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Photo Contest Insider Blog

How to Self-Publish a Book of Your Own Photography

October 4, 2016

As a photographer, having your best images seen and appreciated is an important part of the creative process.  Nowadays, so much of photography is only ever seen online through Instagram and other apps, that it seems almost revolutionary to share your art in the tangible form of a beautiful, self-published photo book, one you can physically turn the pages of instead of scrolling.

The following steps and tips will get you well on the way to becoming a self-published author of your own photography

How to Self-publish a Photo Book:

  • Research self-publishing companies
  • Decide on your self-publishing platform
  • Edit your book in an original way
  • Choose a theme/ topic
  • Organize design layout and format
  • Optimize images for print



There is no need to worry about securing a traditional book deal. Photographers have been self-publishers for years, taking creative control of their art and sharing it with the world. The creative freedom that comes from self-publishing a photography book is invaluable, and the actual procedure does not have to be costly or complicated. In this article, we will guide you through the simple process to edit, design and produce your own photo book for self-publishing.

Research Self-Publishing Companies:

Your initial planning should involve thorough research into self-publishing services. You’ll quickly realize that there are multiple companies out there that are specifically tailored to walk you through the entire process of designing, printing and ordering your own photography book. Whether your end goal is to sell books online or simply create a lasting collection of precious memories for you and your close friends and family, using one of these self-publishing companies is an excellent way to produce your own photo book.

Popular Self-Publishing Photo Book Companies:



Lulu gives clear and straightforward instructions for creating and publishing high-quality, full-color hardcover and paperback options with a gloss cover finish. Their step-by-step guide takes you easily through the process. They offer volume discounts if you are aiming to sell books online. Their simple process to create self-published photo books is as follows.

  1. Write, edit and format your book.
  2. Choose your book size, paper, and binding.
  3. Enter your title and author name.
  4. Upload your formatted book file.
  5. Create your book cover.
  6. Publish



Blurb has a versatile creative process, and photo books are one of the most popular products at this self-publishing company.  They offer six different sizes (from mini square to large landscape), six different paper types and three different cover types (glossy softcover, hardcover image wrap with a matte finish and hardcover dust jacket with a glossy jacket). They also feature a new lay-flat option, which allows you to create seamless spreads across two pages. The great thing about Blurb is their BookWright software, which allows you to easily drag and drop images into template or custom layouts.

They have other creation options available too; with both an Adobe InDesign Plug-in and Adobe Lightroom you can use the built-in software to create a book from your photo stream without leaving the two programs. You can also upload any already-created PDF and fine-tune it to any book size.

If at any stage you need help, their team of experts is on hand to advise at any stage of your photo book creation.

Snapfish/Shutterfly /Apple Photo

These three companies offer self-publishing services for photo books at affordable prices for overall good quality. Creative design and layout options are more limited, but you are able to import photos from your mobile or social media platforms in an instant, creating a print-ready book in no time at all. This is perhaps a good option for those who are not looking to necessarily produce photography books for a wide audience but want to create a beautiful self-published photo book of treasured memories and moments.


Decide on Your Self-Publishing Platform

Whichever route you choose for your self-published photography book is, of course, entirely personal. You should bear in mind your budget and ambitions for the final product when making the decision. If you are creating on a small scale just for yourself and loved ones, then you won’t have to take the quality of paper, shipping costs or quantity into consideration. It’s best to consider what your goals are in creating a self-published photo book before beginning the process.

Edit Your Photo Book in an Original Way

You’ve worked hard to create your images. You got up at dawn to capture that golden light, you tirelessly took shot after shot in order to get the perfect angle and unique point of view, your creations deserve to be shared with the world in an original and attention-grabbing way.

It’s a good idea to begin the self-publishing process with a vision of the final product. Are your photos telling a story? Is there an overall concept that ties them together? Consider weaving in prose that matches the images, or even interviews with the subjects that can sit side-by-side with your snapshots, if appropriate. If you love to travel, creating a photo journal of your adventures is a beautiful way to share and present your experiences. You might also consider using your shots for a children’s book, acting as a photographic illustration of a simple story.

