Afterexposure Photography

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Posts Tagged ‘photobook’

2010 Album Page Styles

I’ve really wanted 2010 to be the year that I refined exactly what I do and what I offer. One of the first things I set out to do was simplify my album offerings; this means I can’t be all things to all people, but I can do a really darn good job at what I choose to do. It makes the business side a LOT simpler too, which keeps prices low and accurate, because I don’t have to over-estimate (er, wildly guess) at what my costs are.

 

I wanted as few choices as possible that span the range of cover materials. For me that means Leather, Linen, and Handmade Paper (all in a variety of colors). The other thing I did was choose only square format albums, in 8″x8″, 10″x10″ and 12″x12″, which are fairly common sizes.

Next, I looked at what I was doing for page layouts, and how that worked with page sizes. I decided to narrow my layout choice down to two styles; classic and contemporary. Within these two styles is enough wiggle room to create something unique for each couple, but not stray so far in terms of design that it becomes cumbersome to produce.

The Classic layout has a black background, a thin white border to each image, and fairly structured image layouts. I like it because it’s going to stand the test of time and it’s not gimmicky.

The Contemporary layout is generally a white background, with a main image over a full-spread background image strip. It’s clean, and it’s me. It’s so simple that it not gimmicky either. And I’ve never seen anything like it.

To test the page styles out I ordered an inexpensive book from photobookcanada.com with some of my favourite images in these new layouts. I don’t use photobookcanada as my main album supplier, but the quality for the price is amazing, so it lets me be experimental without sweating the cost. The slideshow below contains selected spreads of a 12″x12″ 40 page Imagewrap hardcover book.

If you were asking yourself “Hey, if they are so great, why not use them for albums and pass the savings to your customers?”… there are two BIG reasons: they don’t have lie-flat pages, and it’s a press-print, not a photo print, which means they are just a bit softer looking, and I’m not sure of the long term image quality. As gift albums I think they’d be great; but not for the couples or parents albums. Have a look; I hope you like them!

Shooting for fun

I had an idea while I was in Vancouver to shoot an entire book in a day. Not the 4 pound ‘War and Peace’ books that Taschen puts together (although I admit to owning more than a couple of them), but a little 40-50 page something-or-other.

But here is the pinch: It would be designed, shot, and published in a day.

 

As it turned out last Sunday wasn’t the day. But the challenge still stands.

Here is my game plan:

7:00am Go for a big breakfast. The energy output of the day will be epic.

8:00am Go for a coffee, or three. This is where the pre-design part happens. I use these notebooks and am really happy with how tough they are; one has been commuting with me for months and it looks practically new, even though it’s just paper. I picked up this four pack on the weekend, and will be giving them a try starting tomorrow.

9:00am Start shooting for the pre-designed shots. Note that the timing might need shifting if you need early / late light.

Noon-ish Finish shooting; first edit, and a bite to eat. If I had an iPad I’d probably shoot jpeg and use the camera kit to upload and edit while I was still in the field, so I could shoot more if I liked how something was going.

2:00pm Final edit; pull all the shots into Lightroom and use the new custom layouts to throw the pages together. Print as big 2 page jpeg spreads for uploading to your favourite photobook printer.

4:00pm Finished edit; start getting the album pages sorted out.

6:00pm Upload the pages as draft and go for dinner. Possibly print a proofbook.

8:00pm Finish any second guessing of the prior work and release the draft uploads to the printer.

I’m picturing this as a square format book, maybe a small softcover. If it rocks then reprint it as a large hardcover. I’ll keep you posted!

A photobook cheat sheet

Back in June I shot a wedding, and at the same time photobookcanada.com was having a promotion, so I thought … ‘What the heck, let’s try printing their wedding as a book!’. I’m glad I did… one of things I need to do is build better estimates of the actual amount of time it takes to perform all the post work, and assembling a whole book was an unknown to me. Short answer: it took more time than I thought… (more on that later), but the results were great:

Take a few wildly out of focus images for page background shots.

Take a few wildly out of focus images for page background shots.

I organized all the print-resolution ‘Picks’ into a folder, fired up the free layout software they provide (you could do your own .pdf if you like), and started the process. I tried a few things at first to get used to the software, which is a breeze to use, and then settled in for a full-day edit session. I wanted to know how long it would take, start to finish, for a 40 page book (which, by the way, is not only the minimum book length, but it’s also a tight squeeze for the ‘Big Day’, so count on using more pages).

I also wanted to try out all the possible layout options; white background, image backgrounds, and a couple of their ‘canned’ backgrounds. I wanted to know what would happen to the middle of an image of a two-page full bleed image (answer: bad things!). I wanted to know if the edges of an angled inset image would be smooth or jagged (answer: very smooth!). Do white image borders still look corny? (answer: yes!).  I had a LOT to try out.

Lots going on: An image background, and some angled insets.

Lots going on: An image background, and stacked and angled insets.

I knew the result of trying so many things would make the book, taken as a whole, slightly inconsistent from page to page. But it would let me use it as a sales sample tool… prospective couples (who am I kidding – it’s really just the brides) could hold it in their hands and get a feel for how the decisions they make would look.

