Creating a Photo Book Using Lightroom 4

By Steve Anchell Back to

Figure 1. To sequence your image for stream-lined placement use Ascending, User Order. Figure 1. To sequence your image for stream-lined placement use Ascending, User Order.

There is almost nothing more gratifying to a photographer than to see their work in print. Due to the cost of publication, prior to online digital publishing it was necessary to print a minimum of 2,000 books, and most photographers opted for an even lower cost/per book print run of 5,000, with an initial investment of $20-50K. Today it is easier than ever to publish your work, and more than that, it can be printed on demand.

I am going to introduce you to the rudiments of building a book using Adobe Lightroom (LR), one of the easiest programs I have found in which to create a photo book.

Figure 2. Set your opening book preferences from Book>Preferences. The Book tab only appears when you are in the Book module.

The first thing every photographer should do before hitting the software layout program is to create a set of work prints for sequencing. These do not need to be more than 5×7″ or 8×10″. At this point don’t concern yourself with quality. These prints will only be used for the first round of sequencing.

Layout as many prints as possible at one time on an open area of floor. Once you have the images sequenced the way you think they should be, ask several people, one at a time, to view the sequence to see if they understand your message. What you are attempting to communicate should be apparent. If it is not, reorder the prints and try again. This is not meant to be a critique of your work, only if the order of presentation makes sense to the viewer/reader.

Now jump to the Book Module (BM) with Cmd- Opt+4/Ctrl-Alt+4 (Mac/Win). In the BM start by setting your basic preferences. Pull down the Book menu from the menu bar and select Preferences, Figure 2.

Figure 3. The default Book Module.

Here you can choose to fill or fit the images to the page. More important is the second option, “Start new books by autofilling.” You can try this but I find it to be a nuisance. When LR autofills it places the first and last image in the Collection on the front and back covers, which is not always where you want them. Then it doesn’t leave open pages for title pages, text, etc. and these have to be added anyway.

Figure 4. The second round of sequencing needs to be done on a blank piece of paper for the entire book.

Close Preferences and you will see the default Book Module screen, Figure 3, which includes the images from your Collection in the filmstrip at the bottom. Notice that the top two pages are the front and back cover. Had you selected Autofill in preferences these would now have photos in them.

Before filling the book you need to make several decisions. Will there be text? If so, will it be on the same page as the image or on a facing page? Will there be captions? If so, on the same page as the photo or in the back of the book with page number references? Will you have a Title Page, a front and back leaf? Any front or back matter, such as an introduction or a postscript? Once you have made these decisions it is time for a second sequencing, which should be done on a blank sheet of paper, Figure 4. If you plan to have anything in your book other than images, don’t skip this step.

Figure 5. Follow the sequencing guide you created on paper and choose the page layout template by highlighting the page and pulling the menu down from the bottom right corner.

After you have sequenced your work open LR, choose the images you are going to use (you can always add or remove them later), and create a Collection of those images in Library. Next, go to View>Sort>User Or- der and Ascending, Figure 1. With User Order selected sequence your images within the Collection.

When you are through building your book you may order one printed through Blurb, an online publisher that has partnered with Adobe (if you don’t want to use Blurb you can choose PDF or JPG and export the layout to anywhere you wish). For this demonstration we will use be using Blurb.

Figure 6. Right-click on a page to add a blank page.

Blurb has five standard book sizes from which to choose:

  1. Small Square 7×7″
  2. Standard Portrait (tall) 8×10″
  3. Standard Landscape (wide) 10×8″
  4. Large Landscape 13×11″
  5. Large Square 12×12″

Blurb also has three cover styles, Softcover, Hardcover Image Wrap and Hardcover with a dust jacket. At the top of the Book Settings panel start by choosing the size, cover and paper type. Choose either portrait or landscape if the majority of your images are either vertical or horizontal, respectively. Choose square if they are evenly divided between the two. For this book we’ll use images from my recent project, “Show Me Your Tattoo!” There are just as many verticals as horizontals so we’ll choose Large Square. I’m partial to dust jackets as they give the book a more professional feel, and for paper we’ll use Premium Lustre.

Figure 7. This is how the image layout appears prior to adding text. Images may still be added or removed, or moved around.

The next step is to follow your sequencing layout, Figure 4, and choose the page layout style for each page. Click on each page and select from the many page possibilities for text or photo, Figure 5. If you want the page to be blank, as in pages 1-3, then right click (Crtl- Click for Mac), and choose Add Blank Page, Figure 6. Now we’re ready to start adding photos and text. I am going to ignore the Back and Front Covers and start with page 8, where I have chosen a page layout that includes text and a photo inset.

Figure 8. By choosing the Caption option in the Photo Caption dialog,

Following the order in the Collection filmstrip I will drag and drop the images where I want them. I can change the order at any time, delete an image (it will stay in the Collection filmstrip so I can add it somewhere else), swap images, etc. Figure 7 shows what your book layout should start to look like. Notice that on some text pages, such as pages 4 and 7, the Copyright and Forward pages, I have chosen a layout that will include text in the left-hand column and a pho- to in the right. I will add the text after all the photos are positioned.

After all of the images are in place it is time to begin adding text. Double-click on a text page to enlarge it.

I recommend to copy and paste text from a Word or similar document which has been spell checked. Reformat the text once it is on the page.

The easiest way to add captions is to first type them into the Metadata in Library. Select an image and use the enlarge view to see the caption size and placement. To modify a caption it is first necessary to select the photo. Click on the photo to select it, then under Caption, in the right hand column of the BM, click on Photo Caption and tell Library whether you want the caption Above, Over, or Below the photo. From the pull-down menu to the right of Photo Caption select Caption and the caption from the Metadata will be automatically enabled, Figure 8.

Figure 9. LR has a large array of adjustments that can be utilized for the captions.

Next, highlight the caption and open Type, below Caption. Set your size, font style, justification and make adjustments such as kerning (the space between letters) and leading (the space between lines), Figure 9.

Now that the layout, text and captions are complete it is time to consider the background; the default is white. At the bottom of the right hand column under Background you can choose to add a graphic behind the photos and text or change the color from white to something more interesting. I have chosen a light gray.

The last thing is to create a cover. For the cover of Show Me Your Tattoo! I have chosen one of the templates provided by Adobe. A different background color may be chosen for the cover than the one used on the inside pages, Figure 10.

Figure 10. This is one of several templates available for the jacket cover. The default background is white but I have chosen black. A copy of this book is available on

Alternately, you can design your own cover in Photoshop and drop it into the Front and Back Cover position. Dimensions for custom covers can be found on the Blurb. com website.

The final step before publishing is to save the book. Click on Create Saved Book button at the top of the Preview area. Give a title to the book and it is ready to send to Blurb for printing.

About the Author

Steve Anchell
Steve Anchell is an internationally published photographer, teacher and writer. His books The Darkroom Cookbook, The Variable Contrast Printing Manual and The Film Developing Cookbook are international photography bestsellers.