PHOTOBOOKS
BINDINGS               COMPARISON of Photobooks                EXAMPLES - Inspiration?                SUGGESTIONS

 
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, and a directory of my own photobooks, twenty to date. 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 and whereas I have not made a direct comparison with other photobook services, I see not reason to change from Momento. Most of the following comment is relevant to all photobooks anyway. 

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, publisher 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. 

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 downloading (exporting), your layout and ordering always results in an email to say that the action was successful - or otherwise I guess. It takes about 10 days 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 it 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, but I'm staying with Momento. 

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


 
HOW DOES IT WORK

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 using. You can add or delete from this as you wish. I started with a 'work file' where my original photographs were stored. See Tip 1 right. 

As you are working with digital images you will need to convert all print photographs and 35mm slides to digital jpeg format. This can be an arduous task but it is not difficult. You will need a scanner that can scan prints - and if you have 35mm slides these need to be converted with special equipment which may be incorporated in your flat-bed scanner. Take care to scan at an appropriate size, that is to say, scan to provide a jpeg image of an appropriate size. See Tip 2. 

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. 
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. And save your file regualrly: see Tip 3, and 4..

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 an 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 now combine your layout design and photographs from your mbk file into an .mbf master file - see it in your directory. This master file is the one you will upload to Momento to create your photobook. Note that up to this stage you still have paid no money. Your .mbf master file sits on the Momento computer 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. These are shown on your My Momento log-in page. 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 embelishments, 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. 

It's easy - and fun.

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TIPS

1.  Using Directories.
As I decided to use each photo I would determine of I needed to tweak it in any way in Adobe. 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 'final' photobook directories with images you do not require or duplicate working images. Considerate director management will ease your troubles - keep all your photos in the one directory or sub-directories for each photobook - you don't have to but it makes life easier, even if you have duplicate images over several photobooks as I do.

2. Image Size.
You can use any size image on photobook - but remember - the quality of the printed image in the photobook is dependant (in one respect) to its size. Momento photobooks are high quality and printed on top grade paper (a range is available). Printing is done as a 'pixel' and the more 'pixels in an image the better the quality commensurate with the equipment you are using or how the image is shown - digital or printed. A computer monitor works at around 72 dpi (that means dots per inch - dont worry about the unit designation - just consider the comparisons). A print does not look good unless at least 200 dpi (Momento works at much higher, around 300dpi). Without going into the technical side, you need to have you input image at least match the 'dpi' of the output image. In other words, your digital image presented to a photobook has to be of a quality (pixel quantity!) that can provide optimum quality when printed. Okay, too much techo stuff - don't read it again. Just consider this. You will probably want to do an A4 size photobook (that's by far the most common format - there are others available). An A4 landscape format book can easily hold a nice standard 10 x 8 inch photo. That means you need a photo image of around 3 Megabytes. Most digital cameras far exceed this so there is no problem. But if scanning a print you need to do so at around say 250dpi full size output to provide a good photobook image. If scanning a 35mm slide you need to input a combination of output size with scan resolution (dpi) that gives a jpeg of around 3 MB if you want a full-page blow-up at best quality. .Needless to say, you will usually want you photobook photo to be less than 10 x 8,maybe 'postcard' size of 6 x 4. This means a jpeg size of around 1 MB is fine. Even half the values I am giving will result in an acceptable image. And to help out, Momento has a 'Quality' symbol pop up if the image is not up to their quality expectations. Thats okay - it will still print okay - its just a warning. If that happens you may want to decrease the printed image size, or rescan at a higher resolution. Note again that any photograph taken on a modern digital device will work well; even shots taken on a smart phone as they tend to be around 2M in size - it is the quality of the lens on the smartphone that is the consideration. Can an imput image be too big, say 10M? I presume most photobooks can handle large images but not too many of them at this size and besides, it will slow down your computer when creating the mbk file, and the master file. It's an overkill - spend a bit of time to reduce the image. 

Tip 3. Save, save, save!!!
A few things to note: Remember to 'save' your file frequently. Momento does this automatically peiodically but I do not like to rely on it. Save - save- save. Momento also creates a backup file for you after you have closed the file but it does no harm for you to do a backup of the .mbk file every now and then on another device such as a portable hards-drive or usb. 

Tip 4. Extra downloads.
Momento software is sensibly designed such that the initial download comes with just a few basic backgrounds and now a tgood range of 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. 
 

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

 
 
 

Last update 17 July 2014.