PHOTOBOOKS

 
I was inspired to create a photobook when I saw the exceptional work of a fine local amateur photographer friend Kim Baggaley on her trip to India. I had the opportunity to do so having returned from a cruise to South-East Asia on the liner Azamara Journey. I had seen several photobooks before but was particularly impressed by Kim's two books, prepared by Momento. Without investigating any other photobook suppliers, although I knew of several, I decided to go with Momento for my first efforts. I was not disappointed.

I have created this website with two objectives. Firstly, to keep a record of photobook information that would interest me. Secondly, to document and share a number of perhaps useful techniques in creating a photobook page. I will add techniques and comment as I have time, and will also develop a comparison between other photobook suppliers. At this time I have only used Momento. 

I must emphasise here that all comments are my own and in no way has Momento any involvement nor influence on the site. You will see below a few comments and suggestions on the use of Momento. Some of these may reflect in the use of other photobook software which, as I have said, I have not used, but still may be relevant to the reader. 

Of Momento, I really had no idea what to expect but was delighted both with the ease of creating the photobook and the end result. I don't think I have had so much fun in designing a layout. I have over the past thirty years created and published several traditional print books, some I have authored myself, and others I have designed and published for others. I've had my share of frustrations in using various software for page layout. None have been so simple to use as Momento. The learning curve is steep and within a matter of minutes you are on your way. I went a step further in my layout by utilising many of the facilities available in Adobe Photoshop 5 (an old but still reliable version). The combination of Momento and Adobe resulted in what I hope was an imaginative book. I experimented quite a bit - some ideas worked, others less so. But I emphasise that throughout the creation of my first photobook it was great fun. As a now retired travel photo-journalist and author I see a delightful future ahead of me as I create many more photobooks to take down memory lane and share with my fellow inmates in the inevitable retirement home. I hope that's a few years off anyway. 

For the uninitiated, Momento works this way (which may well be the same as for other photobook providers). 
1. Download photobook software. It is free, absolutely no obligation and no hassles.
2. Prepare a directory (folder) of photographs to use, or at least consider to use. You can add or delete from this as you wish.
I started with a 'work file' where my original photographs were stored. As I decided to use each photo I would determine of I needed to tweak it in any way in Adobe, sometimes Paint Shop Pro. If so, I would work on the jpeg image in the work directory, sometimes creating several versions of the image, and when satisfied, copy the final image into the final photo directory. If you have many photographs with several subjects, use sub-directorys for ease and efficiency of use - for example, I had a directory for the destinations I visited - Thailand, Cambodia etc. Momento allows easy switching betwen directories.  It is important that you don't clutter up your 'fina' photo directories with images you do not require or duplicate working images. 
3. Call up your photobook software, name your 'project', and make a basic selection of book size and format - for example, A4 size, landscape format (which is the most prefered for a photobook of mainly photographs. You do not have to select the number of pages (maximum 200 for Momento), nor paper stock, at this stage. 
4. Start creating. Don't worry about the cover at this stage. Don't hesitate and get trapped by the 'where do I start' syndrome. Move a few photographs onto the project work page. Move then around, resize them, note the excellent cropping feature, note what happens when you move them closer to the edge of the paper, try out the span and line-up features - try anything and everything as you get the hang of it. Momento is so forgiving and anything you do can be undone. Tryout the various backgrounds. Create your own backgrounds using a photograph of your own, or create a jpeg 'photo' of just a single colour that you like using a photoshop program. Try out some of the wide number of imaginative boarders for your photographs. Experience, fiddle, and have fun. Once you have the hang of it, start creating a page. You can always change it later if necessary.
A few things to note:
Remember to 'save' your file frequently. Momento creates a backup file for you after you have closed the file but it does no harm to do a backup of the .mbk file every now and then. 
You can easily move a created page to another location in the book without affecting the page layout; you can delete a page you are not happy with, and you can add a page anywhere. Momento tells you how many blank pages you can add. Just do a few at a time. 
Momento software is sensibly designed such that the initial download comes with just a few basic backgrounds and a few basic frames so that you are not waiting all day for the download to finish. When you have satisfied yourself with the basics, click on the 'Updater' button (top-right of screen) and go crazy selecting more backgrounds, frames, transitions, graphs and symbols. No, don't go crazy - just select what you think you may need. You can always download more at a later date. And it is free of course. 
You will note that you have two screen layout options. One is called 'Layout', the other 'Preview'. You design your page in the 'layout' mode. This shows your page - just the one page - on your screen. At any time you can switch to 'Preview' and see the actual two-page layout, without any grids or warning signs - it is exactly as you would see if the book were now printed. You cannot work on the layout in 'preview' mode - and it is a smaller image (if the book is of landscape format), as the two page layout is size by side of course. You can switch between layout and preview and back again very easily. 
The file you are working on to create your photobook has an extension of .mbk - you will note that in your directory. 
5. After you have finished your layout, you will may create a pdf file. Indeed, you can do this at any time. Go to File, see Quick Preview pdf and click. A pdf file - to be read in Adobe Acrobat - will be created. The pages will have a 'Momento' watermark on each page. I did not find it all that helpful as the preview mode was excellent for seeing the final result.
6. Once you are satisfied with your layout, go to Finish (on the top of page tool bar. You will be given a screen that shows a number of warnings, if applicable. They are self explanatory. You may choose to ignore some, like those refering to photo (image) quality, or a n image too close to a page edge. (Trim lines are shown on the layour page to guide you so this should not be a problem in layout unless you want an image to 'bleed to edge'. The screen will also ask what text you want on the spine of your photobook. When satisfied hit the Export button. Momento will not combine your layout design and photographs from your mbk file into an .mbf master file - see it in your directory. This is automatically uploaded to Momento. Note that up to this stage you still have paid no money. Your .mbf master file sits on the Momento server until you actually order a copy - when you are ready.
7. When ready, order your copy through the Momento website. You will be guided to the listing of the new book - and any books you have done in the past. You then place an order through the shopping cart where you are given a number of choices - number of copies required, a selection of stock (that is, the paper), and cover material. Include your payment details and that;s it.

