Monthly Archives: August 2013

Online Photobook Printers – a Comparison

End of the summer. Time to get the memories sorted. I’ve been on three trips this summer – three sets of memories to be categorised, post-produced – and then forgotten on the hard drive? In the past I have always been glad when I actually went to the trouble of making a photobook of my pictures. It’s a royal pain in the arse to do so – but nothing beats a tangible album that you can actually pull out of the shelf and have a look at. Do you ever listen to a phonecall over and over again? No, and neither do you pull up the pictures from last summer on your computer. But you will look at a photo album.

It’s a great challenge to be known as a photographer – because people expect you to have your images sorted and at the ready all the time. Well, if I carried my XHD with me, I would. With my friends and family weighing on my conscience, I actually sat down last week and organised two thirds of this year’s holiday snaps. Two separate holidays which were shared with a group of other people – some family, some friends. Nobody would actually *expect* printed and shared photobooks, but there is an implied hope that “the photographer” will have a goody produced by the end of the summer. After all they all had to endure delayed progress on hikes (because the photographer needed five minutes to work out the angle of a shot), frozen smiles (on the customary group shot while the photographer fiddled with the tripod) and unmentionable cursing (when the photographer realised that a vital piece of equipment was for some inexplicable reason not at the ready in the otherwise overflowing photobag).

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Perfect Holiday Memory.
White Park Bay, Co. Antrim

And so I sat down and post-produced – not my favourite occupation at the best of times. (I sincerely wish I was Annie Livoutz Leibovitz. Not for the impressive nose photography  but for the money to employ a team of Photoshoppers. Ha.) After hours of saturating, cropping and straightening, I was ready to commit my oeuvre to the printing press. As it happened I chose two different printers for my two photo books. That was due to the fact that I had bought a voucher for a printer before the summer – but that only covered one edition. For the second book I had to look up the cheapest current offer, which happened to be by a different company.

At least that gave opportunity for a little comparison. The two services used were myphotobook.ie and photobox. For both projects I needed a photobook with 36 pages. Now, when it comes to the quality of the end-product I am usually rather lenient. This is not a professional product as such (on my part) – it is an album strictly for personal use, not a portfolio that I need to show off or a photo book which I would want to submit to a contest. Therefore I am not particularly discriminating about which provider I use. The quality will be roughly the same. Let’s face it – they all use the same kind of technology, anyway.

What is more interesting is the user-friendliness of the services, and that was something that I had opportunity to compare. I used both systems in a different way in that I downloaded the myphotobook software and created my book on my PC before uploading the finished document to their online portal, while the photobox album was created after uploading the chosen images into their system and then compiling it all to a book online. In comparison, it was a much faster process to download the software onto my computer first and then re-uploading the finished book to myphotobook than working in photobox’s online system. The upload of my images alone took about three hours – during which I was impatiently fiddling around, waiting to get my hands on the book creation. Verdict: Use a provider with downloadable software!

All services offer a range of backgrounds (distracting and gimmicky – don’t use them! Plain white or black work best), cover designs (equally gimmicky and when used usually the sure sign that you are looking at the work of an amateur – sorry, but true) and layouts. The latter you can have automatically chosen – to make the whole process of creating the album faster and easier for you. Unfortunately, I have yet to see a service that offers a satisfying result for that. In my experience, the automatic picture sorting usually results in an odd combination of images on the pages. Of course – the computer cannot distinguish between those images that mean something to you and those that are mere padding. The advice: Don’t click on “fill automatically”. You will inevitably have to re-arrange the images when you preview it. Might as well do it to your own specifications from scratch. Verdict: Equally unsatisfactory auto-fill for both providers.

As for the turnaround-time: At the time of writing I am not holding the printed books in my hands yet. And the Irish postal service seems to be based on personal delivery by rowing boat and donkey cart. But both books were uploaded into the provider’s system within three hours of each other. Myphotobook received my order Sunday at 21:17 – I received feedback that the book had been printed and shipped on Thursday, 9:31. Photobox confirmed my order for 00:21 on Monday morning and had the albums printed and despatched by 18:02 on Wednesday. You do the maths – it took Photobox three days to finish my order; myphotobook slightly longer despite having sent it off a few hours earlier. Mind you, myphotobook had to print six editions, photobox only three. (But that is niggling – presumably it’s all automatic once it’s in the system and they do not work during the night.) Verdict: Turnaround times do not vary much between different providers.

Price is an important consideration when choosing your printer. A hardcover 20.4 x 27cm photobook with 36 pages comes up to € 29.95. Domestic shipping charges are € 4.95. Photobox charges € 26.99 for a square 20 x 20cm hardcover photobook with 30 pages. The postage and packing costs € 6.69. Considering that the myphotobook album is larger in size and has more pages, the price is better – and the postage cheaper. Verdict: myphotobook was more competitive in terms of price.

However, if you really want to make some savings on photobooks, plan ahead. Subscribe to a localised voucher portal such as Groupon or Living Social. They have photobook promotions on a regular basis, and you can make great savings when you buy a voucher there. You only have to remember to actually *use* the voucher – a problem that I have occasionally encountered after buying something on those portals – and then completely forgetting them in my inbox. Alternatively you can google for “photobook vouchers” and you’ll get plenty of offers in the results. Could be worth-while testing one of those providers and tapping into their discounts.

One of those vouchers came up in my local couponing service the day after I had put in my orders, dang. I bought a couple, however, because I have photo memories #3 still weighing on my conscience. Now that I have paid for the voucher, I hope the cheapskate in me will continue to remind me to use it.

