Sarah and Nikki Wedding

This week I was pleased to be invited to take the photographs at a friends weddings. It was my first Mrs and Mrs Wedding and also my first Humanist wedding. The wedding was at a quirky pub in Shrewsbury and after an exhausting journey over there it was an absolutely beautiful day with a delightfully personal ceremony that suited the brides completely.

Here are a few of the photos that I took.

I’ve never known a couple to laugh so much, it was a great day and I loved being a part of it. Sarah and Nikki have some lovely friends and it was a privilege to meet them all.

Thankfully the brides are pleased with their photographs I had a text message from Sarah saying that they had been looking at them and crying with joy in the restaurant the night before they flew on their honeymoon!

Christopher Manson

For my portfolio book I chose to create something that illustrated the humanitarian element of the photography that I enjoy doing. I wondered if this area of photography would lend itself to being published in a book and how much of a living I might be able to make this way.

Christopher Manson is a photographer that studied in Hull a few years ago and has since moved around the world, taking photos, lecturing and publishing books. I contacted him this week to ask him for some advice about making and self-publishing books.

I firstly wondered what made a topic worthy of a book.

Manson explained that all topics are worthy of a book depending on how successfully the project has been realised. When he has finished shooting a project he spreads all of the photographs, interviews and anything else out to decide whether it is appropriate to make into a book or not. He says, “I have many projects that didn’t work completely so they just sit on my shelves collecting dust until I figure out how to finish them.”

So I asked how he chooses a topic for a book.

Manson said that his project’s don’t initially start out as books, he finds it too restricting and instead allows the work to dictate how it should be presented, possibly through a book, an exhibition, just a web gallery or presumably, a combination of formats.

He has numerous small project ideas running through his mind at any given moment he finds ideas everywhere, from reading newspapers to having conversations with friends and colleagues. Eventually, two or three of these smaller ideas will come together to make a larger project and Manson decides to begin researching it. He says “If it holds my interest I continue with it.”

Sorting and sifting photos to decide which ones are included in a book is something that I find really difficult. I take so many photographs and find it a wrench to leave any out of a collection. I asked Manson for advice on how to do this better.

He agreed that editing and sequencing is the most difficult part of the photobook making process.

He explained that images could be grouped simply – they can be paired together based on objective similarities such as colour tone and composition. Images could also be grouped chronologically just like a film, consisting of a beginning, middle, and end. Alternatively, images could be grouped more experimentally and loose, with no real connections at all. He suggested that I may also want to utilize more complicated organizational strategies, such as creating a thematic grouping. This is done by placing images together based on their content (love, war, religion etc.). 

Manson explained his process:

  1. “I print all my successful images as cheap 5x4inch prints (I use a laser copier)
  2. I look at each image one-by-one and ask myself: “What is the image saying?” It doesn’t have to be anything particularly deep, but it has to communicate something in relation to my project. If my project is about love, then how does a picture of a gun relate to the project? Then, on the reverse of each photo, I list some keywords to remember the content, such as “religion”, “love”, “war”….that sort of thing. After doing this, I should have learned something about the themes embedded in my imagery, and therefore my project as a whole.
  3. I then stack the images in groups according to their keywords and begin making pairs. Each set of images can be related by similarities in colour or composition or subject matter. Important: Always edit/sequence when you are fully awake and alert! You must pay particular attention to how the meaning of an image changes when you place it beside another. For example, a picture of a gun (which may originally have the keywords “violence” & “war” attached to it) beside a picture of a criminal creates a new meaning. The gun can no longer be “read” in the same way when it is placed beside a criminal, it’s meaning changes. Maybe the image now speaks about “security”?”

I could see from the Christopher Manson website that many of his books are self-published. I wondered if this was a deliberate choice.

Manson explained that by self-publishing it gives him total control over the look of his books.

I have used Blurb in the past and could see that at least one of Manson’s books is published through Blurb so I asked Manson for his opinion on the service.

He responded, “Blurb, like all ‘Print-on-Demand’ book makers, use a limited selection of templates and binding options, which do not always work for my books. If I want a spiral wire spine, then I have to figure that out myself. Sometimes I make “Frankenstein” books, where I use Blurb to print the book (because they print pages cheaply) but then cut away at the spine when it arrives and re-bind the pages myself. I used Blurb to begin learning about books, they’re great for beginners!”

Its all very well making these books but I wondered who would buy them and how they might be promoted to the target audience. And of course I wanted to know if someone could earn a living from making books.

Manson suggested that unless I was Martin Parr it would be unlikely that I would make a lot of money from my photobooks. He said “I’m happy just making the money back from what I initially spent. I sell more books face-to-face and at my artist talks than on my website. I also submit my books to festivals and book competitions/awards. An exhibition is always nice to launch a book. I approach libraries to buy my books, I usually have them in one or two art book stores too.”

I find all this very interesting and it is good to understand that photobooks will not always be the end point of a project or the thing that pays the bills but that it is a useful addition to my portfolio of services.

Although the main point of this assignment is to create a book that can be used as a printed portfolio I think it would be useful to have books, showcasing the photographic projects I undertake, that are available for people to purchase and can be used to highlight my best images.

I really like the process that Manson uses and will try this for my next project. I think I work best in the evening and often end up writing these posts quite late at night so it will be a challenge to ensure that I am fully awake and alert when I edit and sequence images for a book.

Mason also suggested a number of websites and blogs that he has found useful. I have checked them all out and found the following to be particularly useful.

  • Photo-eye:
  • The Angry Bat:

Book Design

I decided that I would finally get my book made at GF Smiths. As most of their albums need to be made using their own specialist software I have chosen to use InDesign and use their ‘MakeBook’ specifications.

