Category Archives: Photobooks

Book #20: Mini-Accordion Photo Book

It arrived! My 20th book in mini accordion format manufactured by Mpix. Here are some baby pics:

Thanks go to Steve Ballinger for sharing his mini accordion book and manufacturer with the Lyceum Portland photography salon last month. I was intrigued!

If you like the book format, here are a few more posts you may find useful:

It’s All About the Book

I love making photo books. I have hand-made two books of alternative process photography that have appeared in juried shows and one chapbook of poems and self-published 11 books and one magazine. My work has been included by publishers of three books and one magazine. And I have my first accordion file book on the way.

That’s a grand total of 20 books or magazines. I am clearly crazy about photo books.

Five of those books have been made from images I took while traveling. Photo books are a perfect format for travel photos because consuming the book form mirrors the travel experience.


Looking at a photo book is an event with a time and date certain just like your trip.


Turning the pages of a photo book is a very physical experience because to look at it you must hold it in your hands and turn the page with your fingers. Likewise, your trip was very physical because your body had to go somewhere. There is no virtual travel.


Looking at a photo book is intimate. Unlike looking at a photo on the wall, you hold a book within your personal space. What you remember and record from your trip is very personal too. No two sets of travel photos are exactly alike. Your point of view shows up in every frame.


You control the pace as the reader. For the most part, you control the pace of your travels, what you do on which day and in what order.


There’s a continued relationship with the content that makes friends. When friends talk about an upcoming or former trip to say Greece, you can share your book, as a way to share the experience.


Unlike painting as a medium, where there is one, photography naturally enables multiple copies of the same image. So does the book.

Travel photos in a book are not a bound portfolio. The selection of photos is different because the purpose of the book is different. We chose photos that would not go in the portfolio because a photo book is story driven. We chose photos to support a narrative, maybe about the place you visited, and maybe not. Maybe the story is much more about who you are and what you notice than it is about where you went.

If you like making photo books, here are some other posts that will interest you:

Photo Book vs Photo Magazine


Left: Photo Magazine                                                     Right: Photo Book

In my last post I wrote about finding a way to publish photo books cheaper as a magazine. In the process of creating a book and a magazine I learned a lot about the differences between the two.  The medium really does matter!

You’d think it would be easy to know the differences between a book and a magazine because we read them all the time. All I can say is that the practice of creating a photo magazine, Myopia in Britain and contrasting that with creating my eighth photo book, Myopia in Italy, has given me a more intimate appreciation of what goes into the design and a much enlarged mental map of what is possible. Let’s start with something simple.


My mental model of a magazine read “saddle-stitch” in which folded sheets are held together by  staples regularly spaced up the spine. Whereas my mental model of a book said perfect-bound where the pages and the cover are glued together usually at the left edge. What I discovered is that indie published magazines don’t have to be saddle-stitched. They can also be perfect-bound just like the fancy mags Elle Decor and Architectural Digest.


For my indie published books, I had been able to select from a number of papers. For example, Blurb offers a variety of surfaces and weights. (Note: I’m not able to use Artifact Uprising and Shutterfly as examples because they do not offer magazine publishing services.)

  • Standard 80#
  • Premium Lustre 100#
  • Premium Matte 100#
  • Proline Uncoated 100#
  • Proline Pearl Photo 140#
  • Standard Layflat 100#

I had assumed that magazine paper would be high gloss and a much lighter 60# paper. What I discovered is that the same heavier paper is also an option. For example, Blurb offers

  • Cover: 80# Semi-gloss (216 GSM) for heft and protection
  • Paper: 80# Matte text (118 GSM) paper
  • Cover: 65# Semi-Gloss (176 GSM) (Economy)
  • Paper: 60# Gloss text (89 GSM) (Economy)


In my photo books to date, I had focused on one or two images per page for the most part (although I did sneak in a nine-up and a four-up here and there) because the images were the focal point. In an 8.5″ x 11″ magazine, the portrait or vertical format meant that 2 horizontal images on one page or one vertical image on one page fit best. But that image density and layout didn’t feel right. It felt more natural to put several images of different sizes and orientations on one page along with text.


I wasn’t sure if my preference was a result of reading magazines or if it was something that happened because of the format. So I checked out what the real pros do.

I stopped by Powell’s books in Portland, Oregon and thumbed through the gold standard, LensWork, a premier photo magazine that has won the Benjamin Franklin award (aka the “Oscar” of the printing industry) five times. That’s more times than anybody else. LensWork was perfect bound on heavier paper in smaller vertical format. A single image or two covered most of the page. Where there was text content it was a full page. No ads. The printer was Hemlock Printing.

So the layout can be anything you want it to be. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.


Rather than select that one best image in each case like I did for photo books, I selected groupings of images that helped illustrate an experience, for example, of driving in Britain or of drinking beer at a pub.


When I do a photo book about the same topic, 90% of these images will not make it in.  The advantage of having all of them is a more rounded view but the result (at least of my initial effort) is less art and more information / illustration. A very interesting shift.


What to say, what to say! As a photographer, I don’t use text a lot. Often I don’t even use titles though I should. Coming up with the text meant figuring out what to say about a grouping of images. What story to tell. The inclusion of text is another subtle shove from art to illustration / information. In a photo book, a poem about each image would balance the importance of the image with the words more.


And there’s the decision of whether to lay text over images and/or beside images. When does text over an image make the image “more” and when does it diminish the image.


This project was the culmination of a labor intensive post-travel process that took hours that I didn’t keep track of. I:

  • found 1,000s of images from various years
  • looked through all of the images
  • chose about 200 to examine more closely and edit,
  • selected 93 of those for the final edit
  • arranged those 93 images over 30 pages
  • wrote accompanying text

Overall, I’m very impressed with the magazine format and am considering whether to do more of my future work in this format following LensWorks layout and emphasis. I hope you enjoyed!


PSR: Publish Photo Books Cheaper


What problem was I trying to solve? Independent publishing of printed photo books is expensive. For example, I experimenting with the same book on 3 different services and the average cost was $63:

[Note: this post is about printed matter. Blurb also offers iBooks, Amazon, iOS and Android compatible digital versions as well as PDF.]


While searching for alternatives I found the Alliance of Independent Authors and they review and rate self-publishing services. For example, they recommend Blurb as well as Apple iBooks and Amazon CreateSpace is a partner member.  AIA also have Watchdog Advisory and Caution categories and they use them.

While researching other publishers, I stumbled upon a prolific photographer who recommended switching from photo book to magazine format to bring down the cost significantly while keeping the photo quality up.

Indie magazines have experienced a renaissance lately in part because of the availability of technology. Blurb got into magazines in a big way in 2014 by licensing MagCloud, HP’s web-based publishing platform invented by HP Labs in 2008 that created a network of users publishing magazines on-demand using HP Indigo commercial printing presses.


I published a 37 page soft cover magazine, Myopia in Britain, on Blurb for $10. Versus an average of $63 for a book. That’s 6x difference.

Magazine Cover

Next week I will have an actual physical copy in my hands and will let you know how the quality stacks up. In the meantime, my next post will be about the things I learned about the differences between creating a book and creating a magazine. The medium really does matter!