I have not mentioned a number of other features of Momento - sorting, templates, photo embeishments, inspiration - you can check these out when you start your design just to see what is available. I used none of these - my choice. Also, you will find a number of useful moves that you can make with Momento - such as lining-up photographs, positioning photographs, swopping the layout horizontally, and even letting Momento layout your images according to your selected basic arrangement. 

Finally, one thing that I found most impressive with Momento is the ability to communicate effectively with the staff. Email replies are always prompt and courteous. Your actions such as downloaading (exporting) your layout and ordering always results in an email to say that the action was successful - or otherwise I guess. It take some 8-10 before you see your treasured photobook - you will receive an email when it is despatched - by Australia Post express in a study cardboard container. 

Okay, this is what happens in Momento. And its suits me fine. I have no doubt that other photobook suppliers have similar proceedures - I don't know at this stage of my life as a photobook tragic. 

Peter Stone, Yarram, Victoria, Australia   Email peter@oceans.com.au

Some useful URLs:
Momento  www.momento.com.au
Adobe (Photoshop etc): www.adobe.com/au
Comparison of Photobooks.

 
MY PHOTOBOOKS Note: PDF files are internal, located on D:Data drive, not accessible via internet.
Momento files are external http files and are available through the internet.
AZAMARA JOURNEY PHOTOBOOK
 
 
To see the photobook on the Momento site, link on the image left. INTERNAL USE ONLY:
Internal PDF file  PDF FILE 
Momento log-in.

A4 landscape, dustjacket, laminated board covers, 200 pages, 170 gsm satin paper.
Momento cost: $ 295.79  (Not for sale - this is what it cost me)

This is a true photobook with a moderate amount of text, and about 600 scenic photographs. My aim here was to create a visually pleasing layout, each double-spread being different and imaginative. I combined the use of Adobe Photoshop with the features of Momento to create a photobook that was more graphically appreciative than the individual photographs themselves, although some exceptional shots were featured on a full page, and in one instance, over two pages (which incidentally did not work as well as I hoped). I tried out as many creative ideas as I could using Momento and Adobe together; not all ideas worked fully but none were a disaster. In general, the reaction of friends and family is 'wow, how did you do that'. 
My overall reaction on receiving the Momento photobook was one of full satisfaction. I am unable to compare the quality of the photobook with that of other suppliers, but as I was impressed by Kim's work, I likewise was with what I received. Without comparing the photobook quality of other suppliers, I will certainly do another Momento photobook. 
 

AZAMARA JOURNEY JOURNAL
 
To see the photobook on the Momento site, link on the image left. INTERNAL USE ONLY
Internal PDF file  PDF FILE  

A4 portrait format, laminated board covers (no dustjacket), 200 pages, 170 gsm paper. 
Momento cost: $ 270.32   (Not for sale - this is what it cost me)

This is more of a journal/diary, with predoninant text, yet some 200 photographs of family interest. Because it is a journal, to be read rather than 'looked at', I chose the more familiar portrait format. I am not totally pleased with the result, but that is not Momento's fault - their quality is excellent as usual. My problem stems from the fact that this is a 200 page photobook that is predominantly text and is thus meant to be read rather than 'looked at'. The journal, indeed any book of this textural nature, does not need 170gsm paper; a lesser weight stock of 140 gsm would have been ideal - it would then have 'felt' better, and would be able to open-out in a comfortable readable manner. As it is, with the heavy stock, and glue binding, when you open it up it feels as thought it wants to snap shut on your fingers like a mousetrap! I mention more on binding and stock choices below. Basically, a photobook in landscape format has a better presentation if it is kept to below 100 pages of 170gsm stock - or better still, find a photobook supplier that offers a choice of lesser weight stock such as 140gsm. Otherwise, I am delighted with the result.
 

NAMASTE' INDIA
A photographic journey through Northern India - Travelling on a Royal Enfield motorcycle with Ferris Wheels Motorcycle Safari's we traversed the Himalaya and fell in love with India and her people.

See Kim Baggaley's brilliant photobook  NAMASTE' INDIA.
This book IS for sale. 


 
SUGGESTIONS TO MOMENTO - Are they applicable to your photobook supplier?

Suggestions and comments here are in no way deemed to be a criticism of Momento. Some suggestions would be nice to adopt but may not be financially or technically practical. The points raised may also be applicable to other photoshop software - as I experience other photobook software I may make further, specific, comment. Or perhaps a reader may email me with a comment to add. If it is constructive and useful, it shall be included. The points I raise below were emailed to Momento. They expressed gratitude for the feedback but the individual points were not addressed. 

Link on an image to increase size. 

1.  COPY OF PAGE FROM WITHIN A PROJECT, and PROJECT TO PROJECT

It would be useful to be able to copy a page from one project and include it in another project; similarly, be able to copy a page and insert within the same project (not just move the page). 

Why: There are several reasons. When working on a project page design, it is handy to be able to save a page in a separate ‘work’ project mbk file, for example, if there are alternative designs for the page and you do not want to destroy what you have already created for that page. It is also useful to be able to transfer a created page from one project to another, to retain the basic design or even to retain the page keeping the same or some imbedded images. A project file could be created of favorite page designs for latter use. 

Workaround: You simply can’t do it. You can use the template feature to some extent but this is not the same as retaining the images and being able to transfer a page from project to project. You can retain selected pages from a completed project by simply copying the whole project file, then deleting the unwanted pages. You can then add new pages to the saves pages but you can only do this once and can’t add any further already created pages.

Ask yourself: Does your photobook software allow copying of a page? Is it important to you?

.... OR COPY INTO ANOTHER PROJECT.


 
2.  REMOVE WARNING SIGNS

I could see no way of temporarily removing the ‘QUALITY’ and ‘EDGES’ signs on a project page.

Why: I had cause for some fine placement of a small image but the Quality sign was in the way.

Workaround. Moving the whole image may help, and the Edges sign can be removed by moving the image but the point is, you should not have to do that. A simple preference on/off indication would be sufficient.


 
3. LINE AND SHAPES

Having a line and shapes drawing tool would be handy. 

Why: Assists greatly with creative design. Lines, and shapes of rectangles, circles and ovals is all that is required, although a full lasoo facility would be handy. The interior of the created shape should be able to be selected as either opaque or transparent.

Workaround. You can create a ‘line’ as a jpeg image but it is fiddly. Boxes and other simple shapes are easily created as jpeg images but there is no internal transparency. 

