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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Book 'Em, Dano!

Books offer the ultimate showcase for your photography—here's how to get your own

Book ‘Em, Dano!

There's no stronger urge among serious travel and nature photo enthusiasts than to share our work. We go to great lengths to perfect our craft. We travel to the four corners of the earth and wait for the absolute best conditions to capture our imagery, so it's only natural that we'd want people to see and share in the fruits of our labors.

For too long, the only way most shooters could share their work with others was by showing prints or projecting slides. For the established pro with a body of work, finding a publisher to produce a beautiful coffee-table book was sometimes another option. Of all the publishing ventures in which I've had the opportunity to be involved in my 30-plus years in the business, photo books are the most satisfying, by far. You get a chance to display your work in depth, beautifully printed and laid out, and your images have more room to "breathe" than by simply displaying a single print at a time. A book also has more gravitas and staying power than a slideshow.

However, speaking from the experience of having eight such books published, I can say, without getting too preachy, that it's "easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle" than it is for a photographer to convince a publisher to do a photo book. It's only slightly less difficult to get a major essay published in a magazine.

The situation is daunting, even for a pro. Just last year, while some colleagues and I were discussing our "lottery winning" fantasies, we found that we weren't too interested in island villas and private yachts, but in getting our work properly seen and displayed.

My fantasy was to go back through all the magazine stories I'd illustrated over the years and reissue them in coffee-table book form, this time with my picture choices (instead of the editor's) and my layouts (instead of the art director's). Well, as they say, "be careful what you wish for," because what was once a pipe dream is now an affordable reality.

One of the offshoots of the industry's shift to digital is the availability of high-quality, print-on-demand, relatively inexpensive coffee-table photo books. The trend started with Apple and its iPhoto books—books that you create using your digital images and the layout templates in the program. The final result is then uploaded to Apple, and voile, a beautifully printed book arrives at your door in a week or so. iPhoto remains one of the easiest and most versatile of the book-creation sites, but it's Mac only. Several other companies offer similar services for PCs, and some offer services for both platforms (see sidebar).

Be aware that these book providers offer different workflows and printing qualities. You should experiment and do some tests to see which is best for your needs.

Some providers make you upload your pictures to their site and then do the layout; others allow you to lay out a book from pictures on your hard drive and then upload only the finished pages (usually in PDF form). I prefer the latter because it can take ages to upload 20 or more good-sized JPEGs, even with a high-speed connection.


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