Hi! I hope you're not too distressed by the election. I'm hiding under my bed. In other news, this has been a big year for me personally, and I'm thinking of doing a Year in Pictures book to help me remember the good bits. I know you have done this and I was wondering if you could talk about your process. You use Lulu for this, if I remember correctly?
I am quite distressed but questions like this are a good distraction! :D
I actually don’t use Lulu for photo books – Lulu is great for self-publishing novels but I’ve never used them for anything requiring color images. It used to be they were extremely expensive for color printing but that may have changed.
When I make my Year in Pictures books, I usually use either Walgreens photobook processing or Shutterfly. Doing a full tutorial would take…a long time, but essentially you can go into either one, pick out the size of book you want, choose hardcover or softcover (plus a lot of other options), and you automatically get 20 pages for something like $20.
Side note: don’t ever pay full price for Shutterfly, they’re always sending coupons. I actually just checked and I think if you google “refer friend shutterfly” you can get a free photobook (if you need someone to be logged in to refer you, let me know, I can help).
If you fill up those 20 pages, you can usually add pages for about $2 each, I think. For what it’s worth, my photobooks are usually 30-40 pages for a full year.
The way you lay out the book is that you use an app within the website – you don’t have to download anything. You upload all the photos you want to add, then on each page you choose the layout of the page and drag and drop the photos into the boxes on the page. This can be a little tricky so I would recommend spending a lot of time fucking around in it before you start doing the layout so that you can work out how to do stuff. There are ways to move the photos around and add or remove text and such, but like I said that’d be a huge ass tutorial, so it’s best just to learn by doing. There are both free layouts and paid layouts; I’ve never felt the need to pay for any of the fancy schmantsy layouts or images, there’s plenty available free.
I have a post up about it here that’s about five years old now, but you can see how I laid out the book.
I find the photobooks really helpful for a number of reasons. First, they are a physical book I can take down and flip through, but without having to glue photos to pages or worrying about them degrading or anything like that. I love them and they have a special place on my shelf that takes up way less space than say, a photo album would.
Second, they require me to organize my photos ahead of time – I usually have a folder for each month and then special folders for events, like going to a con or a baseball game or holidays with family. Usually once I’m done organizing my photos, one copy of that folder gets archived in my photography folder so I always have a record, and then I go through a second copy, delete anything I don’t want in the book, and upload them to the photo book. (You can upload multiple times, so usually I upload one sub-folder, lay out the photos, then upload the next one). I mean theoretically you don’t HAVE TO do this but it does help.
Third, it gives me a chance to look at each photo and decide if I want to keep it or throw it out. Like…I take a lot of photos of food to share on this tumblr. I do download most of them to my hard drive, usually. And then at year’s end I delete them because I don’t need photos of the ten thousandth loaf of bread I’ve cooked.
Fourth, my parents fucking love these books. I don’t usually give them copies of my yearbooks, but I’ll often take one folder of photos and make a separate, smaller book about a family vacation or event to give to them as a gift. This year Mum has requested a book “Of all your running exploits and all those selfies you take at races.” The time I gave her the book about our family trip to the Minnesota State Fair she burst into tears. My stepdad cried when we gave him the book (volume ONE OF TWO, volume two pending) of photos of their land and of the process of building their new house out on the land.
Anyway, the photobook takes a bit of work, but not too much depending on how insane you are about it (me: very insane), and they’re a wonderful memento and make fun gifts too.