Since sharing a couple of travel photobooks on the RPS Travel Group Facebook page, it has been suggested that I write something about the origins of the distinctive style of photobook that my wife and I undertake and give some advice about how we do them. They are produced using the same format for each volume - as examples, our last two (Vol III and Vol IV) can be viewed from the following links (best viewed full screen):
As can be seen, for each country and/or city, we choose 13 pics - a large full-page one and 12 for a single-page panel. I thought of the idea of a multi-pic panel after beginning to work on a 10-pic panel for my LRPS. It seemed that such panels, if well balanced, could provide an overview that was more than just a sum of the various different photos. My wife felt that a travel photobook with continuous pages of multi-pic panels would be boring. She therefore suggested supplementing each such panel with an opposite full-page photo.
The decision to have panels of 12 photos - in 3 rows of 4 each - was influenced by the size of the largest book that could be produced by the publisher we were using. This was Albelli (now Bonusprint) whose extra large [XL] landscape format photobook is 39x29 cms. With the format we have adopted, the size of each of the printed photos in the panel is 9x6 cms which we feel is large enough to be appreciated. However, each of the front and back hard covers has 20 photos (4 rows of 5 each), making them rather smaller, but their intention is simply to give colourful covers to whet the appetite for what is inside.
The aspect ratio of photos taken by both my and my wife’s camera is set to 3:2. The photos in the 12-pic panels all retain this aspect ratio. However, the photos we choose for the full-photo page need to be cropped to 39x29 cms (about a 4:3 aspect ratio) and this can sometimes influence our choice of these. One obvious disadvantage of the system we have created is that all the pics in it are in landscape rather than portrait format, although fortunately the great majority of photos taken by myself and my wife are in the landscape format. We have only made an exception to this once, when I wanted a photo of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai included in a panel of the United Arab Emirates (Vol III pp.22-23). As the world’s tallest building, a portrait format was clearly more suitable! To accommodate this, we re-did the panel to have two portrait photos.
This resulted in 10 pics instead of the usual 12 and so we would only make such an exception again if really necessary.
We find that producing such photobooks gives us an added focus to our various travels. The challenge is to provide 13 good, but varied, photos to illustrate aspects of a particular culture or place. This is relatively easy when we spend some time in a country - for example, the double page on La Palma (Vol III pp.28-29) followed a two-week walking holiday there. However, many of our double pages result from a single day’s visit whilst on a cruise - for example, Grand Turk (Vol III pp.14-15).
Having discussed the rationale behind our travel photobooks, I will now explain how they are produced. There are numerous publishers who produce such photobooks and they all have their own software enabling the insertion of various size photos and the addition of text. Since I found learning the intricacies of such software somewhat frustrating, I decided that it would be easiest, and give me the greatest control, to prepare the pages myself in Photoshop. I must add, however, that I have little experience of Photoshop since I do about 95% of my photo editing in Lightroom. Consequently, the process I will be describing here was very much a product of trial and error. I suspect that an experienced Photoshop user could devise a much more efficient system for providing a template for the 12-pic panel pages.
The full-page photos are straightforward. They simply need cropping to the exact size of the page and then be inserted into the software. To produce the 12-pic panel pages, I do the following in Photoshop:
- Open a new blank document to the size of the page (in our case 39x29 cms) and colour it black. This will appear as the Background layer.
- Using the horizontal type tool (T), provide a page title in white letters (choose a typeface and size to suit). This will appear as a Text layer above the Background layer.
- Using Open in the File menu, select the first of the 12 pics which will then appear in the centre of the screen. Go to the Window menu and select Arrange 2-up Vertical
- Click on the Move tool
and drag the picture to the other screen on the right hand side with the title on it.
- Delete the layer on the left hand side which contained the picture that has been moved (using the x beside its title above it). This leaves a layer with the title on it and the picture that has been moved on to it.
- Clicking Cmd T on a Mac puts a frame around the picture and enables it to be moved around the screen to place it where, and with what size, it is required.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 to bring in all 12 photos and arrange them in 3 rows of 4 each.
- Align the placement of all the photos by using the Layer Align menu. Selecting the 4 photos in each horizontal row needs the vertical centres tool (in the image immediately below I had selected each of the four photos in the top row).
Selecting 3 photos in a vertical row needs the horizontal centres tool (in the image below I had selected each of the 3 photos on the right hand side of the frame).
Selecting the text title layer and the background layer and using the horizontal centres tool also centres the title on the page.
Once this process of completing a 12-pic panel page has been done, it does not need to be repeated because I use the latest one as the template for the next one. When a new photo is added, it is placed over an old one and then the old layer is deleted (this is why in the screen shots, some of the layer numbers are in the 80s).
Perhaps because as academics my wife and I had jointly written and edited books, we thought it would be fun to make our travel photobooks look like our other books. Hence the addition of a Title page, Contents page, A Note on the Authors and the title and authors of the book written down the spine. These were all done using the Bonusprint software. We also wanted, given the Contents page, to have page numbers in the book. However, we did not want pages numbers on the large photos but only on the 12-pic panel pages where they would not interfere with the photos themselves. Our desired layout of the book was such that the page numbers would appear alternately on odd and even numbers. This proved to be another advantage of doing the 12-pic panel pages entirely in Photoshop because page numbers could be added in the same way in which the text titles were added. Once the 12-pic panel page has been completed, it is saved as a high resolution jpg and then can be inserted into the software in the same way in which the full page photos are.