For professionals and hobbyists alike, photo books are usually on our to-do list and get postponed because they’re often expensive, take time to build, and the quality is unpredictable. They are worth making because they can be awesome keepsakes or portfolios. There is something about the tactile experience of flipping through the pages of a real book. Swiping on an iPad just isn’t the same. I am on the hunt for a great photo book company. Here are my personal observations after trying out MyPublisher.
The Elegant Simplicity of Building a MyPublisher Photo Book
by Alex Huff
Photo books often fall into two camps: kitschy scrapbook or modern minimalist. When tasked with a MyPublisher review, I was hesitant at first. I didn’t want to take the time to learn the ins and outs of building a good portfolio book and I also didn’t want to be limited to decorative “themes” for events I don’t have pictures for (think “baby shower” embellishments).
I’m relieved to say that MyPublisher does it all, to one’s taste, and easily.
Workflow: MyPublisher Book Maker
To get started, you will need to download the MyPublisher Book Maker for either PC and Mac. Here is my quick takeaway on using it:
- Drag and drop functionality.
- Integrates with your local files and folders (and, in their recent update, with your Facebook account if you opt for it).
- “Check Price” button to make sure you aren’t going over your personal budget (I LOVE this).
- Ability to share your finished project with others for review.
- Small program that doesn’t take up a lot of space (around 32MB).
- Ability to work on your project locally and offline (I built my book on the plane).
- Multiple free downloads – I have the MyPublisher Book Maker on both of my computers.
- Doesn’t save to the cloud. For example, if you are working on a project at home, you won’t see those projects or changes on the MyPublisher Book Maker on your work machine.
- You need to actually download the Book Maker – a bummer for those extreme desktop minimalists.
- Sharing your project from the Book Maker is limited to email. To share your project to social networks, do it via your My Projects page on the MyPublisher website.
- Tons of advertising popups both on their site and on the Book Maker. You can disable them easily, and some of them have useful coupon codes to save you money, but annoying nonetheless.
- Doesn’t auto-save. You need to remember to save periodically. UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the Booker Maker actually does auto-save every 15 minutes. Huzzah! I just must not have noticed.
The pros outweigh the cons. In a world where everything is going to the cloud, I actually enjoyed using an offline client. I was able to be creative and pass the time while on the plane and as soon as I got online after landing I purchased the book.
Creativity: Book Options
Between me and a colleague, 3 books were ordered:
• 100 Page Deluxe Hardcover with Picture Window in Leather (15″ x 11.5″). My colleague made a wedding album using this option.
• 48 Page Pocketbook with PhotoFinish Hardcover (7.75″ x 5.75″). I made a pictorial genealogy keepsake book using this option.
• 34 Page Deluxe Hardcover with Book Jacket (15″ x 11.5″). I made a portfolio of my studio portrait work using this option.
Other sizes include a Mini (3.5″ x 2.75″) and Classic (11.25″ x 8.75″). Minis are limited to 20 pages and the rest max out at 100 pages. With the ability to include up to 12 photos on a single page, 100 pages will get you A LOT of work printed in 1 book.
Covers: You can get a hardcover with a picture on it or a blank hardcover and a glossy book jacket (I did the latter). Alternatively, you can spring for a leather book with a picture window (which is what my colleague did).
Paper: You can opt to get “lay flat” pages or standard. Paper comes in either satin or matte finish, with an option for a Deluxe upgrade (heavier paper). All paper is PH neutral and derived from sustainably-controlled forests.
Protection: Another add-on includes the “super gloss” which I got for the genealogy book. Note that if you choose matte finish but then get the “super gloss” the super gloss overrides any of your matte intensions. That seems like a given but it’s actually not that clear when going through the add-ons. The benefits of the super gloss is even thicker pages and scratch/spill resistance – good for kids books.
You can choose your style of liner paper for the inside of the covers, many of which are free. Lastly, you can purchase a dust jacket to house your entire book in.
Pre-Made vs Custom-Made Book Building
There are two ways to start creating your book in MyPublisher’s Book Maker: Simple Publisher and Custom Publisher. You will get a prompt asking you which one you’d like to start with.
