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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 58
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The Joys of Photobooking (First Part)
Tuesday 20 March 2012   —   Category: Printing
What? You've never heard of “photobooking?” Well, it’s kinda like scrapbooking, only different. I guess I should admit that I made the word up myself, as far as I can tell. So here’s my dictionary entry for this new addition to the English language:
photobooking — noun — the hobby of creating professionally-printed books of your photographs.
Over the past five years, I have created ten photo books, and discovered the joys of being a photobooker! (Oh no, “photobooker” — another word I just made up!)

It all started when I first got my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 camera back in October 2006. A week later I hit the trail at Silver Falls State Park, less than an hour from my house. I got lots of great shots, even though I was able to visit only half of the ten waterfalls, due to rain — that constant Oregon companion!

About five months later, in March 2007, I somehow or another discovered MyPublisher.com, a business which prints photo books. I had never heard of photo books before, but the idea of seeing my nice photos printed in a book got me really excited — especially in their large-format 15 x 11½ inch size. Their very high price of $120 for a measly 20-page (that’s TEN sheets of paper!) book was definitely NOT exciting! Luckily I found a coupon which allowed me to get two copies for the price of one, so I could give one to my mom. That made the price-pill a bit easier to swallow.

My photo book debut contains all of the pictures found in the Silver Falls 2006 photo album (which also happens to be my first online photo album).

Once I had discovered the joys of photobooking, there was no turning back! The very next month, April 2007, I packed up my PT Cruiser and cruised off for a seven-day roadtrip to explore the Pacific northwest via Highway 97. Hightailing it north for two full days, I finally arrived at the beginning of my Highway 97 excursion at Prince George, British Columbia.

Then I spent the next five days travelling 1,170 miles south to the end (or beginning) of Highway 97 in Weed, California. Along the way I stayed in Kelowna (BC), Yakima (WA), Bend (OR) and Klamath Falls (OR). I also took the opportunity to explore a few places off the beaten-Highway-97-path, like Crater Lake in Oregon and the Lava Beds National Monument in California. In all, PT and I cruised 2,828 miles!

Of course I took lots of pictures — 772 to be exact! I used the best ones to create my second 15 x 11½ inch printed photo book through MyPublisher. But this time I took a different approach. Rather than just sticking my photos in the empty slots of pre-made page-layout templates — like I did for the Silver Falls book — this time I created full-page collages in Photoshop for each page, and then simply put the completed page images in the MyPublisher program. This technique gave me a lot more freedom to arrange the photos on a page any way I wanted — overlapping, at an angle, etc. — instead of being limited by the boring templates.

I also made extensive use of map images on my pages, so that a person looking at the book could easily see where in the long journey a certain photo was taken. I was very pleased with how it turned out — I consider it the best of all my photo books. You can see some of the photos I used — 97 of them, in honor of Highway 97! — in the Highway 97 South 2007 photo album.

To view the entire photo book as I laid it out, you can see it at Highway97.ByrdPhoto.com, the Web site I created to show it off.

I suppose all of that work making the Highway 97 photo book must have worn me out, because I didn’t make any more for the next year-and-a-half! I guess I didn’t take enough pictures during that time — at least, not enough to make an entire photo book.

The next opportunity came when one weekend I went over to the coast, and then down to Bandon (in Oregon, of course!), where I spent a couple of nights. It was incredibly gorgeous there. Shortly after I arrived in the late afternoon, the most incredible sunset unfolded before my very eyes! Everywhere I turned, there was another amazing view! This was definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time. The next day, evening, and morning after that I got some more wonderful shots.

When I got back home, I put the best shots into my third book, once again using pre-made templates. But the big difference this time was that I had switched from MyPublisher.com to Blurb.com. Seems like my mom (who doesn’t make photo books!) heard about them somehow, and passed the name on to me. In general, it seemed like Blurb’s prices were about HALF of what MyPublisher was charging! That right there was a good enough reason to give them a try.

Well, I supposed there are reasons why Blurb is so much cheaper. For one thing, their largest-size book is 13 x 11 inches (as opposed to MyPublisher’s 15 x 11½) — a 17% reduction. Also, Blurb’s standard paper is quite a bit thinner than the heavy paper MyPublisher uses. But for my needs, the slightly-smaller size is still big enough, and the thinner paper is sufficient. In the most important point of comparison — the print quality of the image — Blurb holds its own against MyPublisher. The sRBG color reproduction was excellent, so that there were no unpleasant surprises when I compared images on paper to the images on my computer screen. All things considered, Blurb is a better value, delivering the same image quality, with somewhat less paper quality and size, for about half the price of MyPublisher. Blurb definitely gives you more bang for the buck!

All of the photos printed in this book can be found in the Oregon Coast 2009 photo album. From this point on, all of my photo books have been printed by Blurb, unless otherwise stated.

During the spring of 2009 I was finally able to visit and photograph all ten of the waterfalls at Silver Falls. Therefore, I decided to produce a second Silver Falls book, using my new photos, as well as the old ones. This book is unique amongst all my photo books in that it has a portrait orientation rather than landscape. Because Blurb offers their largest-size book only in landscape orientation, I decided to rotate all of the pages images 90 degrees counter-clockwise.

