Digital photography means no long waits to have your film developed, and you don’t pay for wasted frames on those lousy images. However, it also often means that your precious travel pictures get stuck on SD cards, hard drives and computers, and not out in the world where you or anyone else can enjoy them.
My favourite way to display my images is through travel photo books. After years of making them (before and after becoming a graphic designer) I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks to help create the best-looking album, in the most efficient way. Here are some travel photo book ideas and tips to create a coffee-table-worthy memoir of your favourite pictures.
Why a travel photo book?
Here are a few reasons why I find photo books the best for displaying our travel snaps:
Portable – I take our latest travel book whenever we go visiting older relatives who are not using the internet and miss all our travel news throughout the year. They love hearing and seeing what we’ve been up to, and the books are easy to tote around.
Physical – Just pick it up and flip through the pages. No need to turn anything on or wait for it to load, it’s a more intimate, tactile experience than looking at photos on a screen.
Décor – Photo books make a beautiful addition to a coffee table, and visitors love to look through them.
Journal – Photo books can be more than just pictures. You can include notes, scanned ticket stubs, and excerpts from your travel journal to accompany your images.
How to make a travel photo book?
There are many companies that will help you create and print your photo book. I have tried a few and generally come back to Photobook. I’ve used their services wherever we have lived in the world i.e. Australia, Singapore and the USA. The quality of the books is always excellent and I prefer their creative tools.
Though I’m a graphic designer these days and could make my books in Adobe Indesign and have them professionally printed locally, Photobook makes it so easy to just upload and print the end result at such good quality, that I continue to use them. I find they are great value for money, especially if you subscribe to their email list and make use of their promotions. I even used their products to create a photo book of my wedding pictures.
If Photobook doesn’t work for you, my next go-to is Shutterfly. Their creative tools are simpler and less comprehensive than Photobook. This means there is less of a learning curve when getting to grips with their design software, the compromise is less design flexibility. Their print quality is excellent also.
Tips and tricks
1. Conduct a photo exchange
Before you begin editing and sorting your photos for your photo book, exchange pictures with your fellow travellers. Sometimes they may have captured a similar but better picture, or they may have pictures of you that you’d like to include in your album. Do this immediately after you get home from a trip – there are a few reasons for this.
The number one reason is that many people don’t make backups. I asked a friend for copies of photos from a trip a few years before. Her hard drive had crashed in the intervening time and she had lost all her shots. She didn’t even realise she’d lost them until I asked for a copy! Not everyone has the same amount of sentimentality or are as diligent at backing up their files so get a copy right away.
2. Choose a theme
It’s easy to let your travel photo book get out of hand and the more pages, the more it will cost to print. Select a theme for each book. Some ideas include:
- A calendar year of all your travel – a travel yearbook of sorts.
- One specific trip.
- Several trips to one geographic region, continent or country e.g. Pacific Islands or South East Asia.
- Sights and/or experiences e.g. foodie moments, amazing architecture, historic sights, national parks or best beaches.
3. Scan your travel memorabilia
Next, ensure you scan any memorabilia that you would like to incorporate, such as ticket stubs, postcards, boarding passes, programs etc. Type up any commentary, labels or snippets from your travel journal that you intend to include. In the example below, I realised I never took a photo of our favourite Argentine snack – Havanna biscuits – so I grabbed a picture from the company website to include in my book.
4. Edit and sort
Select your best photos and edit them first, before uploading them into your photo book creation tool of choice. Uploading high-resolution photos and previewing them in online tools can be very time-consuming. I sort and edit them in my own programs first, which provides the option of using more powerful editing software e.g. Lightroom and Photoshop than photo book programs offer.
Also, you can preview the photos at a larger size which is helpful when deciding which is the best image between several similar pictures. Then only upload the cream of the crop, that you intend to put in your travel photo book – it’s a much more efficient way to work.
5. Wrap your cover
If you’re using a DSLR or taking very high-resolution photos, you can use an image to completely wrap your travel photo book cover. Photobook offers other quality options such as leather covers, but I find the full cover photos most striking. While editing your images, consider which photos might make great book covers. You will want to choose an image in landscape format (vs portrait) so that it will wrap right around the book without stretching.
6. Be a storyteller
Consider the story you are telling with your book. Ordering your photos or pages chronologically will take someone through your itinerary as you experienced it. This is especially important if you intend to accompany your images with your travel diary, or commentary along with your photos. The logical order helps your story to flow and make sense to someone who wasn’t there.
7. Make use of professionally designed templates
Photobook and similar online, photo book creation tools, have plenty of beautiful travel photo book templates to suit every style. Don’t worry, these templates aren’t rigid, they are just a starting point and a time saver. You can always tweak them to make your travel photo book 100% your own. By using these templates, you will benefit from the expertise of professional graphic designers who consider size, proportion, spacing and typography to make your travel photo book the best it can be.
8. Be consistent with colour
Consistency is key to making your travel photo book design more polished. Be consistent with any colour you add throughout the photo book, especially page backgrounds. Using 2-3 colours will help to maintain cohesiveness, and can bring together a group of photos with different colours in them.
Choose at least one light and one dark colour so that you will be able to create contrast between images taken in different lighting conditions. For instance, you might want a dark background for very light images and vice versa. That way your photos don’t melt into the page.
9. Maintain your font selection
As with colour, choose just a couple of fonts to work with throughout your travel photo book for a more professional design. Above are examples where I used one typeface for the title and another for the body text and used that system on every page! Also, be consistent with your text sizes across the entire book – meaning, use one size for all the titles and one for the body text, maybe another size for photo captions or quotes.
10. That one odd picture
Have you got that one awesome picture that doesn’t quite fit into the existing two-page layouts, but you really want to include in the book? Due to the way books are constructed there is a single page at the front and back, which are the perfect place to put that one odd image, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s out of chronological order.
11. Preview, preview, preview
Don’t skip previewing your travel photo book before ordering the print. It’s your last chance to pick up on any mistakes, misaligned photos or blank picture boxes. Once you’ve fixed any errors, preview again. I know at this stage you get anxious to see the final product in print, but don’t be tempted to shortcut this process.
What do you do with your vacation photos? Have you ever created a travel photo book? Creating a travel photo book can take some time, but it is oh so worth it – especially when the memories start to fade a little over time. For more inspiration and ideas on capturing your travel for later, see these DIY travel souvenir ideas.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,