Apple Photo Books: 6 Tips to Get Good Results
Recently, PictureSnob ordered some photo books through Apple and we were a little surprised by the results... we designed and purchased a hardcover book and several soft cover books. We're going to describe what happened and at the end of the post are 6 hot tips for getting good photo book results. Read this! It will save you.
So we had a great time designing these books in iPhoto. It was easy to use and if you consulted the "help" menu you could figure out how to crop and customize to your heart's content. So we get the books (timing was fast, less than a week) and the hardcover book looked fantastic except for a magenta cast that was apparent across all the photos, including black & white images. Now most people might not notice this, but PictureSnob is, well, a SNOB, and this wasn't up to snuff for us. The soft cover books were damaged in shipping (bent corners) and the text had dropped out of most of the book. Additionally, it seemed like images were darker than expected.
So we go to the Apple Photo Services Support page to kvetch. Within hours Apple fully refunded every single book and included some helpful tips on how to better control the photo book results. (We still don't understand why they're shipping soft cover books in cardboard envelopes, but it's their buck.) The tips are good. Why this kind of information isn't more apparent when you set out to make your first photo book is mind-boggling. Apple? What gives?
Anyhoo, here's the tips:
#1 Preview Your Book
Did you know you could do this? This preview option is not in the menus at all, it'only apparent if you right click in a certain place on the screen. Cryptic Crap! In the preview, we would have been able to see that the text was dropping out (see tip #2). This right-click menu also gives you an option to remove the page numbers in the book. Apple has instructions for previewing here:
#2 If Your Book is Missing Text, Try This
If you do have text dropping out it's either because you changed the font from the default setting or there's a preference file screwing things up. So first, try loading in all your text, then revert to the default font settings and THEN reapply your new font. This is annoying but makes sense. Fonts are fickle and this is just the kind of WYSIWYG application that would be extra sensitive. If the type is still screwed up, follow the instructions in the link below and delete a preference file:
#3 Photos Should Be in RGB Mode
We would have guessed CMYK was the right format (since that's how photo books are printed), but no. This is actually easier because most images will come off your camera in RGB so you don't have to change a thing. If you have black & white images though, we suggest making them RGB as that might help avoid a color-cast. It's interesting to note that the method for printing photo prints is different from photo books, so expect a difference. You can see a full explanation of this:
#4 When In Doubt, Lighten Up
Based on what we've seen and read, it seems that the photo books will tend to print on the dark side. So if something looks dark to you on screen (assuming you have a decent monitor that you've calibrated in some way) we advise that you lighten the image up a bit (see tip #5).
#5 Tweak Your Photos with the Adjust Palette
This is intimidating, we know. But this article is a fantastic crash course in managing your image quality. If you're forking out for a photo book, consider taking an hour to for QC. This article is so good we printed it:
#6 Consider Color Profiles
This is advanced stuff that is kind of bothersome. If you are a professional we feel that you're not relying on Apple photo books. If you are a common man, woman or chicken, we feel that you shouldn't have to be bothered with color profiles. At any rate, if you can make sense of this it may help you:
A couple more things to note: We're not loving the way the 8.5x11" soft cover book feels overall. There's something about the cutout floppy cover that just feels cheap or fragile or icky. The 8x6" size is nice in soft cover, so to avoid floppy discomfort we're going to recommend that you keep 8.5"x11" books in hard cover.
Also, beware that the inside back cover of the book will be branded Apple -- "Made on a Mac" with an apple icon -- it's as tasteful as you can get, but it's still a big fat ad. Our guess is that every company does this, but we wish they didn't because it junks up our custom product. In other Apple products you can remove that branding (iWeb, for example) but we don't know how to get rid of it here. As you can see, even Grover the cat is unimpressed by this.
And Apple, if you're listening, we want more customization options in the covers.
Let us know your experience with Apple books -- the good, the bad, the workarounds. Because we have enjoyed a history of quality with Apple and are committed to the iPhoto system, we will try this again in hopes of better results. But, if we can't overcome, there are other options out there and we're probably going to try Lulu or SmugMug
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Posted by Susan Moriarty at March 27, 2008 12:47 PM