I wanted to create a single line at the top of each page on a photobook journal in A4 portrait photo. The only was to do this was to create an image I called topline.jpg and insert this on each page as I progressed with the layout. It was tedious but it worked. A blank jpeg file was created in Adobe, and a simple black line drawn. The background of the topline.jpg file was set as the identical colour of the background of the layout page, so when the topline.jpg image was placed on the page, the line appeared 'on its own' so to speak. The topline.jpg image was horizontally long and vertically short - but not too short as Momento could not handle it if too narrow'. Experiment. (The jpweg image is shown drawn on the image here in pink). The text above the line was simply added using the Momento 'Add Text' facility. 

Don't forget you can click on an image to increase size.


 
4. IMAGE TRANSPARENCY

A useful design tool is the ability to select a section of a photograph and make it transparent (to the next layer below) - like an unwanted background for example. The selection could be a simple shape using a select cursor, or a colour. A lasoo selection would be even better from a creative point of view.

Why: Transparency is a marvelous creative design concept and can provide excellent results if used imaginatively. The easier the transparency facility can be used, the more often it will be used. Consider how gif files can be used with html (internet) files, albeit at greatly reduced quality. The concept of transparency would enable a quadrilateral jpeg image to be place over another jpeg allowing a section of the top jpeg to be transparent to the section beneath it in the bottom jpeg. 

Workaround: Using ‘photoshop’ software such as Adobe Elements, Paint Shop Pro or AfterShot Pro, for example, you can generally create the image that you want but you really have to work around the ‘transparency’ and literally fake it, by first determining what it is that you want behind the ‘transparency’ jpeg and actually creating that in the top jpeg. In other words, the ‘transparency’ is embedded in the created jpeg. Note that a jpeg cannot be stored with a transparency function (whereas a gif file can). 

For example. You want to show an image in your photobook of your pet, shown on a plain page background. Using photoshop software, eliminate the unwanted background around the pet, and replace this eliminated background with the identical colour of the photobook background colour. When you then place the quadrilateral jpeg of the pet on the page, the pet will appear as if it ‘floats’ on the page. This is the same procedure to be done when placing a jpeg on a photobook page over another jpeg photo but you have to copy the section of the bottom jpeg into the deleted background of the top image. 

An alternative workaround, and perhaps an easier way to do it if the bottom image is not a plain background, is to create a separate jpeg in a photoshop program from the ‘top’ image, over the ‘bottom’ image. All photoshop programs can do this through the ‘layers’ option. You can even combine the two procedures whereby part of the top image extends beyond the edges of the bottom image. 


 
The background of the original buddah photograph was distracting; I wanted to eliminate this poor background and have the buddah stand out on its own. Using Adobe photoshop, I selected all the unwanted background sections (including the sections between the wheel spokes), and using Adobe layers feature, created a layer of blue under the original image. I matched this blue to the same blue background of the layout page. (The image edges are represented by the pink border.) When this images is now placed on the blue background layout page it 'floats' on its own. This is an easy example. Have a look at the motor cyclists below 'flying' through the page over the other images. Now that is more complicated. 


 


 
5. EASE OF SELECTION OF PHOTO IMAGES

Jpeg images on a project page can be linked together reasonably easily, but there are times when it is difficult to select (or deselect) an image if close to another image or under an other image. If the jpeg file names were shown for a page in the work area, and a means of selecting and unselecting by clicking onto that list, it would make design a bit easier and quicker. Also, it would be handy to be able to select one or more images and lock these together as one in a more permanent manner than the current temporary selection of several images which is not retained when another image is the selected.

Selection of more than one image to be linked could be achieved by using one of the Shift/Ctl/Atlt keys when selecting a second and subsequent image from the list.  This is an important consideration as it is virtually impossible - or at least irritating frustrating - to try and work with layers close to each other, or stacked. To lock two or more layers together, and to be able to specifically select a layer, is important to allow utmost creativity. 

Workaround: just be careful - precise - when selecting an image. You may have to move the cursor to a different part of the image to select the image if there is conflict with another ‘close-by’ image. 

In the image on the right, the black boarder is actually a photo jpeg of just a black rectangle. To position it correctly around the city photo image was frustrating as any attempt to select the 'black photo' invariably selected the city photo, because the two are close together. But it can be done. 