Custom Publisher allows you to build your book page-by-page with the option to use either their page layout designs or custom ones. For my portfolio book, I made all of my images conform to the pre-made page layouts for time expediency but I’ll admit that I made some artistic concessions in order to save time.
However, you don’t HAVE to use MyPublisher’s page layouts. You can create completely custom pages with photo boxes and text boxes and there are options to control the exact arrangements and sizes of them. This is what my colleague did for his wedding book.
This is a fantastic option if you have images in strange dimensions or simply if you have a certain look in mind that the presets don’t conform to. Also, the photo boxes snap into alignment with one another so even if you are creating a page from scratch you don’t have to bust out the rulers.
If the idea of layouts, pre-made by MyPublisher or not, is daunting to you then there is an even easier option: Simple Publisher. I used this for my genealogy keepsake book. I chose the “Vintage” style, which allows me to choose a different “old timey” looking spread for each page and the number of pictures I want for each spread and it takes care of the rest. It’s fast, it’s cute, and turned out great. My only caution: keep in mind the size of your book when putting in photo captions. The font on my Pocketbook turned out much smaller than expected because I was glamoured by the large preview view in MyPublisher’s Book Maker. Keep that in mind when choosing your fonts, which, by the way, are easy to change and come in a bunch of styles.
If there is a problem with your book, the Book Maker will tell you ahead of time, identify the page number the problem is on, and tell you whether or not you fixed it. This was great for me because I uploaded items that were too low of resolution to print and I would have never known it had the program not told me. You can override any of these prompts, too, if you “made an error” on purpose.
With prices starting at $2.99, you don’t have to break the bank to get a book made. My colleague attempted to spend as much as possible just to get a sense of how high people can expect to spend if they go hog wild.
At 100 pages with every single possible bell and whistle imaginable, he spent just over $400. Couple that with one of MyPublisher‘s almost daily deals (not to mention frequent buy 1, get 1 free specials) and you can get a substantial album for less than the cost of an average large scale-print from places like ProDPI. With the buy 1, get 1 free option, the price goes down to closer to $200 on even your biggest and fanciest book. Using one of their frequent promos, you can get a Classic 100 page book for $35. Check the MyPublisher homepage (or subscribe to their newsletter) for other promotions like 50% off a $100 book. For smaller keepsakes, you can make a 20 page Pocketbook for less than the average Secret Santa or party favor budget (you’re welcome for the ideas).
Presentation: Book Arrival and Results
The packaging the books arrive in is nice enough to hand over as a gift directly. The album contents are bookended by vellum, which we thought was a touch unnecessary but I’ll admit that it gives the entire thing an air of sophistication and doesn’t cost extra. I did take umbrage with how the blacks on my portfolio turned out (I’m picky about my dark tones). My Publisher was quick to respond to this and immediately offered a reprint. If you are nervous about being on the hook for a printing error, don’t be. MyPublisher’s top concern is producing a good product.
My colleague’s behemoth wedding book, on the other hand, came out perfectly. The linen slip case is probably worth the extra cost – it will save my book from scuffs. Speaking of scuffs, the “super gloss” is a worthy choice unless you prefer the look and feel of matte (which I often to). The super gloss does feel stronger and I could spill water on it and my pages would be fine. However, it’s not as “romantic” looking as matte finish. In my opinion, get the super gloss for family albums or for portfolio albums that will be hitting the road and need extra protection. Skip it if you’re making a fine art book – forgoing it will not compromise the color and reproduction quality at all.
The color reproduction is very accurate. Often prints will come out darker than you expect them to but MyPublisher’s were right on-point. My old family photos, which were hurriedly scanned and have seen better days, had new life breathed into them when reproduced in a MyPublisher album.
Take the time to make a photo book. I find that people are going crazy for physical books now more than ever because of their scarcity. If you’re as gun shy about who to print through as I was, go with MyPublisher and see what you think. I was impressed enough that I am inspired now to make a book for every possible reason: family reunions, gifts for clients, preserving old photos, and special occasions.