Creating and printing your photo books can be a challenging ordeal. However, I finally have completed mine and learned a couple of things along the way. So if you’re curious about how I chose the right services, things to keep in mind and talk about the results as well. Then this post is for you.
I think most of the time I spent on this project was just trying to figure out what is possible. Testing different things, different services, different types of paper and learning from the mistakes made. Expensive mistakes I might add.
Here's the end result, the digital version of my street photography book "Streets of Japan" is available for purchase:
So let’s talk about some of the lessons learned during this photobook process, trying to keep it short and sweet. Let’s get started.
Making A Photobook Is Expensive...
We have talked about organizing and sequencing your photographs before, even things like calibrating your display to try to get the best results, more on that here:
Some of those steps do cost money, but let’s get the obvious statement out of the way: Making a photobook can be an expensive journey or project, especially when you’re self-publishing or a small content creator.
I had to do a couple of test prints to figure out the correct paper, size of the book, and cover type as well, and each test print cost money, each test print takes a couple of weeks to complete and ship and overall, it’s a very time-consuming process.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s worth it, and it’s something that every photographer should experience at some point, but it’s not necessarily easy or cheap.
So before you start, just think about this as a long-term process or project that will help you grow and learn, and be prepared for the cost of the project as well. That brings us to ways to help minimize the cost and maximize the value.
Choosing Blurb To Print My Work
There are many services out there, companies that specialize in printing and creating photo books, so choosing the right service is very important. The question from the very begging is, which service will make my life easier, and still offer a decent amount of options and quality.
Because yes, we want to bring the cost down and try to make it feasible to print our work, and potentially event sell it, eventually. But we also want to have options and we want to control the quality of the project as well.
How the book feels in your hands matters, how the paper affects the exposure and look of your photographs matter. That is what I mean about options.
I ended up going with Blurb, It’s a great option for people living in North America, it offers a reasonable amount of options and quality for a decent price, but the most important thing is how accessible is it.
Many companies have proprietary tools that force you into their own ecosystem, and Blurb has one as well, however, they are very accessible when it comes to the tools that you can use to build your project the way you want to. You can complete create the book and tweak everything you need inside Adobe Lightroom Classic.
And they even make it easy to share the end result from your preferred application as well, which makes the whole process feel effortless.
What Do You Get From Blurb?
So once you complete your photobook, you order it, and pay for it, what do you get?
I’m happy to say that the books are packaged and shipped in this cardboard protective container, which does help protect the book against bending, flexing and running the corners as well.
It did take a while to get to Canada, and shipping is not cheap. But you get a tracking number and some peace of mind that the book is protected as well.
Your Goals & Reasons For Printing
I wanted a physical representation of my life experiences and my work. In this case, my entire year abroad in Japan.
I’ve mentioned this in my everyday carry video, but having a couple of prints, or a test print of my photobook helps disarm people when they confront you about taking photos of them or even ask you to delete them.
Having this physical representation of my work helps with that, it also helps to potentially share your work with other people, and could in theory help create some sort of income as well.
However, in my case, I would need to order dozens, or even hundreds of books to make it slightly profitable, which means investing thousands of dollars on it, without knowing if people are willing to pick one up, without even considering shipping cost, marketing, etc, and that makes you consider your options.
So as a very small YouTube channel and content creator, I need to be realistic and correctly set my expectations, people, subscribers and my audience do not owe me anything. So expecting to sell all of those books would be disingenuous.
The point is to ask yourself why are you doing this, the value of it and for me, a photobook is something that I would want to have for myself, even If I never get to sell them.
It’s something that I would still produce and complete and just carry with me on my street photography sessions and showcase it to people. Almost like a very expensive business card, if you will.
So, those are some of the lessons that I've learned during this whole process. Hopefully, we can get to the point where I can sell some physical copies as well, but that’s it for now. You can watch the full video, linked here: