Tips for making photo-books

Here are some tips to save you time when you start making photo-books online. More fun, less stress.

I thought I’d make a tiny training video. I would show my computer screen live while I was using the photo-book software of Diamond Photo. News flash: it’s harder than it looks! I abandoned that idea.

Anyway it would be foolish to give detailed instructions for a single company’s software, when they operate only in New Zealand. Also, that would be overkill for my modest intention, which was to give you a taste of making a photo-book online, and spare you a few errors.

Let’s see what I can do with a few screenshots and bullet points. Expect a taster, not a tutorial. Photo-books are versatile but keeping it simple is wise for amateurs like me.

Screenshot of an open photo-book as it appears to the person making the book using the Diamond Photo website. Page left image: a person on a big steep rock by the sea. Page right: photo of pohutukawa stamens clumped on a footpath. Icons surround the pages. Yellow note says "Text or images inside the shaded spine area may not be visible."
Two finished pages of a photo-book, as seen when using online software to create the book.

Getting text and photos on pages

Before you start, open an account with the photo-book company of your choice and check out their website. Then assemble all your materials:

  1. Decide what size and shape book you want. This will be your project.
  2. Choose a very simple template where all the pages are the same layout. All your photos should be the same proportions and orientation (either portrait or landscape). Keep it simple.
  3. Select the right number of photos. (21 or 22 for a mini-book.)
  4. Make all your photos big enough to print clearly and small enough to upload easily. Most of mine are about 2000 x 1500 but you can go bigger. 2MB is fine.
  5. Name the photo files and number them in order of the pages you want them on.
  6. Upload all the photo files to the website’s gallery for your project. The process is pretty clear.
  7. Prepare the text (if any) for each page. Put the text in a Word or text document for reference.

Right! I have already saved you several days’ work on your first photo-book.

The exciting bit: putting text and photos on pages

Screenshot of the same pages with numbered notes giving instructions. The instructions are all repeated in the accompanying blog post. No. 1 is SAVE! SAVE! SAVE1!
Tips for when you add text and photos to your photo-book

Let’s go through the notes on the screenshot above.

  1. The most important button is the SAVE button. At first I frequently lost all the work I’d done on a project. Sometimes from trying to change the template from page to page. Other times, goodness knows why. Best tip: SAVE the whole project after every step you take.
  2. For this project I entered the text before the photos. Reason: in early projects I frequently failed to notice a stray “Add Text” box on a photo until after the booklets were printed. Bad mistake, easy to do. So while the page is still blank, I click the T for Text icon to the left of the pages.
  3. Then a tiny text box pops up in the centre of the page.
  4. a. First drag the text box to wherever you want it to go, aligning it to the left. Grab the circle on the right end to stretch it as wide as you want it for your text. (Doing these things in a different order may work but can be a pain in the neck.)
    b. Type in the text (or paste it from your document) and make sure it’s correct. Only THEN change the font size and font face, hit DONE and SAVE.

Bonus tip: A blue line under a page means that’s the active page. So keep checking this. (If you don’t realise which page is active, you can waste time putting a photo on the wrong page.) You can make any page active by clicking on the edge.

While you’re working with text, extra icons pop up at the bottom of the page enabling you to align text left, right or centre, or change your font face and colour and size. Note the blue rubbish bin icon at the bottom left: that’s how you delete a piece of text on a page. It won’t delete anything else.

Screenshot of a blank page after you have dragged the text-box to its correct location and width.
A page with a text-box moved and resized. Blue icons below and left are for text design.

More about images in your photo-book

5. Now you want an image. It goes where the template puts it.

6. Click IMAGES, where you have stashed yours.

When you click the blue IMAGES button top right of the screen, a gallery appears with the photos you have uploaded. Whenever you use one of these images, it is labeled used.

The image you select and “add to project” quickly appears on the page you have selected. (That blue line, remember?) If there’s only one image per page, so much the easier. Now SAVE!

Screenshot of photobook software at work. When you click on the image area of a blank page, a side panel opens on the right. It shows all the images available for this photo-book. You can add new images easily.
Your gallery of images for this photo-book is on the right.

While you’re working with images, blue icons pop up at the bottom of the page enabling you to force an image to fit the template or change it in other simple ways.

Note the blue rubbish bin at the bottom of the next screenshot! If you select a photo then click on that bin, a notice will appear: “Are you sure you want to delete this image?” Nice, I feel safe. This is the only way you can delete a piece of saved text or a saved image on the page. The Delete button doesn’t delete. Control+X doesn’t delete. And that image is still safe in your gallery: you only removed it from the page.

One last tip: check before purchasing

You think it’s all perfect but when you hit BUY, intending to order your printed books, up pops a notice, for example:

“Pages 3 and 13 have no images and the back cover has missing text. Continue or check first?”

You know you put images on every page. You have seen them all 20 times. But you check, and sure enough, no image.

You never did want any text on the back cover, just a photo of your cat. But you check, and there’s that almost invisible text box on your cat’s neck, saying “Add text.”

So yes, check check check again. The web goblins never sleep.

Don’t worry: making photo-books should be fun!

Think of this as another medium for self-expression, not a chore. It takes many many hours to master water colours or oils or carving or embroidery. Digital photo-books are easier (much, much, much easier!) but they still require a little time to learn. A few hours will make all the difference to your speed, skill and confidence.

If you mess up, does it matter? No, mistakes are a normal, productive part of creativity. You haven’t spent a cent until you order a printed book. So just start a new one.

And there will be a next one, because it’s fun.

4 thoughts on “Tips for making photo-books

  1. Most excellent! Your tips are marvelous and should save a novice a lot of time. Thank you for doing this for us.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks Anne. Helping one person this way would be reading.

  2. haoyando says:

    You make me want to make a photo-book. First I need to search for this diamond software, but I wonder if other software options will do.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Do look for other software. Diamond seems to operate only in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

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