September 4, 2018

Photo books

Education

Photo books

We recently received our newest photo book. I watched my three-year-old turned the pages with delight as she looked through our family images. As we sat and talked about the images printed on those pages I could see it gave her such a sense of belonging and connection to her family and community.

I was heavily pregnant with Ruby when I realised I wanted to have more than just digital files to show for our family memories. This is when created our first book full of images of our ‘pre-baby life’.  This book holds ten years of images from meeting my husband, to marrying him, with the last pages being our maternity photos. From then on I have printed a book with our growing family every 2 years or so. I’ve also created books dedicated to just one subject – we have one photo book filled with images from our month of travel in Europe. We have another with images documenting the six months leading up to my husbands mother passing. 

What to look for in a photo book supplier

My number one prerequisite when finding a book supplier was to ensure the binding and other materials would last the test of time. I have had many people tell me that their cheap photobooks, only a few years old are already fading and the covers falling apart. It seems a shame to go to all that effort of designing a book only to recieve a product that won’t last.

I plan to reprint books for my children when they are older so I wanted to make sure the book files were archived by the company for printing later down the track. I also wanted options to choose from for the cover materials, paper and bind styles. Lastly, I wanted the Design software to be clean and easy to navigate with templates as well as autofill available and the ability to custom design the spreads (pages).

My preferred suppliers

To print our family photo books I use Momento. My clients receive books from  Momento Pro and for everything else I use Momento Photobooks.  As well as ticking all the boxes for what I wanted in a book supplier they also have amazing NZ based customer service. Please note I am not sponsored by Momento in any way! I have also used Vision Artbooks ( for my clients)  these are more pricey, but gorgeous books. Zno is a well-priced option with hardcover and thick pages. For a quick and economical option, Chatbooks are awesome and these can be ordered directly from your phone.

The process

Download the software required for whatever book supplier you choose. Import the images you want in the book. Design your book using the software. You can use autofill to put the images in place, editable templates, or custom design the layouts yourself using drag and drop tools. You can choose to add text and embellishments. Make sure you preview and proof your book properly before you upload and order it. Then the fun part, where you get to choose your cover materials as well as the paper type.

Momento has an easy to follow description of the process from beginning to end that you can read about here. 

Q & A 

I did a Q & A on my Instagram Ruth Gilmour – Photo Education and here are a few of the questions I was asked about photobooks.

Photobooks seem like a big investment, how much does a book cost and how do you afford to print books so regularly?!

The cost of a book depends on the cover materials, paper type and the binding style.  I recently purchased a 100 page (50 spread) book with approximately 270  images in it for $180. This included a printed hardcover. The most economical option is to get a Classic cover, with  170gsm Satin pages. Momento has a pricelist here. We figured out to take our family of four out to dinner was around $100. So once a year we don’t do this and that money goes towards our book budget. I also put my kids birthday present money towards the books until they were old enough to expect a gift! I’ll need to get creative over the next few years, but It’s a priority for us so I’ll make it work!

I have so many images,  I’m overwhelmed. Where do I start?

As I mentioned earlier I was heavily pregnant with Ruby when I created our first book. We had thousands of photos sitting on our laptops, it was overwhelming. I decided I needed to come up with a strategy. The first thing I did was properly order and archive the images. I created a method of doing this that made it easy to access and organise the images, perhaps I’ll describe that in another blog post! Once you have your selected images you are good to go. Curating these into a folder is another easy way to start out.

How long does it take to design a book?

Creating a photo book can be a huge time commitment or it can be quick. This depends on how familiar you are with the interface of your software, how you choose to create the book, and how many other additional features you include within your book (text etc). Automated tools allow you to make a photo book in less than 5 minutes, but you can also spend hours crafting your own design. I estimate it takes me about 8-10 hours to create a 100 page book including finding and selecting the 150 or so photos, through to designing and ordering the printed book.

I create my book over a month every winter. I spend two hours, one evening, each week until I am done.  I try and be brutal with culling, only choosing the one or two best images that represent the situation /environment, milestone or event. It’s easier to cull if you have some space from the images, so this is why I choose to do mine over winter, as the majority of my images are shot over the summertime and I haven’t looked at them for a few months.

Could you show some examples of book design? Do you have any tips or tricks?

You can see some examples of albums that I have created for my portrait clients here or my wedding clients here. I love using layouts to group images in a way that tells a story.  For my personal images, I group my images by theme, event, or even just visual elements such as line, pattern, tone etc.  I love showcasing my favourite images large on a page next to small detail shots. Images with lot’s of people in them can be blow up large, and placed next to images with less content, smaller on the page. Without compromising on aesthetics I can group many images onto a page or over a spread (two pages).  Some of my books hold hundreds of images, but through using white space within the design, they don’t look cluttered.

I talk about and show more examples of my photo books on my Instagram stories, click here and navigate to the saved highlights stories at the top of the page under the bio. I try and deliver regular content to this platform so push follow to keep up to date. I bring examples of books to each of my Hamilton based smartphone and SLR workshops so keep an eye on social media for release dates, or if you would like to book a private workshop or tutorial email info@ruthgilmourphotographer.co.nz.

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