Against the Light - Introduction
When I was still shooting print film, I used to take my rolls to the local camera store and have them developed and printed. At home I would flip through all the images, take out all the bad shots and keep the average and the good ones. My wife would then put all those images in a photo book, together with some decorative items and descriptive taglines.
Against the Light
Those books are great fun. If I want to take a trip down memory lane or share some images with family and friends, I just walk to the bookshelf and pick one - it's as easy as that.
When I started shooting slide film, things changed. I only had my slides developed, and the money I saved on printing was spent buying more film. As a consequence I shot a lot more images on each occasion. I bought a projector and a projection screen and from then on we had slide shows instead of photo books.
Although nothing beats a good slide show, it takes time setting it all up and lacks the spontaneity of picking a book off the shelf. So I bought a slide scanner and a good printer. But scanning slides turned out to be very time consuming to say the least, not to mention the time spent on post processing and printing. As a result I only scanned and processed the really good shots and only printed the extraordinary. Needless to say, during that phase, I never made a photo book.
Two years ago, with my switch to digital, I find myself shooting more than ever before. As a result I have more keepers due to the instant feedback. I'm spending more time behind the computer than I would like to.
Sure, I'm happy to be freed from slide scanning and framing, but the simple fact that I have so much more images to sort out and work on now means that I haven't gained much time. The constant backlog of raw files waiting to be converted has made me focus entirely on processing with little or no time left for printing.
So how do I show my images now? Well, I either go to my online gallery or open selected folders on my photo hard drive. But just like the old fashioned slide show, it isn't something you do as spontaneous and easily as flipping through a nice photo book. And quite frankly, gathering the whole family around the laptop just doesn't feel the same.
But sharing pictures with family and friends isn't the only reason I started thinking about making photo books again. If you're a professional photographer or want to become one, you can't do it without a good old fashioned portfolio. If you visit a potential client, a magazine editor or a publisher you would want to show your images in the best professional manner.
Printing your best work yourself and putting it in a standard portfolio may do the trick, but what I wanted was a custom made hardcover photo book without the ugly plastic sleeves, using only high end printing techniques and top quality paper, and looking just like an expensive coffee table book from the better book stores.
There are quite a few companies on the internet that offer custom made photo books, including Shutterfly.com, Mypublisher.com, Ofoto.com (by Kodak), Snapfish.com, ImageStation.com (by Sony), iPhoto (by Apple) and SharedInk.com.
After doing some considerable online research, one of my conclusions was that only a few are Mac compatible. Since I work on a Powermac G5 myself, this narrowed down my choice to either Shutterfly.com, iPhoto or SharedInk.com.
In my opinion, of all the companies there was one that clearly showed excellent dedication to meeting the needs of professional and critical amateur photographers.
That company is SharedInk.com.