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Blurb Photobook Review

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Being self employed has it’s perks. The comute is short. Breaks when you want them. Don’t have to wear pants. Little things that you just can’t seem to get away with when you work a 9-5. But there is just one MAJOR draw back. Consistent income. You can be working flat out for a months and then it will just die and you won’t have anything going on. This is why banks still refuse us for home loans despite being self employed for about 4 years now and never once being late with a rent payment. So every few months when work is slow I start looking around on seek for full time work in studios. A while back I got a call from a studio asking me to come in for an interview. I agreed to come in until he said  show up at something o’clock and to bring my book. I said “I have my portfolio on my iPad, is that ok?” and he said “Really? You don’t have a book you can bring in?”. Seriously? How can a book be better than an iPad!? The resolution is so much better! Needless to say I didn’t go to the interview. Then about two months ago I was having a catch up with one of my girlfriends old blogging contacts who has since moved on to better things working for Blurb. She was telling me all about how Blurb is increasing their Australia presence and has all these great book options for photographers, then she offered me the chance to make a book for free! Well I wasn’t gonna turn this down! And I didn’t, and that brings us to now. I guess. BOOKS!

Blurb Review

At first I was kind of jaded. I had always planned to use Aperture to make my book. I love Apple and the little videos they include with the software looked great, so I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be using it after all. When I opened up the Blurb Booksmart software I was a little underwhelmed. It was light grey which makes it looks a little old and the color scheme and buttons reminded me of my old windows computers which just brought back floods of bad memories, but then I actually started poking around and it was pretty fun!

For starters there is one very long but informative instructional video that Blurb provides which shows you how to get from start to finish with the Blurb booksmart software. The narrator doesn’t have the most enthusiastic voice, but if you weren’t very computer savy then his slow pace might would be very helpful. While the pace is slow, it’s comprehensive and answers nearly all your questions. If some how it doesn’t answer your questions there are quite a few other videos on Vimeo and there is the Blurb Forum which has several answers to nearly any question you could have! While I prefer a darker color scheme for my software, I can understand the medium grey for color balancing. and everything is laid out REALLY well. In the top left you have the page layouts and they are separated into various categories such as photo layouts, text, and custom layouts since you can make or modify your own.

Under that you have your images which you can have displayed in a number of ways. I liked having mine removed from the list once they were in the book, but once you took it off a page, bam! it shows up in the list again, very easy to keep track of how your book is coming. If you don’t like to put in your photos one by one you can always just click the auto fill option and it will place all your stuff in for you. Easy. If working in the software isn’t for you, they also have add-ons so that you can make your book in Adobe InDesign if you’re pro, or Lightroom, Word or the ability to turn a PDF into a book. Blurb didn’t actually just give me a free book, they gave me a $75.00 gift voucher, so I still had to work out how many pages I could get. They also provide a neat little booklet of samples so you can see and feel the different papers, end pages and book covers which was great because on the site you can enter the number of pages, which type of paper, what end sheet and what cover you plan on getting and they tell you how much it will be. The downside of this is that I apparently have expensive taste.

So how does the software translate into real life? Pretty damn well!

The purple marks in the Booksmart software are the gutter lines where you don’t want to put anything important incase it get’s lost in either the cutting process or to the spine of the book. The red lines are the cut marks, so it’s a full bleed system which is what I learnt at uni, so picking up the software was a breeze. I went with a pearl coated paper so it looks amazing in person, but unfortunately it’s a bit tough to capture with the flash. Trust me, it not only looks great in person but it feels great too. Added bonus, it doesn’t leave oily fingerprint marks on the pages, so people don’t have to wear white gloves when they looks through it! I mean, I make them do it anyway, but only because this book is my new pride and joy!

Mine arrived 7 days after I ordered it which was amazing because they said it would be here by the 24th when I ordered it on the 10th. It had a tracking number and was shipped 3 days after I ordered it. since they have to print it, bind it and wait for it to dry that’s pretty impressive. Shipping was only 10.99 and it came all the way from California. I think they may be setting up a printing house here in Australia, so the shipping prices may come down while the process speeds up, but I’ve ordered a lot from america and to me this was pretty quick.

The packaging was pretty secure and came registered so I had to sign for it.

Again, very hard to get a good shot with the plastic wrap over a high gloss book jacket and a flash but it looks amazing in person!

I went with the dust jacket option which cost a bit more because once again I have expensive taste. but when you choose the dust jacket option you don’t get an image printed on the cover since it’s fabric which looks very professional but then you REALLY need to worry about damaging the dust jacket because if it gets damage or lost you just have a fabric book cover.

So I printed my cover on the first page since I know that at some point I will be loosing or destroying my dust jacket. I can barely get through a month without electrocuting myself and I’m just a photographer, what hope do I have of protecting something made of paper!?!?!

The fabric covering is very nice though. I decided to go with the classic black over the fancier “Oatmeal” which looked like a light tweed or the “Charcoal”.

I was worried about how panoramas would turn out with things getting lost in the gutter of the spine but everything matches up quite well. Again, there is a LOT of information on the forums about panoramas, so if that’s your thing you can make a book FULL of them. They are a little fiddly when you are making your book because the pages are separated in the software so in order to make a panorama span two pages you have to insert the picture twice into the book (one on each page) and then resize and try to match them up.

Well that about sums it up. It was actually a lot of fun making this book and a really positive experience with amazing results. It is a bit more expensive than ordering through Aperture but I don’t think Apple gives you all the options of paper, covers, end pages etc and Blurb offers much more size options. they even have a little square book option specifically for Instagram and iPhonography if you’re into that kind of thing.

So what else? Well if you’d like to spend the next month making a book (it took me about 2 weeks to choose the photos and make mine) the Nice people over at have provided me with a 15% discount code for you to use! Just enter the word “WONDERFUL” in the space provided at checkout, but hurry because this expires August 31st, 2012!

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