** PLEASE NOTE: This post has affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you choose to purchase after clicking through (at no extra cost to you!) However, Blurb did NOT ask me to write this post — all opinions are entirely my own, and I stand behind them 100%! 🙂
Size: 13 x 11
Paper: ProLine Pearl (240 pages max)
Price: approx. $165 per book (on sale)
I don’t think I’ve been quite this proud of a project in a looong time! Printing these Blurb photo books has been at the top of my wishlist for YEARS now, and I finally decided that winter 2018 was the time to make it happen. I resolved to print the last 5 years of personal images, starting with the most recent year and working my way backward.
With a final grand total of 3,740 images printed on 1,132 pages, all five books are finally complete! It feels so great to be caught up with the backlog of personal work that’s been collecting dust on my hard drives! There’s nothing quite like holding printed images in your hands, and it’s a huge weight off my shoulders to know that all of my favorite memories are now archived on paper in case my computer ever crashes.
Almost all of these images would never have seen the light of day if it weren’t for these yearbooks. We don’t have enough room to frame all of them in our tiny city apartment…but every single image means a lot to me, and printing them in photo books felt like the perfect solution.
I won’t lie…it was quite a labor of love to complete each book! I would estimate that I spent about 16 hours per book, equally split between organizing/narrowing down the entire year of image files, and then designing and tweaking the album spreads. I finished these over the course of 5 months – about one book per month, working whenever I could find the time (usually on the weekends).
I don’t always have my “big camera” with me for the little everyday moments I want to remember, like date night or walks through the park. So every year, I take thousands of images with my cell phone…and all those images would never fit into the page limits of the high-end coffee table books (or my printing budget, for that matter). I chose to print with Blurb because their page limit is significantly higher than most printers (440 pages with standard paper, or 240 pages with the higher-end papers). I knew I would need lots of space to fit all of my images!
I can honestly say that my photo albums are my most prized possessions, and I would grab them first if our house was on fire. Few things bring me as much joy as flipping through pages of happy memories. I’m planning to keep creating these books every year, and I know I’ll value them even more when we have kids (and a bajillion photos of them to go in these albums). Someday, I’m sure we’ll look at these first albums as a family and laugh at how well-rested we used to look. 😉
Having created five of these books now, I have a few tips to offer!
1) Done is better than perfect.
As an ever-struggling perfectionist, I can promise you that you’ll be OK if your book isn’t 100% “right.” You’ll be SO PROUD of that book, and it will be a huge weight off your shoulders to know that your memories are safely off the hard drive. Personally, I’ll take an imperfect photo book ANY DAY over a folder of digital files.
2) The best camera is the one you have with you.
About 75% of the images in these books were taken with my phone. Seriously! Usually I don’t have the patience to carry around my “big camera” when I’m not at a client session, but my phone is the perfect solution for little everyday moments I want to remember.
3) Don’t forget to include pictures of places as well as faces!
Your surroundings provide so much context to your memories. For instance, I can only include so many images of my husband’s face, but photos of our apartment help me remember what this chapter of our life feels like!
4) Sort your photos into monthly folders.
Rather than trying to sort images into different events, I keep it simple and sort them into 12 folders (one for each month). I label the start of each month in the photo book to provide context to the images (because I usually don’t take the time to caption anything). Your computer can easily sort your images by date to make it easier to put them into monthly folders.
Breaking it down into 12 bite-sized folders helps the project feel more manageable, too! If you only have an hour of free time to design album spreads, you can just check one month off your list that night.
5) Consolidate your image files to one location.
You might have images all over the place — on memory cards, your phone, iPad, computer, Google Photos, etc. Download those images to the same location so that you can sort through them easily and avoid duplicates and missing photos. You can read more about my storage and backup strategies on this page (especially tip #8).
6) Set a monthly date to organize your images.
Set yourself a date at the beginning of every month to sort through your images from last month. If you commit to organizing as you go, printing will be so much less overwhelming at the end of the year.
7) Wait for a sale.
Blurb runs pretty great sales every month (up to 40% off), so it’s definitely worth signing up for their newsletter and waiting to print until the next sale! I saved about $90 per book this way, or $450 total. Those savings add up fast!
ETA (March 2019): Check out the bottom of this post for some FAQs!
I chose Blurb’s ProLine Pearl Photo paper, which is the heaviest paper that they offer. I’ve previously tried the standard paper, but the colors felt a bit faded/washed out to my eye. The Pearl paper renders rich, vibrant colors, and I also like the nice sheen it gives to the pages. In my opinion, this is the best quality photo book you can get without using a professional printer.
I went back and forth about which size to choose! I almost went with the standard landscape (10×8), but in the end I chose to upgrade to 13×11 (Large Format Landscape). Ideally, I want to keep all of our albums the same size year after year, and I know I’ll be glad to have those extra few inches when we have lots of baby photos to fill the pages someday!
I designed the pages using my professional album design software (SmartAlbums) because it’s super easy to use. If you’re planning to create photo books every year, I would definitely recommend investing in this program so you can save your templates and re-use them! If you’re not ready to take the plunge, Blurb also offers a free layout software called BookWright — I haven’t personally tried it, but I hear great things! ETA March 2019: SmartAlbums has now moved to a subscription model, so if you can finish your book quickly, it’s a great deal!
I designed the covers myself using Adobe InDesign. More info + template available for purchase down at the bottom of this post!
