The offer of derivative products for photographers is nowadays plethoric. One of the flagship products, which I myself am very fond of, is the photo book. There are many online labs that offer this kind of product, but not all of them are equal when it comes to quality! How do you choose your product when it comes to photo books? If you want to know how to create your own photo book from your social media accounts on Instagram or Facebook for example, you can visit www.mysocialbook.com/ for instance.
Here’s a quick overview of the points to remember to ensure you receive a quality product that perfectly suits your needs.
Criterion 1: the format
Most laboratories today offer a wide range of formats, the most common being landscape (usually A4 and A5, or close to this format), portrait (with equivalent dimensions), and square. There are even mini-books (more suitable for family photos to take everywhere with you) and more luxurious products, in the form of boxes… But also much more expensive!
Criterion 2: Paper quality
The choice of paper is not always possible, depending on the online labs. However, it is necessary to pay attention to it, and more particularly to these technical criteria:
- the grammage, which will determine the thickness and therefore the hold of the pages of your book (160 g/m² seems to me a minimum)
- the type of printing, which will determine the fineness of the rendering and colorimetry. Great progress has been made in recent years in this area, it is very rare today to find books with a visible printing screen (offset), because the
- laboratories use digital presses, which cover virtually all Pantone colours.
- the type of paper (glossy, matt or satin), which will determine on the one hand the final rendering (I prefer matt or better, satin, which avoids fingerprints; satin offers an elegant rendering while avoiding unsightly marks to the touch) and on the other hand the problems of metamerism (on this point, only a test or a sample of paper will be able to remove the doubt!).
- sometimes available as an option, lamination (varnish) which allows to “finish” the product and give a high resolution finish to printed photographs.
If the laboratory offers paper samples, this can be a positive point, but it will of course extend the production and delivery time of your book: to be taken into consideration
Criterion 3: The type of coverage
The cover is the first thing you see and touch when you pick up a book: so much so that it is an essential criterion in the choice of a photo book type product! There are several types of covers:
- printed soft cover (generally for entry-level products); an honorable choice but less obvious in terms of longevity, especially if the book is going to be handled a lot.
- printed hard cover (an interesting choice for books that are intended to be handled often)
- a hard cover, with dust jacket (printing is done on good quality, fairly thin paper, in the form of a removable dust jacket, as on the “beautiful books”)
- a cover, with a high-end finish (typical of box-type products: leather, fabric, etc.).
The choice of the type of cover will be logically deduced from the use you intend to make of your book. For a book intended for a family event (wedding, baptism), or for a gift, the hard cover with dust jacket is a choice that I really appreciate.
Criterion 4: Ease of opening the book
A point often forgotten, the opening of the book must meet several points of quality:
- be sufficiently well glued (or fixed if it is not glued) to guarantee a longevity in use.
- allow a flat opening, much more pleasant when leafing through the book
- do not hide too much the edges of the page printed on the binding side (problematic for example on books where a photo is printed on double page)
The offer of derivative products for photographers is nowadays plethoric. One of the flagship products, which I myself am very fond of, is the photo book. There are many online labs that offer this kind of product, but not all of them are equal when it comes to quality! How do you choose your product when it comes to photo books?
Criterion 5: the creation software
If most laboratories offer a small software (often quite ergonomic: they are often based on the same “engine” which explains this!) some still offer online interfaces, not always easy to choose.
For my part, I prefer to work “offline” and to be able to insert high-resolution photos into the book project, without constraints. The choice of fonts, layout possibilities and background colours will also be elements to be taken into consideration.
Most of the time, these software programs create a PDF file on the fly, which is sent directly to the laboratory’s web server for printing.
Criterion 6: the lead time
This last criterion is often put forward by the “big” laboratories, with for some of them delays of only 24 to 48 hours before sending! Nevertheless, I remain sceptical and suspicious on this point, because I have encountered, during some lab tests, some disappointments on the quality of the glueing of the binding, and for good reason: by shortening the deadlines, the laboratories do not always respect the drying time of the glue (even if it is supposed to dry during the transport of the product) or at least not under ideal conditions. The result: pages that may come off after a few sheets!
It is therefore best to plan the printing of your book in advance, and not to order it at the last minute: it is also a way to take your time and avoid mistakes in the layout, in the choice of images!
The photo book has become a common product, allowing us to get rid of the old photo albums where we used to put 10×15 prints in poor quality plastic sleeves, offering products that are sometimes very close to the best finishes of major publishers.
Knowing the limits of the laboratory you are going to work with allows you to guarantee an optimal result: never skimp on these 6 criteria, which will be decisive in your choice!