Photo books are a brilliant way of keeping your photographic memories of a specific event or activity together. I’ve made a few over the last couple of years and really like going back to them – photographs really are a fantastic way to remember all the details of whatever went on.
Then Blurb got in touch. They were interested in my Year in Photos idea and wondered if I fancied trying out one of their photo books. Not just any photo book – but what I’ve been referring to as “the mother of all photo books” during this particular project.
With Blurb you can make and sell hard back coffee-table style photo books. These are proper books with spines, the sort that you would buy in a book shop and keep somewhere prominent rather than just with the rest of the photo albums.
I was asked to give the Blurb idea a try and let you know what I thought. I was given a voucher to spend on my book, but the fact it didn’t quite cover the cost didn’t bother me because I was happy to spend my own money on this product.
I chose to make a Standard Landscape (10×8 inch) book. The standard option had 236 pages – I decided this would be plenty to show off my 365 photos from 2010 bearing in mind that I had a range of file sizes and resolutions to work from. I chose to stick with the online Bookify system which meant I could design my book using the Blurb website (rather than downloading any software, which is another option) – this meant I could work on my project on my PC and my laptop depending on what I was using at the time.
To start you need to upload your photographs. This is really simple but will take quite some time. I uploaded the files direct from my computer but as you can see you can choose a variety of sources, including Picasa or Facebook. Each photo can be a maximum of 10MB, which is plenty for large good quality prints – I only had to resize two of mine before uploading.
The Bookify system is really easy point and click stuff. After you’ve uploaded all your photos (which you can do in stages if you choose), the next thing is to choose you book size, shape and style. I’ve already mentioned I went for the standard book, but I chose the “fun and funky” style. I think I’d normally pick the “bold black” kind of style, as black pages do show of colours in photographs very well, but for some reason I was feeling like something different so I went with the orange pages and informal text style of the one they described as “just good fun”.
You are then given the option of letting Bookify automatically placing your images as it chooses, or doing each page yourself. I started out going for the automatic option, but ended up going back and doing it all myself. The automated one is great if you want a simple “same on every page” layout, but I didn’t, and so going through page by page was the best way to do it. This of course took some time. A lot of time, in fact.
It was really easy to work out how Bookify works – it’s very intuitive. You work your way through the pages, placing your chosen photo on each page. You can sort your photos by date, name etc, and also choose to show all photos in your album or only the photos that haven’t been used yet, which was really helpful. As my book was to be in date order I had named my files accordingly and so it was really easy to find which photo should come next – something I would really recommend – preparation is the key because when you’re making something with over 200 pages and over 350 images you want to be prepared!
Once you’ve placed each photo on a page you can scale it, zoom in/out, rotate and so on. If you’re photo has a low resolution you will get a warning in the corner, which is very obvious, and in which case you are best making that photo smaller so it prints in decent quality. As a number of my shots were really quick iPhone snaps (some on my 3G), I did have a number of photos that needed to be small – but that was ok because I was quite happy to design my pages around the photos rather than having a set standard for each page.
If you have one photo on a page it’s easy to add another by dragging and dropping. You can then choose your specific layout from a wide range of templates.
Adding text to your page was also very easy. As long as you’ve chosen a page layout with a text box you just click in it and type away. Some layouts offer more space for text than others, so take this into account when you’re designing. You can change font, colour, style etc as easily as in any word processor. I chose to add captions to each photo but stuck with the default text settings for consistency.
The whole system is really easy to use. You can see all the pages like the above screen shot, and even swap the pages around if you so choose. There is also a preview option which gets rid of all the menus so you can concentrate on how your photos look on the page (and checking your spelling!).
You can change your mind about pretty much everything at any point during your project – I could have gone for that “bold black” at any time with a simple click of the mouse! The fun and funky style allowed me to choose the colour of each individual page too (although I stuck to orange throughout).
The whole process took hours (and hours). It was a labour of love but it really was time consuming. It took several hours to upload all my photos.
The book took a couple of weeks to arrive due to the nature of the product, and when it did I couldn’t wait to open it. The cover and paper used is really good quality, and the book is chunky and substantial. The photos are perhaps a little darker than I was anticipating, but the quality of the print is definitely there. With sharpness I’d say that was lacking in some shots too, but it is difficult to know if that was my photography, the size of the print, or the quality – I suspect the former considering these photos were never taken with the intention of printing them.
If I was making another one of these books I would be using DSLR shots only, because they are the best quality. I would also get them as big on the page as possible. I would be tempted not to bother with any captions, but would use a text only page every now and again to explain what was going on or what my ideas were.
This is not a throw-away photo book site. We are talking serious money here. My photo book, with the hard cover and 236 pages, cost a massive £46.95 to buy. I said it was the mother of all photo books! Worth it? Well it really depends on what you want it for.
Now if I thought it was good enough I could sell it via Blurb by promoting it. Perhaps if I was a wedding photographer or something else that might work, or if I was a really good landscape photographer. You can set your price and the difference between it and the cost to print is yours to keep.
If you prefer there is always just the e-book version… yours for £1.49+VAT (for the one I had anyway). This looks fab on my iPad, and again is a really nice way to look at my photos.
My verdict? Blurb is a really great service, and Bookify is so easy to use, just time consuming. But these photo books aren’t going to replace the ones you might get from Snapfish or other online services – no, these are special souvenirs and aimed at not just an average photographer. This book of my Year in Photos 2010 is a fantastic keepsake, but it’s not something I’d use to make an album of holiday snaps.