The first mistake I made was choosing the less expensive softcover book; go for hardcover; after all it’s what the couple will be choosing for their book, although the extended family might opt for softcover versions. Although the paper and image qualities are fine, the softcover is attached to the rest of the book with a slightly different binding. It does mean that the cover won’t be creased when the book is opened – which is great – but the deep, tight binding means the pages don’t lie very flat, and a lot of image is lost into the spine. Also, the hardcover binding option they offer just looks damn cool, so that’s what I’ll order next time.

The cover is lying flat, and the pages loose almost 1cm of image into the binding, so beware!

The cover is lying flat, but the pages lose almost 1cm of image into the binding, so beware!

I made a special effort during the wedding day, knowing that I’d be needing additional images for the book to use as backgrounds, to ‘shoot everything’. How well did that work? It’s harder than it sounds. I went to the hotel room the bride and bridesmaids were using to get ready, and didn’t think to shoot a table of room service trays of food – it was just messy. Later, when I was laying out the book, I realized what a fantastic background that would have made for a page of fun shots. After all, they obviously had fun eating it, but there would be no photo to help them remember it, and food, taste, and smell are such powerful memories!

I ended up using a swatch of the wallpaper as a background, and it worked out ok, but I can still see that half eaten slice of pepperoni, taunting me…

Wallpaper as background; I decided to use sepia images for a complimentary look.

Wallpaper as background; I decided to use sepia images for a complimentary look.

Some obvious things to check are red-eye and resolution. I had a couple of red-eyes in the crowd shots; nothing major, but I can’t believe I missed them. Once the ink is on the page the only red-eye tool that is going to fix it is a Sharpie!

The other thing to watch – and their software will help you with this – is image resolution. You really don’t want to approach the minimum resolutions for any of your files; I had some small crops that didn’t survive being printed large, despite the software confirming they were ‘ok’. I should have manually up-rezzed them myself first. The print process emphasized the jpeg quantization matrix in one of the monochrome images; thank goodness it wasn’t the bride! You can always confirm the final calculated image resolution with their software, so don’t worry too much; it will protect you from make really blunderous errors.

Source material is from a 14.5MP Pentax K20D, and APS-C sensor. There is plenty of resolution for a two-page, full bleed spread.

Source material is from a 14.5MP Pentax K20D, an APS-C sensor. There is plenty of resolution for a two-page, full bleed spread across two 8.5" x 11" pages.

It took about 12 hours to do the entire layout; I suspect that should fall to 8 hours for 40 pages next time, and perhaps 5 hours for 50 pages as I improve the workflow. If you add the extra prep time for background and detail images, and the postproduction time on the proofing, uploading, and ordering, it should be ‘about a day’ to put the book together, using the flow of events to guide the chronology of the images.

Floating sharp inset images stand out nicely over intentionally out-of-focus backgrounds. This background was actually a shot of the centerpiece that didnt make the cut.

Floating sharp inset images stand out nicely over intentionally out-of-focus backgrounds. This background was actually a shot of the centerpiece that didn't make the cut.

When I thought I was ready to print I had a couple of questions for their tech support; they use a live person on the other end of a 1:1 chat window. Although typing is slower than talking, it does mean that swapping URL’s is possible. And the fact that I was conversing with an well informed person at 10pm MST was just awesome!

The first question I had was finding the final trimmed crop marks. This was important because in my layouts I wanted some of the inset images to bleed right off the page. To see the crop marks you have to start the upload process, and the first step is the creation of a temporary Acrobat file that shows the real crops.  The file has the word ‘Proof’ across all the pages, so you can’t just print it yourself, you have to go to step 2, which is to ensure that you’ve actually proofed it, and then you can upload it, and provide payment info.

Proofing tip: If I had printed the Acrobat proofing file I would have chosent to make these inset shots about 50% bigger. Against the busy detail of the dress macro shot they get a litte lost!

The second question I had was more of a puzzler – what about color management? The short answer – “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. If you use their software to do the layout, they take care of it, because you’re basically using sRGB jpegs on the input side, and their software (and printer) on the output side.

No color-balance worries here; the DJ's lights weren't going to show in the early evening light, so I gelled some strobes to add some punchy color.

I chose the slow-boat shipping to save some $, and the wait was agonizing, but the book did arrive well protected; in a plastic sleve, wrapped in soft foam, inside a corrugated cardboard mailing box that was just the right size. Again, impressive!

The only quality issue (that I haven’t bothered to call photobook about, because it’s soooo minor), is that one of the pages is rippled in the middle, as if the quantity of ink was too high and the paper became wet. It’s so slight that it can only be felt; under normal light it can’t be seen. If you look at the page edge-on, into a light, the slightest of shadows of the ripples can be seen. I’ve heard great things about photobooks service, but for this slight an issue I’m not going to give them a call. But if you are a tactile person you should probably check each page individually when you get your books.

I would still like to try out some other photobook printers for comparison, but if I had to print a book right now, I’d have no reservations about using them again. The images I’ve used in this post were intended as samples for my web site, and were shot pretty wide open on purpose; if you want to see more samples,  head over to photobookcanada and have a look at what other formats and styles are like.

I hope you’ve liked this post, it’s a bit long-ish to cover the material in one shot, but I think it’s deserved in this case.

For me this is what makes wedding photography worth it; its like bottling a moment of distilled happiness.

For me this is what makes wedding photography worth it; it's like bottling a moment of distilled happiness.