Most photographers will know of one or more companies that can print and bind customers’ photos into photo books (a Google search on Photo Books yields at least 10 pages of local suppliers).


Most photographers will know of one or more companies that can print and bind customers’ photos into photo books (a Google search on Photo Books yields at least 10 pages of local suppliers).

Prices for the service depend on the size of the book, the number of pages, the type of binding and the printing quality. You can pay less than $20 for a 20-page soft-cover book of snapshot-sized prints, or more than $1000 for large, professionally-bound books on long-lasting, high-quality paper.

But why pay somebody else when you can do the job yourself? Laying out and printing a photo book is straightforward if you have a suitable printer, and a local bindery will be happy to finish it professionally for a modest fee, depending on its size and thickness. In this feature, we’ll outline the steps and equipment needed to produce a photo book you’ll be proud to own and display.

Step 1: Decide what type of book you want to create and set the style for the book.
Scan through your pictures to determine how they should be presented. Do you want a scrapbook style, a portfolio, or a story book covering a particular event? While this is often a matter of taste, some subjects are better suited to particular presentation styles.

For example, family albums often look best as scrapbooks – although family histories can work equally well as story books or portfolios. Most people prefer formal albums for events like weddings and special birthdays, but scrapbooks remain an option when you want an informal style.

Holiday trips can work equally well as scrapbooks, story books or portfolios. However, a serious collection of images is best presented as a portfolio with minimal or no text.




The scrapbook style works well for family history albums and casual events. (Layout guides can be seen as dotted lines on these pages.)

Step 2: Determine a font style and colour.
Your pictures usually suggest a colour scheme for the book and provide some ideas for font selection. Try to maintain a consistent design throughout the book. This means using the same font and colour scheme. If you chop and change between different fonts and colours, the overall impression will be incoherent. However, consistency isn’t compromised by using bold text for headings and italicising the captions and not the text – or vice versa.

Fancy fonts and ‘Word Art’ can work well with scrapbooks. However, formal books containing a substantial amount of text and portfolios look best with simple fonts. Fonts with serifs (details on the ends of strokes) are considered easier to read than sans-serif (without serif) fonts. Slightly quirky fonts like Comic Sans and Tekton Pro may look good in some situations but script styles and very thick fonts are best avoided.

Choosing which font to use is largely a matter of taste. Find one that best suits the overall impression you wish to convey. We’d recommend the following serif fonts (listed alphabetically from the fonts provided in Microsoft Publisher) for consideration: Bookman Old Style, Century, Garamond, Georgia, Goudy Old Style, Perpetua and Times New Roman. Suitable sans-serif fonts include Arial, Candara, Franklin Gothic Book, Myriad Pro, Tahoma and Verdana.

Step 3: Collect Your Resources
There are a couple of basics to settle before you embark on your project. The first is to determine the size of the paper you will use and roughly how many pages the book will contain. If you plan to include any amount of text with your pictures – beyond simple titles below images – it should be written beforehand in a word processing application. This text will provide an overall structure for the book and should be easy to import into pages when required.

You also need to arrange the pictures in order and, where necessary, resize them. When most of the layout will be done with a desktop publishing program, it’s best to begin with the images as close as possible to the sizes at which they will be used.
Organise the pictures in order and set them up in one or more folders to make them easy to locate. If you’re working with a sequence of shots taken on a trip, one folder may be sufficient as the images will be numbered sequentially. For family albums and portfolios, it’s often best to group shots with a common theme together in separate folders, particularly when your book is split into different sections.

Sort out any additional items you may require, such as clip art, scanned documents and other images. This is particularly important for scrapbooks, where embellishments are commonly used.

Step 4: Design the layout
Start by determining whether pages will be horizontal or vertical. The former is easiest to bind when you use A3 or larger sheets; the latter works well with A4 books. Then decide whether the background will remain white or be coloured or patterned. If you opt for the latter, it must remain consistent for every page – and should not conflict with or overpower the images or text.

Keep your layout simple and remember to leave a margin for binding on the left side of each right hand page, and the right side of each left hand page if you’re printing on both sides of the paper. Portfolios are often more impressive when printed only on the right hand pages. A margin of 15mm should be adequate for most books, although you may decide 20mm is better for larger A3 and A3+ pages.

Decide whether you want to number each page. Page numbering isn’t essential and can even detract from the appearance of many photo books. Books often ‘grow’ as they are assembled when you find new images and information you wish to include; be prepared for this to happen.

We’ve found it simplest to leave the pages without numbers as this allows you to change the order of pages right up to the point where you take the book to the bindery.

Page numbering makes it easier to track the sequence of pages and is easy to set up in desktop publishing applications (although not as easy in image editors). However, it requires attention to detail when you’re using both an image editor and a desktop publishing application to lay out your book. It’s very easy to insert an incorrect number – or put it in the wrong place – when working with two applications.

Step 5: Assemble the book.
Start with the cover page and create a title. You may also like to add a logo and your own publisher’s name. In the examples below, the logo was created in Photoshop and re-coloured to suit different publications. It was saved as a JPEG, which could be imported into a page designed in Microsoft Publisher, from which each cover page was printed. (Layout guides can be seen as dotted lines on these pages.)




