There are a number of things you can do with your photographs. These include making slideshows and online photo albums and sharing them with the rest of the world.
There is another thing that you can do and it gets your pictures into a format that can even be appreciated by Aunt Em, who doesn’t have a computer or Internet connection. I’m talking about photo books which you can create and pass around to people to allow them to see pictures you took on your last holiday, the latest family snaps, or whatever.
There are lot of different ways of going about making a photo book, including various online websites where one can upload pictures or designs, get a book printed out, and shipped to your doorstep. Readers outside South Africa have an embarrassment of riches to choose from when it comes to making photo books but postage delays and costs make things more difficult for us locals.
Luckily, there is a very good South African service which I used recently, and which produces books of an impressive quality. You can find out all about them if you go along to the www.myphotobook.co.za, where you can download the free PhotoGenie software which will help you to assemble photo books and other photo-related products quickly and easily.
The software is also available at a nominal fee from various Fuji-affiliated photo labs in Durban, including Photoworld. I got a disc and installed the software, which updated itself online, and then I got into making a photo book to show off some of my portraits.
The program is not hard to use and you need to start by selecting the book format that you want to create, and choosing pictures that you want to put into it. You basically get the choice between softcover and hardcover books in various sizes and shapes, including A4, 12-inches square, and a couple of others.
PhotGenie has a wizard that will go ahead and put all the pictures you’ve selected on to the pages of the book and it will very often produce a result that, if it isn’t quite what you had in mind, can easily be tweaked.
For myself, I prefer the manual mode which starts out as before, but then lets you go from page to page and place pictures and captions wherever you want them. There are a large number of page templates and page backgrounds which you can choose from, and which speed up the process a bit.
There are templates with varying numbers of images per page but, if that doesn’t work for you, you can drag pictures onto a blank page and position and size them them as you want. Once on the page, you can apply a variety of special effects to each picture, including black and white and sepia, and one of many borders available.
This brings me neatly to the subjective and sensitive issue of good taste in layout. The message to take home from here is that, just because you have a million effects to play with, you don’t have to use them all. The most successful photo books I’ve seen are the ones where the layout doesn’t call attention to itself and the special effects are largely uniform. I’m a ‘less is more’ kinda guy, but your tastes may vary and, of course, its your photo book, so you can do whatever you want.
Once your project is completed and saved onto your hard drive, you can either submit it to Fuji via the internet or burn it to disc and take it along to one of the participating mini-labs. They will forward the file for printing, handle payment, and be a convenient place for you to pick up the book when it’s ready.
The PhotoGenie software is excellent, in my opinion, and should be enough for 99.9% of the population to use to create their photo books. If however, you want to achieve some sort of effect that is not available through the program, there’s nothing to stop you designing your pages in another software program and then inserting them as images into PhotoGenie.
I chose the 215mm square soft cover format and was most happy with the quality of the book that came back to me, just over a week after I dropped it off at the mini-lab. The soft cover books have matt-finish pages, a glossy UV-varnished cover and, starting from R179 plus a delivery fee, are the cheapest option. The A3 landscape-format book is the Rolls-Royce and will set you back R849 for the 28 page version.
I have seen a sample of one of these books and it is absolutely gorgeous, immaculately bound, and printed on heavyweight glossy paper which is, in turn, coated with UV varnish. I was very impressed with the quality of both the economy and deluxe products.
As a matter of interest, the PhotoGenie software will not only allow you to create photo books, but it will also help you create and order a number of different products with your photographs printed onto them, like coffee mugs, handbags, and much more besides.