 
6. CHANGING LINKED IMAGES

Linking jpeg images can be moved as one image group, but no other type of  manipulation can be done on that group. For example, resizing a group of photographs would be handy, or using the opaque feature. 

Workaround. None really - you have to resize each image separately. It's not a major issue.


 
7. SPANS
Show where the two-page spans are in the thumbnails below the project page, with a link symbol.

I’m not sure that the two-page span option works well. I tried it and a significant part of the image in the centre was lost in the binding. 

Workaround: I subsequently did another two-page spread by splitting the image in two and allowing a duplicate margin of about 10mm on each image. It is better to have a smidgen of duplicate photo than no photo section at all. 

Note: The Quality symbol warned me that the original image may not give the best quality when printed because I was expanding it too much. It can be ignored. Had the image been placed on just the one page the Quality warning would not have been shown. 
 

End result. Oops!!! We've lost a monk! 
This is a photo of the actual photobook page where the single image is spanned over two pages. Note that it show up okay on the preview but as far as the area of the spine is concerned, that is not identical to the end result.

Momento warns: 
Even when using the software's Span feature, keep important content away from the binding edge.

If Momento was really smart, it would automatically duplicate a small strip in the spine area. Do it yourself, and don't use the Span option unless the lost section is not important. Now I know! 
 

...

Layout mode.

Preview mode.  Remember to click on image to enlarge.

 
8. TEXT

Point 1.
Although Momento is predominantly for photographs and simple caption text, it would be a benefit to have the opportunity to use bold and italic within the text. These can only be selected if all the text font is in that one style. 

Point 2.
Occasionally, the text as displayed in the preview does not match the position of the text in the main working frame, specifically, the size of the ‘box’ that the text is included within. For example, I have had text that fits neatly between photographs in the main working page layout but overlaps a photograph when shown in the preview. 

Workaround: Easy enough to do. Preview everything and manually adjust frames around text by trial and error. Remember - always check the Preview when boxing text. 

 


 
9. FRAMES

Point 1.
Momento has a large number of imaginative frames to choose but is limited in its offer of variable width plain frames. A keyline frame is selectable, but no other plain black or white border of greater width. I think this is a necessity for creative layout. A (selected) colour border may also be welcomed.

Workaround: You can easily create a plain border of any colour around any image but creating a small jpeg of the colour and then manipulating this colour jpeg under the jpeg image to be framed. It gets a bit frustrating when the frame width is just a smidgen wider than the available keyline frame, as it is difficult to select and manipulate the frame image jpeg under the photo jpeg.  (See point 5 re ease of selection, above).

Point 2.
Another design feature could be the means of having a frame overlayed upon another frame, for example, soft edges over rounded corners. (Not so important).


Note that the Momento Black Border is not even around the image.

 
10. LIGHT-DARK SELECTION

There is a Saturation and Hue slider available but I am surprised there are no BRIGHTNESS and CONTRAST sliders. Brightness (dark/light) selection would be very handy to match up images on the same or adjacent pages. ‘Brightness’ is not of course the same as ‘Opacity’. The availability of a ‘brightness’ slider would be most useful for those not using photoshop software. 

Workaround: If you are familiar with, and use, a photoshop program you would make sure that your photo image meets your demands of ‘brightness’, saturation and hue before transferring to the photoshop page. But even so, if you have two similar photographs on a photobook page you may wish to simply tweak one of then with respect to ‘brightness’ to match the other. Of course, you could match the two photographs using a photoshop program. 

In the example layout on the right, two photos have been joined to give one image. These could have been easily matched for brightness (of the sky for example) using a Brightness slider within Momento. As it was, the two photographs were matched (for the sky) in Adobe. 


 
11. CLOSING MOMENTO

Closing Momento (with or without saving) seems to lock out a subsequent immediate reload of Momento - message comes up saying that only one Momento at a time is allowed. Need to restart the computer to get back up again.

Workaround: No choice - restart computer. 

Note: Once in Momento you can select, open and close any project. The problem occurs when you close down Momento and want to start up again later before you shut down (turn off) you whole system.
 