Two front page designs created with Microsoft Publisher and Adobe Photoshop for photo books we have produced.

Working with the software, lay out the book page by page, importing the images from the folders you have prepared and the text (if used) from the word processor file. Add any embellishments and other items, if required, once the images and text are in place. Leave page numbering (if applied) until just before you begin printing your book.

Some examples of page layouts we have created are shown below.

A. For a story book style photo book covering a trip.






Three pages from a story book style photo book with different ratios between text and pictures.


B. For a portfolio book.


The first content page in a portfolio, combining an image with a short piece of text.


A page of text that separates two collections of pages containing only pictures.


A page containing a single, full-sized image.


A page containing a stitched panorama.

Step 6: Print the book.
If you’ve laid out the book correctly, printing it should be straightforward – although you need to focus on maintaining consistent print quality and checking the content is correctly positioned on the page. The latter is particularly important when you’re printing on both sides of each sheet of paper.

Make sure you feed the paper into the printer correctly when printing double-sided pages. We’ve found the simplest procedure is to take the sheet as it emerges from the printer, flip it vertically and feed it back into the printer with the other side facing up – but not laterally rotated.

As you complete each page, place it on a flat surface with a sheet of plain office paper covering it. This protects the printed page from damage and also absorbs residual vapours that remain as a result of the printing process, helping to ensure longer-lasting prints.
Step 7: Binding.
Unless you have some expertise in this craft it’s best to have your book bound professionally. Bookbinders can be found in all capital cities, often in the vicinity of universities and colleges, since a large part of their business involves binding theses and similar documents. (Most binderies enjoy working on photo books, which have more interesting content.) To locate your nearest bindery, carry out a Google search on Bookbinders, making sure you check the pages from Australia option.

It’s wise to contact the bindery before turning up with your book to ascertain how long the job will take and how much it will cost. Our local bindery (Allbook Bindery in West Ryde) charged $52 for a 56-page A3 sized photo book with embossed lettering on the cover and spine. Many binderies will accept email submissions, although it’s best to avoid October, November and December when university theses are due.

Most binderies will offer a range of cover materials in popular colours (black, navy and royal blue, dark brown, terracotta, dark green, red, maroon, burgundy and purple). Buckram will be more durable than paper-based materials. Bonded leather may also be available – but is more expensive and colours are limited. Soft-cover binding may also be offered.

If you’d like to learn how to bind your photo books, the Canberra Craft Bookbinders’ Guild (, NSW Guild of Craft Bookbinders (, Queensland Bookbinders’ Guild ( and Victorian Bookbinders’ Guild ( run periodic workshops for all skill levels. There is also a Bookbinders’ Guild in Western Australia (Ph: 08 9459 0295)

Viewing Photo Books
Part of the pleasure in producing a photo book is sharing it with family members and friends. We suggest you provide cotton gloves for everyone who handles your book to prevent grease and dirt from people’s fingers from being transferred to the pages. After all, your book is a one-off creation that deserves special care. (Gloves can be purchased from same area as rubber gloves in any supermarket.)

Bindings will last longest if the covers are opened flat on either a table or somebody’s lap. Turn pages carefully to avoid creases and don’t let them brush across each other (pigment inks can be rubbed off by this kind of abrasion). Close the book carefully when viewing is finished.


Cotton gloves should be worn by anybody who handles your photo book to protect the pages from grime.
Equipment and Media
If you already own an A3+ desktop printer, it will be ideal for your most ambitious project. Even an A4 printer will be usable – provided you’re happy with smaller pages. It doesn’t matter whether the printer uses dye or pigment inks; both will do the job. However, best results will come from printers that use at least six ink colours with proven durability.

Portfolio books can be produced entirely with an image editor as all popular applications allow you to insert text boxes into pages. It’s also quite easy to set up page sizes and import and reposition pictures, as required in editing software.

For books containing a substantial amount of text, a desktop publishing program like Microsoft Publisher or Adobe In Design will provide greater flexibility and may include some useful templates for laying out your book. Scrapbookers can find lots of dedicated applications through a Google search on ‘scrapbooking software’. (A popular application is MemoryMixer by Lasting Impression, which sells for US$49.99.)

It’s generally wise to stick with the printer’s ink set – although, in the interests of investigating cheaper printing solutions, we are currently trialling a continuous ink system from Rihac ( that is considerably better than any third-party cartridges we’ve encountered and provides worthwhile economies for large printing projects. (We’ll report on this system at the end of our trials.)

Finding suitable paper was initially problematic because many double-sided matte papers are much too heavy for regular books. The best we’ve found is the Coated Matt 2/s paper from Longbottom Digital Papers (, which is available in A4, A3 and A3+ sizes and has a170 gsm weight that is ideal for book printing.

For portfolios, Hahnemuhle’s Digital Folios are available in A4 and A3 sizes and contain 20 sheets of 256 gsm Photo Rag paper plus covers. Innova and Ilford have double-sided papers that are also 200 gsm or heavier. Professional suppliers like DES Pty Ltd, Kayell, Australian Interactive Multimedia Pty Ltd, Image Science, ICC Imagetec and Image Products carry these brands.

Excerpt from  Photo Review Issue 43  

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