I made a quick trip to Chicago a few months ago to have a last hurrah with a friend of mine before she left the city. I packed my trusty PowerShot S230 digital Elph (3.2 megapixels) to document the event.
After the exhausting excursion, I came back to Dallas and wondered, what next? I had these great photos but wanted a presentation other than the traditional album.
I chose to create a one-of-a-kind book to send as a holiday gift to my friend. (I hope she doesn't read this column!)
Being a Mac user, I went straight to the iPhoto book that can be found in your menu options when using the iPhoto program. The software is easy enough to use, the quality is pretty good and it looked fun to try.
Using iPhoto software, I was able to intuitively put together a 30-page book. It took about an hour to tone and crop the photos, then upload the book to place the order. But before I pushed the "buy" button, I had second thoughts.
As I was creating the book, I felt confined by the "themes" (Themes are design templates for the photos and text, such as Catalog, Picture Book, Yearbook, etc.).
So I hit the Internet to seek alternatives and was quickly rewarded.
MyPublisher.com is where I ended up. The steps are similar to Mac's program: Choose the photos, design the book, upload it and order.
The catch? It's built for a PC.
Fortunately, I have access to a PC, so I continued with my little project and downloaded the free myPublisher BookMaker software.
With its Advanced design option, the program offers 15 page layouts that can be moved from the layout queue by using the drag-and-drop method.
To ensure photo quality, the site recommends setting your digital camera resolution to at least 1600 X 1200 dpi. This will produce files suitable for 8 1/2 -by-11 full-page bleeds.
After importing the images, they can be moved from page to page by using the click-and-drag method.
Once you decide on your images and page design, you have several options for manipulating the photos.
You can size an image within the window frame, adjust the contrast, rotate it, change it to black and white, enhance the contrast or nudge it left or right and up or down. Another option is to print single-sided or double-sided pages.
The interior pages also accept text so you can personalize your book.
The cover can be customized with a photo and text of your choice. You have your choice of colors and material - linen or leather - for the covers. It also has a hard back to further strengthen the book.
Be sure to preview your book before completing your order. Make certain your text is error-free, your images are sized and cropped the way you envisioned them, and the cover is just the way you like it.
Once you are done, you upload the book - and I encourage you to find high-speed Internet access for this step. Otherwise, it'll take a long time.
If you go to MyPublisher.com, you will see that the finished books ship within two business days - a plus for last-minute holiday gifts - and the discounts get better as you spend more. In my case, the book arrived five days after I placed the order.
The MyPublisher process takes a bit longer than the formatted Mac version, but you have more control over the outcome and more avenues to explore in personalizing the book.
The cost is about the same through Macintosh or myPublisher. The 20-page myPublisher .com book was in the $50 to $60 range. The book is printed on archival-quality paper so it will last through the years, and I'm happy with the quality of the printing and binding.
And it's an untraditional but personalized way to preserve and share your photographs with family and friends. An hour of your time is well worth it.