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How to create an awesome DIY photo book in 5 steps

I am a massive fan of getting your photos printed and with all this time on our hands at the moment, this is the perfect time to do exactly that!

One way to get your photos off your computer and into your house so you and your guests can admire them, is by creating a beautiful photo album in the form of a book. Photo books are exactly that, a bound book that is made up of your photos. In my opinion, I think they are slightly better than traditional photo albums as they are more resilient to use (your photos don't end up falling out or fading) and modern printing allows for the colour in these books to be spot on. They come in many sizes with many different cover and paper options.

Photo books are great for holiday snaps, engagement photos, wedding albums, newborn or baby photos or even childhood albums where all the pictures of you are kept from the time you were a little newborn until you started secondary school (surely, I'm not the only family that has albums like this!?).

Photo books also make excellent presents for mother's day or gifts in the form of a voucher for couples who are engaged, getting married or expecting (in fact if you would love to give a photo book as a gift, get in contact with me here to talk prices).

I am a massive fan of digital files that allow you to cut costs when it comes to professional photography and allows you to DIY your own photo printing, however I find the big issue with this is many people put off printing their awesome photos. This can be for a number of reasons including cost and being swamped with too many types of printing forms (do I choose a canvas, a large print, a series of prints, a photo book...the list goes on!), but I think a large reason is that not all printing processes are straight forward. It can tricky to work out how to present your photos neatly and professionally. Sometimes it takes a few goes to get it right and this can end up wasting a lot of time and cause a lot of frustration! To take the fuss out of photo books, and to help you decide if you want to make one yourself (or get me to make one for you) I'm here to give you some insider tips and tricks to help you on your way to the photo book of your dreams 😍😍

My Photo Book Process

This is the process I go through to make an album that uses the majority of the returned wedding photos. Usually an album like this contains between 200 and 250 photos and between 60 to 75 pages. It is a lovely way to truly tell the story of your day and print off those detail shots that you love but don't necessarily want to hang on the wall (I totally get it, we only have so much wall space!!). Of course, you can always opt to have a more condensed version of your day or only put your wedding couple and wedding party photos in the book.

Step 1: Book Dimensions

The first step in my process is to confirm the book size with my clients. Generally, I tend to create landscape or square photo books, simply because this is what seems to be popular and I prefer these dimensions.

Step 2: InDesign File Setup

Next I open up InDesign, fill in the dimensions, my expected book page size (usually about 70 pages for a full album) and set my margins. My margins are the start of the grids I use to keep the photos the same size throughout the book, usually I set them at 10mm.

Step 3: Apply Photos

I have tried organising and placing my photos in a few different ways when I started creating full photo albums but I now choose to do it in sections via the stages of the day 'preparation', 'ceremony', 'wedding portraits', 'family photos' and 'reception'.

I did try going through and picking out the very best photos (and different posed photos), copying them to another folder and then placing them, but what I found then is that the photos didn't always fit and I would then have to take more time to find more photos or rearrange the layouts a number of times.

Instead, I now place all the photos in that section. I try to place them in their groups, for example detail shots of dresses, detail shots of the flowers, make-up, hair etc, and then pick out the photos that tell the story best and fit into the layouts I am creating.

Step 4: Arranging and Resizing Photos After placing the photos, I arrange them onto the pages. As I place the photos I also resize them to fit into their allocated space, whether this is a full page spread or a series of photos. I then delete photos and the pages that I don't use as I go, so I can start to see how the photo album is coming together.

Step 5: Create the Title Page

Once all the page layouts are complete, I go back to the first page and complete a title page that has the couple's name on it and their wedding date.

Step 6: Cover Pages

The very last thing I do as far as the design is concerned, is complete the cover pages, which can be a little bit complicated depending on the bleed margins of the cover spread. Choosing appropriate photos that allow for the margins is important as a up-close photo can result in heads being cropped and ruining your beautiful wedding album!

Step 7: Uploading the Pages

After the pages are exported I then have to upload the photos to the printers. This process depends on the printer I am going through as to whether I have to arrange them again or whether that is the final step of the album.

