iPhone + Lightroom + Blurb = Book

Dear faithful blog friends,

A lot has happened in recent weeks. I ventured 6218 miles south to visit Uruguay. I made photographs with my iPhone. Blurb and Adobe partnered to create a book module within Lightroom 4. And you know what all this means? It means that Uncle Danno made another book. So, I thought I would share a little audio information in regard to all these new things. Have a look, have a listen and hit me up if you have any questions.

New Instagram Snaps

A few recent Instagram images. I wrote about this before but I really like this app. I often use it in tandem with Blurb Mobile, so check out my Mobile page if you are interested in how they work together. Or, you can see a few of the short Mobile pieces on my You Tube page.

These last two images are from the “New Mexico Project,” my ongoing look at this state I love so much. There is also a Facebook page regarding this project, which I just started, turned on, created, etc. My goal with this, as I’ve stated before, is to get the people IN the photographs, and their friends, involved in the dialogue regarding the project. I’ve never shared work as I go, but I’m actually really enjoying it. Instagram images are an integral part of the plan. Here is a link to the Facebook Page.

Tips for Making a Blurb Book

Okay, someone recently left a message in regard to tips for making a Blurb book. As you know, I’m now carrying the Blurb torch, and to date I’ve crafted about 120 different titles using the Blurb process. Now, I’m a photographer. I’m not a book designer. With having said that, keep that not only in the back of your mind, but front and center. This is a huge point. A key point. The crux of the conversation if you will. I’m guessing if you are reading this post you aren’t a book designer either, so get ready to embrace your limitations. I use mine like a warm blanket, and I’ve got plenty of them. But, I’ve learned a trick or two, here and there, and I’m happy to share them with you now, here in this illustrious place we call the internet.

1-Define what you are making.
If you put your best 25 images in a book, is that a book or a portfolio? Define what you need. A book? A portfolio? A leave-behind? A catalog? A magazine? They are all designed with different needs.

2-Define the goal of your book.
Is your goal to sell millions of copies and get rich, or do you want to edition a small art-book and sell twenty-five copies? Either goal is commendable, so embrace the native requirements. If someone asks you, “What angle are you taking on the design?” and you say, “Winging it baby,” that is probably not a good sign.

3-Understand you might not be a book designer.
Remember the front and center comment? I wasn’t kidding. Book designers are a rare breed, and they are very, very good and very, very precise at what they do. Book design has a long and storied history, but nearly every “rule” can broken, if the rule is broken for a purpose and the sum of the parts of the book add up to more than just a book. If your finger is hovering over that 40-image template with purple fog at the edges you might need immediate treatment. Step away from the computer and call a design professional.

4-The cover needs to be good.
I know, the master of stating the obvious but you would be surprised. I recently toured a independent bookstore, with the owner, who pointed out which books would sell simply based on their cover design. I see plenty of books with great content and covers that just doesn’t hook anyone in. And don’t forget your title. Mysterious titles are always fun but if your title is “Through the Wonder that is the Looking Glass of my Mind’s Eye of Dreaming Moonscapes Transparent to the Soul of the Living World of the Glorious Aperture,” you might need immediate treatment. Step away from the computer and call a friend.

5-Editing is an art and you might not know how to do it. Don’t worry, you can learn.
They used to teach editing. I’m not kidding, they actually did teach editing. Think blackboard, prof with elbow patches and a wooden pointer. There isn’t really a right or wrong, but you sure can add a significant dose of sense to an otherwise random and emotion filled mistake. A lot of us can’t edit our own work. We are too close, too emotional, too attached and that leads to enormous books with two or three times the number of images needed. The bad cliche of “You are only as good as your worst image,” is actually a pretty solid statement. I’ve seen a room full of newspaper photographers spend an hour talking about a single lame photo in stack of portfolios. It’s make us feel better to slay someone else for their ineptitude. So, get a second opinion, or a third. Heck, have your mom take a look, or a neighbor. What you might think is brilliant they might use in combination with 50mg of Nyquil to help them forget about it all.

6-Sequencing is different from editing but is equally important.

If you are asking, “What is sequencing?” keep reading. This means in what order the images appear in the book. Sequencing works in tandem with the edit and controls the flow of the book. You ever open a book and were confronted with a mind-blowing photograph, then turn the page and were released from the grip of the image by a blank page or a small text block…only to turn the page and be warmly brought back into the fold by an image that strikes you with it’s grace? That is, in part, the sequencing of the work. There are many strategies with sequencing, some I like more than others. I do think hitting the viewer with perhaps your most powerful images near the front CAN be a good strategy, but I’m basing this on the fact that most adults have a difficult time looking through an entire illustrated book. I’ve also had plenty of people grab one of my books and open it from the back, look at it in reverse order, while talking to me and gesturing wildly, completely ignoring the entire book before slamming it shut and proclaiming its brilliance.

