Photo book

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Printed photo book
Advertising booth at IFA (Berlin 2010) for photo books

In terms of general distribution, a photo book is a digitally printed book, the pages of which the user has designed with pictures and texts on the computer. Photo books with exposures on photo paper are much rarer than digitally printed photo books . Digitally printed photo books, which were launched on the German market in 2007, are in competition with conventional photo albums .

Before the introduction of digitally produced photo books, the term photo book generally referred to a book related to photography , such as picture books , specialist books on photographic design issues or apparatus, photo history books or the like.

In the field of artistic photography , a photo book is a single publication by a photo artist that contains photographic works of art on a specific topic.

The personal photo book

Design, manufacture and distribution

The images used for a digitally created photo book (taken with a digital camera or scanned) are compiled in a virtual book with the help of a layout program, which can usually be downloaded free of charge from a provider's website. As a rule, such software now also provides numerous templates for the layout of the individual pages. Free image design options are usually also available for the envelope. There is also the option of adding text to the book as desired, so that not only can individual images be labeled, but - comparable to an illustrated book - entire pages can only contain text. However, the user has only limited options with regard to the number of pages of the product (minimum and maximum number of pages, individual extensions of the scope only by a certain number of pages).

The program creates the order data and, if necessary, carries out technical checks on the user input and the images used. The completed order data via Internet on the server loaded the provider, alternatively burned on CD and on the mail sent or by memory card, issued at the photo retailer.

Perfect-bound photo book
Leporello-bound photo book

The provider accepts the standardized order data, converts it into print-ready data if necessary and produces the customer's personal photo book. Because of the small number of copies (very often only 1 copy), modern digital printing machines are used. The quality of digital printing does not quite match that of a conventional photo print, but it is constantly being improved. Photo books can also be created with real exposures through a photo specialist. These ensure a higher photo quality. But the print image of digitally created photo books can be compared with the quality of high-quality illustrated books from the bookstore.

Photo books can now be designed in a wide variety of ways: Different formats, bindings (leather, linen, hardcover , softcover ) and bindings , but also different types of paper, are available. The binding method used is usually an inexpensive adhesive binding , durable thread stitching or fanfold binding. Many suppliers also have saddle stitched brochures in their range as a cheaper option.

A few days after the order has been placed, the customer receives the finished printed or exposed and bound photo book in the photo laboratory.

There are now a large number of providers who differ in terms of their ordering systems, photo book quality, delivery time, price and service.

Printing process

The quality of the photo book also depends on the printing process used. When using electrostatic printing systems , the quality is lower than that of real photo paper .

This electrostatic printing process cannot reproduce the full color space and image quality of the digital camera . The cause is the lossy conversion ( color management ) of the RGB images (as they come from the camera as JPEG images) into CMYK format (in which the four-color printing takes place). In the printed image, several color points are placed directly next to each other in order to simulate a mixed color. The green of the trees and the blue of the sky, for example, are not reproduced “naturally”.

Real photo paper is able to put all the pixel information of the JPEG image on paper without any loss of quality, since a color space of 16.7 million colors per pixel is available when using the appropriate photo paper . In this way, smooth gradients and homogeneous surfaces can also be displayed in true halftone reproduction. The halftone process is a printing technique that enables halftones to be approximated using a printing screen . Another high-quality printing process, in addition to photo chemistry , is the thermal autochromic process , which is not used for photo books - in the sense of photo albums - due to the high price.

The photo books that reproduce high-quality images on special photo paper are significantly more expensive. This photo paper is then processed into photo books with thicker pages that are somewhat reminiscent of picture books for children. Due to the relatively high thickness of the photo paper compared to the usual grammages that are used in digital printing, in so-called real photo books, considerably fewer pages are possible in a photo book. Due to the exposure, text is displayed more spongy compared to the halftone printing process, so that only larger fonts from 14 points achieve the same quality in exposed books  .


In addition to personal use (holiday memories, capturing family events, replacing a photo album), photo books can also be used to produce small editions of books in the sense of a book-on-demand (e.g. for gifts).

According to the Photo Industry Association , around 5.7 million individually created photo books were produced in Germany in 2010. At this point in time, the trade association saw enormous growth potential for photo books in the future.

The artistic photo book

Fotohof Salzburg, library with artistic photo books

For photo artists, alongside exhibitions, the publication of photo books is the preferred form of presenting their own work. In contrast to elaborated, individual photographs, a photo book has its own, coherent topic and wants to tell something. In this respect, a photo book is comparable in literature to a novel or other narrative forms. That is why the sequencing, i.e. the sequence of the images within the tape , plays a central role and has less scope than in a private photo book, for example about a family celebration. There are also artistic / design requirements that all images in a photo book must meet. The external design of an artistic photo book is individually tailored to the topic in terms of size, format, cover, but also the paper used, printing process and binding.

Artistic photo books are usually published by art publishers and can be presented at special photo book fairs. Due to the creative effort and the comparatively small print run , artistic photo books are correspondingly more expensive than photo books on general topics.

Alternative forms to the photo book as a medium with several images with internal reference are the photo booklet and the fanfold .


  • Petra Vogt: Your own photo book - select provider - design high quality - publish successfully , dpunkt Verlag 2011, ISBN 3-89864-769-2 .

Web links

Commons : Photo Books  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Press release PIV (PDF) August 11, 2011.