The ties that bind:
Family, food, and
beautiful books

Roast turkey, rich soups, hearty stews, and beautiful books will be on our family tables this season (and yours too, we hope). This November, use your family gatherings as inspiration for your next book⎯whatever it might be. Make a family cookbook. Showcase a family business. Even create a family yearbook.


Family Yearbook

The family yearbook:
Part photo album, part family directory

Family photo books often document the events of the year: Lovely meals, weeks spent at the beach, holiday gatherings, and kid activities, leaving you with a much-loved volume of memories. This season, make a family photo book that’s not only a gorgeous memento of the year, but also functions as a family tree and birthday tracker. Confused? Don’t be. We’ll show you how.

Each year, families grow as major life events unfold. Marriages and children add to the number of birthdays and anniversaries to remember. And with your day job, family extracurriculars, and getting dinner on the table on a daily basis, staying on top of it all can be, well, ridiculously overwhelming. Enter your new family photo book.

Instead of your usual candid snapshots, why not make a family yearbook of sorts, including some key information on each family member:

  • A recent (flattering) photo
  • How they fit into the family
  • Their birthday, anniversary, and other key dates
  • Any other unique details that can help you come holiday mealtime or during gift-giving season

It’s a great way to give everyone the full picture (wink, wink) of who comprises the extended family and to bring those of you who live far away from each other a little bit closer. And you’ll have fewer gift-giving worries throughout the year.

What do I need? Digital photos of each relative and their stats. Think birthdays, anniversaries, allergies, and any other information unique to them. Then download BookSmart and get started making your book.

Who will want a copy? Your kids. Your parents. Anyone who struggles to remember all the family birthdays. (Read: Everyone.)

How long will it take? One hour, start to finish. (Not including the time it takes to gather family photos.)

The best part? You’ll spend time making one book (made easier with our templates), but you can give copies to everyone in the family. Family yearbooks are the perfect thoughtful gift for the holidays.

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Paul Lowe - Sweet Paul Magazine

Food photography, elevated: An interview with Paul Lowe of Sweet Paul magazine and photographer Colin Cooke

Paul Lowe, of Sweet Paul Magazine is one of our absolute favorite food stylists (oh, and to be honest, one of our favorite people) in the world. Sweet Paul is a gorgeous magazine full of inspiration, creativity, and, very importantly, incredible food photography. We were lucky enough to chat with him (and his friend, professional food photographer Colin Cooke) recently and get some wonderful insider knowledge to help beginners create beautiful photographs of their food. Read on for tips from one of the best food stylists in the business.

What’s your workflow? When you’re shooting, what angles do you look for?

Paul: Whatever makes your food look best. Look at the plate of food in different angles and turn it around to see what's best. Sometimes it can be best directly from above or at an angle.

Do you make the food yourself? How do you make the food itself more attractive, before you even start shooting?

Paul: Yes I do. Buy the best ingredients you can. If you’re shooting vegetables, go to your local farmers market to get the best looking ones. My best tip on plating food is to keep it simple—use light plates that make the food stand out, since its about the food, not the plate. Here are some more tips:

  • Grill marks make fish and meat look more juicy.
  • Have a little spray-bottle of water handy in case something looks dry.
  • Be careful with using to much oil—it can make the food just look greasy.

So, good ingredients and keep it simple.

What is good equipment to have if you’re just starting out?

Paul: You can take great photos with your phone or iPad—you don't need a fancy camera.

What kind of lighting do you use? Does natural light help?

Paul: When shooting food its all about natural light—food looks best that way. Place your table next to a window and balance the light with a white piece of paper to fill in the shadows. It’s really easy.

Where do you get your props? Do you have any good secret sources?

Paul: Here in New York you can rent amazing props. There are many places that specialize in tabletop props. I also love to go to flea markets and vintage stores to find stuff. Another great tip is to do "buy and return". You buy a few plates, use them, wash them really well and then return them—its not really kosher but it can be our little secret.

Food Photography - Sweet Paul

What is the biggest mistake you see brand-new food photographers making?

Paul: Overworking the images. Just keep the food and props simple at first and then you can go crazy once you’ve got it down. Look at magazines and books that you like and try to mimic the photograph.

And here are a couple of more specific questions about food styling for photo shoots:

What's the best way to photograph hot dishes? Right when they are "ready to serve"? Or should you wait until there's no steam or heat rising?

Paul: Catching steam is very difficult. Now people add steam in post. But yeah, warm food should be photographed warm, don't want any hardened sauces.

How do you photograph dishes with food items that react when exposed to air (like green apples)? Are there sprays or other things you can use to keep things looking fresh?

Paul: Just add some lemon juice, works on apples and avocado.

After our interview, Sweet Paul was kind enough to put us in touch with one of his favorite food photographers of all time, Colin Cooke. We asked Colin a couple of more technical questions to get deeper into food photography.

What is good equipment to have if you’re just starting out?

Colin: There are so many useful and reasonable cameras on the market these days that it's hard to pinpoint one manufacturer or another. For a starter, I would make sure the camera had over 12 megapixels per shot for good resolution and a zoom lens of maybe 35mm to 90mm range. Other than that it's up to the person behind the camera!

What kind of lighting do you use? Does natural light help?

Colin: Lighting is everything. Commercially I will tend to use Strobes or Tungsten lights. For Editorial or Blogs you cannot beat natural light. I should say that Commercially I use it as well. All one needs is a window with indirect light, a nice surface to shoot on, and a white card for filling in the shadows. It's that easy. One can get excellent results. In fact, Sweet Paul requires natural light!

More Food Photography - Sweet Paul

What kind of lenses do you use?

Colin: I only use one lens—a 100mm f2.8 macro lens. I use it mainly because I can get a nice shallow depth of field, no distortion and, with the macro, get very, very close. I recently shot a project of small single chocolates. The client wanted very high resolution so I had to fill my frame with each piece and the lens was about five inches from the product. One has to have a macro lens for that—the detail that close is amazing.

If I just have a generic lens, how can I get a macro shot? Or mimic a macro shot of a dish?

Colin: Probably the best thing is to use a 2X lens extender which attaches between the lens and the camera. There are also diopters, which are single screw-on filters for the front of the lens—but the quality is sometimes compromised with those.

How do you expose certain foods?

Colin: Natural light can work for almost anything. With pizza you may want to put it between the camera and the window so you get a good “angle of incidence” on the freshly melted cheese and vegetables. Be sure to use a fill card here too. Ice cream requires quick timing and is often times best with strobe/flash to get the texture nice and firm before it starts melting. One has about 30 seconds here. And with soups, stews, cereals, etc., you may want to also shoot into the direction of the window and fill the shadow side. Most other foods like burgers, sandwiches, etc., something that stands up in the plate can use side light from the window. And you can decide whether it should be more dramatic with no fill card or not.

Anything else to share?

Colin: Like almost anything else, being a better photographer requires experience and time. I recommend shooting what you like or are passionate about on a regular basis and you will see after a time that your work gets better and better and you also get faster and faster.

And when that happens … you know you have arrived!

We hope this has been helpful to you and encourage you to check out Sweet Paul Magazine and Colin Cooke’s photography.

This could really be the first step. Want to learn more? Sweet Paul is hosting a creative retreat, Sweet Paul Makerie in New York City March 15–16. Paul will be bringing his inspiration-packed magazine to life in a very special event filled with fabulous workshops, fantastic meals, inspiring speakers, and special surprises. The extraordinary creatives found throughout the Sweet Paul pages will lead contemporary crafting classes and share fabulous meals incorporating the delectable recipes featured in various issues. What do they say? “We believe with all our hearts that each and every person is creative and this modern crafting retreat truly offers something for everyone.”

To make it even sweeter, they’ve given us a special offer to pass on to you. Just use the code WELOVEBLURB when you sign up and get $150 off. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to us.

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Installment Cookbooks

Installment cookbooks: Keeping your content fresh

If the coming holidays have you thinking about finally putting your favorite recipes into a cookbook, you might consider making a cookbook in installments: Shorter, periodic volumes that give people a recurring taste of your cooking genius.

Why do a cookbook in installments? It lets you provide a lower-cost introduction to your culinary brilliance, while also giving you the flexibility to try out new things and hone your style over time. Of course, keeping some design continuity between book installments is always a good thing, but you can also develop a unique theme or tone for each volume.

Before you start, here are some tips for making a successful installment cookbook:

  1. Gather and write your recipes first. This may seem obvious, but sometimes when the recipe is just in your head, you may forget the little steps you need to write about and photograph.
  2. Tell a story. A good recipe book also tells a story of some kind, and an installment cookbook makes it easy to keep a concise theme (like Thanksgiving traditions or summer barbecue favorites).
  3. Make a photography shot list. Again, this may seem obvious, but it’s important to figure out what photos are going to help you best tell your story before you go in with those cameras blazing.
  4. Keep it presentable. Food photography shoots can take a long time and studio lighting (if you’re using it) can be hot. Make sure your ingredients are fresh looking.
  5. Be conscious of your lighting. Bad lighting makes food look unappetizing. Natural lighting is usually best; using a flash will usually give terrible results. If you’re using studio lighting, make it soft by using reflectors or soft boxes.
  6. Shoot more photos than you’ll need. Try different angles, different lighting. Plan to take at least five times the shots that you think you’ll need, particularly if you’re showing action like mixing, sautéing, etc.
  7. Design it well. A good, consistent design will help lead people through your recipes—and your book. Look at other cookbooks or food magazines you like to borrow a little inspiration.
  8. Have a friend help you proofread. Even if you’re a natural-born editor, you’ll want an extra set of eyes on your content.
  9. Leave people wanting more. Since this is an installment book, you’ll want to whet the reader’s appetite for what they can expect from the next one.

Keep in mind that if you’re photographing a recipe step-by-step, the entire cooking process will take about twice as long as it usually does. Having an extra pair of hands around to click the shutter or hold the spatula can be a lifesaver.

Remember: These are just some best practices to keep in mind. It’s your book, so you should make it in the way that feels most natural to you. You’ve heard of the joy of cooking, but there’s really nothing like the joy of making your own cookbook.

