5 Mistakes to avoid when making a Photobook

Mistake No 1: Choosing the wrong Photobook company. 

Imagine getting your photobook back and discovering other people’s photos in YOUR photobook?! Imagine, having that experience repeated not once, but several times by the same company!! And then find yourself asking, “I wonder who has the photos of my kids…..?” Yes, this is a true story. 

Or, imagine ordering your photobook in November to give as a Christmas present and then receiving it in mid January?!

It’s true that you can always find a negative review about anything. But when 3 or 4 people out of every 5 are saying negative things about certain companies, its time to pay attention! In our research of photobook companies worldwide, and all their facebook pages and every review page we could find, ONE consistent piece of feedback was, “I wish I’d seen these reviews before going with XYZ company”. So, your first big mistake in putting a photobook together is not spending 15 or 20 minutes reading what others have to say. And avoid reviews by “affiliates”. These are the people who are getting paid to write the reviews! Typical affiliate blogs have titles like, “The 5 best photobook companies”. You need to read the reviews of USERS. 

Here are some things to pay attention to when ordering a photobook:

  • where is the company based? / where are the books printed? / how long does shipping take? / read terms of agreement – what is their commitment in regard to turnaround?
  • What about quality of binding, cost of extra pages, colour reproduction?
  • How easy is it to navigate the software? / range of templates you can use? / are themes and templates free or included?

But, above all, what are those who have used that company saying about the product? It might cost you a few extra dollars to get a result you are happy with. Or you might find a bargain price that suits you and the project you have in mind, but do a little bit of research. 

And, to be fair, most companies do a pretty good job. So don’t let one or two bad reviews put you off a “9 out of 10” company.

Use your free Photobook Blueprint to know what to look for in a photobook company:

Mistake No 2: Not having a clear purpose in mind for the project

Chances are you have tens of thousands of digital images, not to mention old prints and slides, that would be worth scanning. Drowning in a sea of possibilities will defeat you unless you have a clear purpose in mind. 

Decide if you want to capture your recent travels, or a special event, or the life of a person, or all the mountains you’ve ever climbed, or your family history, or go creative and choose a theme such as “music”. There are many possibilities but you will have to focus in order to create a great photobook. Even a tribute book of someone’s life might work best if you choose a slice of time, eg, “the war years”, and do a really good job of that, rather than trying to do a ‘cradle to the grave’ type book. 

A clear purpose in mind will:

  • provide you with a filter when deciding which photos are “in” and which photos are “out”
  • Give cohesion and flow to the book
  • Enable you to tell a story from beginning to end
  • Prevent you from feeling overwhelmed in making a start on, and continuing with, the project

See our ‘10 Photobook Ideas that Work‘ to spark your creativity.

Mistake No 3: Trying to squeeze too many photos into the photobook

Avoiding mistake number two will help you to some degree with this, but even after deciding on your purpose its quite possible you still have 2 or 3000 “really good photos” that would feel left out if they weren’t included in your book 🙂

I love surfing. Recently we took a holiday to Hawaii and my camera was busy taking lots of photos of my favourite hobby. When it came time to do the photobook, and I showed the draft to my wife, it was clear that my enthusiasm for surfing pictures was dominating “our” holiday photobook. It caused a small amount of emotional pain(!), but I ended up saying “no” to those pictures, which were, for all intents and purposes, duplicates. We all have blind spots (especially when our hobby and passions obscure our objectivity), and this is where it pays to involve a significant “other” in looking over what we have in mind before committing to print.

And, related to the above is, don’t try and put too many photos on a single page. Using space around a photo is an effective way of drawing attention to the photo. Just because you are paying $3 a page doesn’t mean you need to put 9 photos on each page to get the most value. My best photo books have an average of 2.5 photos per page. That is, a 100 page book will have 250 photos. And 3-4 photos per page (on average) should be your absolute maximum. Sometimes this means having a single photo on a double spread. Other times its choosing 9 photos which go really well together, as a mosaic on a single page. Think: space, variety of layout, subject of the photo. These factors, among others, will influence the number of photos you choose for your book, and the number of photos for each page.

Mistake No 4: Choosing bad photos.

OK, this mistake sounds really obvious, but if the solution to this mistake is “choose good photos”, then what is a “good” photo? A good photo:

  • Will be in focus
  • Either, have a clear subject/purpose, OR, its otherwise ambiguous purpose, will make sense because of the other photos that are placed beside it. Point being: not every photo needs to be amazing, but the page should be amazing because of the story it tells as a whole.
  • Be of sufficient resolution. The photo might look OK on your screen but have a low pixel per inch count, meaning the photo will look fuzzy or blurry when printed. There are ways of checking, but your photobook software should generate a warning if your photo is too low in resolution. Your choice is either, to use a smaller photo box on the page to display that photo, or find the original photo of higher resolution (if one exists), or don’t use.
  • Will be bright enough in exposure. A dark-ish photo will look even worse when it is printed
  • Finally, a good photo, will be an even better photo if it is edited prior to being placed in a photobook project.

Mistake No 5: Underestimating the time it takes to do a good job.

Your photobook does not have to be “perfect”. I can almost guarantee that when you get your photobook back from the publisher you will look at it and find some fault with your project. It could be the choice of a photo. It could be a design decision. It might be the fact that a particular photo should have been edited before it was printed. Or maybe you got the facts wrong in your caption, or you have a spelling mistake. Don’t stress it!! And don’t NOT START because you are worried about making a mistake!

But…you can minimise error, and maximise satisfaction, by taking time to do the task to the best of your ability. 

If you want to use one of those “instant” photobook companies where you throw a bunch of photos up onto their servers, and receive a photobook in the mail a week later, then fine. We all have that choice. But if you are working on a special or memorable project then appreciate the fact that this is going to take some time. Now, I’m not talking about months, or even weeks – but it might be a couple of weekends, or one night a week for 6 weeks. It might take you a little while just to find the photos you want! Then you have to cull the project down to a manageable number before you are ready to even start.

All I can say is, its worth it. The value of having a tangible book of photos, that you, your children, your siblings, your parents, can enjoy is worth it! 

It doesn’t have to take over your life, but it may take 10, 20 or even 40 hours. Especially if you are doing an 80 or 100 page book and the project is important to you. 

In this day and age where we all have so many digital photos on multiple devices, having a physical photobook is certainly worth doing and it is worth doing well.

So….are you ready??


To assist you getting started I have created the “Photobook Blueprint”. This is a FREE downloadable PDF booklet available now by clicking on the button above. The booklet gives 6 proven steps to making a great photobook. I am sure you will find it helpful.

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