Sunsets for Sanity

Could be the headline for a some new age-y, esoteric therapy that involves people staring into the sunset in an effort to regain their sanity. Come to think of it, maybe that is what it is for me? I keep making these pictures of sunsets. Nothing special – taken from my kitchen window, most of the time with the iPhone. A quick snap. More often than not because I need another shot for my Project 365. If I am honest, it is probably my sanity project. Or that’s what it appears like now that I looked through my camera roll and noticed how many of them there are.

Sunset

This is actually just a selection of them. There’s more. Am I going mental? Or just soft with age? Or lazy? Sunsets are the easiest thing to photograph. Somehow the camera does all the work, creating a stunning image every time. It’s chemistry, really. Well, or maybe it is physics. The low position of the sun near the horizon means that the light has to permeate through more atmosphere. A lot of the usual blue light is thus filtered out, leaving the wonderfully warm orange, red and purply tones. Pollution from the city adds to this – more gas means more filter for the light to penetrate. A natural blue filter – great stuff.

Come to think of it – I must bring marky Mark out and photograph with him. The different WB settings might give some interesting effects.

Vote for At It Again!

I often get asked what I like about being a photographer. I usually cite something suitably ethereal such as “opportunity to be creative” or “way of fuelling the desire to create art” *snorts*. The truth is far more mundane: I like people. I like observing them. I like getting to know them. I like connecting with them. Photography provides a reason (and a tool) to observe and connect with people. Even when you are not shooting people, you are still dealing with people – the owners of a place you want to shoot in, the creators of a thing you are shooting, the person who is employing you for a shoot.

{C4824368-89EC-4E5B-90C5-AD84FCBCF5E8}-Bloomsday Shoot (83 of 239)

Connecting with people is particularly pleasant, when they are an equally creative bunch. Just like the guys behind the Bloomsday Survival Kit. They are a team of artists with backgrounds in theatre, animation, dance and fine art, and for the past two years have established themselves as a literary art project around the annual Bloomsday celebrations in Dublin. Initially they came up with the eponymous Bloomsday Survival Kit, a bag of props and goodies to enhance Ulysses-lovers’ enjoyment of the Bloomsday experience. In the past year their activities have blossomed into a whole pandora’s box of performances, readings and other offerings that provide opportunity to engage with the work of James Joyce. I accompanied them on part of their way with some initial photography – a shoot which I discussed previously here.

Now they want to take the Bloomsday Survical Kit a step further. After the success of this year’s readings and performances, the four survivalists are hoping to turn Bloomsday into a street carnival. In their own words:

“Imagine Bloomsday as a fantastic Mardi Gras-like street carnival celebrating Dublin.

At it Again! bring James Joyce’s Ulysses to life through quirky products and interactive events. We make Ulysses fun, accessible and contemporary. Our manuals, kits & events travel the world promoting Irish culture abroad.

We have the guts, passion, skills and know-how to make our Bloomsday vision a reality.”

For that they need funding. No, I am not asking you to send money in a brown envelope – but you could give them your vote in the Arthur Guinness Projects. Check out their plans for a bigger, better, more fun Bloomsday celebration. It promises to be a right old romp – James Joyce himself would have enjoyed it, I am sure. Voting doesn’t cost you anything – just a click with the mouse. If you are really generous, you could vote every day, for as long as the Project site is open for voting.

As someone who has accompanied the Bloomsday Survival Kit from the margins – I did a photo shoot with them at the start of their project in 2012, I (literally) held the camera for their wonderfully funny “Glasnevin Shuffle”-Video, and I most importantly supplied a battered old suitcase for their 2012 shows (…) – I can vouch for their energy, creativity and literary sense of mission.

Click and help. Here.

Thanks!

Ok, Off Your Arse, Missy

Nothing better to get your arse in gear than talking with other photographers. I have just had three hours of catching up with a photographer friend of mine, and I am mightily impressed by the photography-related activity that he has been engaged in in the last three months that I hadn’t seen him. Whereas I… Well, ok, I had settled for myself, that my path is not leading me towards the lofty heights of art photography. So portfolio reviews and calls for submission are not really my scene anymore. But that doesn’t excuse my ignoring art photography. Or neglecting my blog.

Two pics a week. Well, two pics per month, more like, at this stage of the sad affairs. And not really for want of having something to say. Because, looking back on the last month since posting, I *did* actually do quite a few photo-related things. I all but skipped Photo Ireland, the annual photography festival – to my shame, yes. But I actually did make the effort and went to see two photo exhibitions when on holiday in good ole Germany. (I hereby resolve to review them asap. They were worth it.) I kept writing my weekly photo-analysis on a different blogging-platform than this. I have been updating my notes for the Kildare Artist’s Notebook Project.  While holidaying I took plenty of pictures. I have made two photobooks (ok, holiday snaps, but hey, that involved long hours of post-production *sighs*). My creative juices got flowing last week on holiday when I embarked on a mini-project involving close-ups (to be disclosed here, soon). And *whoa* – I even did a semi-commercial shoot for a friend who needed pro-photos for a competition entry.

Looks like I wasn’t really quite as ass-focussed as I thought *hm*. But nothing to show for it. At least not here. So in the old tradition of the blogosphere as a mighty big confession box, I shall absolve myself from my sins by publicly punishing myself with at least four blogposts in the next three weeks. I will hold myself accountable.