A beginner’s guide to making a photo book

You’ve chosen a theme, the style of your book, and the images you want to use. Now all that’s left to do is put the whole thing together. Depending on which book service you’ve chosen to use (more on this later) you’ll have the option to use a template or create a new book design from scratch.

To make this easier, we advise that after choosing the images you want to include the next step is to select which ones should be printed large (the best ones) and which look better smaller.

Large photographs might take up a whole page, or even a double page spread for a stronger impact. You can decide whether to leave a border around the image or make it full bleed, i.e. right to the edges of the page.

Smaller images can be grouped together into a mini collection. Consider subject matter, composition and colour and try out different combinations to find two or more images that work well together. Sometimes separating landscape from portrait photographs can make them easier to arrange on the page.

As you begin to fill up the pages with photographs, think about the overall pace of the book. If you have lots of large scale images in a row followed by tiny ones, the eye of the reader will get overloaded and tired. Maintain pace by mixing up the types of pages throughout the book, think of it as visual grammar – you wouldn’t want your book to be monotonous and predictable.

Speaking of photo books, here’s some historical reference — The Decisive Moment (Images à la sauvette) by Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered The Bible of photo books. Cartier-Bresson’s philosophy was that a fraction of a second can make the whole difference between an outstanding and a mediocre image — he called this the decisive moment. One of the most highly sought after books in the history of the medium, the original edition has never been reproduced until last year. Steidl published an exact facsimile of the book with its hard back book case, booklet insert and the original cover design by the renowned artist Henri Matisse. It sold out in less than a week, though happily they are now printing more.

Now that you’re armed with all this information, the next thing to do is choose a photo book maker. Have a read of our blog post on everything you need to know about the various book companies that can help you with design: The 10 best photo book companies.