I purposefully kept the spines nice and simple so that they’ll always look clean on our bookshelf! In the past, I’ve made our travel albums colorful — you can see the contrast between the top and bottom shelf here.
(ETA March 2019: Here’s an updated bookshelf photo with my travel album collection included!)
I added page numbers in InDesign so that I could create a Table of Contents for the start of each month.
If you’re curious, here’s a little video of what a full layout looks like from cover to cover (I sped it up a little since it’s looong!)
And here are a bunch more of my favorite spreads from all of the albums!
A few favorite images of my grandma on her front porch…I can’t believe these might have been lost if I hadn’t printed them!
Sooo many images of Boston in these books! I love our city life so much!
I included some saved Instagram Stories…even though they look a bit cluttered, it’s nice to have the built-in captions.
Here’s an example of a full-page iPhone image:
All iPhone images in this spread as well:
Generally, I try to limit spreads to 2-6 images because the larger images make such an impact!
However, I also included lots of packed spreads like this one (had to fit all those images in somehow!):
I tend to use Instagram as a mini-journal, so I included a few favorite photos/captions in the back of the book:
The work I create for my clients is also a huge part of my life, so there are a few pages at the back of every book with one image from every client session I photographed that year! So many wonderful memories!
I have so many more favorite spreads…it’s hard to choose! Here’s a random assortment of images and layouts so you can get a feel for what the inside of the book looks like.
If you need me, I’ll just be here flipping through these again…and again…and again! I sure do love them! Thank you for making it all the way to the end of this massive post, and I hope you have fun printing your own books!
UPDATED: September 2019
I’ve received such wonderful responses to this post, and I’m truly grateful for everyone’s messages! My favorite emails have been the images of YOUR books that you created after reading this post. It makes my day every time someone sends me a picture of their new photo book. Please send your book pictures to kate@kateLphotography.com. 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve gotten quite a few questions, so I thought I’d answer the most common ones here.
Q: Can I buy your cover template?
Yes! You can purchase the cover template here for $10. You’ll need InDesign to be able to use the template. The download includes a PDF with detailed step-by-step instructions for use. The template does not include the Brandon Grotesque font; you can either purchase that font for personal use or substitute another one.
Q: Can I buy your page templates?
Unfortunately I’m not able to export SmartAlbums templates! BUT, the good news is that most of the layouts I chose are included within SmartAlbums’ default options. I think you’ll find that you have more than enough beautiful options to work with!
Q: What is the font/size you used for your cover/spine?
Brandon Grotesque (paid font). The spine is 48 pt, and the monthly cover pages are 120 pt.
Q: How did you design your covers?
That’s the one downside of SmartAlbums – it’s not great for designing covers. I do the cover in InDesign instead (which is another wonderful program that I’ll cover more in a sec). You can design it yourself (using either Blurb’s ID plugin or custom cover calculator), or you can purchase my cover template for $10 here.
When you’re done with the cover design, export it as a PDF and upload that file directly to Blurb through this page.
Q: How do you add captions to your albums?
I’m not a big caption person – it’s not that I don’t like them, but I would probably never get these books done if I got too hung up on captions. Most of the captions included in my books are embedded from when I posted them on Instagram Stories. Sometimes I do label the name of a place; to do this, just double-click on your spread and then use the text tool. You can copy/paste your first text box to other pages to keep your styling consistent.
At this time, unfortunately it’s not possible to add more than one line of text in SmartAlbums (they might be adding this in a future update, though.) To create a larger text box, I would highly recommend downloading Adobe InDesign as well. That’s how I add the table of contents, page numbers, and introductory paragraph to my books. To add text in InDesign:
- First, finish creating your entire album design in SmartAlbums
- Export your album as IDML (InDesign Markup Language).
- Open the IDML file in InDesign and add text to your heart’s content.
- Export your album PDF straight from InDesign and upload that file to Blurb for printing.
Don’t panic if your images look a little fuzzy in InDesign! To fix this, go to View –> Display Performance –> High Quality Display. Much better!
Q: I love your Boston images – can I put them in my own book?
Thank you for showing an interest in my photography! You can find the KLP print shop (including Boston photos and other travel photography) at the following page: https://proofs.katelphotography.com/gallery/print_shop/
Q: How do you organize your DSLR photos vs. iPhone photos?
In the end, both types of images get dumped into the same monthly folders. But before that, as I’m working on editing and sorting through the images, I keep them in two separate folders:
- contains a folder called “JPGs” with a different folder for every finished/edited event. I usually edit these throughout the year (for instance, when I publish a blog post or make prints for family) so that helps me keep them organized.
- contains a folder called “raws” where I store my raw files. There are two folders within this one:
- finished raws
- “need to edit” raws
I do keep my culled raw files forever, because I know editing styles change over the years and I might want to re-visit the edit someday. I didn’t use to keep raw files, and I really regret it because my images from 10 years ago are terribly over-edited! :/
Just a huge dumping ground folder for every iPhone photo taken that year. I don’t try to sort these into events because my iPhone photos are usually just a bunch of misc images.
I don’t recommend using a program to organize your images! IMO the best system is one that won’t get updated, corrupted, or confusing. I just keep my image files in simple folders on my laptop (backed up to Dropbox at all times).
Q: Do you have any recommendations for regular (non-album) prints?
Q: Have you finished your 2018 album yet??
It’s currently in progress! My big project this year has been updating my travel albums, which is my other collection! I’m in LOVE – here’s a little preview:
To read more about those travel books, check out my recent post on Instagram as well as “photo books” in my story highlights!