So, you want to make a photo book? Good choice! Photo books are a wonderful, creative way to enjoy and share images that are important to you, personally or professionally. But making a photo book requires curation. While your hard drive may be able to store hundreds, even thousands of images, working with a limited number of physical pages means you have to carefully pick and choose which photos you put on display. So how do you make those choices? Well, before we get to that point let’s back up and take a look at how you can help yourself before you even think about book-making. Then we’ll move on to tips about how to choose the best images for your book.
It’s no secret that we live in a digital age. Camera technology is so good we can hardly contain ourselves when it comes to taking pictures, and often times we don’t. But just because you can shoot an endless number of images, doesn’t always mean that you should. I like to keep my film era mentality even though I now work with a digital camera. If I have a picture in the first six frames then why shoot six more? Less to edit tends to mean easier to edit.
It will also help to have a system in place for labeling and finding your images. This will make the editing and curation process a lot easier. If you know where your images are and how to retrieve them, you’re ahead of the game. Get organized with our top tips for archiving your photos.
5 Tips to Help You Choose Images for Your Book
1. Know Your Why
The first step is to define the type of book you’re making. Are you making a professional portfolio or will your book have a narrative or story? Having a clear purpose in mind will make it easier to identify the photos you should include. A portfolio, for example, should be a selection of your best images, regardless of story or connection. Portfolios are often viewed very quickly and usually don’t require more than a dozen or so images. A book with a narrative, on the other hand, might require three to four times that number. In addition, in order to tell a story, you might need to include images that aren’t esthetically beautiful, but are essential for the reader to fully grasp a message. Defining what your book will be is a major step in choosing the correct images.
2. Less is More
We live in an age of shortening attention spans and the reality is that many folks, especially those who might not share your love of photography, may not be able to sit through and absorb as many images as we would like. So, be as ruthless as possible. If you have three images of the same scene but can tell the story in one, then just go with the single shot.
3. Include a Variety of Shots
Try to include a healthy range of images, from the wide-angle to the long lens, the portrait to the landscape. If you look at famous photography books, especially those that tell poignant stories, you will often see a range of image styles to capture every detail. For example, human eyes are engaging, but a landscape may provide insight into where that person lives or even how they live.
4. Get a Second Opinion
Sometimes it’s hard to make objective editing and curation decisions about your own images. A trusted friend, peer, or colleague can say “Hmm, not feeling this one,” and keep you from including something that doesn’t work.
5. Get Real
Nothing beats getting away from your screen and working with hard copies of your images. Once you have a shortlist of photos you’re considering, try printing them out individually and experiment with sequencing or combinations by moving them around. Photographer, Elliot Ross, uses this trick to help him distill his photos down to the bare essentials for his photo book projects.
“Whether or not a piece of work becomes a book, I almost always lay out the project in that sort of traditional format, because it forces me to carefully consider what the essential elements really are.” Elliot Ross
Ultimately, choosing images is up to you the creator. Technically, there really is no right and wrong, only what you feel best completes your vision. But keeping some of these ideas in mind just might make the process more fun.
Feeling inspired? Pick your book-making tool to get started.