Photo gifting is becoming increasingly popular in America. Especially now, with families less able to see each other, people are looking to send personalized gifts that remind themselves and their loved ones of better times, that celebrate life, and that truly capture moments they spent together.
One of the most popular gifts or keepsakes is the photo book. We have a guide to the best photo book services, who will print and ship them for you, but many feel intimidated at the prospect of creating a high quality album themselves. That's why we spoke to Barrett Brynestad, Artifact Uprising Creative Director, to get his advice on how to make the perfect photo book.
He's got some great tips that run all the way through from taking and editing the photos, right through to how to choose the right materials for your book, how to get it shipped, and any finishing flourishes that'll make it truly special.
How to prepare your photos
If you're creating a good quality photo book, you'll need the best possible pictures to put in it. You may be lucky enough to have someone else shoot and prep your images for you, but if you just want to use your own, we recommend using some of the best photo editing software to get your pictures into shape. If you're using older images, which you've scanned yourself, then it's especially important that you clean them up, and make sure they're at a high enough resolution for a photo book.
Brynestad offers some advice here. "Adjusting the brightness, contrast and saturation and ensuring the photo is cropped to emphasize the scene are some of our go-to steps," he explains. "With old photos, sometimes the color is too long gone, or a sepia tone has taken over an entire negative — don’t strive for perfection here, embrace the light leaks, scratches and dust, these colors and textures are part of the story and help bring the times and places to life in a way that’s impossible to recreate."
In terms of resolution, we recommend that 300dpi (dots per inch) is the ideal resolution, and Brynestad agrees. Some of the best smartphones can deliver this kind of resolution, but you'll definitely get it shooting in RAW with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Which pictures should you include in your book?
Often, the problem when you're creating a photo album is knowing what to include, and what you should leave out. With modern cameras and phones allowing us to take as many pictures as our memory cards allow, you'll likely have way more pictures than you can actually fit into the book.
"There are often so many photos you want to include, but it can be helpful to avoid redundancy and be extra-selective with which ones you keep," suggests Brynestad. "When selecting your photos, choose the images that spark emotion, invite the viewer in, or transport them to that moment in time. Often, these are not the posed or overly thought-out photos, but the candid, caught-in-the-moment images where you can hear someone’s laugh or feel the sunlight."
There are some photos you should definitely exclude, though. "Printed photos generally appear darker than they might on your device or your computer screen," says Brynestad, so you want to avoid anything that is too dark when you see it on a phone or computer screen. You should also be sure to exclude images with too many strangers in, or think about how you can creatively crop them out. If you're feeling adventurous, there are tools in Adobe Photoshop CC that will allow you to remove objects (people) entirely, automatically adding in a background as you do. It's really clever stuff.
While we'd never truly recommend altering too much of the image, you can now replace the sky in your photos using Photoshop, so if you had poor weather for your wedding, for example, and it resulted in disappointing pictures... there is a fix for that.
Should you add text and captions?
Whether or not you add text is up to you. Most photo book printers will offer the opportunity to do it, but some don't. Captions can add context and details, so if you're creating a book for a specific event, and you want to remember the little things, we'd recommend some text.
Brynestad concurs: "Using text in your photo book - whether that’s a quick snippet to describe dates, names and locations or a longer dedication page - can really supplement your photos, helping to tell your story, preserve specific details, and personalize a photo book. On the flip side, we’ve also seen some really beautiful albums created with no text at all."
After all, a picture can tell a thousand words, so don't feel like you need to annotate every single image. What we would recommend is keeping things consistent through the album.
What materials should you choose for your book?
While we have our preferences for materials, we are no experts when it comes to what's best for creating photo books. So we passed this one over to Brynestad in its entirety. Here's what he had to say:
"When deciding what type of book you want to create, ask yourself how the album will be used - do you want an archival album that will be passed down from generation to generation, do you want something that can be displayed in your home and that will match your décor, or do you want something that’s a little more casual that can hold many photos and that you can create multiple copies of to gift.
"Heirloom albums like our Layflat Album and Signature Layflat Album are handcrafted using time-honored binding techniques with premium linen and leather covers - these are meant to be looked at often, displayed and handed down. Or, our Hardcover Photo Book or Softcover Photo Book can hold hundreds of pages of photos - great if you’re someone with a ton of photos and budget-friendly if you’re looking at creating multiple copies of one project."
Finally, what about shipping
While there's little you can do about shipping from the actual book printer, there are things you can control when you're gifting a photo book to another person. Where possible, simply have it shipped direct to them, and pay extra for faster shipping, if you're able. The less time a photo book spends going through the postal system, the better.
If you are sending it across the country yourself, make sure you use quality packaging materials, including bubble wrap and packaging chips. Don't risk the chance of your gift getting dented or crushed for the sake of a slightly higher shipping cost. We'd recommend using a courier too, as they often have better tracking tools than the regular postal system.