Turn pixels into prints

Fine-tune prints for iPhoto books

While I might not put the photos ordered through iPhoto 5 at the top of my list, the program’s photo books are a different story. With the release of iPhoto 5, Apple unveiled new book-printing features that offer more options and higher quality than the previous service. Now, in addition to the original hardcover book with single-sided pages, you can choose between several sizes of paperback books, all with either single- or double-sided pages. The new sizes not only cost less (as low as $15, including shipping, for three tiny softcover books) but also offer more design choices, so you can craft books that are appropriate to more situations.

Though setting up a book is easy, it’s not without pitfalls. Here are some tips for getting the best-looking images from your books while avoiding some of the program’s quirks.

Before You Enter Book Mode

If you want your iPhoto books to look fantastic, give the images you include a bit of special attention:

Lighten Dark Shadows iPhoto books suffer from dot gain , a darkening of images that’s caused by the paper absorbing too much ink. So it’s a good idea to err on the side of lighter images. If you have a very dark image, use iPhoto 5’s Adjust controls to brighten it up. Obviously, you don’t want a washed-out image, but if your picture has lots of dark, shadowy detail, a little adjustment can help ensure that you don’t lose it.

Add Contrast The human eye loves contrast. A photo with strong distinctions between light and dark tones will be more pleasing and yield slightly punchier color. Adjusting contrast is very easy in iPhoto 5. Consult the histogram in the new Adjust palette, and set the white and black points so they sit right at the edge of the graph. ( Click here for a tutorial on reading and using the histogram.)

Sharpen The printing process used for iPhoto book printing doesn’t yield tremendously fine detail. Individual hairs and delicate textures can sometimes get lost. So it’s a good idea to apply some slightly aggressive sharpening to your book’s images. This will give you better detail, and it will help to improve the contrast in your final image. Too much sharpness can be a bad thing, though. Don’t push the sharpening to the point where you see noticeable halos around the fine details in your image.

Rotate You can’t rotate images in the book-layout mode, so you need to be sure that all your images are properly rotated before you begin laying out your book.

Convert Books don’t support Raw files, so create JPEG versions of any raw images you want to include, before you start laying out your book.

Perfecting Your Book

Creating a book in iPhoto is simple. Select the images you want to include—either in the main library or in an album—and then click on the Book button. A simple dialog box will let you pick the type of book and an overall theme.

Mix and Match Each theme has a unique overall design and a number of different lay-out schemes that fit into that design. While this helps ensure that there’s a little something for everyone, it also means that you’ll need to do a fair amount of experimentation to find the layout that works best for your project. For example, some page designs crop your photos. You can scale and pan within the cropped area, but if you want to display an image with an unusual aspect ratio, you might need to change that page type, or even pick a different theme. Some page designs also include a field for text, which can affect your page-design choice. You can easily drag and drop new layouts onto a page to change the way each page looks.

Rearrange You can drag images only between facing pages. To move an image from one two-page spread to another, drag it off of the current page; this makes it available for use, and you can then place it on a new page.

Double-Check Your Work iPhoto’s thumbnail display is not always up-to-date. Once you’ve completed your layout, look at each page and be certain it’s correct. Don’t rely on proofing via the thumbnail images.

Force Save Laying out a book can take a while, and iPhoto doesn’t have a Save command. It’s a good idea to quit and restart iPhoto every so often, to force the program to save your book design.

iPhoto’s improved book-design interface makes it easy to select layouts for book pages,and to quickly move images from page to page.

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