The problem with online photo book printing is that most web sites lock you into specific layouts. We all try to compensate with multiple page designs, but, sooner or later, you want to show something that doesn’t fit into a rectangle. For instance, you might want to publish a book of poetry, a high school annual or just a few pages of text among your usual photo layouts.
With inexpensive desktop software tools, you can print anything you want in a dotPhoto photo book. Fortunately, dotPhoto’s pages print all the way to the edge (“full bleed” in printer’s parlance), so you can design whatever you want on a full page using software that you already know on your own computer, convert your designs to a JPG, and upload that image as a page in your dotPhoto book. Your page design could have a collage of photos, text and photos, all text – whatever you want.
Here’s a sample page that I designed for the custom album of a small high school. It included two web graphics that were “upsized” to 300 dpi, a photo and text. The page was laid out in Adobe InDesign CS 2, and the final print product looked terrific. (This example is sized for the web because the 300 dpi version would be too big to display.)
This is great because it means that you can use Pagemaker, Adobe InDesign, Word, PowerPoint, Paint Shop Pro – whatever you already know that works for you. You don’t have to learn a lot of new web software or work with the sometimes tedious online book interfaces. Just design your pages with what you know, convert to JPGs and upload your pages to dotPhoto.
Here’s what you need to know:
You’ll need software to convert your original designs to JPGs, which we’ll discuss below. (You can try it for free.)
Convert to 300 dots per inch (dpi) for best printing and, at a minimum, 200 dpi.
The pages in the dotPhoto “Yearbook” product are 11.5 inches wide by 9.5 inches tall. Try to output your pages to that size, or create a blank page of 11.5 by 9.5, and paste your date onto the new page.
Converting your software’s output to JPGs
The folks at 602Software have a pretty good JPG routine that allows you to “print” directly from your software to a JPG; in other words, you’re getting a new printer driver that you use when you want to make JPGs instead of paper prints. They’ve been honing this through five versions and it works well, too. The only problem I had was getting the output to be exactly 11.5” x 9.5”, but this can be solved by creating a new JPG to size and placing the old image in the middle of it.
You can try 602Print Pack 5 here for free, and it’s $39.95 if you decide to keep it.
Converting PDF files to JPGs
Programs like Adobe InDesign CS2 are perfect for page layout and poster design. InDesign will even export JPGs, but even the maximum resolution allowed is too small to print. The solution is to export to PDF files, which allow higher resolution, and to convert the PDFs to JPGs. There are many utilities for this, but some simply don’t work as advertised. We like the ABC Amber PDF to JPG product, which works well in the trial version (the trial version adds an advertisement at the bottom of your JPG.) It’s cheap, too – just $19.95 – but the company takes a few hours to process your order and send the registration key. Try the free download here.
Centering the first-page image in your book
dotPhoto Yearbooks include a “cut out” that is exactly 5 inches square that shows a portion of the image on your title page. Since a typical digital image ends up measuring about 8 and 3/8 inches by 6 inches, it’s a challenge to get a 5 x 5 image to show through the window, but you can get close by creating an 8.375” x 6” image blank image with the 5” x 5” image in the center. Even better: allow for a quarter inch “slippage” around the square so that no white space shows around the box.