There are many innovative ways to showcase your photography that will catch the eye of the public, which is particularly important if you intend to sell books online.


Choose a Theme/Topic

A smart move would be to choose a theme or topic for your self-published photo book with an already built-in audience, something that resonates emotionally. It could be babies, healthy food, surfing or traveling in a camper van. That way, when it comes to marketing your book, you know you have a group of people who share that interest and will be curious about the contents of your photo book.

Be judicious when it comes to editing which photos make the final cut. Self-publishing a book means it can be tempting to include all your images, but be careful to only pick the very best. Be selective and honest, with your eye on what looks good in the photo book as a whole even if it means leaving out some really good photography.

Organize Design Layout and Format

If you’re investing in self-publishing on any level, you want to ensure that your photo book is as professional as possible. Make sure that your self-published photo book design matches official industry standards. A good way to do that is to research similar books to check the formatting patterns. Use this checklist to guide you and grab a couple of examples from other self-published authors to use as formatting reference.

  • Title page
  • Pages numbered correctly and in the same place on each page.
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction (if you choose to have one)
  • Consistent margins and headings
  • Title and creator/author on the front cover and spine
  • Acknowledgments page

Following professional standards does not mean losing any individual creative design flair; it’s just a good idea to stick to certain established formatting rules so that your audience knows they have a professional product in their hands.

In terms of design layout, try to think a little outside the box. Stand out from the crowd by choosing the flat layout book for example, where an image can spread across two pages or a page and a half. This is especially successful with landscape photos and lends an individual touch to the design of your photo book. There are so many ways you could decide to group and present a sequence of images, so have fun deciding on your own unique look.

Choosing which photograph to place on the book cover is paramount. Think about which image demands attention and also speaks to the wider contents of your book. Get your creative juices flowing with ideas and inspiration from other beautiful photography books.





Optimize Images for Print

If you want to print great looking, high-quality pictures, there are certain tips and tricks you should bear in mind. Using a JPEG format is not the best for printing photos; ideally, your images should be captured in TIFF or PNG. These formats will take more space but are worth it for the quality of the photograph.

You want to also ensure you have a high print resolution on the image for detail and quality. Images that have 300 ppi (pixels per inch) are recommended.

Over-sharpening images in your editing program can also enhance the finished print. This is because many printers use a process that ends up giving images a softened effect.

Just a couple of small editing adjustments can make the world of difference when flicking through the pages of your newly self- published photo book.                                


What to Do with Your Self-Published Photography Book

So, now you have your self-published photo book printed and in your hands, what’s the next step

Maybe you chose to print your photography as a thoughtful gift for friends and family, a creative and unique way to share lasting memories.  A beautiful hard-copy photography book is also a classic coffee table accessory and a good conversation starter when guests arrive. Plus, you get to prove that print photography is alive and well. Not everything has to be digital!

If you are an emerging photographer, self-publishing a photo book is a proactive way to showcase the best photos in your portfolio, something tangible to refer to and keep.

Perhaps you embarked on self-publishing as a fun side hustle, a way to bring in extra income from your photography. If this is the case and you created your photo book to share with a wider audience, now would be the right time to start thinking of ways to market and sell your self-published photo book online, if you haven’t already.

Self-Published Photo Books Online

Depending on your ambitions, promoting your photo book could include anything from sharing on social media sites to creating your own website for purchase or linking to a distribution platform like Ingram (used by Blurb) or Amazon.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these days, the book model for sales favors the print-on-demand boot. Instead of printing many copies and then trying to sell them, you can market the book for sales and then print-to-order according to demand. If you are unsure about pricing your photo book, check similar titles for reference and consider the costs you will incur for printing and shipping.

Taking the time to create, design and self-publish a photo book that reflects who you are as a photographer is a wonderful way to make a statement about your art, your vision and your creativity. Self-publishing a book brings a sense of artistic validation, even if your intention is simply to have a beautiful memento for your personal satisfaction, there is such freedom in becoming a self- published author and sharing your images with the world.

With so many self-publishing platforms available to walk you through the editing and design process, there really is no excuse to keep your photography talents hidden.

Let your creativity soar, have fun and good luck!


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