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Personal Photo Books

May 27, 2011 - Dave Hecei
So you are a digital photographer. It doesn't matter if you are a beginner or more advanced, you probably are starting to accumulate lots of photos. Hopefully you have them safely backed up on an external hard drive and maybe, even better, burned to discs, and even better yet, uploaded to an online service. Back in the old days when you had to have all your photos printed at the photo lab, you would end up with stacks and stacks of photos. Eventually they would get into a photo album or maybe a scrapbook. In this digital age, you can do so much more than just an album. I'm talking about your own printed photo book.

If you own a Mac and use iPhoto, then you have probably seen the Apple photo book service. Built into iPhoto is a very slick photo book creator (you can also make cards and calendars). You can choose from several themed templates that you can just drag your own photos into. After you are satisfied with the results you can just click a button and shoot it off to be printed. They are available in several different sizes and with a hard or soft cover. Prices start at $3.99 for a 20 page 4x6 inch softcover book. New in iPhoto is a 13x10 inch XL hard cover book, priced at $49.99. It's pretty impressive at that size.

You don't have to own a Mac and iPhoto to get a photo book printed. Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (PSE) is an excellent photo editing application. Through PSE, you can create a photo book, similar to iPhoto on the Mac, and upload it for printing. Pricing is very similar to what Apple offers.

There are several online photo labs that can create books of your photos. Online photo printers like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and MPix are just a couple examples. Looking online at the Shutterfly site, they have something similar to what iPhoto does, just you work on it through a web page. You do have to create an account with them, but Shutterfly is a great site to deal with for storing, sharing, and displaying your digital works.

If you are the more creative type and have the artistic bug, and the proper software, you can always create your own book and have it printed. Most of the time, this can save you a bit of money, but it does require much more time and effort. If you can handle it, this gives you complete control over your own work. You will need some sort of publishing software. You will need a photo editor, like Adobe Photoshop (full or elements), and a page layout program, like Adobe InDesign. Some of these services will allow you to send Microsoft Word documents.

For best results, it is best to create all your pages and then save them as a PDF file. Adobe PDF is a very universal document format and has the ability to create a file that will display on someone else's computer exactly as it did on yours. Even if they don't have the same fonts as you have on your computer. Fonts can be a big problem when going from computer to computer. PDF format eliminates this problem. If you design you photo book with all pictures and graphics then fonts don't even come into question.

To have your own book published there are two excellent services available. The first has been around for a while called Lulu ( The other service that I have heard very good things about is called CreateSpace, which I believe is now owned by Both of these are full sefl-publishing services that allow you to upload your original works, either photo books, fiction, non-fiction, comic book, graphic novels, etc. You then set pricing for the books and they help you sell them on their sites. It is a print-on-demand service where you don't have to have 1000 or more printed and then try to sell them. If someone buys your book they print it and send it to them, and you get your cut of the profit. Both places can do custom books or you can create a photo book online and have printed.

No mater what service you use, creating a photo book of your images makes for great gifts. It is also very gratifying to create your own personal coffee table book to sit on your own coffee table.


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