Making a Photo Book

My daughter had a significant birthday coming up so I decided to make a photo book for her. So where do you go to get a photo book so you can make use of the years of slides and pictures of birthdays and holidays you have in your home?

I first tried the inbuilt photo books in Apple Photo software. They are convenient and easy but a 100 page A4 book will cost $143. So next I went to Google and looked up Photo Books and ended up with various sites with software to design the books. Their prices ranged from $104 to $140 for a 100 page A4 book. Then I tried “100 Page books” and Google came back with http://www.photobookshop.com.au/voucher which enables me to purchase a 100 page A4 book voucher for $38 – so I purchased two.

The First Step.

The first step in producing the book is to download the software. You can do this even if you haven’t got a voucher so give it a try. It’s about a 1Gb file so it takes a while when you don’t have the NBN. But the surprise is, that’s not the end of the downloads. When you start the software it asks you which templates you want to download. Unfortunately the list of templates doesn’t have a listing for “100 page A4 landscape” book so I chose most of the Photo Books, all the backgrounds, all the scrapbook pictures and frames and set it free. After another 30 minutes the progress bar reached the end and then it told me it was going to take another 11 minutes to download the backgrounds. Then when that has finished it wanted another 3 minutes to download the scrapbooking pictures. Whilst I appreciate knowing how long it takes to download, their times are fairly optimistic and it took about half as long again as they predicted.

Adding the Photos

The next step was the choosing photos to use. I wanted to add the photos from Apple Photo but that wasn’t an option. So I had to go to Apple photos and export all the photos I wanted to use. Conveniently, they were all in one tab because I had previously gone through all the photos (Yes – 21,000 of them) and added names of the people I knew and corrected any dates the photos were taken. That got them into date order. Then being very clever, I made sure that as I exported them I changed the file name dialog box to “Sequential” (Not Title) and in the blank field that appeared put my daughters name. So I ended up with all the photos in a folder called Mary1 through to Mary196 and each one was in date order!  The date of course, is a part of the picture file and not normally visible but Apple Photos reads it and sorts them into the date taken order. So since the number was correct I assumed they would be fine.

Sorting Out the Date.

Unfortunately when I imported them into the Photobookshop software, the first photo was correct but the next one was number 10 then 11, 12, 13 etc. Photo 2 was just after Photo 199! Whilst that may be logical to some programmer somewhere (they all begin with 1) – it doesn’t help get them into the right order for selecting and printing. On the top of the program you can select to sort by date order. Unfortunately that means the date the file was made not the date the photo was taken and since I just exported them 5 minutes ago they all had the same date.

So, I had to buy some cheap software to change the name of the file to the EXIF date (date the photo was taken normally imbedded in the file somewhere). I ensured that it put the date in Year-Month-Day order to make the sorting in the Photobook software work properly. Since I guessed the date of some of the photos in the first place they were mostly in the correct place and it made finding the next photo I wanted to use, much easier than trying to look through the 200 small thumbnails on the left hand side of the screen.

The Next step.

The next step is the software wanted me to choose which template to use. Should I chose the “Photobooks Standard Collection” or any number of others? You can choose the more information button but that takes you to the website and its not very helpful! I chose the “Standard Photo book” option and then had to load a template. I chose the Standard Photobook collection again and then the A4 landscape book.  Allow the wizard to run then add the photos and choose the number of pages for the voucher purchased.

The Wizard Helps

When  the wizard has all the photos added and the general background selected, it adds the photos (in date order) to the book and sets them out on pages for you. Sometimes thats good, sometimes its bad and sometimes its ugly. So many pages needed tweaking.

That means going through each page, changing the way the photos are presented and add or take out pages as required. Sometimes the wizard chose (randomly) to put 1, 2 or 4 photos on a page and sometimes it put up to 9! So the task of getting the pages to look good and having all the fourth birthday photos on the same page for example was a task that took days or was it weeks?

Correcting the Photos.

You also need to correct the brightness and contrast of the pictures as best you can so they all look their best. To correct each photo, you need to set an external photo editor in the software. Choose preferences  – on a Mac click on the Photobookshop name in the menu bar and preferences is on the top of that menu. If you have a Windows computer go out and buy a Mac first then follow the instructions! In my case I chose Adobe Photoshop Elements because I can select parts of the image and make corrections to just that part and I can automatically correct the brightness and contrast and adjust the colours – especially important to get the faces looking similar in colour.

Once you have set up the external editor, if you right click on any photo in the Photobookshop software, you can select “Edit in external editor” which takes to your photo editing program to remove blemishes, autocorrect the brightness and contrast and correct whatever else you need to correct. When you have finished in the external editor, simply save the picture and return to the Photobookshop program. It takes a few moments but the corrections will show eventually!

Get the Colours right.

After having the layout of each page correct, the next step was to make sure the colours were correct. This involved a lot of editing in Photoshop Express. You can do it in Apple Photos – click on the edit button on the top of the screen, find White Balance, select Skin Tone in the drop down menu then put the dropper over a face and click. The whole photo will change colours but the faces will be correct!

In Photoshop I chose as a first step “autocorrect for skin colours”, then used the eye dropper and clicked on the face in each photo and watch the magic happen. Do be careful as your eyes take a while to adjust after changing the colours in a picture and what may be the correct colours can look incorrect for a short while. However, if after a few minutes the colours still look incorrect for the whole photo, you may need to select undo, then select only the face using the smart select tool. Then choose to autocorrect the skin tones and it will correct only the part of the photo you have selected.  On occasions I also selected “change hue and saturation” in Photoshop Express.  Then I fiddled with the adjustments till most of the photo was correct. After that I selected the face and reapplied the skin colour correction. My aim was to get the face colours consistent all through the book despite the varying light the photo were taken in.  Correcting the colours in my 100 page book only took a couple of months! So start early.

Choose a Background.

The next step was to choose the background for each page. To do that, there is a background tab on the bottom left of the screen. It’s simply a matter of choosing a background and then dropping it onto the page where you want it. If you drop it on the centre of the two pages it will stretch the background to fill both pages. I had to get my wife to help me since my colour sense wasn’t as good as hers.

Select Shapes and Stickers.

On the bottom left of the screen, you can also select different frames for each photo, different masks if you want another shape like a circle or even a star fish shape and scrapbook stickers is you want to add a “Merry Christmas” sticker of country flag or something else.

If you want a photo to stand out on a page, select the photo then choose drop shadow from the right hand menu. If the photo has ill defined edges on a page then you can add a border to that photo. Again select the photo and click on the boarder box on the right hand side of the screen.

Add Text.

You can also add a text box. On the first album I made, I didn’t put enough text on the page so do make sure you describe the photo where necessary and put ages, dates etc. so it will make sense to everybody picking up the book. Of course you can put comments like “This is my cute baby sister” or something amusing but try and tell a story with your pictures and text.

So it’s a big job selecting, sorting, editing, and fixing the look of each photo but in the end it can be very worthwhile. Just a note of caution, ask your wife if she has any photos before you begin, otherwise while she is helping you choose backgrounds you may discover she had a box full of pictures somewhere that you haven’t seen before and it will take another week or two of scanning, sorting and adding them to the book! I am thankful the voucher lasts for 6 months because I’ll needed that time to sort this book out.

Finally.

When you have the book looking like you want it to,  you upload it to the website – again expect it to take an hour or so depending on your internet speed and sit back and wait a couple of weeks for the book to arrive. Just one final note, the printing process will change the colours of your photos.  Mine look a little more saturated than they do on the computer and there is a slight drift towards red but other than that the result is fantastic.

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