Saturday, 26 April 2008

Producing photobooks

At Christmas, we celebrated with my wife's family their parent's 80th birthdays. I took on the role of capturing the event through photographs. Since then I distributed a CD to each of the families containing the photos. On the CD, I placed a PDF file laid out as a photobook with the idea that it could be quickly printed and bound. I had used the FotoSlate tool from ACD Systems to layout the book. I used an A4 landscape layout and thought it would be fairly easy to get printed and bound.

What options are there for printing photographs?

Of course there is the traditional album. A quick check at a local camera shop says that a book that protects the photos will cost between $25 NZ (about A5 size) to $50 NZ (A4 Size). There there is the printing of the photos. It is best to stick with the standard sizes. You might be able to use a tool like FotoSlate to plan the photos that you want and the layout. This would then allow you to prepare the photos for printing but you may still need to cut some to get the effect that you want in the album. This is the approach that my wife took with our most recent efforts. It takes a lot of time and prints cost between 20 cents NZ and $10 NZ depending on the size. If you simply want to put four photos per page then there is a lot of work in planning and putting the album together. We estimated that our 24 page album with 67 photos would cost us about $84 NZ to put together but it wouldn't have the layout of our FotoSlate option.

The second option was to simply print and get bound the FotoSlate created album. Find a printer and binder and it should be done fairly easily. Well not quite!

Our first option would print and bind for $78.19 for the A5 version. Now that is cheaper than the album but!!! They would print and bind it as a portrait album and we had planned it as a landscape album. We also discovered that what they called hard covered was simply what we call a thin cardboard soft cover. Not what we had planed for. Could we get them to print it and get it bound elsewhere? We knew binding of the type that we wanted was going to cost $65 NZ and that it would need to be printed as two landscape pages ready to be folded. This printer couldn't do that for A5 documents. So back to the drawing board.

Checking in on a bookbinder, we saw a sample of what we wanted but it was a smaller closer to A5 document so back to the drawing board and recreation as an A5 landscape document. We didn't go back to the original printer for a quote. The commercial print shop that we approached quoted over $300 NZ just to set up for a print run. We would need to print 20 copies before the cost of printing and binding would get close to producing a traditional album. This made it not a feasible option. Maybe our original printer may have been able to produce it at a lower cost but we didn't go back for another quote.

The option that we have gone with is an online album printing option. We explored a number of these both based in New Zealand and in the UK. The one we selected gave us full control over the layout and would print a dust jacket. Printing a single copy with dust jacket came in at $120 NZ but since we are printing eight copies, the price drops to $108 NZ. Still slightly more expensive than we would like but we hope that it will be a quality product. We did a number of calculations just to see where the cut over points were and the commercial print option would have competed with the online photobook at around 10 copies but with the photobook, we still had the dust jacket which we hadn't included in the commercial printing option.

Yes, there are cheaper online print options but the layout choices are restricted and most have no dust jacket nor volume discounts. Some are little more than paperbacks.

What did we learn?

Self publishing takes a lot of effort but gives a more flexible result than the traditional photo album. Online options that give the flexibility in layout cost more as does ensuring that you have a quality result.

Commercial printing options require the printing of large numbers. If you are prepared to accept the quality of a photocopy type run then there are cheaper print options but we didn't explore these. For our next effort we will as it will be a larger book and we only want one copy. Our current online option could be too expensive for this one off print.

We have decided to look at alternative tools for doing the layout. FotoSlate works fine but professional printers use different colour processes to the RGB colour profile of our digital camera and our current tool set ACDSee and Photoshop Elements don't give us the flexibility needed. The pricer tool sets do have their advantages so if we are serious about publishing our photographs then we need to work with professional type tools. We are now looking at purchasing one of the Adobe Design suites.

Learn some more about the printing industry and how to setup a job to better match the printing requirements. If you are just after printing family snaps in an album then one of the online services is probably satisfactory. What we want to produce are coffee table type books, some of which we might try to sell. It is a way of turning our hobby into a way of providing enjoyment for others and possibly earning some money to cover our costs.

Hopefully other might find this blog useful.

No comments: