View Full Version : Making a photo book

tim atherton
23-Nov-2004, 16:40
Great little segment on "making a book" at my friends Michael Torosion's website - at Lumiere Press - who make some of THE most beautiful photography books out there

http://www.lumierepress.com/pages/make/chrono.html (http://www.lumierepress.com/pages/make/chrono.html)

http://www.lumierepress.com (http://www.lumierepress.com)

Michael Jones
23-Nov-2004, 16:55
Very interesting. I'd really like the first step, though: getting it to be my book. Thanks.


Chad Jarvis
23-Nov-2004, 17:37
The first volume of Double Exposure (http://www.doubleexposureonline.com) was 11 months in the making. Finally being bound. It is work...make no mistake.

23-Nov-2004, 18:34
great link, thanks.

Last month at a photo expo in NYC there was a pannel discussion of photo book industry reps. very interesting. Many takes on the painstaking commitment to losing money that is the world of fine art books. Lots of great ideas there for anyone who's thinking of putting a book together.

21st press was there ... http://www.21stphotography.com/ (http://www.21stphotography.com/) ... with their recent $18,000 book of Robert Parke-Harrison's images and Morri Creech's poetry. stunning--and i was relieved that they didn't let me touch it.

Frank Petronio
23-Nov-2004, 18:58
Thanks Tim, great link. I've designed other people's coffee-table books - these are ART books (done right.)

tim atherton
23-Nov-2004, 19:45
he has a pretty good stable of things to work with, Siskind, Weston, Parks, Lewis Hine, Sommer, Strand etc

Andrew O'Neill
23-Nov-2004, 19:55
While I lived in Japan I tried having a book made. I kid you not, almost every publishing company I talked to said they would make a photo book only if it were a book on flowers or tits. ..or both. That was about mid '90s. I'm going over to Japan in July. I'll see what's in style then.

23-Nov-2004, 20:38
Flowers and tits? In that order?

The advice the publishers I've spoken with is this: if you're not established, not famous, do not have a serious track reccord of publication or collections, then think small. Real small. They said to consider a very small format book with a dozen or so images. If they really really really really like your project, they might just take it on. But don't emerge as a complete unknown and propose a 14x20 inch boxed dummy with 75 tipped-in platinum prints. These guys are in fact in the business of losing money, but they only have so much to lose!

The other option is to self publish. There are a couple of roads. My friend Anne just published an edition of 1500 books, which she had printed in Milan. Aparently Hong Kong is the next mecca of cheap, decent quality presses. I'm not sure, but I believe her total hard costs were under $50,000. Which is more than I have in my pocket, but it's cheap for a press run. Price does not include the separations (which were done by someone great) or the design (she hired a friend) or the distribution (which is her new full time job), or the fifteen years it took to make the pictures and edit the thing, The good news is she's sold about half of the edition in under six months. Her major concession on all this was paper quality; none of her materials are archival. The cheapest acid-free paper would have doubled the price of the book.

Road number 2 is to produce a handmade artist's book, in a tiny edition. Obviously your goals have to be different if you do this. I'm in the middle of this right now. My hard costs will be between $300 and $500 per book, and each will take about a week to produce, not counting binding. I'll let you know how it goes. A book could certainly be done for much cheaper, but the project as i conceived it ended up requiring some annoyingly pricey materials and labor.

John Flavell
24-Nov-2004, 04:21
What I'd like to know from paulr is how you got started on that handmade artist's book and the workflow.

24-Nov-2004, 10:55
getting started was a matter of decided that this body of work i'd been accumulating was done, and that a book was best form for it, and that if it was going to get done the way i imagined it (or at all) i'd have to do it myself.

but you caught me off guard with the workflow part of the question. it has the word "flow" in it which implies something swift and dynamic. what's the word for what glaciers do?

rather than a workflow, what i have at this point is a project that's broken down into discreet steps, each with a different set of requirements and a different learning curve. there are parts that i already know how to handle, parts that i decided to learn by whatever means necessary, and parts that i'm outsourcing. the parts that i'm already comfortable with are the photography (i hope, because it's too late to fix that), the editing, the design, the writing, and the typography. the parts i've decided to learn are the scanning (i work in design and print production, and scan and use photoshop every day, but usually for FPO art and other things that don't matter so much) and the printing (piezography). the part that i'm outsourcing is the binding, to a local binder whose day job is book restoration for the metropolitan museum of art.

right now i have the design close to final form, a full size dummy, an essay that's most of the way edited, some nearly finished type treatments, and a few piles of paper samples. i spent about two months on the editing alone, with my whole loft looking pretty much like that picture on the lumiere website--digital prints carpetting the floor, getting shuffled, walked on, swapped, tossed, puked on by the cat. at this stage i got input from as many people as possible. and when i finally assembled the design on the computer, i made a pdf file so i could get input from even more people.

the next step is scanning all the work. i'm working out a few details (like whether or not to wet mount, and if so, how) but after that i'll just be a scan monkey for as long as it takes.

then i move into the printing stage, which will probably be the longest. i will be learning the pigment printing process and reinterpreting 54 images while doing this. once this is finished, my binder and i need to work out details of the final printing ... how to set up printers proofs for the signatures, how much to compensate for the gutter and paper thickness, etc. i'll also be doing tests on the fastness of the ink--if the ink tends to come off on facing pages (i know people have had big trouble with this using hahnemuhle photo rag and some other papers) and testing various fixatives to protect the surfaces.

then it's time to print. i'm guessing the first book will take about a week to print and finish the pages. then the binder gets it, and i have no idea how long she'll take.

after that comes showing it around. first locally, and then i'll either travel with it or fedex it to collectors and curators that i already have some kind of relationship with, and hope they're feeling spendy. i can't afford to print a whole edition at once, so i'm depending on using the first one as a portfolio to sell future copies. i'll probably limit the edition to 50, but at this point it's hard to imagine selling anywhere near that many.

John Flavell
24-Nov-2004, 12:36
Paul: Thanks for that. I'm thinking about doing the same thing and your posting caught my interest. In my "research" over the web, the info is limited. If you don't mind sharing, and I can understand holding back, please let us (me) know how the paper selection works out.

24-Nov-2004, 13:40
i'll definitely let you know what i come up with ... right now my money's on premiere art 205 gram or 325 gram paper, which is double sided and takes ink well, and supposedly is more durable. it's also mould-made, so grain direction matters less. i won't know about durability for a while.