Photo Books

This is the time of year when a lot of us think about putting together photo books of our trips. Every December, I collect all of our travel blog posts from the past year, along with some photos, and print a single copy. It’s a fun thing to have on the bookshelf to flip through on a gloomy day. And I love seeing them all lined up. Photo books also make great gifts. 

There are two pretty distinct services on offer in the photo book space. There are books that are mostly photos with a little bit of text, and books which are more text heavy (but still with plenty of photos). 

There are lots of options in the first category. If you’re working on an Apple Mac, you can find options which integrate directly into the Photos app. I’ve used Motif in the past, and others like MILK or Mimeo. There are also great app options for making books directly from a phone or tablet – Mixbook has a really nice app. Finally, services like Shutterfly have been around for years and do a quality job, right from a web browser. 

For the best quality, I prefer to use a service which either runs on my computer directly (like Motif) or one that runs on my phone. That way they can work directly with my photos, and make sure that the best quality file is being submitted for printing. While all of these services will let you build a book via their websites, it’s easy to end up accidentally uploading lower quality files which won’t look as nice when printed. If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, keep in mind that photos in shared photo albums (which are different from shared libraries) are lower resolution. If you’re on a group trip and want to make a book, ask to get copies of your travel companions’ photos directly via Airdrop.

If you’re looking to get a little more wordy, things get more complicated. While all of these services will let you add photo captions or maybe a paragraph of text, you’ll need to choose a different option if you want multi-column, multi-page text spreads, which is what I like to do with my blog books. 

If you’re a travel blogger and you’d just like to print your blog, you might be able to get away with a tool like Blog2Print. I’ve tried it, but I’ve never had much luck. In terms of standalone options, I haven’t found a service which makes it as easy as I’d like – instead, you’re essentially on the hook for laying out a book yourself. Since I’ve already got an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, I use InDesign to do my annual blog book and then have them printed with Blurb. They’ve got an InDesign plugin which makes things a little bit easier, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Each year, I get frustrated re-learning the ins and outs of InDesign, but when the book finally arrives I’m happy to have made the effort. 

No matter which option you go with, I’d always recommend saving a PDF copy of your finished product. Most services will let you export or download a proof copy – essentially a preview of exactly what they’ll print. If anything ever happens to your books in the future, the PDFs will make it possible for you to order new copies. 

Next month, I’ll dig into some strategies for managing your photos while traveling.

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