Our London Vacation is done – Now a coffee table book

Book Cover – Buy the book on Blurb.com

I spent much of my weekend creating and designing a coffee table book to remember our trip to London, England this past Thanksgiving.

You see no one wants to sit at my computer going through all the photos of our trip. No one is that interested in me just taking all the photos and just projecting them and talking forever about our trip.

What people are interested in seeing is when I have taken the time to create a storyline and thought about what I want to communicate about our trip.

The exercise of creating a book will help you have something to help you remember your trip and also make it more intriguing for an audience to enjoy.

One of the page spreads

As I worked on laying out all the pages and trying to create some sense of order I had to include some text. I needed to include information that would help us remember what we saw to be sure I didn’t lose pertinent information.

When you put two or more photos together you get what we call the X-Factor. This is when the message of the combined photos communicates something totally different than the photos just by themselves.  They strengthen each other.

Adding text goes even further and helps fill in all the information that is left out in a photograph.

Funny thing about great photos is they ask questions.  Yes the best photos have your audience asking questions.  Who is that person?  The photo was strong enough to make you want to know.

Where is this place? This is what a successful travel photo will do because your audience will want to go there if it is successful.

I can picture myself in many years sitting drinking some coffee and sitting by a fireplace as I hold the book and flip through the pages to help jog my memory on such a wonderful time I had with my wife and daughter.

Call me sentimental, but I realized this might be the last time we have to do anything as a family for a while. My daughter will go off to college next year and who knows how our schedules will be going forward. I know we will do things in the future, but will we get this kind of time together?

Page spread on the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

While you can find some bargains on books about England they are not our photos and our specific memories. The book I put together is our trip and includes all the places we went to and enjoyed as a family.

This may just be the most archival way for our family to preserve the photos and memories of our trip. CD/DVDs tend to fade over time and hard drives can fail, but the printed page tends to last much longer than all these other formats.

I encourage you to take the time to put all those photos that you took on your latest trip into a book. Marry the images with text and not only will this preserve the memories, but it allows you now to share this with family and friends.

We all have friends who want to know about our trip because they are planning their own trip. Now we have something that can help them see what we did and help them determine if they want to see what we saw or maybe add some new locations that we didn’t go to for our trip.

I recommend using Blurb.com for your book project. These are beautiful books made by you. You can turn your ideas into professional-quality books, magazines, or ebooks for iPad and Kindle.

Why do you take photos and who cares?

If you enjoy the process of taking photos and are the primary recipient of all your work, then read no further. You are all that matters for your photos.

However, if the reason you make photographs is to share with others and help them to connect to your experiences, then I am writing this for you.

Who and Where is your audience?

I grew up where we all gathered around the slide projector or movie projector and watched family slide shows and movies. Usually it was of someone’s latest trip.

Later I would help produce slide shows about missionaries around the world for a missions agency. These slide shows were more scripted and storytelling than the random photos from vacation trips. We would sync two or more projectors and record audio that would then run with the show.

My suggestion is to think of someone in this group that is a good representation of that audience.  I know one photographer who grandmother had never been 50 miles from her home. She had never dipped her toes in the ocean at age 80 and only lived about five hours from the ocean.

Maybe the person you are thinking about is well traveled and has been in more places than you have been. Hopefully you can see that these two different audiences would impact how you tell the story.

Where will they see your work? If most of your audience is at one location, then maybe a presentation where everyone comes to a location is the best way to reach them. This could be something like a civic organizations meeting or company staff meeting.

Maybe your audience is a company but they are worldwide and use an intranet as a way to disseminate messages.

Again you can see this can impact the packaging of your story for the audience.

My first trip to Taos, New Mexico around 1986.

What is your goal?

After everyone sees your package what do you want them to do?  Come up and just tell you how wonderful of a photographer you are?  Maybe you went with your Lions Club to distribute glasses in another country. While there you decided to put together a package.

There are basically two types of presentations you can give. First is a vacation package. Here is what you saw while you were there. The second is the story of a typical person you were helping. This is where you go deeper and even give a call to action at the end of the presentation. Encouraging them to continue to help with the raising of funds for glasses and also volunteer next year to go and help people with fitting them with the glasses.


Once you have a goal and purpose in mind then based on what you know before doing the story sketch out a storyline.

Gather all the information you can and then put together your shot list of what you need to tell the story visually. If you plan to write text for a story and put photos with it, plan time for your interviews. The same if you choose to use audio or video.

You are now planning for a total package.

I know I need some audio to drive the package and the best audio I prefer is the testimony. The first person narrative telling their story. With this I can then lay still images over it to tell the story. This is a much better story than just putting a bunch of photos in a gallery for people to see.

The Shot List

In the picture above I have the shot list we worked from to cover the Chick-fil-A kickoff. I was shooting for multiple outlets.

Here are some of the places the images were to be used:

  • Slideshow/Video to show internally to the company. The storyline here was to show moments that people would be talking about for days to come.
  • PowerPoint presentations. The organizers use these images to help plan for the next big event like the end of the college football year Chick-fil-A Bowl. 
  • Videos. Often these images are part of other projects where some of the photos will show something that a department was apart of and need that one image.
There were more places than this for usage, but you get the point–I know the audiences we had to keep in mind.
What you determine with the shot list is what is happening when and how can you capture all you want to do in the limited time space. By pre-planning we are now aware of two things happening simultaneously and making a decision earlier what takes priority.
Shooting the assignment
Now as you work your shot list things may fall apart, but now you have your list to go to. Each bullet needs some good storytelling moments to help make the overall package work.
Post Production
After ingesting toss out all the bad images using PhotoMechanic, I process them in Adobe Lightroom.  I will narrow down those images to “Selects” which will be considered for my multimedia package.
Next I am editing the video/audio which will be the foundation of the package in Final Cut Pro X.

Do you remember the old text books where they had the human body. Each page was a different parts of the body. One page maybe the skeleton the next the organs and then the skin. All were on clear pages so you could see down through them as you peeled away the layers.

This is how the Final Cut Pro X Time Line is working. Whatever is on the top layer is visible and if some parts are clear then you can see through them. Good example is the text that lays on top for titles.

Here you can see my music in green the next level is the video interviews and then on top of this are individual still images or titles that when exported become a movie which I either post on YouTube, Vimeo or another server for people to watch. Occasionally I make a DVD for someone to show to a group at a meeting.

Take Ownership of Distribution

Today photographers need to be a hybrid photographer. Mixing, text, audio, stills and video to tell the story.

If you are just using still images and text for a blog. Then put the whole package together and post it. If you are doing this for a client offer to handle it all the way to the end. The odds of it getting used are increased so much.

How many times did I take photos for a non profit and they sat in a drawer of some staff person I cannot even tell you.

Don’t think of posting when you are all done either. Take advantage of social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As you shoot send an image up and keep it short with the idea that there is more to come. Grow your audience by posting throughout, this will help the potential viral message to take off.

The Family Historian

Maybe you are just doing this for your own family. I have many friends who have scanned all of their relatives recipes and then put this into a book with short stories surrounding those recipes. Most of them include a photo of the person who is known for originating it with the family.Maybe you document your children and then when they graduate from High School make a coffee book for them of their growing up years. Imagine what that will mean to the generations to come in your family. I know I would have really loved a book like that on my grandparents.

Remember the key is having a plan before you start and then this will help guide you.

How are you sharing your personal photos?

On Facebook people are tagging their friends and this not only helps those looking at the photos know who everyone is, but when they are tagged they get an email alert letting them know they have a photo of them being shared.