Create A Photo eBook

The tablet revolution has brought new life to e-books. We’ll show you how to make an impressive and full-featured e-book from your photos.
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create a photo ebook

Cover designs are part of iBooks Author’s design templates. All you have to do is add your photo and change the text.

Traditional photo books have dropped off significantly in today’s market. The expense of a large print run and the man-hours required to create, edit, assemble, proof, publish and print a book has become prohibitive for all but the very most well-known photographers whose name recognition can guarantee significant sales. Custom publishers like Blurb have stepped in to fill some of the void that has been left, but these “one-off” books can cost more to produce than many nature photographers want to spend. Photo e-books have the potential to be a game-changer for all kinds of photographers, whether that’s an amateur who wants to produce a photo book of his or her latest trip, the pro who wants to create a book of images as a portfolio piece or the passionate lover of the outdoors who wants to feature an important part of nature.

Choosing Templates. iBooks Author offers a set of predesigned templates that help you put together your book.

Photo e-books can range from photo-illustrated books, traditional photo nature topics and portfolios to children’s stories, business books and more. In addition, low numbers are needed for success—there are no printing and distribution costs, which have a huge impact on sales of photo books. Photo e-books can be created by anyone—you don’t need a publisher to produce them. You can control the content, design and marketing, with any potential income coming mainly to the photographer.

The great potential of photo e-books is strongly linked to the popularity of tablets. There are many photo e-books available, but most of them aren’t designed to gain the most from the capabilities offered by the tablet, and they aren’t all that popular.

E-books are relatively new and most people don’t primarily use their tablets to read them, plus titles can be challenging to find and market. You can create a beautiful photo e-book and find that no one is interested because they can’t find it.

E-books, as a whole, and especially photo e-books, are in what you might call a period of adolescence and change. Still, there’s a great opportunity for photographers who are willing to step up and put in the work to position themselves within this market before others do.

The left sidebar accesses your book chapters and pages. Set the view to Actual Size so you size text properly for the iPad.

1 Adobe InDesign (Mac and PC). If you understand design, this program is hugely flexible and allows you to output books for multiple e-book readers. Like Photoshop, it has so many features and options that it has a very big learning curve. This is a very expensive program, now only on the Creative Cloud.

2 Blurb e-books (Mac and PC). Blurb publishes beautiful printed photo books. They’re designed for the iPad and can include some multimedia, including video. Blurb keeps the production of an e-book easy by offering a lot of design templates, plus, the service is relatively low cost. Photo e-books then can be published instantly and sold on Blurb or the Apple iBookstore.

3 iBooks Author. Apple’s iBooks Author is free, easy to use and makes the process of designing your project simple. This Mac-only software specifically creates e-books with photography and multimedia. There’s a minimal learning curve for using this program. Any interactive e-book made with iBooks Author can only be sold through Apple’s iBookstore (you can give away copies for free on your own, and you can do whatever you want with a PDF version).

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Change the crop of your image to fit the page with the Mask.

A Totally Biased Close-Up and Macro Photography Book), so I tried to use InDesign for creating what’s called a fixed-layout e-book with multimedia, but it was overwhelming. Then iBooks Author came out and changed everything for me.

A note about PDF files: PDFs can be created from many software programs, including InDesign and iBooks Author. They’re tricky to use for multimedia and can’t match the multimedia capabilities of an e-book made with iBooks Author. In addition, PDF files can’t be sold through the major e-book sellers of or Apple. You have to have a significant market for your work already established or some way of reaching that market. The future of tablets for e-book reading, especially with photography and the desire for interactivity, makes PDF files look less effective for future use.

Getting Started With iBooks Author
iBooks Author is template-based, meaning that nicely designed book forms are prepared for you that include complete decisions on page layout, text, photo edge treatment and design of interactive elements. Any of these elements can be changed to fit your specific needs, but the great thing is that you don’t have to know anything about design to get started. Just pick a template and you have a good design (you get a choice of 15 designs, plus you can buy more from independent designers on the Internet).

Wrap inspector controls how text wraps around a photo.

The left panel of the program lets you access all parts of the book, including making a cover, adding chapters, going to a specific spot in the book and so on. Open a chapter and its pages, then type in titles, heads and subheads, as well as general text—each is formatted to match the design. Text automatically flows from one page to another, and the program adds pages, as needed.

Drag and drop a photo from Finder onto a page, click and drag to move it around, then resize it to fit the page by dragging corners or sides. I size images for the iPad with Retina display that has a resolution of 2048×1536 pixels.

