The 2009 Photo Book

It’s one thing to put together a photo book.

2009 photo book cover
This shot was inspired by How to Photograph a Design Poster

It’s a whole ‘nother thing to rewrite the program that builds the book to increase the margins and add a gutter, to go through a year’s worth of photos (over 6,000) and narrow them down to about 100, to crop and resize each and every one, to lay out the book so that the pictures on the left relate to the pictures on the right, to add 80 captions in English that are descriptive, yet flow, and then do the same thing over again in French, to summon any remaining creativity to come up with a cover that uniquely identifies the year, and to get this all done in time to get the book printed, shipped, and mailed out to family here and in France in time for Christmas. Well, almost in time.

2009 photo book layout sample
Sample layout with photos from Weed and Hoover Dam

It might sound like I’m complaining, but really I love it. I love the challenge of a project that absorbs me for more than a few days. That involves building a tool and then using it. That is both analytical and visual.

We started putting these together in 2007 because coincidentally, that year was the first time I traveled to France with Stephanie (not to mention the first time she’d been back in almost 3 years), and it was also the year we went to Buffalo to celebrate my Grandfather’s 90th birthday. We don’t see our family as often as we’d like, specifically our grandparents, so we envisioned this as a way to share ourselves with them that did not require a computer or the internet.

Between then and now however, the inevitable happened. In 2008 one of Stephanie’s Grandmothers passed away, and just this year, I lost my Grandfather. We’re getting our photo books back. I hadn’t really quite anticipated that part. At least not so soon. Both Stephanie and I now have a single surviving grandparent, our maternal Grandmothers.

Between then and now, another change happened. In 2007, our siblings were just our younger siblings, and we didn’t really think a book of photos of us would really mean all that much to them. But now Stephanie’s niece is two and a half, my brother is married, and just like with our Grandparents, we don’t see them as often as we’d like. So the photo book becomes a little piece of ourselves we can leave behind. Something they can easily pull off the shelf when someone we’ve never met asks about us and say, “Yep, that’s my crazy brother” or “Eh oui, ça c’est ma sœur”. At least that’s my fantasy.

A look inside the 2009 photo book
A quick peek inside

Update: my photo-book code is available on GitHub.



That is awesome. Very well done.

We’ve been using Shutterfly for our books that we do, but I think I will give Viovio a try one of these next times. We have been making books for ourselves of special things we do and such. Plus we also get pictures developed.

I have to admit, Viovio is an acquired taste. There are really two things I like about them. The 5×7″ minibook format, and the fact that they accept a PDF file. The print quality is good. I have not used any of their other methods for creating a book, so I cannot vouch for them. But if you want to create your own PDF, and you generate it to their spec, the result has been good.

On the other hand, the one thing you’ll notice about their website is a certain lack of polish. Three years ago I found this refreshing. Now it’s just kind of quirky. Every year around November when I get ready to make my next book, I kind of wonder whether they will still be in business. And so far, for the last two years, I’ve been surprised.


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