questions you didn't know you had to ask
The SoFoBoMo projects seem to be gaining momentum in the blog circles, even though we aren’t actually going to actually do the thing until April – but there’s plenty of planning and speculation doing the rounds nonetheless. It’s sensible, obviously, to try and get as much of the mechanics sorted out before the actual execution of the thing, to leave as much of that precious month for shooting and editing as possible.
So, I started to throw a few pictures together from last weekend’s trip to the botanics, to get a feel for layout, design, editing, sequencing and the likes. And it would seem that every step is heavy with consequence – you ask yourself questions, and end up answering them with more questions.
The only two definite parameters are:
It will contain at least 35 images.
It will only contain images made during April.
So, a fairly fundamental starting point:
How many images do I want to show per page, or per spread?
How much text do I want to accompany each image?
Where should the text be in relation to the image?
What size do I want the book to be?
My two-hour crude mockup session using just Word brings yet more decisions to be made:
What kind of white space do I want to use – do I want to print right to the edge of the page?
How will I deal with positioning a mix of landscape/portrait/square cropped photos on a landscape/portrait/square page?
I visited a bookshop at lunchtime, and another after work so that I could see how it’s done professionally. It seemed that there were two definite camps – the Ansel Adams books all had tons of white space, with a simple caption under each, and everything was centred on the page. Then there were a few other, well, fairly forgettable examples that had full bleed pages with the odd smaller image on a left hand page. The former were slightly stuffy, obviously attempting to have the pictures tell the story but in some way the repetition made it easy to skip through. The latter, from memory were mostly colour, and despite the quality of the individual images just didn’t seem to put across a feeling of overall quality, I tried not to judge on the print quality either, just the design and something about them just didn’t work for me. I’m reminded of the difference between a shop where everything is hanging with plenty space to browse and see the different items, and somewhere with a sale on that just has a mad jumble and everything’s fighting for attention to the detriment of the overall experience.
There was another example, some travel photography book, and it wasn’t a big fancy hardback and didn’t have luxurious silky paper – but it was something in between the two types above. Goldilocks would be proud – it was just right. There were some images printed up to the edge of the page, on just one edge, giving plenty space on the other sides. The design was coherent enough not to be jumbly, but there was enough variation that your eyes didn’t get used to the pattern of where the image was on the page and flick past.
A quick look on the cheapest publishing option, photobox.ie, gives a similar option for their photo books – page spreads with one large image to the right and maybe a couple of smaller on the left page. I’m wondering if it’s the book layout equivalent of selective colour wedding bouquet pictures though, it’s all great and modern for 6 months then by the time the amateurs are doing it, it looks cheap and tacky. I wonder if there’s a way to use it in a more classic, understated way?
There’s also a little voice in my head encouraging my crafty inclinations, and prompting me to look up DIY bookbinding. Allowing for complete production in-house (literally) it would have a real handmade quality, and maybe take away from some of the pretentions attached (in my head at least) to an art photography book. I then caught myself wondering how one might fit 35 images onto a concertina type book, and where to get a sheet of card long enough… Uh oh.