Therefore, in order to view the book properly, you need to hold it so that the longest dimension is vertical, and the book binding is at the TOP! It does make it a bit awkward to turn the pages, but it was worth a try experimenting with this technique.

You can see all of the photos in this photo book by browsing the Silver Falls 2006 and Silver Falls 2008-2009 photo albums.

Nearly a year passed before my next photo book project: gathering 14 of my smaller photo collections into one big printed album. The result was my thickest photo book to date — 106 pages. Also, for this project I chose Blurb’s premium paper — while still not a thick as MyPublisher’s luxuriant paper, it’s still thicker and nicer than Blurb’s standard paper, and does not result in a huge price increase.

All of my previous photo books were comprised of photos from just one particular outing or location. This was the first time I had put such a large number of photos, from so many diverse locations, all together in one book. But the final result turned out really nice, and I’m very pleased with it. Looking through it brings back a lot of memories of all the places we have visited over the past few years.

The photos for this book were drawn from the following photo albums on this Web site:
  • Washington DC 2008
  • California 2007
  • California Capitol 2007
  • Yosemite 2010
  • Clear Lake 2008
  • Multnomah Falls 2007
  • Mount Hood 2010
  • Eagle Creek 2010
  • Neighborhood 2009
  • Heavenly Bodies 2006-2011

  • It was right around this time, not long after I had made my fifth photo book — Byrd Family American Sojourns — that my mom started to get into the act. Having received a copy of all five books, now she wanted me to make one for her with her own photos. And not just her own photos, but those of her twin sister as well. They had just returned from a trip, with my dad and uncle, through British Columbia and a bit of Alberta.

    My mom wanted to make a photo book of the pictures they took on the trip, as a surprise Christmas present for her sister. She told me that she didn’t think their photos turned out that great, but maybe there was something I could do with them to make a nice book. So after receiving a CD of each of their pictures, I set to work to see what could be done. I didn’t turn out to be as big of a project as I had imagined. Quite a few photos did need some adjusting in Photoshop — but then, a lot of my pictures to as well!

    I had a lot of fun making the cover image. My mom had taken this photo of a caboose from the train they were on while it was moving. I had the idea to make it look as if graffiti had been spray-painted onto the side of the caboose. Photoshop made this fairly easy to achieve without too much effort. Because the name of the train they were on was the “Rocky Mountaineer” — and my uncle’s name is Rocky, I had even more fun taking a photo of him from the trip, isolating his face, putting a traditional alpine hat on his head, and compositing it on the side of a railroad car, as you can see to the left. This image became the back cover of the photo book, which I named after their final destination in Alberta, Lake Louise.

    My first photo book for 2011 was the only one I've had made through another company than Blurb since I switched from MyPublisher.com to Blurb at the beginning of 2009. After buying some camera equipment from Adorama.com, I received a gift certificate for a photo book from their sister, photo-processing site, AdoramaPix.com. So, I figured, why not give them a try, as it won’t cost me anything except a bit of postage.

    Just previously, in February 2011, we had had a day of snow, which resulted in some really nice photos, as can be seen in the Albany Snow Feb 2011 photo album. Since there were only 20 photos, I decided to use those to make my free book. It came out pretty good, although their largest book size, 12 x 8 inches, is two-thirds the size of Blurb’s largest book — it definitely seems much smaller. That right there is a deal killer for me.

    AdoramaPix’s photo books do have some nice features though. For one thing, they have a different type of binding, which eliminates the crease in the middle of the book, and allows the pages to lay flat, making full-page spreads look better. They also boast that they use real photographic paper, which will supposedly give much better results than the four-color offset printing that Blurb and other photo book companies use. These advantages don’t come cheap, however, as AdoramaPix’s prices are much higher than Blurb’s, even though the largest Blurb books are 50% bigger. If AdoramaPix had a 13 x 11 inch book like Blurb, I might possibly consider them for a special project, despite their significantly higher prices. As it is, I’ll just stick with Blurb.

    My next Blurb photo book isn’t really mine at all. My eldest daughter, who was 17 at the time, decided to put together a book for her Swiss grandmother, to give to her on my family’s upcoming trip to Switzerland. She gathered together hundreds and hundreds of photos from our collection, as well as pictures from relatives back in the Old Country. It took her months to sort through all the photos, and then arrange them nicely in the book. After giving her a few pointers on how to use Blurb’s free BookSmart software, she took it from there, and easily designed new page layouts as necessary.

    The final product was a 114-page photo book with hundreds of family photos, particularly of my kids and their seven cousins. Now their grandma can browse through this book and see how each of her ten grandchildren grew up over the years. This book has become a unique family heirloom which will be cherished for a long time to come. Awesome job!

    Up to this point, my photo book experience had been smooth sailing. But as I will share in the second part of this article, I was soon to run into some rough seas, but also some amazing customer service — dont' miss it!
    Brian's Photo Blog — Article 58
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    Brian's Photo Blog — Article 58
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