Creating Your First Photo Book

BlurbI’ve been putting off this post for almost six months now because it’s less about photography and more about marketing and publication. Lord knows this has changed dramatically in the past year as we’ve seen the likes of David duChemin become the godfather of self publishing and promotion.

Name me one photographer on the planet that hasn’t bought at least one of Craft & Vision’s eBooks and I’ll buy you the first pint. The whole idea of photographers self publishing, self marketing and self promoting their work was unheard of just a few short years ago and now the industry is running on all cylinders.

However, I want to warn you not to get too far ahead of yourself. There is only one Scott Kelby (possibly the best author/marketer/publisher the world’s ever seen) and only one David duChemin (the unabashed king of eBook self publishing). For that matter, one Chase Jarvis, Zack Arias, David Hobby, David Ziser, Matt Kosklowski, Joe McNally, Jeff Revell, Kirk Tuck, etc.

You’re never going to get rich publishing your own “coffee-table” photography book but that doesn’t mean you can’t create something significant and lasting without breaking the bank. With the advent of digital imaging and digital printing, self publishing short run or even single copy books is now available to anyone.

Hill Country Landscapes Book

Why Blurb?
There are many self publishing providers in the market today. Just leaf through the last few pages of any photography magazine and you’ll find ads for most major firms. So why did I choose Blurb for my books? After looking at ten different self publishing firms, I chose Blurb for three main reasons; available book sizes, free software and last but not least, price!

Blurb Book Layout

Blurb offers free software that works with their printers called BookSmart. This simple little program allows you to create almost any type of book as simply as writing a document in Microsoft Word Apple’s Pages application. They have dozens of book templates available in the program and every template is easily customized to fit your particular needs.

Photo Book Page Layout

The “coffee-table” style photo book templates make it very easy to get started. Just import your images (correctly output from Lightroom in the right size, resolution and color space) into BookSmart and drag & drop them into the page template. You can make an image bleed to the edge (full page) or span two pages (double truck).

Spanning Pages

You can also crop and resize within BookSmart but I recommend importing the images already sized to fit each page as closely as possible. Remember, most publication printers use 240 lpi resolution so any JPEG image you import should use the same resolution.

Single Page Layout

Blurb also makes it very easy to create a professional looking jacket for your hard-cover books as shown below. It’s your book’s first impression with potential buyers and a well designed jacket is vital to enticing readers to actually buy your book.

Jacket Layout

And when your book is finished the BookSmart software will upload it to Blurb and optimize it for printing. I highly recommend buying one “proof” copy to review for any new book you create. Images that look fine on your PC or Mac screen may be too dark or too light in the printed book. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and money if you review a proof copy thoroughly before buying any large quantities.

Blurb’s pricing is among the lowest in the industry. They price by the type of book (hard-cover or soft-cover), size and the number of pages. They also offer quantity discounts on any order over 10 copies.

You will be astounded by the quality of Blurb books. The paper used is very high quality, the book’s bindings are very tight and strong and the colors in your printed images look very close to the original.Β All in all, Blurb offer the what I consider to be the best overall value in the self publishing industry.

I’ve tried others but always come back to Blurb for their quality, price and software. And to answer your question, I am not sponsored by Blurb or any other company for that matter.

I just call ’em like I see ’em . . .

27 thoughts on “Creating Your First Photo Book

  1. With all the questions on Blurb I’m thinking Jeff wants to run away and get back to his true blog purpose of landscape photography, or else get a paid gig as a Blurb technical support specialist.

    • Glenn,

      I don’t really mind the questions about my workflow but I rarely do exactly the same thing twice in preparing my images to be printed as posters or in a book. My current workflow is more chaotic and less procedural, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!


  2. Very nice article. I used Blurb about 2 yrs ago and was not impressed by the image quality. I suppose after this time the quality can only be higher. Also, I must admit that not being impressed does not mean the quality was horrible; I guess I was expecting more than I should have for the first book.
    My question to you is. Aside from properly resizing the image, do you have profiles for their printers? Do you soft Proof your images? Or do you work the images and see what happens once you get the first copy?
    As far as color space goes, do you use a specific one such as Srgb, prophoto, ETC? Last question, are the images worked and saved as RGB’s or CMYK’s?
    Thanks for your time.

