Making Photo Books with iPhoto
I have had a wonderful experience as of late publishing two books using Apple’s free iPhoto application. It hasn’t been without a learning curve, but what I’ve found is that even simple books are very straightforward. Being the nit-picker I am, though, I’ve complicated my life by wanting details and customization that stretched iPhoto. But I have been very pleased at how iPhoto responded by stretching and accommodating the finessing I wanted. In fact, when I took one of my books to a local printer for a quote, they were astounded with the quality before I even told them how I made it and what it cost to make.
What I like about iPhoto…
Now, before I go too far, I should warn Windows users that iPhoto is only available to Mac users. It’s a shame, really, because I have yet to see a free photo library/catalogue app for Windows that even comes close to the capability of iPhoto. In fact, I have yet to see an inexpensive app (less than $75) that does what iPhoto can do. Furthermore, building on the success of iTunes, Apple could easily offer “iPhoto Windows” as a $10 or $15 app for download only. Anyway – back to the main event…
I wrote an earlier blog about the usefulness of iPhoto here, but in summary I find iPhoto great:
- for easily and quickly finding photos;
- for cataloguing photos using events, albums and keywords;
- as a repository of high-quality, high-resolution jpegs of all my fine art and family photos;
- for creating engaging slideshows directly through iPhoto or seamlessly integrated with Apple’s Keynote;
- for creating photo galleries uploaded to my MobileMe site (which you may already have for your iPhone)
- for creating photo pages usingApple’s free iWeb app then uploaded to my website;
- for emailing photos or uploading to Flickr, PicasaWeb, Panoramio, JAlbum, etc.
- because I can have multiple Libraries for different uses and world locations.
There’s a whole lot more, but this is a good summary for now.
Now – about iPhoto Books…
The advantage of iPhoto books versus online books is that you can work on them without being online: waiting for files to be uploaded, waiting for pages to load, etc. Some online photo book sites have mini apps you download to help prevent this, but I have yet to find them as smooth, seamless, versatile and customizable as iPhoto. With iPhoto, I am not limited to pre-determined fonts and sizes – I can use any font and most sizes up to about 72pt for titles and even 36pt for text. I can also have hard cover books with custom dust jackets – very professional looking! And all of this comes at a very reasonable price: USD 29.99 plus 6.99 shipping (for the first book of multi-book order) for an 8.5×11 20-page, hard cover book with a custom dust jacket (front back and both flaps).
Ordering is a snap using my Apple Account (the same one I have for iTunes music downloads). Shipping is via FedEx. I thought this would be a problem for me here in Canada with merchandise crossing the border, but there are no extra shipping, brokerage or duty charges (SSSHHHHHH – don’t tell the government, but they aren’t even collecting PST and GST!!). And get this – books I upload on a Sunday afternoon arrived at my door here in southern Ontario on Thursday around noon – talk about FAST! I can also track the books online from their origin in the Memphis, Tennessee area. Amazing, truly amazing!!
Making a Book
- selecting the photos in iPhoto;
- clicking on the “Book” icon at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
- selecting the size and style you want;
- clicking on Autoflow for iPhoto to assemble the photos automatically;
- adding a title and captions;
- clicking on “Buy Book” and inputing your details.
While all of this can be accomplished in as few as 10 minutes, you will need to spend a while longer to truly take advantage of all the custom features. This list will give you an idea of the work flow I use in creating a book:
- Select a few photos and click “Book” at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
- Add more photos by selecting and dragging them from the iPhoto window to the icon of your book in the left panel;
- Click on the book icon in the left panel. Place each photo into the book by dragging them one-by-one from the top “filmstrip” view and dropping each onto an image placeholder(s) on each page.
- Be sure to put the photos into a chronology or in an order that tells a story;
- Choose individual page layouts and a cover layout;
- Choose page background colour or full photo background which can be left as it or lightened to go behind text;
- Edit & crop photos as needed (by double-clicking or selecting “Adjust” at the bottom of the window);
- I tend to edit (colour balance, enhance, drop etc.) all my raw files in Adobe Camera Raw then convert them to full-resolution, highest quality jpegs for import into iPhoto, so they already tend to be optimized.
- If you are shooting jpegs, be sure to shot at maximum size and resolution (minimum compression) so that they may be used as full-sized images in a photo book or calendar.
- Tweak the size and/or view of photos using the pop-up window or by Ctrl-clicking (“Fit photo to frame size” or not);
- Write and format descriptive text for the captions, dust jacket, title page and/or chapter pages;
- Select the font style and sizes for the titles, subtitles and various text elements:
- Click on “Settings” and a whole host of global options is provided; or
- Use Command-T to bring up the font palette – this extremely powerful for setting title and sub-title fonts, font colour and drop shadows (BTW this is a feature not given in iPhoto, but built into the Mac OS yet available for iPhoto);
- Tweaking the descriptive captions;
- Proofread again (preferable by someone else and/or from back to front);
- Proofread and check for the last time (seriously – any errors are forever!).
If this isn’t enough customization, you can even switch themes if the one you’ve chosen is not working for you. Before you do so, though, I would suggest duplicating your current book (select the book in the left column of iPhoto > Control-click to get the pop-up menu > choose “Duplicate”). That way if layouts or type are messed up in the change (due to differences in layout from theme to theme) you won’t lose the hard work you’ve put into the book thus far.
The trick with iPhoto is to spend some time playing so that you get to know all the possible features. In fact, I would suggest choosing 20 or so photos at random and creating a “Practise Book” first. Make all your mistakes there while learning the skills to produce a truly beautiful book. Good luck and have fun! The results will be truly rewarding.