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Creating a Photo Book

It's easier than you thinků

By Bruce Sturgill, EAA 707277

Photo book

There’s nothing like the feel of a good quality book that shows off some of your proudest moments or handiwork. I guarantee that if you have a photo book lying around, everyone will automatically pick it up and start thumbing through the pages. Your aircraft project could be one of these books, too. The key is to have a good system for taking and collecting build photos and whatever off-the-shelf programs can help you get published.

There’s nothing like the feel of a good quality book that shows off some of your proudest moments or handiwork. I guarantee that if you have a photo book lying around, everyone will automatically pick it up and start thumbing through the pages.
Self-publishing prices range from $3.95 for the low end to $190 on the high end for each one, but the latter includes a hardcover, dust jacket, and up to 440 pages of higher-quality glossy paper. Typical size for a book of this quality would be 13 inches by 11 inches. During the holidays you’ll find some good discounts on the pricing. But be mindful that a lot of people order books during the Christmas season, so the turnaround time may be a little longer than usual.
The first place you’ll need to start is with the camera. The minimum pixel count for a camera to use should be at least 5 to 6 megapixels (MP), while most of the cameras sold today are at least that and greater. Be sure that you also have high-resolution capability, with at least 200 dots per inch (DPI) selected.
Once you’ve taken your photos and have them on your computer, you’re ready to begin building your book. With some good planning in the beginning and having good organization of your photos, creating the book will become extremely easy. I’m an Apple (Mac) person and use iPhoto to house/store most of my photos. You’ll find that the bigger the book and the more places you have photos, collecting them all in one folder becomes a great way to keep things organized.


Typically, during the construction of your plane you’ll have taken many pictures of one or more portions of the process. An example would be of my canopy install of the Personal Cruiser that I’m building. I can’t use them all in the book, so I’ll go through and select which photos I want to use and start collecting them in a folder exclusively for my book. One thing to remember: Nobody likes to sit through a 3-hour slideshow of your vacation—likewise with your book, so keep the number of pages low. Always leave them wanting to see more.

If you’re going to use Apple to print your book, you’ll need the iPhoto program in order to create it. With Snapfish and Blurb (Mac or PC) you can use their online programs to build a photo book. I recommend those three companies to use for printing a book documenting your aircraft construction process, flying adventure, or just telling your family story. And these programs will allow you to access and use your photos from many different locations besides your computer, like Facebook, Flicker, PhotoBucket, SmugMug, and others.
Blurb has an online program that requires no downloading and is called Blurb Bookify. It’s an excellent program, and they have many examples to look at for suggestions as well as videos to watch that will assist you along the way. SnapFish has a similar online program that has five easy steps:

  1. choose your photos
  2. select the book size
  3. choose a theme
  4. personalize
  5. review, then order your book.

I’ll use SnapFish for this walkthrough, which also has a guided tour that takes you through the simple steps of building a book. I would highly recommend going through the tour once, just to get familiar with SnapFish’s process.

Step 1

  1. Choose your photos. Be sure that your photos are JPEGs. This is required by SnapFish. With Blurb you can use JPEG or PNG. If you need to convert your image from another format, say, TIFF or PICT, there are several freeware programs that are available to convert your file to JPEG.

  2. Selecting the book size is a personal choice. I’ll look at my photos and determine if a landscape or portrait style would be a better fit for my images. If I have more photos that are wider than taller, then landscape style will allow me to keep the full image or most of it without the need to crop or make the image smaller in order to fit the page. For photos that are taller than wider, I’d use portrait style. You’ll hear the term “dust jacket” which is just a single sheet that wraps around a book and has photos and/or text on it. You see this on large coffee table books sometimes. I find this is easy to tear or usually gets taken off and misplaced, so I prefer not to use a dust jacket. 

  3. Themes. Pictures and text will be printed over the top of your theme that you select as the page background. This “theme” look for your book can add an extra dimension to your photos and story; however, a black background will really make some pictures pop off the page.

  4. Personalize. This is where you select the page layout and photos. You just click and drag the page layout to either page of your book, choosing from over 70 different page layout options. Then select a photo by click-dragging and dropping. You can also use the “Auto-Fill” option in the photos section that will place all your pictures in the book for you. Most of these programs give you basic editing controls over your images, from enlarging, adding color, and adjusting brightness and darkness to flipping the image horizontally or vertically. You can put as many as 16 photos per page, and with 20 pages, that’s 320 photos! This program gives you a warning (just below the photo, as most other programs do) that you’ve reached the max you can zoom in and still maintain a good image for printing. As you can see, you can enlarge a photo quite a lot.

  5. Review. Using the left/right arrows, you thumb through your book to make sure you’ve placed the pictures in their right locations and order and that the text/captions are what you want. Also, make good use of the spell checker, especially if your spelling is a little challenged. You get the strangest reactions from friends and family when you misspell their names, and as they say, ask me how I know.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve slowly been scanning all the old family photos and preparing a Sturgill family photo book (names, dates, etc.), nothing very complicated. When it’s completed, everybody will have a copy of all the old family photos—for which I ended up being the caretaker over the years—in a book.

Something that I’ll include with each book is a CD. It will have all the photos and information  in the book. This way, when the next generation creates their own books, all the info will be ready for them to use. And if the company that I use is still in business, it will make the process for them even easier.
So, give one a try, start with these easy-to-use programs, and build a small book of your project or that trip you took to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, something simple. Print one and see what kind of reaction you get from family and friends. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. I’ll be happy to help.

Drop by Bruce’s website, www.PursuitofFlight.com, and take a tour of his books,The Big Book of RV Aircraft and The Big Book of Canards, to see if it’s something you might want to pass along to your spouse or significant other for a possible Christmas gift. While there, enjoy some of the videos he’s produced over the years for himself and friends.


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