7-Keep it simple.
Are you using eleven fonts? Do you have 32 images per page? Are you using Gothic branding elements? Do your backgrounds remind people of the crowd at a Grateful Dead concert? Did you look at the “Rodeo” font and say, “Oh man, that is COOOOOL.” If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions please unplug your computer and seek immediate help.

8-Be prepared to make multiple books.
I did a body of work I thought was pretty interesting. I secretly created a book from the material. I toiled in isolation putting final, mini touches on the damn thing. I got the book back and it totally sucked. Everything about it sucked. The cover, the typography, the layout, the edit, the sequence, the size of the images and the size of the book. It was horrible. This was after I made about 100 other books. So, if you get where I’m going here….we all make mistakes, so get ready to join the club. But, the good thing about this process is that you don’t have to commit to 1500 copies. If you do make a perfect book please keep it to yourself. Nobody likes a genius.

9-Don’t try to make a masterpiece your first time out.
If you haven’t used the Blurb system, or any other system for that matter, don’t try to hit a grand slam your first time at the plate. Make contact and get the ball in play. I was with someone yesterday who received THREE Blurb discount codes and watched them all expire as they tried to create a timeless, life-changing, career-altering, semi-Godlike creation. Well guess what? They still don’t have a book. Keep in mind that what you think is a timeless, life-changing, career-altering, semi-Godlike creation someone will look at and think, “That would be good to put under the car to keep the oil drops from landing on the garage floor.” Just make one already.

I actually had someone write to me last year and say that looking at other peoples work was a total waste of time. I think this person would probably also say that going to photography school is a total waste of time. In my opinion, both of these opinions are completely off-target. If you are not looking at illustrated books, OTHER PEOPLES BOOKS, then I’m not really sure how you would get a sense of quality. In my opinion this is a must. And, if you have grand plans of selling your book, you might want to think about buying a few books, OTHER PEOPLES BOOKS. It feels good to support other folks, so don’t be shy, embrace the buy. See how clever I am.

11-Just because you think the largest book possible is the ONLY way for your work to be seen doesn’t mean you are correct.
Bigger is not always better. Bigger is just bigger. Get over it. Your photo-profoundness might actually work better in the smallest format. Small books are really fun, and they are very easy for people to approach. There is an intimacy with a small book that is different from a larger, monograph style publication. And people will cart your small book around with them.

Have fun. Yep, that’s it. That is the free tip. I see plenty of folks GRINDING over their book as if the book is an alien spawn stuck somewhere in there chest and they just can’t get the damn thing out. It’s okay. Just relax and make a book. Making a book is REALLY fun, and making a book forces you to put critical thought toward your work, much like making a print, and there is nothing negative about that. Get it….negative? Okay, I’ll shut up.


1-Remember you have three bookmaking choices.
Bookify. Booksmart. PDF to Book

2-Calibrate your monitor. Seriously. I don’t want to hear excuses. It’s fun. You get to put this thing on your monitor and push buttons. So, get a cool drink and some snacks and have a little peak at the Blurb Color Management Center. Get your geek on.

3-Don’t forget your Indesign or Lightroom options.
Yep, you can use these software gems as well. Indesign plug-in. Lightroom.

4-You can now make an Instagram Book. You know you want to. We all know you want to make one of these. We all know you are busting out Instagram snaps at an iPhone melting rate, so why not cement those to the analog world. Live a little. Instagram Books.

5-Don’t rule out multiple formats for the same work.
Maybe someone can’t afford your $200, 400-page opus regarding all the wonderful ways in which you can utilize HDR. But, they can afford a 6×9 color trade book for a fraction of the cost. Don’t keep the wonders of HDR away from those people. They deserve to learn of its beauty and power. It’s the cotton candy of imagery. Sweet, sugary and nutrient-rich.

If you have read this far you are truly a danger to yourself and probably all of us because you are now frothing at the mouth while laying out spread after spread after spread. When the book virus hits it is nearly impossible to ignore. As I write this I’ve got two new books in the works. They might be great, they might not be. All I know is that they will be made, and with these books will come the lessons learned. Here’s to taking chances, editing tight and the smell of ink on paper.

PS: At some point, when I get time, I’d like to put together a range of posts dealing with specific items related to the above suggestions. If that is appealing…let me know.

Blurb Revolution

A random seascape for no apparent reason, but that sky is kinda Blurb blue.

Okay, I’m a total Blurb homer, and I work for the company, but I still felt I needed to write this post.

