Book It!

by Steve Simon

Old habits are hard to shake. The first thing I did when putting together my Heroines book after returning from Africa, was to squeeze the best frames from my 250gb hard drive of raw images into a pile of color laser selects. Sadly, I didn't have Aperture at the time, to help narrow down nearly 800 selected photographs into the final 98 for the book.

When working on books in the past, I had always spilled hard copies onto the floor to edit with the help of trusted, passionate visual colleagues and friends, getting their opinions on how images should flow; which need to come out and what order the photographs should take.

But the more I use Aperture, the more I think that my old way of putting together a book may not be how I do it in the future. There is no doubt I will use the powerful compare and select tools in Aperture to weed down my take to the best of the best. But the ease and sophistication of putting together books with Aperture makes creating them fun and easy, and the end result is a powerful way to showcase work, both projects and general portfolios.


Seamlessly move things around to see what works best. ┬ęSteve Simon

When putting together a book (or portfolio) it's crucial to be ruthless in your editing and it's hard to do it on your own. You're often too close to the images you've made, and you need the advice of others who can articulate ideas, criticisms and suggestions in ways you can understand. I like to let things percolate a while as I think about the book, and ultimately take final responsibility for the edit.

One nice thing about the books feature in Aperture, is the ability to try different layouts and save as many as you want without committing to one. Books are long term and you're always adding, deleting and changing things around--Aperture lets you duplicate a book to, in effect "save as" a different version without taking up hard drive space. This lets you experiment with the order and rhythm you create with your design, that will no doubt evolve and change over time. You're not bound (had to say it) by any one version.

For more complex page layouts involving several images on a page, I find it useful to throw them onto an Aperture light table and try different arrangements before customizing a page template. When I place images together, I look for visual and content connections, contrast or maybe it's a specific narrative I want to tell, chronological or otherwise. Of course every project is different and there are no rules, but it's important to eliminate redundancy, so every image builds upon the story or message you want to communicate. This occasionally means eliminating favorite images, which is often heart-wrenching for photographers, but for the greater good of the project.


As you drag pictures into the layout, you don't have to delete an old image to replace it, just drag the new one onto the page and voila, in with the new. Change the page to one with a smaller photo and the photo is automatically scaled down--magic. Add pages, delete pages, edit and create new templates with as much customizing and as many images as you deem necessary.

Once an image is on the page, double click on it to scale up or down cropping to your exacting whims. If you happen to use a small photo-file in the book, Aperture alerts you to the fact that quality might suffer with an "!" in the top right corner of the photo. It will also let you know if a photo has appeared more than once, with a number in the right corner of the thumbnail. Just try and make spelling mistakes when typing text, the program will let you know what a poor speller you are with a red broken line under all misspelled words. And the book function is only going to get better!

Unext close.jpg!.jpg
Scaling up or down to crop is easy with Aperture (just double-click on the photo), and the "!" warns you that you're up-sampling too much--quality will suffer. ┬ęSteve Simon

With my book, I could have given all the selects to the publisher in Milan and their design team could have done a good job. But I think that if it's your project with your name on it, you need to take control over how it will look. By creating a book dummy in Aperture, I converted it to PDF and sent it to the Italian design team, who could see my vision for the book and respected it in the final version.

As Micah commented on my last post, there are many companies that provide printing and binding services for custom books. Some will even sell books for you, printing on demand when someone buys your book. Here are a few places you may want to visit:

Fastback Books

Article on Lulminous Landscape

Whether it's creating portfolios, e-books, small run artists books, keepsakes for clients or wedding shooters opting to publish books instead of the traditional album, books are one of the best ways to communicate your photographic vision to an audience.

How Cool Is THIS

While catching a wave on Rob Galbraith's site, I came across a feature in my beta copy of CS3, that I didn't know was there. It's called Zoomify, and It really works, though I couldn't figure how to post it to this blog. See how cool this feature is and figure out how you might employ this technique in your own photographic world. It's under File>Export where you will find "Zoomify", and it's easy to use and way cool!


2006-12-21 08:34:03
Forgive me if this has come up before, but I would feel guilty if I did not pass along this bit of advice. I'd like to suggest users stear clear of apple's printing service for their books. I don't wish to go into details, but my first and probably last experience with both their quality of product and their support makes me think they have a lot to go to get their act together.
Steve Simon
2006-12-21 08:45:30
I have avoided talking about Apple Books because I am in the process of trying it for the first time. I have heard that the mini books are great quality, and are a nice way to keep your portfolio with you, or to give as gifts or as promo pieces. For professionals, I have heard mixed reactions about the standard-size book quality. I understand that files are compressed significantly to reduce upload times which could hinder final quality. But I will reserve judgement until I have personal experience with them. Sorry to hear your experience was less than satisfying. SS
Claus L.
2006-12-22 03:04:37
I have tried the Apple Book service with a hardcover book and I must say that the quality is so bad, that I don't even want to use it for my holiday photos. I have wrote to Apple on this point, but it doesn't seems that they will aim for better quality.
On the cover they placed a LABEL, which will over time fall off. The pages and label is printed with a medium quality laser printer on semi mat paper.
It is such a shame, that a company like Apple doesn't aim for higher quality.
(I have also trashed prints from their printing service, as this quality is NOT for Professionals)
2006-12-22 15:11:48
I actually got a book recently from a special offer on a site called "Tabblo." The UI is all in the web browser (which is kind of annoying especially because you have to upload your photos first) but the book quality is really incredible. I asked the support people whether I should make my images a certain size before ordering and they told me to send the full images up which was clearly a good thing.

It is not the same quality as my 2200 but the binding, and especially the cover, was really nice.