Author: Tim Daly

Publisher: Aurum Press

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Even after he retired, my father, who was a printer, kept setting type for another printer who specialized in self-published books. Also, a relative self-published a boring book of his ideas on geo-politics which everyone in the family was forced to read. I developed a disdain for so called “vanity books.” That is, until I held my first self-published Blurb book of photographs in my hand, and marveled that I had created a book. What was even better was that it only cost me $22.50 and that I didn’t have an attic full of copies that I had to buy to make a production run from a printing press.

Now, anyone with a computer and digital photography files can create a book of his or her photographs on demand using an on-line printer. The problem is that the saying garbage in, garbage out still applies. Removing the garbage from what goes in to a digital photo book is the aim of Creating Digital Photobooks: How to Design and Self-Publish Your Own Books, Albums and Exhibition Catalogues.

Most of the content references the capabilities of the on-line printer Blurb.com to illustrate the process but it is easily translatable to other on-line printers like Lulu.

Two different threads appear in the book. Daly often suggests general ideas and approaches for photo books and then, on the other hand, goes into technical details on preparation and execution. As a general introduction the book is good, although many photographers who have a thorough knowledge of the capabilities of image editing software like Photoshop can learn the same information by going to a publisher’s site.

Regrettably, the author often doesn’t go into enough detail to help a new book producer. For example, one of the biggest complaints from Blurb users is that the color of images in the finished book doesn’t match what the user saw on his or her monitor. The problem is lack of a color-managed workflow by the user. Daly advises the reader on the importance of monitor calibration, but goes on to say that soft proofing for Blurb is difficult, since ICC profiles are only available to business users. (Soft proofing is the process of viewing and modifying an image in Photoshop so that it resembles what the picture will look like when printed using a particular paper and printer.) It is true that until recently Blurb did not provide profiles, but a search of the Blurb forums would have revealed a link to a site where an appropriate profile could be downloaded. And since Daly’s book went to print, Blurb has also made the profile available on their website. (It’s true that not all of Blurb’s printers are perfectly calibrated, but for all but the most discriminating user the provided profile will be adequate.) Strangely enough, given Daly’s lament about lack of profiles for everyday users, he does provide instruction on how to install a profile.

As another example, Daly suggests that, for the best possible reproduction in Blurb, one should upload pictures that fit exactly into Blurb’s templates. It would have been useful for the author to have described how to do that in more detail.

The layout and design of an image book should contribute to the overall effect of the images. A good design usually uses repetition and variation of image placement and image sequencing to enhance the images. Unfortunately Daly makes almost no mention of this important aspect of creating a photobook.

As far as I know, at the time of this review, this is the only book available that deals with the subject of creating photobooks, and if one wants a text, one must select this one. Just don’t expect it to cover all the angles.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store