pay more for extra. It’s worth it! If you feel you need more pages to tell your story, then you will regret trying to squish it into fewer just to save a few bucks.
- Keep your pages uncluttered – I have a near-phobia of empty space on the page, and am the complete opposite of a minimalist. On the other hand, trying to cram in too many pictures or adding a lot of decorations to the page can overwhelm the story you’re trying to tell.
- When it comes to fonts, simple is better – Using too many different fonts is distracting, and the more decorative the font, the harder it is to read. I typically pick 2-4 fonts to use throughout a book, but don’t use more than 2 on any given page.
- Use all the photos you want – Many designers advise photo book makers to use only a few photos per page. I typically use 4-9 photos per page. I’ve found that with more than that, your pictures are too small to see much detail, but don’t be afraid to use more than the recommended 1-3 photos per page. Above all, if you really love a picture, make sure to include it.
- Customize – There are a lot of options in how exactly to design your book. You can use the preset backgrounds and layouts, or you can customize where you want your photos and text, how big to make them, etc. Customizing your book is more work, but it will let you showcase the pictures you really want to focus on.
- Do what makes you happy – Ignore any advice that you don’t like. A photo book isn’t about impressing other people (okay, it kind of is), but it’s really about preserving your memories. Do whatever helps you record the things you want to remember.
- Done is better than perfect – I read this advice about essay writing, and it seriously changed my life. You can agonize forever over making every detail just so. But as long as it’s nowhere but your computer, it might as well be lost in cyberspace. At some point, just print it and be happy.
Below are links to some sites that help you make photo books. There are many more, but I’ve only included ones that I’ve looked into and seem to me like a good product. I don’t recommend Snapfish; I’ve ordered prints from them a few times and was not at all happy with their quality. I’ve used Shutterfly for several years, and they make quality books. I’ve seen books from Blurb and Mixbook that my friends made, and they looked like good products. From their website, My Publisher also looks like a good product.