The Book of Shadows
Since becoming serious about digital photography as a hobby, my images have primarily lived in the world of pixels, viewed on a monitor and shared via Flickr or this blog. Even while taking digital photography courses in college, we submitted our homework electronically and reviewed the work of fellow students on screen.
There have been situations where I have printed my images – for entry in local photography contests, for example. Last year, I created a calendar featuring my “Street Art” images at Zazzle which now adorns my art bulletin board. Every month, I create a digital art postcard that I print and share with a group of friends via snail mail.
But for the most part, my photography has lived inside the digital realm, shared only in electronic form, with no tactile sense or quality. Until last week that is, when my first photobook arrived.
One of the blogs that I follow is PhotoBookGirl: A Guide to Photo Book Reviews, Deals and Tips. If you are the least bit curious about the photobook phenomenon, her site is the place to find company reviews and comparisons, the latest deals, help in selecting the right vendor as well as tips for creating a winning book. Gathered in a single place, you can peruse the best offers from all the companies and pick the one that works best for your photobook needs. When a 70% off discount offer from Photobook America popped up, I decided to take the plunge into print. For $33, I could create a 40 page, 11″ x 11″ Large Square Imagewrap Hardcover book – a $110 value!
However, there was a part of me still hesitant about creating a book of my photos. For a while, I listened to the Mean Girl inside my head, the one questioning whether I deserved to spend money on such an extravagance, something that served no practical purpose. Wasn’t it all vanity? It wasn’t like it was a gift or a remembrance of a special event – it was just going to be an “art” book of my favorite images, something to sit on the coffee table, gathering dust, right?
Well, I finally patted my Mean Girl on the head, sent her over to sit in the corner and began designing. With Photobook America, you download their software (for either PC and Mac) to your computer. I found the software fairly intuitive and flexible with helpful documentation. (Check out PhotoBookGirl’s software review here.)
Of course, one of the major challenges was choosing images and then organizing them in a pleasing fashion. After some experimentation, I decided to create a book based on my shadow images – having a theme provided structure and consistency to the design process.
With shipping and an upgrade to the Photo Lustre paper, the total cost of my book came to $63. Was is worth it?
Yes and no.
- The photo lustre paper is simply gorgeous, with a pearlescent matte finish and a beautiful weight. Worth the $15 upgrade. However, I do not have direct experience with any other paper choice for comparison purposes since this was my first book.
- The colors are rich and saturated. Images are crisp and well-printed.
- The proofing process available in the Photobook Designer software was very good, resulting in no surprises in the layout between design and print.
- The matte imagewrap cover is stunning and very professional looking, although it has a tendency to pick up fingerprints.
For Next Time
- I made a few poor design choices in my photo selection and layout but I learned from the process. I admit – these are things that only I will notice.
- I will investigate the options for a “lay-flat” binding – which Photobook America does not currently offer.
The book had a number of production deficiencies, such as wrinkled endpapers and a crease in the cover. Upon contacting the company about my concerns, I am pleased to report that they are reprinting my book at no cost. I was very satisfied with the speed of their response and trust that my experience was an exception to their normal quality control process.
When I first opened the package, I was fixated only on the things that were wrong with my book and its design – Mean Girl makes an encore appearance. But now, I am beginning to feel a certain amount of pride regarding my creation and what it represents – about me and my art.
Many thanks to PhotoBookGirl for the wealth of information she provides on her site – it was an invaluable resource as I dipped my toes in the photobook waters.