A view of Angel Glacier with Cavell Pond below.

Allocating Space in a Photo Book

After a trip, I am eager to capture memories in a photo book, before I forget many of the details that make a trip unique.  To proceed quickly, the question becomes:  how to allocate 100 or more photos throughout a 20-page photo book, plus leave some for the front cover and the back cover.

The covers

I select photos for the front and back covers first, as I typically don’t use those same photos again in the book.

Usually, I want at least a couple of favorite photos on the front cover.  How many photos should be on a cover?  I think it depends.  If there is a single, incredible shot, then feature that on your cover.

A view of Angel Glacier with Cavell Pond below.

Photo book cover for the Canadian Rockies, featuring Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond.

If your trip included a series of events and you want to capture that variety, then feature several photos on the front cover.  Try to select a photo (or photos) that are unique to the trip in some way.  For example, my husband and I have taken a number of hiking vacations to national parks over the years.  I try to select photos that reflect the scenery unique to each trip so that with one glance at the cover of the book, I know which trip it was.

A cover of a photo book for Utah National Parks. Six photos are on the cover, representing the various national parks visited on the trip as well as some wildlife.

Photo book cover for a trip to Utah National Parks. The arch in the lower right photo is a formation common to Utah parks, especially Arches National Park.

I steer clear of cover photos that could be reminiscent of any hiking trip and leave those for inside the book where some explanatory text can be added.

My guidelines for the back cover are similar to those for the front.  If there is a single, magnificent shot that I want to feature, I may use it on a back cover.  One client had a nine-day trip to Italy and Paris that included multiple cities.  The client requested  featuring four cities on the front cover and three on the back.

The front and back covers of a photo book. Front cover appears on right and features four photos, one large and three smaller. The back cover features three small photos.

Front (on right) and back covers of a photo book for Italy and Paris. Photos reflect Venice, Firenze, Stresa, Rome, Versailles, and Italian wine country.

Another time, I used the back cover to feature eating establishments from a trip.  Sometimes, I use the back cover as a trip catch-all:  a place to put photos that are enjoyable, but space would not allow for them to be included on the appropriate pages in the book.

The first page

I like to include an itinerary of the trip if it involved multiple locations.  I usually feature a photo or photos on this page, plus an itinerary by day.  If your methods of transportation varied over the trip, that can be fun to capture:  by plane, by boat, by train, by bus.  I also like to record hotel names.

The rest of the book

I prefer presenting photos in chronological order, at least by day. I plan the page layout to  address these questions:

  • How many pages for each day?
  • Should I include any two-page spreads?
  • Should I have any single-photo pages?
  • Does this trip justify adding pages to the book (an additional cost)?

For the client on the Italy & Paris trip, 128 photos were selected for inclusion.  They were taken as follows across the nine days:

Date Trip Location Number of Images  Percentage of Images Number of Pages in Photo Book*
9/10/2014 Roma Antica 18 14% 3
9/11/2014 Roma Religiosa, Montalcino, San Gimignano 12 9% 2
9/12/2014 San Gimignano, Siena 8 6% 1
9/13/2014 San Gimignano, Firenze 19 15% 2
9/14/2014 San Gimignano, Venice, Stresa 21 16% 3
9/15/2014 Stresa, Borromeo Islands 20 16% 3
9/16/2014 Stresa, Lake Como, Bellaggio 8 6% 1
9/17/2014 Paris 6 5% 1
9/18/2014 Palace of Versailles, Paris night 15 12% 3
Total 128 100% 19

*One page was dedicated to the itinerary, leaving 19 pages available for trip photos.

Some days resulted in more photos than others, and I took a cue from that in terms of how to allocate photo book pages.  The days with 10% or above would have three pages, and the days with lower percentages would have one or two pages.  This calculation served as a starting point; in one case, I adjusted downward.

The client took a lot of photos of Michelangelo’s David, including some close-up shots, so that was a clue to dedicate a page to it.

Seven images of Michelangelo's David. The images reflect the front, back, right hand, and head of the sculpture.

Various images of Michelangelo’s David in Firenze (Florence), Italy. The client had a number of photos of this sculpture, from a variety of angles, so I recognized it as a significant part of the trip.

I also knew that Stresa, Italy, was a favorite spot (it was featured on the client’s holiday card that year), so that became a two-page spread.

A two-page photo spread of Stresa, Italy. Five photos across the top, two in the middle on either page, and five across the bottom.

A two-page photo spread for Stresa, Italy. I knew this was a favorite stop, as the clients featured it on their 2014 holiday card.

I add and subtract a bit from the initial page allocations by day until I arrive at an appropriate number of a pages (for the trip) and an appropriate distribution of those pages (throughout the trip).

This approach works, whether I am preparing a photo book for my own family or one for a client.  In either case, I let the number of images taken per day by the traveler(s) drive the amount of space in a book dedicated to memorializing that particular day.

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