Print your own Photobook, for free!

London Photowalk Book - © Andrew Newson

London Photowalk Book - © Andrew Newson

In this blog post I want to talk about printing your own photobooks. 

In my opinion, being able to reproduce your photographs as prints or even better, as a photobook, is just the most wonderful thing ever. The printed image just seems like a much better way of viewing a photograph to me, something you can hold and touch seems more real than viewing a digital image on a computer screen or tablet.

The problem is that it's expensive to produce a photobook, isn't it?
Well the answer is yes but also definitely NO!

There is a big range of suppliers of photobooks out there now, varying quality and of course varying prices. It all depends on what you are doing, if you're doing a serious art project you might want the best possible quality you can get, and of course you will pay for it. However you might just want to collect together some nice family photos of the kids or perhaps your monthly photographic musings.

So here are the options I will talk about:

  1. Aperture Books -
  2. Blurb -
  3. Free Prints Photobooks -

Option 1 is Aperture Books and this is probably going to be the most expensive option, but it is amazing! If you want quality in a regular coffee table format then this could be for you.

I have been working for a while on a landscape photography project called Borrowed Landscapes and I wanted to put together a series of images in a book and I did this through Aperture Books. I was lucky because I picked up a discount at the Photography Show at the NEC when I met the lovely people from Aperture Books. The book I created was an A3 landscape book and should have cost around £120. So a fairly big investment but if you want something really special then I think this is a very good option for you.

Option 2 is Blurb who are a very big company and have a European production facility in the Netherlands. They ship to the UK and it really doesn't take them very long to turn around the print and get it delivered to you. The quality is good - it's close to that of Aperture Books but not quite the same. There are loads of upgrade options too so you can change the paper type, upgrade the cover etc etc. The cost I would describe as midrange, the square family photobook in the video cost around £50 but that was with a discount that they were offering at the time of printing.

Option 3 is Free Prints Photobooks. Now at first I was really sceptical about this one so I had to go through with a couple of orders just to see what it was like. It's an App that is available on iOS (Apple) and Android devices and allows you to create one FREE photobook per month, yes free!

What's the catch?
Well as fas as I can see there isn't one really, I mean the free book is limited to 20 pages and you have to pay more if you want more pages. You have to pay more if you want to upgrade to a hard cover (although it gave me an offer to upgrade free the first time). You have to pay more if you want quicker deliver etc. You get the idea, basically there are add ons which will cost if you want them. Lastly you do have to pay the postage which was £5.99, maybe a little excessive but seeing how you are getting a free photobook I don't think that is anything to moan about.

Because it's an App it means you have to design and layout your photobook via the app on a smart device such as a phone or tablet. I opted to use my iPad as it has a larger screen and is easier to work with. This means as you are working from your mobile device you will need to access your photo files from that device, but I'll explain how I do that.

Computer > Dropbox > Free Prints Photobooks

I always import and process my photographs in Adobe Lightroom. This means I can organise and process my images to my liking. When I'm happy with the look and final choice of images, I export my photos to Dropbox.

It's important of course to export at the right size and resolution. I have done a screencast video below to walk you through this too. Essentially you need to export your images at 6x4 inches in psychical size and make the resolution 300ppi. I make sure the images are exporting as JPGs, sRGB and with 100% quality. I also make sure they have been sharpened for gloss paper and the normal setting.

So now your images are in Dropbox, make sure you have the Dropbox App installed on the device you are going to use to create your Photobook and then link the Free Prints Photobook app to Dropbox so you can access your images. You will be given the option to link to dropbox as soon as you start to create your photobook and select images. Once you're linked then it's just a case of ticking the images you want in your book. It really is very simple and took me about 15 minutes to create and order my book.

I used a very simple layout which was the default which luckily for me is exactly how I would have done it anyway!

Here is the Free Prints Photobook.

Download the App from the web or from the App Store or the Play Store.