DIY photo books without robotic editing?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by tom_halfhill, Jan 11, 2022.

  1. Can anyone recommend a photo-book printing service that doesn't alter the photographs?

    I want to make some one-off photo books for myself, not for sale. My requirements seem simple but are elusive:

    1. Place one photo wherever I want on a blank white page, pre-sized to fit.

    2. Add a thin black border around the photo.

    3. Add a one- or two-line cutline (caption).

    So far I've tried Shutterfly and Mpix. Neither can meet those basic requirements. Mainly, they insist on imposing predetermined page layouts, and they automatically crop, resize, or stretch my photos in one dimension or the other -- even when I size them exactly according to their specifications.

    For example, sizing them at 250 dpi as Mpix specifies doesn't stop Mpix from cropping or stretching them again when I place the photo on the page. Even when there's plenty of room to print the photo full frame, Mpix won't do it. Mpix also has a problem drawing black borders; sometimes it encloses large amounts of white space around the photo.

    I can solve the border problem by drawing them myself in Photoshop before uploading. But no matter what I do, no matter which options or layouts I select -- even empty blank-page layouts -- I can't stop these services from altering my photos in some way. All I want is a minimal art-book layout: one photo per page, uncropped, brief cutline, no robotic tinkering.
  2. I don't know of one off the bat. I had results I liked from Blurb for that, but I used the templates provided by Apples Aperture program (remember that?). But I did have to work within the parameters offered the program which I was happy to. The photos were accurate and I understood how they would fit on the page before I submitted and it came back accurately.

    You can actually make your own books. We had a book making class in photo school because one of the teachers was into it and they put the class into the program. if you willing to take the time and make the effort it is quite possible for a 1 off.
  3. Printique (formerly Adoramapix) does not require that you use their templates. I have made several Printique books without using any templates. However, they are different from some of the cheap ones in that they use real photo paper, so you get thick pages that look like dye-sub or injet prints (I assume they are dye-sub, but I don't know).
  4. Thanks for the tips. Speaking of Blurb, now I remember using them for a photo book in 2013. I can't recall having problems at that time, but their layout tools have probably changed since then. I'll check it out. Also Printique (Adorama).

    After making a small test book to evaluate the quality of the reproduction and bookbinding, I want to make larger books of my favorite trips. I've already scanned some color slides from the 1980s and 1990s. One other Mpix limitation I've noticed is that books can have no more than 100 pages. For some of my trips, I have upwards of 162 photos. Unless Blurb, Printique, or another service allows more pages, I'll have to divide the project into multiple volumes.

    As for making my own books from scratch, that's more work and probably requires tools I don't have. For now I'll stick with the commercial services.
  5. david_henderson


    I have made over 20 books with Blurb . I'm happy with what I get. I use their oldest software, Booksmart; which allows a lot of freedom in setting up pages and creating your own templates and indeed every page can be different if you want. I tend to stick to c 100 pages of 12" sq but that's a creative choice not an imposed limitation- I started off with more pages but found that around 100 is a sweet spot for viewing and handling. I find I get best results by producing the jpegs for inclusion with a tiny bit more contrast & saturation than you'd use on screen. I don't have a problem getting my books to look quite close to the (calibrated) screen version of my photographs , though I'd add that book #20 is better than book #1 from that perspective.

    The downside of focusing on Blurb is that I know little about alternatives. Should mention also that they aren't cheap- though the best way to deal with them is to get the pictures ready and even make the book on their software, but don't upload or order it till they have a good discount offer active. Discounts of 35%-40% are not unusual though they tend to be short -lived, so better to be ready to go when the right price comes along.
  6. +1 to everything David H said about Blurb. I use them for about 7 different books a year of grand kids & grand kids sports teams photo books I give as Christmas presents. I also prefer the older BookSmart over the newer BookWright software, perhaps just because I am more familiar with BookSmart. You can easily modify the existing page layouts or create new ones from scratch. Mixing photos and text boxes is easy. In addition to their special discount offers, there is usually a discount for signing up a friend. Both parties get some discount – either in percent off or straight dollars. I also get mine ready, then wait on the 50% off special that usually happens around Black Friday.

    I have also found it best to bump up the saturation & contrast a little as David suggests. The only place I differ from David is where to stop. The size book I use has a 242 page limit. I hit that limit every time, but I tell myself it is so the books will have a consistent look from year to year.
  7. Thanks, I am trying Blurb. Although I remember using their BookSmart tool to make my 2013 photo book, yesterday I downloaded the new BookWright tool, figuring it would be improved over BookSmart. It took me only a few hours to learn the tool and lay out a 22-page test book using the highest-quality paper and the hardcover "imagewrap" options. The tool is flexible and doesn't force my pictures into a predetermined format. I think it's suitable for my needs.

    However, I'm having trouble ordering my finished book. When I reach the checkout-payment page and try to place my order, Blurb displays an error message in my web browser that says "Something bad happened!" and suggests refreshing the page, but it doesn't work. I have tried five different web browsers on three different computers with the same results. No matter what I do, Blurb can't process my order.

    It must be a problem at their end. I sent a message to Blurb's help desk and am awaiting a response.
  8. Tom, not sure this is the same problem, but I also had troubles uploading if I used their template or Apples, but I converted my book to pdf, checked to make sure everything still aligned correctly and uploaded that and it worked.
  9. I don't have trouble uploading my project. I just can't pay for my order. When I reach the checkout payment screen, it bombs out, and my order isn't saved. I have entered my discount coupon code so many times that now I can recall it from memory.
  10. Update: Blurb has processed my photo book order. The problem must have been at their end, because I did nothing different today. I was finally able to reach the payment screen in the checkout process, and I have received both an email confirmation of my order and the Adobe PDF of my book. The hardcopy won't come for about two weeks, though, because I chose the economy shipping option.

    This project is a 22-page test book so I can evaluate Blurb's reproduction quality, book paper, hardback covers, and bookbinding. If I like the results, I'll use Blurb for my bigger books later. I'll post my conclusions after the book arrives.
  11. Hope it comes out well!

Share This Page