Give your family a special gift this year with an enjoyable photo book – here’s how to design your own using BookSmart
A custom book for your immediate or extended family is a great way to preserve shared memories, introduce old photos to new family members, and generally make everyone feel special. And family photo books are surprisingly easy to make.
Blurb offers a wide range of book sizes. Make a small square book for everyone in the family, or go coffee-table-big for that very important someone. You can also explore our range of papers and decide if you want to go hardcover or soft.
Before you get started, download BookSmart, our free book-making tool, and install it.
Open BookSmart and click the “Start a New Book” button. Ideally, you’ll have all of your favorite family photos chosen and have the files organized and named in a way that makes sense to you. You should also have an idea of what order you want to feature the photos. But don’t worry—you can add and delete photos at any time, and change the order as you go. Just keep in mind that having a grip on your book’s outline now will make it much easer in the long run to make a great book.
Here are a few tips on how to get organized:
Great family books have great themes. If you can think of a way to conceptually tie your photos together—holidays, world events, costumes, whatever—your book will be much more likely to draw people in.
Have all your photos gathered together in one place on your computer (if they’re still all in shoeboxes or physical albums, make sure you’ve scanned everything you think you’ll want to feature). Name each file something that makes sense and that makes it easy to keep things in order when you’re viewing a list of files (like Grandma_birthday.1.jpg).
Once you’ve created a title for your book, just use the menu on the left of the screen to type it in. Now choose the book size that works for you. Standard Portrait (8 x 10 inches) and Standard Landscape (10 x 8 inches) are good choices for a wide variety of photo album projects, but if you’re trying to impress the family, bigger is definitely better. Try Large Landscape (13 x 11 inches) or Large Square (12 x 12 inches) for a book that will look great on any coffee table. Of course, our lovely little Small Square (7 x 7 inches) books are perfect for sharing with the whole family. Remember: You don’t have to choose just one—you can make your book in multiple sizes.
Choose “Photo Book” from the Starter Layouts menu as your “starting point.” We’ve put together a pretty great layout for family photo books based on lots of research. This layout puts the spotlight on the pictures, but still allows you to add captions and text if you want.
But don’t forget: There are more than 70 other page layouts you can use if the starter photo book layout doesn’t meet the needs of your book. And you can mix and match layouts within your book, too. You can literally have a different layout for every spread in your book (though we don’t recommend that!).
Now it’s time to actually choose the photos you want in your family album (you can also do this later on if you want to get going on other aspects). Remember, this is a project that’s probably very meaningful to you, so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself. You can always add or delete as many photos as you want before you hit publish. And we’ve made it easy to import your photos from a lot of different places: Your computer’s hard drive, iPhoto, Flickr.com, SmugMug, and many others. Take a deep breath, remember your organizational strategy, and use BookSmart to work at your own pace and in your own way.
This is a really fun step, where you decide how you’ll mix text and images. A great picture is one thing, a great picture with a great story is another. Remember: The Photo Book layout you chose in Step 3 is just a place to start; you can easily change page layouts at any time.
One of the best things about our book-making tools is that we give you a truly unique opportunity to add text to your photo. From the perfect short caption that tells where and when the photo was taken to a one- or two-page story that gives wonderful background to a vintage photo, your words can be the best part of your photo album (we’re guessing you have a few family stories worthy of memorializing in a book). So consider mixing it up a bit: Include some pages that have just a photo, some with photos and captions, and some that are split between text and photos or just text alone.
Choose the page layouts that catch your eye and then find the BookSmart template(s) that most closely match what you’re trying to do with that page. And remember, you can always make your own page layouts if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for.
Turn your attention to the panel on the left of the screen, the one called “My Photos.” Every photo you’ve imported so far will appear there. At this point, you can just drag and drop photos from that panel onto the photo areas in each of the page layouts. BookSmart is, as you would expect from the name, smart—count on it to resize your photo to fit the area. If there happen to be any issues (for example, if the image isn’t high-res enough), you’ll see a little warning notice. But for now, just start dragging and dropping.
When you drop a photo into a page layout, you’ll see a green checkmark in the corner of the thumbnail. This gives you a quick look at which photos you have used in this book and which ones you haven’t. You can also click on the Get Photos button at any time to import even more photos to use as you make your book. If you want BookSmart to just place all of the photos you have into your book at once to save time, just click on the Autoflow button. You can always drag and drop them onto different pages at any time.
