I recently had a photo book made by Blurb. It’s really more of a photo album dressed up as a book. There were a few motivations: put some of my favorite images in a form easily shared with friends and family; consolidate my embarrassingly-large collection of slides, transparencies, and digital images; and take a step forward with döstädning (death cleaning).

Some of the many thousands of slides from years of film photography

That last point means I want to eliminate my horde of images that were in a form nobody is likely to contend with after I permanently depart. It’s just one of many tidying projects in the queue to relieve the burden of pointless possessions and ease any future living transitions.

I’ve had a little experience making books before. A test effort using Google’s print service yielded a nice little soft-cover vacation booklet. There are few format and layout options but that means it’s very easy to use. I also made a soft-cover black and white photo book of my father’s old family images. I had a very unpleasant experience with a company whose name I won’t mention (it has the word “shutter” and a type of insect pest in the name). Trying the same book with Blurb did the trick nicely and convinced me to use their service for my new project. I’m pleased with the result.

Three printed photo books

With many options in size, layout, cover types, and papers, I designed for a hard-cover book with dust jacket, 10 X 8 inches in size. Once you’ve learned the basics of Blurb’s (sometimes primitive) BookWright program, you have a lot of flexibility for making layouts and design elements that suit your project. Order a proof copy, make final corrections and adjustments, then order as many as you need, taking care to place the order during one of their frequent promotional discount windows. You can also have them create a quality PDF version. These books are expensive, and not generally viable for bigger print distribution runs but are perfect for these one-off custom masterpieces.

I’m impressed with the print quality–almost all images, some of which pushed color boundaries, reproduced well. Blurb makes a color profile available for those who understand and can use soft-proofing in a color-managed workflow, but it’s not necessary for generally very good results.

Inside the book

The end result for me is a nice-looking book with about 200 images as an attractive photo album. All those old raw materials, prints and slides, are off to the landfill. Next up, I have a family album in the works as I digitize almost a century of family photos and slides. Copies of that book will be sent off to siblings and nieces so all have easy and organized access to visual family history.

Making your own books with modern printing technology is a worthwhile and interesting way to consolidate your art or experiences in a form that’s appealing, accessible, and likely to endure long past aging film and disorganized digital records. And it’s fun.