Photo Books to Journals: Q&A with Dan Milnor

Whether you’re starting a new creative project or planning your next career moves, it helps to get perspective from a professional. In our latest webinar series, Blurb Creative Evangelist Dan Milnor answers your top questions on photography, journaling, bookmaking, and self-publishing. Plus, he shares the image that inspired his passion for photography. Check out the videos and complete Q&A below. 

  • Which book design software to use 
  • How to start a photo book project 
  • The image that changed his worldview
  • Sharing creative projects and receiving feedback 
  • The age or career stage when people do their best work 
  • Image transfer techniques in journals 
  • The difference between a photo story and a photo essay 
  • The future of book publishing 

BookWright or Booksmart? 

A hundred percent of the time: BookWright. BookSmart is the original Blurb application that is no longer supported. BookWright is the up-to-date, current Blurb software that allows you to make Photo Books, Trade Books, and Magazines

What is the first step in a photo book project? 

The first step is to download the Blurb BookWright software so you can make a test book. Think: 7×7 inches, 20 pages, softcover. Use the test book as a way of experimenting with your photography, typography, and page design. Then use that test book as a road map for all your future bookmaking needs. 

Have you ever made a picture that changed your worldview? 

Yes, I learned something from every project I did. However, what I want to share with you is the image that made me a photographer. In 1966, an English photographer named Larry Burrows made a photograph in Vietnam called “Reaching Out,” which was made on a hilltop landing zone. I saw this photograph when I was either in middle school or high school, and it made me feel in a way that I never had felt seeing a photograph before. When I saw that picture, I said to myself, I want to get a camera and I want to make other people feel that same way. That is the reason I became a photographer. So in essence, that is the one image that really changed my worldview and made me into the photographer I am.  

How do I prevent myself from evaluating my work based on how others feel about it? 

I think this question is a byproduct of living in the Internet Age, when we sometimes feel we have to share every single thing we are doing in real time. I think as a photographer it’s better to wait until you really have something to say. Wait until you’ve worked on a project long enough where you can show your absolute best work. Then you have something relevant to say, you have something strong to share. I think it makes it a healthier experience all around.

What time of someone’s career do they make their best work? Do photographers make their best work when they are young, or do they make their best work when they are older? 

The short answer is: all of the above. I’ve seen young photographers come along that are basically transcendent image makers. And every generation, there are several people worldwide who come along that really do or say something that no one has done before. At the same time, other photographers take longer to mature and they do some of their best work later in their career. I don’t think there is one answer for every person. I think each photographer is an individual and unique. And it doesn’t really matter when you get the best work done. 

What is the best technique for image transfer into a journal? 

As a longtime journal keeper, I’ve got two ideas for you. The first is to get an instant camera, like a Fujifilm Instax that allows you to make pictures in the field, and take those little prints and glue them into your journal in real time. The second option is to wait until your project is done. Come back and actually design a journal in the Blurb BookWright software and fill that journal with whatever work you feel like putting in there. Then once you’ve got that book, you can take it into the field and continue to add to it with your Instax. So you have a short-term solution and a long-term solution. 

What is the difference between a photo story and a photo essay?

Personally, I use them interchangeably. I don’t think there is much of a difference. But I have heard some people believe that a photo story is about one particular person, story, or place. And a photo essay is a collection of people, places, and things. But again, I use them interchangeably and I think they are basically referring to the same thing. 

What do you worry about in publishing and what do you hope for in the future? 

I actually don’t worry about much in the publishing field. I think economically today, the world is in a tricky place. So, if I was going to worry about something, it’s that most of the people who work in publishing realize that there is so much good work being done, it’s impossible to publish all of it. So there are going to be some great projects out there that actually don’t find publishers. I think that’s been true forever and I think it will be true moving forward. What I hope is that the publishing industry remains healthy. And I hope that the alternative methods of publishing, outside of using a traditional publisher, continue to expand and grow. I think the more options that creatives have, the better off we all are. 

Ready to choose a trim size and cover type for your book project? Explore your options and get started today


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