 
12. MISSING IMAGES

When using ‘Check for Warnings’, the notation ‘empty placeholders’ is indicated when an image is spanned over two pages. This does seem to appear only when there are other ‘empty placeholders’ which are genuine.

Workaround: Ignore it.


 
13. LAYOUT IMAGES IN PAGE DISPLAY STRIP
The individual images in the page display strip under the full page layout do not always show. I have found no consistency in this - some show one time, then not another. I thought it may have something to do with the speed of the computer but the problem happens on both my home and office computer; both should be more than adequate.

Workaround: Be patient, it may pop up.


 
14. LAYOUT PAGE

In Layout mode, it would be handy to be able to see the layout of two adjoining pages and be able to work on both at the same time - for example, transfer photos and images from one page to another, or to line up images over two pages. I appreciate that this is available in Preview mode, but no changes can be made whilst in this mode. In A4 landscape mode, it is appreciated that the two separate page layouts would be smaller on screen than in normal layout with one page. With portrait size however, there would be no change in size (presuming using a normal wide-screen monitor). I would have found this feature handy when doing a journal in A4 portrait. 

Workaround: It’s no big deal - just a handy feature if available. You can of course copy and paste images from one page to another. Sliding an image from one page to another would be quicker. 


 
15.  GRID LINES

Customised grid lines are a very handy feature but I would like to see a means of locking them. It is far too easy to accidentally move a line when trying to move an image or text. Note for users: if you accidentally (or intentionally) move a grid line on a page, it affects that gridline on all pages.

Workaround: There is none. Be careful when selecting an image and placing the cursor near a grid line. Always keep a written record of where your grid lines are so that they an be repositioned if necessary - use the grid measurement scale and note the values. 

It is very easy to set a grid line in Momento. For a horizontal line, place the cursor on the top scale, hold the left-hand button down on the mouse, and slide the cursor down. To remove a gridline, place the cursor over the the line and slide it off the page. A 'lock grid' buttom on the tool bar would prevent accidental movement of the gridline when selecting an image. 


 
16. TRANSFERRING PROJECT FROM ONE COMPUTER TO ANOTHER

This concerns the creation of a photobook using Momento over two (or more) computers. I tried to develop a Momento photobook using my office computer and home computer. The Momento software was loaded on both office and home computers, both on the C: drive. My mbk file was on an external drive. My photo file was also on the external drive.

When the external drive is connected to the office computer, the system designates it as G: drive. When the external drive is connected to the home computer the system designates it as D: drive.

Let’s say I start developing the photobook on the office computer. I transfer jpeg images from the external drive to the layout page. No problem. I then take the external drive and connect it to my home computer.  I open Momento with my mbk file and it comes up with ‘The software was unable to find xxx photos’, and follows with a choice: Locate missing photos. Use placeholders for missing photos. Remove all missing photos. Close project without saving. 

It is not practical to ‘locate missing photos’ each time, and whereas using a placeholder allows further work on the mbk file, it is also not practical. 

This happens because the external drive (where the photos are) is now designated as D: drive (whereas it was G: drive on my home computer). Momento seeks a jpeg file in a particular directory, ie g:\momento\my-photobook-images\sam-on-piano.jpg   When I use my home computer the photo of Sam in now on d:\momento\my-photobook-images\sam-on-piano.jpg 
If I can find a way to set my home computer to accept the external drive as g: drive, I think it work okay. The alternative is for Momento not to use the actual drive number to seek images but to work on the basis of seeking the required photo in a director that was on the same drive that the mbk file. [This is similar for an internet html webpage file which seeks jpeg images on a directory down (or up) from the webpage html file.] 

Momento is not expected to change this as there is little likelihood of anyone as insane as myself to want to work on a photobook layout on two computers. But then, I am my own boss so I can do what I like! 

Workaround: These is none. On occasions that I have wanted to work at home, I did so on the mbk file with placeholders for created pages, and worked on creating new pages only. Then back in the office I would have the same problem of the software not recognising where my photos on the new pages were located. This then required a simple ‘drag’ of the images from the photo file onto the placeholders - time consuming but effective. 