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Get a jump on your holiday gifts this year

Find a one-of-a-kind book in the Blurb Bookstore for that one-of-a-kind person in your life.

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Blurb Holiday Gift Guide



Family business - Apothecary on the Corner

Keeping it in the family: A family business turned into a book

More and more family businesses are choosing to tell their story with a beautiful book. It’s a wonderful way to highlight present success as well as tell a deeply meaningful story of where the business came from, its roots and philosophy. This week, we’d like to highlight Apothecary on the Corner: Hammer Pharmacy Then and Now. On one level, it’s the story of a family-run business that has been serving Des Moines, Iowa since 1872. But it’s also the story of a family staying connected through the years.

In 2001, Russ Johnson decided to document the history of Hammer Pharmacy, a family-run business that his father—who started as a delivery boy in 1920 before purchasing the store—owned and operated for decades, The project started out small but soon stretched out into a year-long adventure. Johnson reached out to Sherry Borzo, a historian, and the two worked together to create a truly comprehensive history—not just of the business, but of the pharmacy industry, Des Moines itself, and over a hundred years of American history.

We invite you to explore this wonderful book and consider where a book can take your business, family-run or not. You probably already have the basic materials for your book in your office already. For example:

  • Old photos
  • Newsletter clippings
  • Press releases through the years
  • Receipts, memos, reports
  • Collateral, business cards, and other branded assets
  • Interviews with current and former employees as well as customers

All of these elements help tell a vivid story when added to explanatory text, timelines, and charts and graphs. Tell the tale in chronological order or focus on individual themes, individuals, and events.

Your family’s story is connected to your business just as your business is connected to the parent industry and that industry to the world. Weave in details that help you paint the larger picture. By illustrating your business’ place in the world, you can celebrate your achievements to date and put the word out about your plans for the future.

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Cookin’ with family: Our favorite family food books


Home is where the heart is, sure, but it’s also where the food is. Here are three books that celebrate family cuisine at its finest, all made with our book-making tools. We’re not going to lie, we’re a little jealous of all of these families (and we’re wondering if any of the families are interested in adopting the staff of a creative publishing platform that finds itself a bit peckish from time to time).

The Morrissette Family Cookbook

The Morrissette Family Cookbook | Laurice Morrisette Palmer

From the shot of Grandpa’s cast-iron pan on the front to Grandma’s cookie jar on the back, this book is full of timeless family recipes put together in a truly collaborative fashion. It mixes antique photos with brand-new shots and gives a great sense of both the individuals who make up the Morrissette family and the food they so clearly love.

Comforts from Home

Comforts from Home | Rachel Martin

What really knocks us out about Rachel Martin’s collection of family recipes is the incredible, mouth-watering food photography. This is an amazing example of what intelligent staging, great lighting, and a whole lot of talent can do when it comes to pictures of food. This is a truly appealing collection of rustic, cozy family favorites.

Classic Comfort Food—Family Food from the 50s

Classic Comfort Food—Family Food from the 50s | Patricia Lachman

Peppered with notes, anecdotes, and great stories about eating in one of the most interesting decades for American food, this cookbook will take you back in time (if you were there) or open a door on the feel-good dishes that kept large families going—and happy. Fried chicken and mac and cheese and pie and biscuits and…



OS X Mavericks and Blurb ebooks

Mac OS X Mavericks and Blurb ebooks: The perfect pair

It's as if iBooks for Mavericks, Apple’s new operating system, was made for Blurb. Why? It’s simple: If you’ve got Mavericks installed, now you can use the iBooks app right on your computer—no iPad or iPhone needed. And nothing looks better in iBooks than the fixed-format ebooks you can make with Blurb. You can now take advantage of the incomparable quality of definition and fidelity Mac hardware is known for and see (and show) your Blurb ebooks in a whole new light. Our ebook creation tools are truly one-of-a-kind, letting you make a graphically-rich fixed-format ebook for just .

If you’re running a business, it’s now even easier (and less expensive) to share a Blurb ebook with prospective clients in the creative field (given that creative professionals overwhelmingly use Macs). It's a great way to easily curate and package your best work and display it beautifully and effortlessly.

How to get your own Blurb ebook onto iBooks for Mavericks:

  1. Log in to your Blurb account
  2. Click on "My Projects & Account" at the very top of the page
  3. Find any ebook in your account that you've created and purchased
  4. Click on the blue "Download (send link)" button next to the ebook cover thumbnail
  5. Type in the email address to which you want your download link sent
  6. Find the .epub file in your Downloads folder (or to whatever directory your files download)
  7. Click (or double click) on the .epub file and it should open with iBooks
  8. How to get your customers to open your ebook on Mavericks:

  9. Promote your ebook—send your customer the link to your ebook’s main detail page
  10. Your customer adds the ebook to the cart and proceeds to checkout
  11. Once checkout is complete, your customer is prompted to enter an email address and the download link is then sent automatically
  12. Once the customer clicks on the link, the .epub file will appear in their Downloads folder (or to whatever directory files download)
  13. Your customer clicks (or double clicks) on the .epub file and it will open in iBooks

Simple. Elegant. Beautiful. That’s Mavericks and Blurb.


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