Picture Snob

March 27, 2008

Apple Photo Books: 6 Tips to Get Good Results

applebook1.jpgRecently, 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:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1040

#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:
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=305180

#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:
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=93298

#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:
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=300878

#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:
http://www.apple.com/pro/color/workflow/

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.
applebook2.jpgAlso, 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
Recent Comments

Great article, great tips. We managed to get great results from our Apple photo book the first time, but we use Aperture (2.0) to adjust our images and layout the book. Then we opened the resulting pdf file to check for errors and fixed them before sending the file off to Apple. Beautiful results.

Nonetheless these tips would've been useful...thanks for posting them!


Posted by: YJ at August 2, 2010 6:21 PM

Regarding tip #6, how do you get a printer profile for Apple's book printing? Of course, both the monitor and the printer have to be profiled. The page you've linked to explains general color mgt. theory, but I don't find it mentioned on the Apple support page you've linked to. Other tips are great, though. Thanks!


Posted by: Russell Banks at December 4, 2009 10:00 PM

Hi! Thank you so much for your tips! I wish I had found your advice earlier. By the time I did, I had already placed order and was awaiting for the delivery. Just like you said, my softcover photobook was shamefully damaged in the cardboard box.

I have not pursued yet, but I am sure I am entitled to a full refund. Instead of a refund, I am actually hoping to find a solution for the problem. Is it trustworthy to use their service again, if I am planning to ask them to send a copy to my fd directly (which means I won't have a chance to look at the product before my fd does)?


Posted by: jacqui at May 17, 2009 2:37 PM

Hi,
I just used A company called Ubuildabook for both my children's yearbooks and a photobook.

We were very pleased at the prices and the customer service. We also received proof books for orders over 25 and also were able to use the ICC printer profile. This really helped with the color issues.


Posted by: rachel at February 12, 2009 1:48 PM

I just spent countless hours scanning and photoshopping family photos that go back to the early 1900s. Then I made a photo book using MyPublisher. It was extremely easy to use and the end result was spectacular. It was a gift for my mom's 77th birthday and I'm really proud of it. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough flexibility in page layouts.

I've also tried a Canadian company called Photo InPress. (I'm in Vancouver.) It was easy to use and had excellent page layout flexibility. I was, however, disappointed in the quality of the final product in terms of photo reproduction.

I have played around with Blurb because I hear their output is excellent, but the page layouts and themes were too restrictive.


Posted by: Lianne at January 26, 2009 10:12 PM

Just wanted to add that when I received my book, not only were the corners bent but there were streak marks across each page like it was scratched coming out of the printer. I never complained though, I just kept the book.


Posted by: Laura at January 17, 2009 11:53 PM

Try Viovuo and Blurb and do a review on all of them.


Posted by: Me at January 7, 2009 1:35 PM

Thanks for the tips, the preview really helped. My preview shows @login on each page. does this show up in the final product or is there a way to get rid of it?


Posted by: Sabre at January 6, 2009 7:11 PM

Great tips. I wish I had read this before ordering my first iPhoto book.

Regarding your last point about the Apple logo - this can be turned off in the book settings - just uncheck the "Include Apple logo" box.


Posted by: Lynn at September 29, 2008 10:12 AM
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