Making Photo books

Making photo books

I wanted to make a photo book for A5 but was concerned that my technical ability was enough to cope with the task – I am not known for crafting.

My initial sources were Youtube items about book making but this was replaced by an excellent book on book binding by Kathy Arbott (Arbott, 2016). I cannot recommend this book too highly as it has colour images of all fabrication steps, although there is no substitute for ‘doing’ or ‘making’ because I learnt and improved by trying.

For A5 I created 3 hand-made items; a photobook, a second ‘notes’ book for the inside flap of the main book, and a container to hold both of them in.

I learnt things about how to deal with printers, choice of image and sequencing, and the process of fabrication.

Dealing with printers

The paper and size of the pages was important. I wanted to produce a large book with 11×10 inch (approx) pages which was not a standard print size. The books also needed a large gutter to one side so that I could fix them in a fold in the book with Chicago screws. The print lab tried to create a new template for my images but I ended up producing every page separately, using Photoshop, so that it was ready to print. The files were also huge but I used a free programme to move these to the printer.

If I need something unusual doing again I will speak to them face to face and try and communicate my ideas clearly; doing this might have saved me a lot of time.

Choice of image and sequencing

I created my initial sequence as a PDF in Lightroom and worked on it for over two months. This changed little even after this review and my tutor’s comments. I also saw from that I needed newer images at the end to provide resolution to the story. For example, I photographed discarded flower at ‘The Angel of the North’ to illustrate the aftermath of my daughter’s death and the moving broom bush (the final image) to suggest the intangible and that she lives on in some way.

The following images show the fabrication of my mock-up folder with images printed on my A3 home printer. This was very useful in thinking about sequencing where there is a linear dimension to my daughter’s illness and my reactions to it. The images are all large on the page. I thought that for my final printing some of these, such as the photograph of my daughter at one week old, would benefit from being smaller and more ‘intimate.’ In the end I have four sizes of image on the page.



The most important contribution of this stage was the realisation that I needed to find a printer willing to do double-sided prints with a large gutter to one side. This was difficult for my printer to understand so I ended up producing all the images in Photoshop with the correct dimensions.

The NHS folder looked shabby but I used the idea of it for producing my cover and liner. My printer could not do this double-sided so I sandwiched the two together which produced a stiffer cover which worked well. All the graphics on the folder are mine and include hand written text turned into vectors. There are a few ‘jokes’ there too.


The fabrication of the main book was pretty simple once I had begun, but for the notes book inside the main folder flap I had decided to produce this myself using bookbinding techniques. The illustrations below show this.


This was a more difficult task than I imagined but the book submitted is better than my first trial which has gone to my tutor. For this second book I was using a frame to hole the barber and flattening down the edges as I went along. I realise that there are many mistakes but I can see that I can do better next time.

I also produced a container for my book(s). This was surprisingly easy to do and presents my work well.

I am about to visit the national archive of hand-made books in Manchester.


Arbott, K. (2010). Bookbinding: A step-by-step guide. Wiltshire, UK, The Crowded Press Ltd.