5 tips for creating an awesome DIY photo book

1. Choose a good printer

The first step is to find a good printer that offers what you need.

You need to find a printer that offers:

  • the right book sizing (do they offer portrait, landscape or square books, and in what sizes?)

  • a price that suits your budget with amount of pages you want

  • an online editor if you do not have editing software on your computer (this is super, super important)

  • album sales to individuals and not just businesses

  • shipping to Australia if they are a located somewhere else in the world

  • paper weights over 90gsm (just trust me on this one!)

If this is your first photo book and need an online editor I would recommend you have a go at creating an album with Vistaprint. They are reasonably priced and offer a good online editor. They are not my very favourite for colour and paper stock but they are good value for money and are great for beginners.

2. Keep your photos on a grid

It is crucial that you keep all your photos aligned and on a grid. Do not, I repeat DO NOT put your photos on a weird angle or inside love heart or other shaped crops. Not only does it make your project look amateur it also means that you can't appreciate the actual photograph due to the cropping. On top of this you will also not be able to fit as many photographs onto your page and in the long run, that means your album is going to cost more to print.

The best way to go about placing your images is to keep a consistent grid, with one, two or three photos on a page. The sides of the photos should all align to allow for your photographs to be viewed and appreciated properly. Many photo book printers offer rulers, grids or pre-made templates to help you with this.

3. Don't squish as many photos on a page as you possibly can

Seriously, do not try to put anymore than 6 photos on a page. It may seem like a good idea to cut costs by putting more photos on a page but eventually all that happens is that you can't see your photos and you end up wasting your money by printing images that end up really, really small.

You also risk making your layouts over-crowded if you place too many images on one page. This takes away from your beautiful photos and can really just end up giving you, and others that want to look at the photos, a headache!

Try varying your layouts by using some full page spreads that feature your favourite photos.

4. Consider how the shape of your photo (portrait or landscape)

It is very important for you to think about the orientation of your photograph and how it will fit on your page's dimensions. Is the photo portrait or landscape? Is the page portrait or landscape? This is important because if you have a landscape page but a portrait image and you try to place the photo as a full page spread, the photo is going to be cropped and you will end up losing a lot of that photograph. It is important to know and understand image and page dimensions, so instead you can make the choice to place two portrait images on a page to avoid losing too much of those photos.

To help yourself with this you may choose to only place landscape photos in a landscape book and portrait photos in a portrait book.

5. Keep your album to just photos

Lastly, when it comes to the visual aesthetics of a photo book, it's best to keep the text minimal. Placing text on pages with photos, or over photos, can make your book look messy and make your album seem crowded. I would suggest only adding text to the first and last page of the book and leave the rest of the pages alone.

Three reasons why you should get your photo book created by a photographer

So why should you choose a professional to make your photo book?

If you don't have the time

Photo album creation can take a long time! Creating your photo book means choosing photos, uploading those photos, placing those photos, changing placements if they don't work, resizing those photos and trouble shooting problems like not being able to crop photos the way you want. If you don't have the time, it can be far easier to get a professional to create your album for you!

If you don't have the software

Another reason you may want to leave your album creation to the professionals is because we have the software to create your albums, such as InDesign and Photoshop. These tools make it easier for us to create layouts, place your photos and change them quickly if needed. Online editors are great, but they are still limited in what they can do.

This software also allows us to manipulate your images as needed to fit your book. For example if a photograph needs extra background to properly fit the page, I am able to do this in Photoshop, something an online editor can't usually do.

If you want to ensure your colour is perfect

The last reason you may want to ask a professional to create your book is because you want to ensure you're investing in an amazing product. As photographers we create and print many albums a year, so not only do we have contacts for printing impressive albums, we also know which printers produce perfect colour and which printers offer gorgeous paper that feels amazing when you look through the book.

Want to win your own photo book?

I'm currently running a giveaway and the prize is a photo book. Jump over to my Facebook page here to enter.


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