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Making Photo Books for Grandchildren

Variety of Sites, Methods Make Creating Unique Gifts Easy

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Grandparents will enjoy creating photo books for grandchildren.

Grandchildren love starring in their very own photo books.

Photo © Shutterfly

I've been making photo books for my grandchildren, and I'm here to tell you: The grandkids love them. I've made them for my younger grandkids, but I can tell from the reaction of the other grandkids that the older ones would love one, too. So would their parents.

I felt out of my league when I started making photo books, but now I feel like a pro. I do wish that I had had some simple tips from someone with experience, so that's what I'm going to try to do for you.

The Basics

There are at least a dozen websites where you can create a photo book. Creating your book online is free. In most cases, you can view it and even send it to others for free. You don't incur charges until you have a book printed.

The prices for printing a book are quite similar from site to site, but specials and coupons may make one site considerably cheaper. Without a special price, a small 5"X6"softcover book will cost $7-13. A large 12"X12" hardcover book will cost $40-60. Shipping is extra, unless you have a coupon or code for free shipping.

Choosing a Photo Book Company

Most photo processing companies can print photo books. These include:

Then you have the pharmacies and discount stores:
  • WalMart
  • Walgreen's
  • Costco
  • CVS.
Companies in a third group specialize in photo books and similar products: Some companies that produce high-quality products for professionals will also produce photo books. These include:
  • Lulu
  • OurHubbub (owned by the yearbook company Josten's)
  • Kolo.

Select a company that seems to fit your level of expertise and start making a photo book. You'll be able to tell fairly soon if the process used by the company is a good match for you. And remember that you don't have to pay anything until you order.

Getting Starting

You should have your photos downloaded to your computer before you start work on your book. Don't worry about cropping them. You will be doing that as you work on your book. Some sites also include photo editing programs. If you have a photo editing program that you are comfortable with, you can tweak your photos with it before starting your book.

Most companies have two ways to create a book. One is a fast, automated layout. You can make changes once the book is created, but if you want a lot of control over the way the book looks, you'll want to go for the second method. In this method, you'll do much more of the work, but you'll have more control. You can place your pictures in standard templates, which is still fairly fast, or you can customize your layouts to a high degree. That brings me to the question of time.

Making Photo Books Takes Time

Don't get me wrong. It is possible to choose an automatic layout, send your book to a pharmacy or discount store for printing, and have your photo book in an hour or two. If, however, your intent is to create a very special, one-of-a-kind keepsake, you'll want to allow at least two weeks for the total process. Creating a custom book is sure to take half a day or more, and a meticulous designer could spend several days on the process. Printing your book will take 2-7 days. Standard shipping can take up to a week, although faster shipping is available for more money. If you are creating a book for a special occasion, I'd advise starting a month ahead of time.

Getting Help

Most companies that create photo books have a nice array of help options. These may include the following:

  • Tutorials to watch before you start
  • FAQs and help pages that you can access as you work on your book
  • Live chat--offered by some but not all sites
  • Email or phone contacts
  • Communities associated with the site whose members will answer questions
Obviously, you won't get instant answers with all of these options. That's another reason I recommend allowing plenty of time, so that if you get stuck, there will be no need for panic.

About Picture Resolution

It's best to use your original downloads rather than pulling pictures from Facebook and other sites, which may have compressed the shots. Most sites will warn you if your picture resolution is poor. Heed that warning. It may still be possible to use the picture by juggling the layout so that the picture will be sized smaller, but you can avoid the problem altogether by using a photo that hasn't been copied and compressed. Some sites offer guidance about minimum resolutions, but those numbers depend upon the size of the book and the size of the photo in the spread, so there are no hard-and-fast numbers.

Avoid These Errors

I had been working on my first book for several hours when my computer froze. I wasn't concerned, assuming that there was an autosave feature. There wasn't. So hit that save button, and hit it often.

If you are creating a large book, it may not display in actual size on your monitor. Be careful about facial close-ups, which can be overwhelming when a book is actually printed.

Don't Be Afraid of Text

Yes, it's a photo book, but some text will make it more meaningful and will make it more interesting in the future. Yes, adding text is time-consuming. You'll have to check the spelling of people and places. But if you don't add text, you're virtually ensuring that someone someday will look at your book and have questions for which there are no answers.

Double Check Everything

Even companies that guarantee their work won't guarantee it against errors that you make. So be sure that your pictures are placed the way you want them and proofread any text multiple times. Better yet, have someone else proofread it.

You're an Artist!

No one tells you how proud that you'll be after you've created a photo book. You'll feel like the world's greatest artist, author, photographer and designer, all in one! Seriously, you'll feel happy knowing that you've created a gift that will give someone else joy. And if that someone is a grandkid? There's no better feeling.

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