    • Alex,

      I output my images as JPEG in sRGB which is used by Blurb and most other large scale digital printers these days. It’s not my favorite color space but it does work for books and even large prints. For Blurb I’ve found most images in the book are a bit dark and less saturated than I like so I adjust my post capture processing accordingly. I use Mpix to create a 1/2 scale print portfolio which I use to “soft proof” my images before uploading to Blurb. I usually order a single book and adjust my images until I get the results I’m after and then place my stock order of 20 – 50 books.


      • Jeff. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my question. If I may ask . What is the relationship between MPix and Blurb? Why would you send a 1/2 scale print to them and then use that as a guide for Blurb? Aren’t they 2 different sources printing with different printers?
        Also I took the time to read some FAQ at Blurb’s site and there seems to be a lot of confusion/frustration by their users about how to use their ICC profiles, how to set the files for final output, and the darkness/dullness on the end result.
        Would this flow sound logical to prepare the images for Blurb?
        I shoot in RAW then I do global adjustments to the CR2 files with Adobe ACR and send the file to CS5 as sRGB IEC61966-2.1 to do further enhancements. I would soft proof with the ICC profiles needed for the intended output and then should I convert to profile to lock the changes? or should I assing profile? As a final step when saving the image as a Jpeg (in the case of Blurb) they recomend not to click on the profile box since they say their printers will overwrite embedded profiles.
        Again thank for your time to guide me through this.

        • Alex,

          There is no relationship between Mpix & Blurb other than the fact that they both use the same color space. I use Mpix (Millers) for my printing needs including comp books (Mpix print portfolio). A comp book is a collection of small scale prints of your images on a black background used to check color and brightness. In the really old days we printed contact sheets of our negs and used a loupe to review them. Mpix’s print portfolio performs the same function and allows you to proof your images before buying the first book.

          I don’t use Blurb’s ICC profiles as my preflight checks are a bit more chaotic. For me, the creative process leading up to a new book is less about accuracy and more about “feel”. So long as the colors match my expectations and the images are “vibrant” and not too dark, I’m happy.


  3. Hey Jeff…

    I was talking to a friend today and he wanted to know what the cost is to publish your own book through Blurb. As I understand it, the only cost to you is for each copy of the book you order… none for the use of the software or the actual process of publishing. Blurb makes money on the sale of any books bought (by you or others)… is that correct? He thinks that there must be some other cost involved… like a set fee. I haven’t seen any but since you have gone through the process, I thought I’d better ask before I hit the “publish” button. πŸ™‚

    BTW: Your book looks great!



  4. Jeff,

    Great post. And great information. Thank you very much. I learned stuff. That’s fun.

    Best, Kirk

  5. Very nice looking book. So, short of having a website created just for your books, and a dedicated tweeting assistant, what are the plans if any to market this book?

    • Chris,

      I released my first book last October and have sold over 500 copies from my blog worldwide. I have no plans to offer it for sale on Amazon since I prefer to keep what little profit I make rather than give it all to Amazon. If I’d wanted to become rich I’d have gone to law school. πŸ™‚


  6. Godfather? King? HAHAHAHAHAHA. You’re funny, Jeff. When we first meet in person the first pint is on me. πŸ™‚ Self publishing is possible in a way that never was and our work can see more eyes than most photographers a generation ago wouldn’t have dreamed. Very exciting. I had problems with Blurb but it’s been a while and it sounds like they got over their growing pains. Anyways, off to Asia, just wanted to drop a line and say Hi. Thanks for the kind – if not hyperbolic – words πŸ™‚

    • David,

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I’m keeping that photo of the lime green pinstripe suit stashed away for safe keeping or until Matt comes back to Texas for the holidays. Enjoy your Asia trip and travel safe. I’ll keep the Guinness warm.


    • Hey Mark,

      Thanks for the link. Nice article. And I apologize for the “old man” comment but I thought you wanted a membership in the “Old Farts Camera Club”? Ray and I are always looking for new members. πŸ™‚


  7. Well – I hadn’t purchased a craft & vision e-book, but I may not really qualify as a real photographer. However, thanks for the link to the website. I had bought his Vision & Voice book on your recommendation, now I’ll likely buy a few of the ebooks. He should be giving you a cut of the action.

    I enjoy your instructive posts, clean presentation and applicable knowledge shared well.

    • Glenn,

      I think your days as an “amateur” were over a few months back if I recall. Haven’t you hung your shingle out yet? Don’t let “The Scout” beat you to it my friend. A little competition can be a good thing for a relationship. πŸ™‚


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