Remember how we talked about how words can be a great addition to a photo album? If you agree, now is a great time to add them. Just select your font, size, etc. for each piece of text from the formatting bar at the top of the screen. But here’s a little bit of cautionary design advice: Just because we have a ton of fonts available in BookSmart doesn’t mean you should use every single one in your book. A good guideline is to keep some visual consistency across your book, so two or three fonts should be perfect. Consider using one font for the cover, one for photo captions, and one for longer blocks of text.
Now, if you’re thinking “what should I write?”, we can help. This is a family book, remember? The stories behind the photos add richness to your book that will make it something truly memorable. Here are just a few ideas to get you going:
– Captions. Shoot for something short and sweet that quickly gets to the essence of the photo. Every family has their own “shorthand” language; use those words and phrases everyone will recognize immediately.
– Stories. Sometimes a photo deserves something longer than a caption. There may be a story that the photo recalls that should be preserved for family members who weren’t there when the moment happened. Together, these stories and photos make for a rich book experience.
– Humor. Everyone loves the funny stuff. Quotes, anecdotes, full-blown tales of craziness—when you add humor into the mix, you’ll create a book that family members will come back to again and again.
At this point in your book-making process, you’ll probably start to have a clear idea of how long your book is going to be in the end. If you took our advice and planned everything out in advance, you may already know exactly how many pages you’re working with. But if not, you can always delete or add pages from the bar at the top of the screen.
The Add Page button also lets you insert title pages, table of content pages, and other common types of page layouts. Just select the location in the carousel at the bottom of the screen where you want to insert the new page, and then add the page. It’s pretty simple—and a pretty fun thing to play around with.
This is also a great way of creating sections to your family book. Once you see all of the page spreads in the carousel, you may find that some natural groupings occur. The Add Page feature lets you add section title pages too (maybe group photos by family member, by activity, you get the idea).
You’ve heard it a thousand times—don’t just a book by its cover. Well, here’s the thing: People are going to judge your book by its cover. It’s inevitable. So here’s the place to really show off what you’ve got. Choose your favorite photo—the hero, the star of the show, the perfect shot—and pick a title that catches the eye. Go through your fonts to find one that expresses the mood of your book (and that’s easy to read). Oh, and make sure you’ve spelled everything correctly! We’ve made this as simple as possible for you so you can concentrate on being creative—the process of creating your perfect cover is similar to designing your inside pages.
This is also a great opportunity to summarize the theme of your book, if you have one. Maybe it’s a book of past family holiday gatherings, or a book about vacations over the years. If there’s a unifying theme (and it could just be: My family), choose a cover photo and title that encompasses the contents within.
Feel like you’re finished? All of your photos are arranged, your captions written, your Ts crossed and your Is dotted? Wonderful! It’s time to wrap the process up. Just click the “Preview” button and review your book. When you’re finished, click the “Order Book” button.
At Blurb, we’re sticklers for quality, so we want to make sure your book looks its absolute best before we send it to our world-class printers. Run through this quick final checklist to make sure you’ve covered everything. Our handy spellchecker will make sure that the grammarian in your family won’t be holding up your book and saying “What’s this?!”
Our page templates are smart (BookSmart!) and do an automatic check to ensure that all your content is within the print and trim boundaries. And you’ll run through one last Preview of each page of your book to make sure everything is perfect.
You’ve been working on your own desktop with BookSmart, but now it’s time to send your book to us, through the magic of the Internet. To upload your book, sign in to your existing Blurb account—or register for one if you’re new to Blurb. Registering takes just a minute or two.
Let that Internet connection work its magic as your book files are transferred to us. This process should take a minute or two and you can keep track of it, page by page, as it’s happening. (We think this is a very exciting part and hope you do too.)
It’s really happening—you’re about to become a book-maker. Choose your cover and paper type (and if you wish to order a PDF version of your cookbook, just check the box that says “Add a version Instant PDF”), and then check out. Congratulations—you’re done! Your family photo book is being printed and will be on its way to you soon.
If you want to learn more about cover and paper types now, you can review all of our book types and book elements.
And that’s it! So take a moment to collect your favourite photos and get started making the gift of a lifetime.