How Digital Photobooks Work

If you're adept at graphic design and you already have photo-editing software installed on your computer, you can create your photobook on your own. See more camera stuff pictures.
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Think for a moment about your old photo albums. Several of them are probably in shabby shape with the plastic covers no longer adhering to the sticky pages. Perhaps there's at least one book you never completed because you still have half a dozen undeveloped film rolls stored in some forgotten drawer in your home. Then there are the ones filled with imperfect memories -- a forehead cut off in one image, a double-exposure in another.

As valuable and precious as our old photo albums are to us, these days we can't help but see their flaws in light of modern versions -- digital photobooks -- which offer sleek, streamlined pages and picture editing. In these versions, you can create colorful layouts and add captions. You can touch up and crop photos, be they images uploaded directly from your camera or old photographs that are scanned in and digitized. When it comes to printing, you have the option of doing it yourself or calling on a professional. And unlike traditional photo albums, you can easily create multiple copies to give to friends and family.

Digital photobooks are not unlike digital scrapbooks. Both involve scanning and importing pictures, then fiddling with the computer layout until you achieve the design you're shooting for. Unlike scrapbooks, however, photobooks are primarily focused on photographs. If you want to showcase your photography or images of your family, a photobook would be your best choice. If you'd like to add additional memories, such as theater tickets or crayon drawings by your grandchildren, a scrapbook would be a better option.

Keep reading to find out how you can create your own digital photobook.

How to Create a Digital Photobook

Just imagine, soon you could have a personally created, professional-looking book to display on your coffee table. You won't have to become a professional photographer or editor. Nor will you require an agent or a publisher. All you'll need are the following: photographs (hard-copy images you can scan or digital photos imported from your camera), a computer and access to a photobook Web site or software.

Creating a photobook isn't difficult, but it does help to be organized. If you're going to use any old pictures, lay out the ones you want to use and scan them. If you're going to use images that you already have on your computer, separate them into their own folder.

Once you're ready to get started, find a photobook Web site or software that suits you. Many of the more popular companies demonstrate their services on their sites, showing you not only examples of photobooks created through their programs, but also screenshots of the various steps and options you'll have.

When choosing a publishing program, you'll want to look for options. Consider the following when you're shopping around:

  • Does the program offer themed books (travel, heritage, wedding or storybook, for example)?
  • Does it let you redesign existing layouts or create your own?
  • Does it have a variety of graphics and fonts you can use to enhance your photo layouts?
  • Are quality covers (such as leather, fabric or padded) available?
  • Can you add captions or journal passages to your photos?
  • Will you be able to easily rearrange pages as you're working on your layout?
  • Is there a function for sharing your photobook online or by e-mail?

Finally, you'll want to weigh costs. If you're adept at graphic design and you already have photo-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, installed on your computer, you can create your photobook on your own. However, you'll still have to pay someone to print and bind it. This service will be your primary expense, since many of them offer the design software for free. So, regardless of your skill level, going with a specialty company -- like Picaboo, Shutterfly, Kodak, Snapfish or MyPublisher -- will probably be your best option.

On the next page, we'll discuss a special kind of photobook.

Digital Family Tree Photobooks

A digital family tree photobook is more than just a photo album -- it's a history book, too. It tells the story of your family -- from several generations of your ancestors all the way to some of your recently born descendents.

There are several directions you can go with this kind of photobook, also referred to as a heritage album. Some genealogy search sites, like, have a function where you can print out your family tree and add photographs throughout. There are other companies you can hire to not only create a digital family tree photobook for you, but to research your ancestry as well. They will publish their findings, along with photos and records of your ancestors, in a customized book.

If you already have much of your family's information in your possession, an easy option would be to create your book using a digital photobook Web site or software. Many sites, like, offer a heritage album option. When it comes to designing your photobook's appearance, you can consider using antique-looking fonts and black, brown or faded backgrounds. You might also want to incorporate tree, map, flag and home images.

How you organize your family tree photobook is up to you. Perhaps you'll want to arrange it so that every branch of the family is grouped together in its own section. Maybe you'll want to devote an entire page to each ancestor, including not only photos of them but information such as their dates of birth, marriage and death and who their spouse, parents and children were. You can include scanned newspaper clippings in the layouts, as well as written family anecdotes or personal memories of a specific ancestor.

Family tree photobooks make excellent gifts, so don't forget to share yours either online, by e-mail or as a printed copy.

To learn more about digital scrapbooking and other options, look over the links on the next page.

Related Articles


  • "Create a Family History Book." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Biersdorfer, J.D. "Q & A: Old pictures for a new book." Toledo Blade. Dec. 18, 2010. (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Collette, Christopher. "Try it before you buy it: Kodak Photo Book." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Darlin, Damon. "Goodbye, Glue. Hello, Digital. The Once-Humble Hobby of Scrapbooking Has Moved On." New York Times. June 7, 2006 (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Digital Photos Online. "Digital Photo Book: How Creative Can You Get?" (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • "Heritage Albums -- About." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Kodak Gallery. "Photo Books." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • MyPublisher. "Photo Books -- Learn How." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Picaboo. "Create a Photo Book." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Picaboo. "Preserve and Share Your Family's Photos with a "Heritage Album." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Rao, Leena. "Pixable's Photofeed Sorts and Categorizes Your Facebook Photos." TechCrunch. (Jan. 11, 2011)
  • Shutterfly. "Photo Books." (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Snapfish. "Photo Books." (Jan. 9, 2011)