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doing something with all those photos

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doing something with all those photos

8 years ago, I discovered photo books in a big way. It was inevitable, really. Even in high school I was busy gluing photo prints into scrapbooks when no one else I knew seemed to be interested in preserving Precious Memories.

And then I got my first digital camera in 2000. The resolution was pathetic. 1280x960? What a joke. And that was just the beginning of the aesthetic issues. But what my new digital pictures lacked in quality, they made up for in quantity. Even as I was breaking the bank buying those 16MB Compact Flash cards ($80, I think it was!) I was still racking up the file count.

By 2004 I had upgraded to the stunning world of 2 megapixel photography and acquired a scanner to boot, and then somehow, I heard about MyPublisher.com. Naturally, I was immediately seduced.

Now you can buy photo books for pickup in stores in your own neighborhood pretty easily, but back in them 'thar olden days, what you did with photos was you printed them out and if you were motivated, you stuck them in neat rows in plastic sleeves in a big binder. If you were very, VERY motivated, you did the whole cut-and-paste-and-embellish thing, but I'm pretty sure the paper crafting section of Jo-Ann's had not yet grown into the monster of colorful temptations it is today.

But here, finally, was something very interesting that one might DO with all those megapixels of data streaming out of those magic little sensors. I was just itching to try it. Being the frugal sort I am, I needed a good pretext. Enter Christmas. I had conveniently recently scanned a large collection of family photos, and voila! I had it sent to myself so I could have a look, and then I had to talk myself into sending it on to my parents.

If you have grown up loving books, not just reading them, but the physical presence of them, you will understand. Here was a photo album pieces of which would never unglue themselves, loose memorabilia from which would never tumble out of. Here was a photo album with 20 or more pages, but so thin, so conveniently carried about and stored. And best of all, should some natural disaster part you and your hard work, well... it could be replaced. More than replaced, it could be replicated across any and all interested parties. How marvelous!

doing something with all those photos

The next year I did a monster of a book covering 6 years of my own photos, and when soft-cover mini books became available, I did one of those too. Then, in May 2006, I met another publisher. It was a whirl-wind romance, and before I knew it, I had abandoned MyPublisher for the lure of cheap thrills. 20 cents a page cheap thrills! But there was more to it than that. Even when I was using MyPublisher, I was doing my own full page designs in Photoshop rather than using the included templates. The templates were fine, but they weren't me. Lulu didn't bother with the templates and the drag-n-drop software (then; they do have them now) they just said: give me your PDF, and I will print it.

I had a creaky old copy of Adobe Pagemaker (ie, That Which Came Before InDesign) sitting around not earning its keep, and I put it to work. Mostly I still did the layout in Photoshop, but if there were text blocks to be added I did those in Page Maker, and then used it to create the PDF. It worked beautifully. And if Lulu's color printing was not as gorgeous as MyPublisher's, and its soft covers not as satisfying as the hard, I could console myself with the $14 I paid for my first test 8x11.5" book, 28 pages, including shipping.

doing something with all those photos

Over the next several years, I made a lot of books. Big and small, color and black and white. All soft-covered, because while Lulu does offer hard covers, the price advantage is less impressive if you go with that option.

doing something with all those photos

doing something with all those photos

doing something with all those photos

I stayed faithful to Lulu for a few years, but after 4 years of monogamy a new company called MagCloud had a sale that I could not resist, and having sampled their wares, I now use them almsot exclusively for color printing.

doing something with all those photos

Lulu has a photobook division now, but it's pricey compared to their regular color printing, and I like the Magcloud color printing a lot. I still use Lulu for black and white, where their prices are just fabulous. Meanwhile, Magcloud's covers are flimsy, but they don't charge a base price for book, so the prices are sweet, sweet, sweet.

These days, it takes around $33 dollars to get a 20 page standard sized book delivered to you from some place like MyPublisher or Shutterfly. Or it's $7.35 on Magcloud. Multiply by the number of grandparents who need a copy come Christmas and the math is pretty easy. Of course you do get a lot for your money with the full-service products. Especially if you're pressed for time, or have a very special once-in-a-lifetime project, or just oodles of money you'd like to pump into the economy. But if you're on a budget, or looking to do something that has more text than pictures, you can't beat the print-on-demand crew.

It's also worth mentioning that if you have a tech-savy family with lots of gadgets, your uploaded file can be automatically converted into e-book compatible with many different devices. Maybe your second cousin twice removed doesn't want a hard-copy of your precious family memories, but they might not mind downloading a copy to flip through on the train ride to work. That's a feature I haven't heard offered by any of the regular consumer photobook services.

Here's a summary of the steps needed to go this route; only the first step is hard work!

  1. Layout your pages and add text. You have many options here:
    1. Do it all in image editing software like Photoshop/Photoshop Elements (or the open-source GIMP or the on-line application Sumo FM). Combine images for individual pages into one PDF with any one of a thousand free PDF tools, such as the free version of Primo PDF or with the full version of Acrobat. Magcloud will also make a PDF for you automatically if you upload all your images to flickr.
    2. Do it all in desktop publishing software like InDesign (or the free open-source Scribus), outputting your work to PDF.
    3. Do your layouts in image editing software, then import into desktop publishing software to add your journaling, then output to PDF.
    4. In a pinch, you can even layout your photos in word processing software (ie Word). Use free PDF software to convert to PDF, or just upload to Lulu, which has a document-to-PDF conversion process built in to its system.
  2. Get an account with Lulu or Magcloud.
  3. Upload your file.
  4. Order your copies.
  5. Impress your family and friends.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I better go put some more work in on this year's new crop of books!

- Victoria, 2012-09-12

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