 
17. STOCK AND BINDING

Momento, and other photobook providers, bind their books with a simple page glueing. This is called perfect binding, not because it is the best way to do it, but because it gives a ‘perfect', square edge. (The comparison is with stitched binding of regular hardcover books which has a slight curve). In days gone by, the glue would eventually collapse with time and book use, and the book would fall apart. Modern glues are so strong that it is very difficult to pull the book apart; in fact one photobook supplier advises the type of ‘exceptional strength’ glue that they use with the hope that it will entice a customer, whereas I would suggest that all photobook suppliers use the same or similar high strength glues.

The disadvantage of perfect binding of heavy stock as used in most photobooks is that you need to glue a strip about 5mm of the page edge. This means that the book can never open out flat. With lighter stock and fewer pages, the ‘flatness’ is increased. For standard A4 photobooks in landscape format, I don’t believe that perfect binding is a problem, and I certainly have no complaint. But I have some problem with portrait format in heavy stock - the degree of opening of the book is more prevalent as the width of each page in portrait is less than landscape. Best to see examples for yourself. My advice is to limit a portrait format photobook to less than a hundred pages of heavy stock, or find a photobook supplier who offers a range of stock options, including lighter stock.

By heavy stock I mean 170gsm paper (be it satin or gloss). Momento offers 170gsm; Snapfish use 200gsm. The number designates the weight of the paper (grams per square metre) and for all intents and purposes, is a comparison of thickness (always a comparison of thickness for the same stock).  The 170gsm stock is ideal for photobooks. Lighter weight papers, such as 140gsm, or 120gsm, are better for text-dominated books that are to be read, rather than photobooks that are ‘looked at’. The photobook supplier Blurb offers light and heavy stock for their photobooks. By the way, normal A4 computer or typing paper is 80gsm. 

An alternative to perfect binding by glue is stitched binding. This is done in regular books that are printed on huge sheets and folded into ‘sections’. Each section is sewn and then assembled into the book, by further stitching and sometime also glueing. This would be an expensive process for a one-off photobook but also impractical as the photobook pages are produced individually rather than on large sheets. Individual sheets can be stitched but some glueing is also required for anything like a permanent bind. I don’t know of any photobook supplier that provides stitched binding. Some photobook suppliers offer spiral wire binding. These are fine for small diaries, calendars, brag books and the like. Most large printing companies provide a wire binding service for your own printed pages. 

Note: Momento (and perhaps others) advertise 'hand crafted and stich bound' photobooks. They use a combination of the perfect bound glueing, and stitching, whereby the pages are glued and fixed to the board covers by stitching (which is covered neatly by the endpapers, but its presence can be seen). 

Workaround: Not so much a workaround but advice to be careful in what you select for stock, number of pages, and format. Most photobook pages are standard A4 landscape format, 170gsm satin stock, glue binding, laminated board covers. If deviating from that, consider what options are available from your photobook supplier. 

I recently created an A4 portrait 200 pages photobook by Momento, on satin 170gsm stock (the only stock available except for more expensive art stock). This was a journal of a holiday and was predominantly text. I was not totally happy with the end result. Momento did an excellent job as usual, but with the number of pages of heavy stock, the journal did not open as well as I would have preferred and was somewhat uncomfortable to read. I should have restricted it to 100pages - but then I wanted 180 pages (I filled the rest with photographs), so I had no choice. I am now considering an alternative photobook supplier for future journals where a lighter stock is offered. 

I have found that sometimes it is difficult to find out from the photobook suppliers’ website just what is on offer until you have downloaded the photobook software and have taken time and effort to prepare the required photobook layout file, and are about to order a book. It took me two emails to Snapbook to determine what stock they used; I couldn’t see it mentioned on their website. Being advised that it was ‘quality paper’ did not answer the question. (It is 200gsm so I am told). 


Above: The glued spine of a photobook. Note no separation between pages 
and cover of spine - compare with image below of a curved spine. 


A stitched traditional hardcover book with dustjacket.


A traditionally stitched hardcover book opened out to a degree of 'flatness'. 
Note: This stiched example has 498 pages of 80 gsm stock art paper. 
It's spine width is just slightly more than the 200 page, 170 gsm
photobook above. No photobooks (that I have seen) are stiched this way. 


A typical 'clamped-spine' hardcover binding. (Not Momento).


 
 
 

Last update 20 May 2013.