Crop images to fit by using the Format menu and choosing Image, then Mask. This allows you to drag the edges of the photo frame to crop the image, then you can drag the cropped photo into position.

Working With The Inspector
I use the Inspector constantly while building a photo e-book. Click on the Inspector icon at the right side of the interface to open it. Inspector’s first tab is “Document inspector” and allows you to put in information like author, title and keywords. To lock to a horizontal orientation, check the “Disable portrait orientation” box.

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Widgets make creating interactive images easy, from galleries to video to actual interactive images shown here.

Wrap inspector allows you to change whether the photo is locked to a text position or not, and how text wraps around it. “Object causes wrap” turns the wrap on and off, then the icons below it control how the wrap changes the flow of text. Just click on them and see if you like what happens. If text starts doing weird things, check the Wrap inspector and try clicking the different options.

Text inspector includes a bar that displays: Text, List, Tabs and More. Text, List and Tabs have options like most word processors. More includes options to change background color and borders for text boxes. Pay attention to Pagination & Break options—they strongly affect how text flows from page to page in the book and include such important choices as “Keep with following paragraph” and “Paragraph starts on a new page.”

Graphic inspector is key for photos. I haven’t always liked the borders that the Apple designers put around a photo in a template, and this is where you can change them. Sometimes all you need is a simple, thin black line around a photo, which you can do with Stroke and its three middle options when Line is chosen.

Sometimes you want photos to be the exact same size on a page or from one page to another. With Metrics inspector, you select a photo, then type in the exact size to match another. You can also rotate and flip the photo here.

Styles let you format specific types of text and keep them consistent throughout the book.

iBooks Widgets
Widgets are an easy way to add interactivity to your e-book. Interactivity is one of the strengths of e-books on an iPad. Click the Widget icon, and you get a menu of widgets. Choose one, and it appears in the layout ready to be resized and positioned, as needed. Watch how you drag the edges and corners to change the size because this affects how your images will display. How a widget works is controlled by the Widget inspector, the last tab in Inspector.

With the Gallery widget, you can create a gallery of images related to a theme, for example, and then have them display full screen. The viewer swipes to go from one image to the next, and each one can have its own caption. You can also create a nice Keynote presentation and use it in your e-book with a Keynote widget.

The media widget works nicely for video, and iBooks has specific video needs. It must be at iPad size (720×1280 is good for all generations of iPads) and in the M4V format. I found I could change an MP4 Premiere-exported file to M4V with the free program HandBrake.

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The Preview button puts a preview version of your book on a connected iPad. The Publish button opens a wizard to take you through the process of publishing to the Apple iBookstore.

Preview And Publish
When you’re done with your design, it’s important that you preview it on your iPad. I’ve found problems that aren’t necessarily obvious on the computer screen. Connect your iPad to your computer, open iBooks, then click the Preview icon in iBooks Author. A preview version of your e-book appears on your iPad, which is so cool!

When you’re ready to publish your book to the iBookstore, save the project, then click on the Publish icon. This will take you through a series of steps to get your book to Apple. Additionally, you can export your book to your hard drive (and share it directly) from the File menu when you choose Export. You also can export a PDF file that can be read on any computer.

To publish your book, you’ll have to set up an account with iTunesConnect. Additionally, you’ll need to download iTunes Producer.

iBooks Author will take you through the steps needed to prep the book for iTunes Producer and this process is pretty painless. Put some effort into the description of your book in iTunes Producer and your choice of screenshots (you can get screenshots on your iPad by briefly pressing both the Home button below the screen and the Power button at top right at the same time).

Send the book to Apple and enjoy having your book published to the iPad!

Rob Sheppard has two photo e-books available for the iPad: A Nature Photography Manifesto (free) and Reports from the Wild.

Other eBook Creators
iBooks Author isn’t the only tool for creating an e-book, and while that application makes it easy to publish to the iBookstore, you have no shortage of options for getting e-books out to other retailers.We’ve worked with BookBaby many times over the years (they were one of the sponsors and the limited-edition book publisher of the 2013 American Landscape contest), so we’ve had a chance to become familiar with their service. Working in any of a variety of layout applications (InDesign, Quark, Pages, Word), or if you simply generate a PDF of your project, BookBaby will convert the files to ePub and .mobi files, thereby converting the layout into an e-book format. Then they will handle the distribution to all of the main e-book retailers (Apple iBookstore, Amazon Kindle, etc.). BookBaby also offers printed books and a cover design service to help your book get noticed wherever it’s for sale. Pricing varies depending upon the level of service. Contact: