Photos in Your Book? Three Tips

By John Prince

A few photos can make an instructional, memoir, or historical book have a lot more pizzaz as well as illustrating the content in a way that words cannot. Here are three tips to make your photos look better and cost less.

As you probably know, the print on the pages of POD (print on demand) books is usually in “black and white.” Those of you who have inadvertently priced color printing (by mistake or on purpose) know the difference is significant.

Book pages are typically printed with black ink on white or beige paper. To accomplish this successfully the photos must be in “grayscale.” That means that each little pixel carries a value of gray that the POD equipment can read and produce.

Despite the name, “Black & White” digital images also carry color information (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) and attempting to print them on typical one color (read: Black) POD equipment results in a mess. Or the printer will charge you for a color job which is also likely to be a mess—neither of which you want.

Many digital photo programs (like Adobe Photoshop) have an easy couple of clicks to convert the digital color image to grayscale. File the grayscale images with “GS” prominent in the file name so your can find them later.

Publishing such as Adobe InDesign have a “Package” function that lists all of the images in the document and note their format, allowing users to easily review the document with laboriously checking each photo individually.

Good cropping will make a poor photo better and show that you are a pro at this.

Here’s an uncropped photo of three men at an event.

Lots of background, trees, cars, sidewalk. But what we’re interested in is Uncle Bob, Dad, and Cousin Charlie. We know and love them by their faces. (Babies naturally look at their mother’s faces, not their feet.)

So, lets crop this “grab shot” and make it a “photo.”

Notice that we’ve taken away a lot of the uninteresting background distraction and by cropping to the shoulders, we can make the faces significantly bigger. In the original Dad is nervously holding a cigarette. (Don’t tell Mom!) Let’s get rid of that, plus some of the belt buckles, chair back, bellies, and sidewalk, too.

There, that’s better. These “boys” are looking good!

Now let’s make the photo stand out on the page with a border and a drop shadow.

A border (use black or a tone of black) gives our photo boundaries and definition. The white shirt and white jacket no longer look like they’re going to fade away. BTW, some old school people call a border like this a “keyline.”

A drop shadow “lifts” the photo off the page and makes it stand out. Be careful not to make the drop shadow so big that it overpowers the photo.

If you’re converting this photo into a grayscale for Black & White printing, do it before adding the border and drop shadow.

There! Have fun with your photos. Make them bigger, more interesting, and compelling.

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