Last week was an especially interesting time in the history of the company, with the arrival of two, three or perhaps even a few more very important things.

First, Pro Line books are now here. Photographers polled over the past few years were asked “What do you want?” There were many responses…as you can imagine. But, what came through loud and clear, “We want more paper choices, end sheet choices and more cover options.” So, in short, they are here. But Dan is there more you ask? Yes, there is. These new additions are not just more options, not in my opinion. They are options that speak directly to photographers who are looking at Blurb as a vehicle for the future. Let me explain.

Four years ago, when I first started using Blurb, and many other POD book makers, I was using these books for a few things, mostly portfolios and promo books. Over the years, as the technology got better, and my understanding of books got better, I began to realize I was selling myself short as well as selling my books short. Soon I began selling books to both clients, shoot specific, but also began selling my books to collectors or people who just wanted to own my work. At the time I did not fully understand the power of the book, nor did I understand how to position a book. Once I saw the look in my client’s eyes when that bright, shiny book was placed before them, the wheels began to turn in my mind.

It’s been said that photography is a story best told in book form. I think we have Gerry Badger to thank for that notion, and I am one hundred percent in agreement with him. The book is a powerful thing that commands a certain respect, both with photographers, but more importantly with the general public.

In the past few years, with the economic downtown, the publishing industry has been impacted. With having said that, the traditional publishing world is still making signature books, and looks to be ready to do so well into the future. For this I’m glad. Behind me, as I write this, is my photo-book library, which is overflowing with books(Including Blurb books!). There are more on the way. But, one of the side effects of the downturn is that photographers who might have been published before are simply not being afforded that opportunity today. That is where Blurb comes into play.

What I’ve seen happening over the past few years is the reality that books are being defined by different ideals. With the advent of companies like Blurb, the book has taken on a different face, one which has allowed for a more wide ranging scale of what is being published. Sure, many of these books are, let’s face it, not good, including many of mine, but many of them are exceptional. New talent, new faces and new opportunities have been merged in this exciting new time. Case in point, Photoeye Books selling my “On Approach” book.

Pro Line takes this one step further. Recently, at the Palm Springs Photo Festival, Blurb was able to offer a sneak peak to festival attendees. I spent four days in a room at a hotel, a room filled with these books, and I have to say, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Now, I know what you are thinking, cause you are a photographer, and I’m a photographer. You are thinking, “Who cares what anyone else says, I gotta see it myself.” I know. I always think the same thing. But, I can’t sum it up any better than a photographer who sat with me and viewed these new books and new materials. He simply said, “These are a good as anything being published today.”
I know, you still want to see them. But let me ask you this? Ever thought of doing an edition? Small run? Tip in print? Feel like maybe you have more options now?

Now, Pro Line, at least to me, was somewhat expected in terms of the future of Blurb. I know, I’m terribly jaded and demanding, but again, did I mention I was a photographer? So, my standard mission statement is “I want everything. I want it now. I want it for free.” So these new books I saw coming.

What I didn’t seem coming was BLURB MOBILE This application is potentially a real game-changer, at least this is how I see it. In essence, BLURB MOBILE is a storytelling tool. Just for a second, imagine you are me. Imagine you love film. Imagine you love working on obscure projects that take unrealistic amounts of time and potentially have very little market, but yet you can’t think about life without these projects being an essential part. imagine that when you are shooting in the field, and blogging, you get constant requests from people who ask, “Where is the new work?” “When are you gonna post your latest shoot.” Imagine that you don’t want to do this because you realize the modern attention span is so short that if you post the work as you go, by the time the story is complete, or the book, the average follower will respond with, “Yep, I’ve already seen that.” And, imagine that you are old school in your thinking that good work needs to marinate and needs time to be lived with BEFORE it is released on the unsuspecting world. But imagine now having a secret weapon that will bridge this gap.

I now have a tool that allows me to have anyone who is interested FOLLOW me as I go. Anyone who is interested in my project can see AND hear what is happening in the field, without me “showing my hand” so to speak when it comes to the final images. Imagine being very happy. Imagine creating an audience for your final project, as you go along, so that when your project is done you have an audience of people who have NOT seen every image, and can relive, relearn and experience the project the way it was intended to be experienced. Imagine this sounding pretty good.

Well, now you have another option.

Oh ya, did I mention the Blurb plug-in for Lightroom? That’s kinda new too. Just to hurl something else at you.

I know what you are thinking. “I want more.” I get it. Did I mention I’m a photographer?

I’m not sure what the future holds, and let’s be real. NONE of these things substitute for time and access in the field. These new items are like arrows in your photographic quiver.

Any questions about these things, just let me know.