I downloaded a template from their website and used that for the structure of my design.

After seeing the books that G F Smiths brought along the other week I decided that instead of using images from several of my trips I would use a range of photographs taken in just one country. I felt that would give the book more focus but still allow me to display a range of photographic subjects.

I looked at a few books and magazines and discussed the options with my tutor and decided that I wanted to produce something that allowed my photographs to stand out on their own. Nothing too cluttered and just a little text to explain some of the photographs. See Portfolio Inspiration for some of the magazines and websites that I visited for inspiration.

I printed out a large selection of the photos that I might use. I used Photobox to print out 6×4 copies at low cost and reasonable quality. Then I spread them out on the floor and arranged them in the order that I thought I would look good in a book, discarded those that I felt didn’t fit and still added in a few others that I hadn’t considered before.

Right from the beginning I had visualised a landscape book so using the appropriate MakeBook template I left the first spread blank as this will be a plain piece of paper. I then set up the second spread so that there is some text about me on the left and a single photograph on the right. I positioned the photograph so that there is room for a caption beneath and chose to use Goku Stencil and Perpetua fonts to match my branding and website. See last year’s New Technologies – Branding assignment for the thought process behind this choice.

I chose not to use a Master Page (layout that is repeated on each page) but instead used the ‘Paste in Place’ command to repeat the layout on each of my pages. This way I had the flexibility of designing a number of layouts for the photographs that could be displayed on the left or right of the spread.

These are the images of the final layout.


The MakeBook template comes with just 10 spreads or 20 pages included so I chose to add another five spreads to make it a 30 page book. This would allow me to tell the story of my trip in more detail and allow me to include more images.

The cover needed to be designed separately and because I had added extra pages I needed to use a cover template that allowed room in the spine for those pages. MakeBook covers can be covered in plain ‘Colorplan’ paper with a portion of the front available for a photograph. You choose the colour when you purchase the book so the image below is just of the printed part.

I chose a photograph that I felt reflected my theme and that would also allow space for a book title and logo.

Tan Book Landscape Cover


I have some experience of using InDesign before and in designing this book didn’t come across any issues or problems with it.

All I need to do now is upload the pdf files to G F Smith and they will print it out. They have a very good video that shows the process they use to make the books.

G F Smith

GF Smith is a Hull company that makes high quality paper. Part of their business, GF Smith Photographic is targeted directly towards professional photographers for whom they supply a range of albums, fames and mounts and competes with companies like Loxley Colour and Graphi Studio.

Their thought is that the wedding market is declining although some photographers at the top end are still earning a good living. They advise that we always print our work out and recommend their albums as a good way to store and preserve photos that otherwise may remain hidden on hard drives or, as technology upgrades, eventually be lost altogether.

They also recommended their range of cardboard mounts, some that can be embossed or foiled, for use at events.

Their albums can be produced using their PPS Software that is downloaded from their website. I believe it allows basic adjustments like cropping and adding shadows and includes a number of page layouts and album sizes.

All albums can be printed on matt, gloss, fine art or metallic paper. Both the matt and the gloss paper are lovely but the fine art paper, made from very soft fibres shows a lot more detail and a wider range of tones that was particularly obvious in black and white photos. The metallic paper is almost like super glossy paper, it is very shiny and looked great for some coloured photographs.

We had a long chat about colour profiles and how to calibrate our computer monitor. In order to judge the colour of the prints GF Smith have offered to print a 20 x 16 photograph and then reprint it if it is not the colour we expected. Now my problem is going to be which photograph to send them!

Portfolio Book Options

This week I have researched a number of options for my portfolio book. There is a bit of a mismatch between what I can afford and the quality of the album that I would like. However, I have to say that the quality of the album needs to reflect the aspirations of the target market that I hope to reach, so I think I will have to save up and make an investment in this book.

I have previously used organisations like Blurb and Photobox to produce family or holiday albums.

The following are some example prices for Photobox but there is very often an offer on these prices. This weekend there is up to 60% off.

  • 30 pages, large square 30cm x 30cm, gloss finish hardcover, lay flat, lustre paper – £49.99
  • 90 pages, premium square 29.5cm x 29.5cm, padded hardcover, perfect bound, 260gsm matt photo paper, clam shell presentation box – £99.99

The following are some example prices for Blurb but again, they often offer a discount on repeat or multiple orders

  • 20 pages, large landscape 33cm x 28cm, dust cover, proline uncoated paper (archival), no logo, mid grey end sheets – £56.09
  • 20 pages, large square 30cm x 30cm, image wrap cover, proline pearl photo paper (archival), no logo, mid grey end sheets – £58.13

There are lots of companies offering high-end books that are great for wedding albums and possibly for my portfolio. Most of these need photographers to register with the website before they will let you know prices.

Most of these companies require you to download and use their own software to create their books. I would prefer to use InDesign to create my book to give me complete control over the design and layout.

  • Loxley Colour – uses Loxley Designer Pro software and has discounted sample album packs available to order when you upload and order your first album.
  • Graphi Studio
  • Colourworld – uses Colourworld Designer Pro software. Sample albums are available at a 50% discount – just email them and they will send a code to use for when you place your order.
  • Proam Studio – uses free album design software
  • GF Smith Photographic – uses PPS software
  • Folio Albums are even more luxury with prices that are upwards of £250.00

2 Nov 2015 Update

Today at college we had a visit from the people at GF Smith in Hull. They showed us some samples of their albums, including some very nice portfolio books. Although the photographic albums are only available through GF Smith Photographic they do have a version called Make Book which is available through their paper division. This can be produced in InDesign and uploaded to order.

An A4 book with 20 pages (10 spreads) can be ordered for around £100. So I think that this will be my preferred option.

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