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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

On-demand printers differ slightly in the types and sizes of books they offer, but a 20-page hardcover book usually falls in the $29 to $39 range, with extra pages costing $1 or $2 each. Some printers put a 100-page limit on books, but others can go up to 300 pages. So you can see that while it's relatively inexpensive to print one or two books for gifts and keepsakes, you won't be publishing thousands for bookstore consumption (unless you actually won a lottery and you're in desperate need of a big tax write-off).

If you'd like other people to be able to order your book, choose a supplier that offers that option. Some print sites will allow anyone to order the book (if you say so) or only an approved list of potential buyers (you provide the names and contact info). There's no profit margin for you if others order the book, but on the other hand, there's no handling and resending hassles either.

No matter which supplier you choose, there are a few things you can do to make sure your first book is a success. For a book to hold together thematically, you must make sure your pictures tell a story. There's no law that says you can't do a book entirely of flower close-ups or horizontal landscapes, but pacing, variety of subject matter, different perspectives and an editorial thread can help make your book a real page-turner.

That means, when you cover a situation, you have to "shoot for story." You should create a visual narrative of your trip or the destination in pictures and include wide overalls, medium views and close-ups of storytelling details in your shoot. Rather than only going for the one killer shot, work the situation from all angles with lots of variety in lens choice and point of view (and hopefully, more than one killer shot).

While the art of the narrative photo essay is all but lost in contemporary travel magazines and books, there are still a few places you can go to get an idea of what makes a strong picture story and how to lay it out. National Geographic still produces in-depth photo essays (as opposed to just a group of related pictures), as do the German magazines Geo and Merian (available at well-stocked magazine racks in some metropolitan areas).

For great examples of coffee-table book layouts, look for the books featuring some of the photographers whose work often graces the pages of this magazine, such as Frans Lanting and Art Wolfe. There's often a cinematic quality to their books, and they make good use of pacing with sweeping establishing shots, medium scenes and extreme close-ups expertly placed throughout the layout.


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