A Short Course Book
Displaying & Sharing
Your Digital Photos

Publishing Your Photos—eBooks

 
A steel engraving made from a photograph. In the enlarged detail you can see the dots and lines used to recreate the photo as line art.
 
 
The Print dialog box with Adobe PDF selected.
 
 
 
Click to see a book of images I took over the course of the year in a woodland near my home.
 
 
Click to see a book on raising monarch butterflies that I wrote to use photos in a theme.
At the dawn of photography the only way to get photos into books was to make prints and paste them in. The first book illustrated in this way was William Henry Fox Talbot's "Pencil of Nature" published in parts in 1844-46. For a long time, the only way to mass produce photos was to engrave them on a stone or plate which was then inked and pressed against paper to transfer the image. This worked, but the photos were converted to line drawings in the process. As printing technology improved, it finally became possible to print photos side by side with text the way they are today. However, highquality printing has always been very expensive and could only be justified if a large number of copies were going to be sold. This led to the growth of the almost impenetrable publishing industry with all of its editors, agents and other assorted gatekeepers. It's our good fortune to live in an era where self-publishing is not only possible, but in some cases preferred. Libraries are being redesigned and budgets reallocated to emphasize digital materials while printed books are being relegated to basement stacks or not purchased at all. This dramatic change has a long way to go before it plays itself out, but you can take advantage of the change.

Traditionally photographers have had two major outlets, gallery shows and monographs (books of their photos). Gallery shows are generally sparsely attended except on opening night when wine and cheese brings in a small crowd of friends. Monographs are rarely bought because it's cheaper to browse them in a bookstore. (One photography book editor complained that trying to sell a photo book was like charging customers to see a movie on their way out of the theater after having seen it). Now, by generating eBooks that can be easily e-mailed or downloaded, photographers can expose their work to a much larger audience. One big advantage of using PDF is that you may not have to learn a new program. You just use whatever program you are already familiar with to create a photo album, journal, family history, or other photo-illustrated document and then use the same program to generate a PDF file as the last step. Once it's converted to PDF you can distribute the eBook digitally (the focus of this section), or have it printed and bound (discussed in the next chapter).

There are three steps in creating an eBook—layout, conversion to PDF and distribution.

When displayed, PDF files have tables of contents you can click, and many other navigational elements such as thumbnails of each page.

Laying out a book

The process of creating an eBook of your photos is the same as if it were going to be printed as a coffee table book. The first step is to layout the book using text, captions and photos. There are a number of programs that you can use to create a layout. Leading the pack are desktop publishing programs such as InDesign and Quark. However, these programs cost hundreds of dollars and have fairly steep learning curves. If you don't have access to one of them, you can find copies of easier to learn programs such as Apple's Aperture and Microsoft Publisher for much less money. All of these applications include predesigned templates containing easy to choose graphic elements, fonts, and colors. You can use these templates as-is or adapt them as you gain experience, but you can also create your own layouts from scratch using whatever design elements you desire including color, fonts, photos, or other illustrations.

A desktop publishing program is not the same as a word processing program. You create text boxes into which you type text. You can drag corners or sides to change the box's size or shape, drag the entire box to a new position, and even rotate it so the type within it is at an angle. Pictures are placed on the page and can also be sized, dragged, and rotated. The text boxes and pictures remain in position, even when you add or delete text. Text can flow from one box to another, as it might in a multi-page document, or be contained in just one box as it might be in a heading or caption.

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but it's amazing how a caption or other text can put a photo in context. Think about how images would look in a journal of a trip where an introduction sets the stage and captions explain who and what is in each picture and when and where each was taken. Add some colorful anecdotes and a collection of photos that means something only to people who were there with you becomes a journal or book with meaning to everyone.

As you arrange pictures on a page, you'll find that you can drag corners to make them larger or smaller without changing the number of pixels they contain. As you make an image smaller, the number of pixels per inch (ppi) increases because the pixels get pushed closer together. As you make the image larger, the ppi decreases because the pixels get stretched farther apart. Generally you need at least 100 ppi for screen display and 200 ppi for printed copies so try not to fall much below those numbers.

Converting to PDF

Once your layout is finished, your next step is to convert it to PDF. When you do so, the book retains all aspects of your design. One of the best parts of this is that you can place the full resolution images in the original document and then vary image resolution while generating PDFs. For example, you can reduce pixels per inch (ppi) to 100 for an eBook designed for screen display, 200 ppi for one to be printed on an inkjet printer, and 300 ppi for one to be printed on a commercial press.

To create a PDF file from any application, you first install Adobe Acrobat or a competing product on your computer. (The free Reader doesn't create PDF files, it just lets you view them). Because of Acrobat's high price, there are many third-party programs available. To find some, go to download.com and search for "PDF."

From here the steps you follow depend on the application you used to create your layout. Some have an export command that you use to export files in the PDF format. However, with all applications you can start to print the document as usual but when the Print dialog box opens, you select the Adobe PDF printer instead of your usual one. (Some programs add Adobe PDF to the Print menu so you don't have to select it in the dialog box). This isn't really a printer, but acts like one with one important exception—it prints the document to a PDF file on the disk. As it does so, it interprets all of the formatting commands exactly as the printer would but stores the fully formatted document in a file on the disk looking just like a full-color printout.

After you have generated a PDF you can add links to it so when someone clicks a link, a file opens or runs. For example, you can link a still image in an eBook to a video on YouTube and when someone then clicks the link the video plays. You can also link the ebook to an order form or e-commerce site so someone can order one of your photos. You can even add security to prevent changes to the document, prohibit copying data from it, or even prevent printing it. If you do allow printing you can control the quality of the printout.

Reading an eBook

PDF eBooks can be viewed and printed by anyone who's system has the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software on it. (All new systems and browsers do, and if it's not already on a system, it can be downloaded free from the Adobe Web site).

When opened with Acrobat Reader, a document looks exactly as you intended— with the same fonts, formatting, graphics, and colors of the original. This is why the format is so often used for eBooks and other highly illustrated or well-designed publications. Acrobat Reader supplies the controls you use to page through the document, scroll or zoom it, or even search it for key words. Thumbnails of all of the document's pages, a table of contents, and clickable links make PDF files easy to navigate. You can even have the text read out loud and display the pages as a slide show.

To demonstrate some possibilities, excerpts from two eBooks are available on-line so you can view them by clicking the Extension buttons to the left. One excerpt is from a book of images taken over the course of the year in a nearby woodland. The second excerpt is from a book on raising monarch butterflies, written to use photos in a theme.

One program that relies heavily on PDF is Adobe's Photoshop Elements. It uses it to deliver audio, video, and transitions in slide shows and electronic cards.


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