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How to create a photo book with Lightroom 5

Custom photo books are a popular and polished way to show and share images, whether you aim to create an album of photos for a special occasion, a professional portfolio, or anything in between. Since the 2012 Adobe-Blurb partnership, a special Book module has been integrated with Lightroom versions 4 and 5, offering direct printing from Blurb. Books are 20-240 pages (not including covers).

The Book module offers a wealth of options, especially with the new features added in Lightroom 5, but the process is similar if you're still using Lightroom 4. You’ll need to set aside a little time for planning, but if you follow the steps below you’ll soon have a a basic, but attractive, first book that you’ll be proud to print. 

Step 1: Getting started

In the Library module, open and select the photos you want to include in the book, preferably in sequential order or in thematic groups. You can always change the order later. Images should be 300 dpi. 

Switch to the Book module. Leave Book module preferences (Book > Book Preferences) on default settings to start. Your images will automatically fill the pages.

Click Create Saved Book. Type a name for the book in the dialog box and click okay Also check the box, Include only used photos. You can open the book again from Collections the next time you launch Lightroom. To add other photos to the book, go to the Library module and drag and drop the photo(s) onto the book name under Collections. Double-click the book name to re-open the book.

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To save your book, click Create Saved Book in the preview area. This allows you to return to working on the book at any time by clicking the file in the Collections panel. Since I had pre-selected the images I wanted to include in the book, I chose the option to “include only used photos” in the file. Click Create when you’re ready to save the book.

Step 2: Set book options

In the Book Settings panel, use the drop down menus to choose how to publish your book: I selected Blurb, Small Square, Softcover, and Premium Lustre. The new Standard paper option in Lightroom 5 is less expensive but not as nice as the other papers.

Logo Page: choose On to include the Blurb logo and get a discounted price; choose none to exclude it. Below that, you’ll see the estimated price of your book (available in several different currencies), which is automatically adjusted when you make changes to book specifications.

In the Guide panel, check Show Guides and one or more guide options.

Step 3: Customize page layout

Drag and drop pages into the sequential order you prefer. Either use a preset layout (Auto Layout panel > Preset) or customize one or more pages. The latter provides much more creative leeway.

To customize, select a page by single-clicking on the image (shift + click to select multiples). Click the downward pointing arrow on the lower right and choose the page layout you want from the Modify Page dropdown menu.

If you choose a layout that calls for multiple images, drag and drop all images onto the page.

To Remove or Add a page, Control-Click (or right-click) on a page; choose Remove Page or Add Blank Page as needed or Add Page to duplicate the same layout. You can also save your layout as a Custom Page and apply it to other pages in the Page panel.

Click each image on the page. Resize with the zoom slider and reposition with the trackpad or mouse so that images are within the safety zone (indicated by gray lines). You can also use the padding sliders in the Cell panel to further adjust image size and position.

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Click the small arrow at the bottom of the selected page to open all your page layout options—with or without text. Be sure to explore all the different options for resizing and placing images.

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One of the best ways to fit a a horizontal (landscape) image into a square or vertical book is to use a two-page spread layout, as shown. I adjusted the image on the page so the center fold (gutter) fell in the dark portion of the image rather than on the models’ faces.

Step 4: Add text

Check Photo Text and Page Text in the Text panel and use the Type panel to customize font face, style, color, and opacity. Type captions and page text directly onto the page in the spaces provided.

4 add text

 Use the Text and Type panels to add and customize captions and page text.

Step 5: Add or delete page numbers

In the Page panel, check Page Numbers. Use the drop down menu to choose where to place the numbers.

To hide the page number or to start the page number later in the book, Control- or right-click on the relevant page and choose the option you want.

5 hidepagenumber

Control-Click on a page to access a list of options, including the ability to hid a page number. I omitted page numbers on this two page spread to keep the visual clean and uncluttered.

Step 6: Add background

You can add a solid color or graphic background to individual pages or globally.

In the Background panel, check or uncheck Apply Background Globally. Select individual page or pages, if unchecked.

For a graphic background, drag and drop a photo (or a JPEG graphic you created in another program) onto the Drop Photo Here placeholder window and adjust opacity.

To apply a solid color, check Background Color and choose a color swatch.

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You’ll need to sign up for an account with Blurb before you place your order.

Step 7: Cover

There are fewer layout options for covers than individual pages but most of the steps above apply. Click the small arrow on the lower right of the page to choose the cover layout.

If you are creating a hard cover book with or without a dust jacket, you can add text for the spine. Softcover books do not have this option.

Step 8: Output to Blurb

Send Book to Blurb (lower right of screen); you will be prompted to enter your email and password or to register with Blurb. Other options include Export Book to PDF (lower left of screen) or JPEG (Book Settings > Book) but those options are far less satisfying and visually appealing than having your book printed and bound, and ready to send as a gift or to proudly display on your bookshelf.

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