As bloggers, we value good photographs, and most of us have more than a passing interest in providing quality shots that support our posts and entertain our readers. But, once they have been shared on the blog, FaceBook, and Instagram, what’s left to do?
For me, the answer is easy – print them in a photo book. I have previously written about how my photography hobby extends far beyond snapping pictures. I love spending time editing photographs and arranging my favorites into books or enlarging them to hang on a wall. On average, I publish three or four books per year using Shutterfly. Some of our books are trip-specific, but the main one and the one I take the most time with is the annual family book.
Within the next few days, I will put the finishing touches on the 2018 book and send it to be published. In less than two weeks and for around $100 I will receive a beautiful hardbound, 12 x 12 book which includes well over 500 photographs on approximately 70 pages. To put the cost into perspective, consider what we used to spend to develop a roll of film, with no assurance that we would receive even one decent photograph. Instead of shoeboxes filled with out-of-focus, poorly exposed and otherwise useless photographs hiding in a closet, we now have neatly organized books sitting on a shelf and displayed on a coffee table.
Our annual book is inclusive of our travels, family gatherings, holidays & celebrations, a select few of our daughter’s trip photos (the ones she posts on Instagram), and our day-to-day active retirement adventures. I start creating the new book each year in January, as soon as I have ‘print-worthy’ photographs to include. There are pages with multiple photographs and small captions, along with spreads (double pages) devoted to just one special picture – you know the one that happens when you least expect it. Some pages are heavily embellished, and others contain just words with one or two small photos. Every page tells the story of us.
The beauty of using Shutterfly’s Custom Path is that I get to choose the layout, embellishments, background page, text style & color, shape, and size of every photograph to be included on every page.
Because I create our annual family book in ongoing stages, it is not as time-consuming or as daunting a task as you might imagine. Shutterfly allows its users to save every project and return to it time after time. All of my projects since the first one in 2008 are archived there. It is a rewarding extension to an already satisfying hobby. The process goes something like this.
- Set up an account with Shutterfly at http://www.shutterfly.com
- choose a project (photo book)
- choose the path you want to take; their service $$, custom path or simple path
- upload photos
- Begin your project, give it a name and hit save. Your project is now sitting in wait until you return with the next batch of beautiful photos.
Photographs are stored in Albums, which are basically like folders on your computer. You will want to name and date your Albums for convenience. New photos can be added or deleted at any time and there is no limit to the number of Albums and photographs you can store. When you are ready to create a Project, all of your photos will be neatly organized and easily accessible.
There is no charge to create an account, store photographs, or create a share site. You pay when you purchase, and they have lots of great products that you will want to look into.
Getting Started – An Overview
From the Shutterfly main page, choose Photo Book.
There are three options for creating a photo book. 1) make my book service, 2) custom path and 3) Simple path. You can pay a fee to have someone create a book for you, or create your own book using the custom path or simple path. I suggest going directly to custom path since it provides the most flexibility for creating a highly personalized book.
Follow the prompts to choose a book size and style.
I typically begin with Modern Grey, Modern White, or Modern Black for my annual book. The other choices include page styles and layouts that do not support my vision for displaying our pictures. They also come with an automatic up-charge, as denoted by the (S). Using one of the basic styles allows me to create my own layout and add background pages and embellishments that complement our photographs. It is possible to complete a basic book (20 pages), with no upgrades for the base price advertised.
The book choices are organized by Storytelling styles and categories which include Christmas, baby, wedding, etc. Those selections might work for you if you are creating a book for a very specific occasion and it is a good idea to take a look at some of them for ideas and inspiration.
Navigating the Tool Bar
This is a screenshot of the work area which includes a toolbar on the left side, options for text and color at the top, and photographs that I am currently working with at the bottom. The orange checkmark indicates that I have already used those photographs somewhere in the book. You’ll find it very helpful when working with several hundred photographs.
Left toolbar: from the top going down, you will see layouts, backgrounds, embellishments, and idea pages. Clicking any one of those provides multiple options for customizing the page you are currently working on.
Bottom photo area: Add photos is as easy as it looks. When you click this option, it will ask you to choose a source, (your computer, or an existing Album). Select the photos you want and begin the upload. Once they are secure along the photo strip, you can scroll through, click and drag to place them onto the pages of the book. If you don’t like the placement or size, that can easily be remedied by clicking advanced editing in the upper right corner.
Top toolbar: This toolbar includes features that enable access to individual pages, add or delete pages, add additional photo areas and text boxes, or zoom in and out. You can also preview your book from here, and resume editing or publish the book when you are satisfied that it is complete.
There are many online photography services that you can use to create a photo book, but Shutterfly is the one that I am most familiar with and recommend. The learning curve was short, but you will need to have some basic computer skills to be completely at ease with the process.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to challenge yourself and learn new things. I hope this basic overview is just the push you need to create a book of your own.
P.S. this is not a product endorsement – just encouraging words from an enthusiastic fan.