Here is a paradox that every one of us has experienced. A friend gets back from a wonderful vacation, and she tells some great stories about what she saw and did. You are riveted. “That sounds awesome, I’d love to see some pictures!” you say.
One thousand images later, your face is sore from stifling yawns, and you have sworn to yourself you will never, ever visit such a wretchedly boring place.
If I’m being totally honest, I occasionally experience this same boredom with my own travel albums—too many shots of stuff I can’t really remember.
The problem with travel photos, I have come to realize, is that they are typically organized chronologically. But the chronological method has this drawback: our memories are more like a mosaic of impressions, some of them interesting anecdotes, others just fleeting feelings.
Perhaps it’s time for a different approach.
Forget about chronology
I just got back from a trip to New York City, where I took tons of pictures. The story of our trip, when I think about it, is rather dull. We arrived. We walked around a lot. We looked at stuff. We flew home.
The chronological story of the trip is dull, but the experience was extraordinary: lots of people, crazy traffic, old buildings, new buildings, beautiful art, bizarre items like a marble nose in a wheelbarrow.
For something a little different, I designed my New York photobook to capture the visual experience. There are no descriptions or explanations, just a collage of the objects that caught my attention and made an impression.
(Note: I used London Drugs Home Edition software to do the layout of the book—it’s a free download here).
Letting the photos speak
If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I like to fancy up my photobooks, adding double, sometimes triple frames, colourful backgrounds, and pretty fonts.
For this photobook, however, I went in another direction entirely. I opted for the ‘Clean’ template, and let the photos do all the talking.
Grouping items of interest
As I browsed through my pictures, I noticed that I take pictures of many of the same things: architecture, streetscapes, interesting signs, sculptures, and beautiful views. I decided to group these items together.
Looking for common threads
Each person will have a unique way of looking at a new place. A good friend of mine (who also happens to be an exceptional professional photographer) has travelled all over the world, photographing people. Her images are beautiful and touching.
I am a writer, and writers are notoriously antisocial. When I travel, I look at things, not people: buildings, shapes, signs, landscapes.
Look for the abstract
I sometimes struggle with technical things, like increasing the size of the thumbnails of a photo collection. In this case, my luddite tendencies paid off. As I looked at the tiny thumbnail images, I noticed a pattern—I take a lot of photos of circles.
My circle page: some are just pretty shapes, while others have a little story. The upper right image is of the largest button in the world (you read that right: it’s the LARGEST button). The golden ball to its left was salvaged from the World Trade Center rubble.
Include your people pictures
Only a half a dozen of my photos included people, so I decided to sprinkle these throughout the book as small reminders that I was in this interesting landscape.
Play with positioning
The book wizard laid out my photos in roughly the order I wanted. My task then was to move them around and make them look as visually appealing as possible.
There are a few shots in my collection that I absolutely love. For these, I opted for full size for maximum impact.
I love this sunset image of the empire state building. The image takes up the entire double page spread.
Choose your cover
I tried out many images for my cover, in many different styles. Initially I had a clean look—all white, with a single image of Times Square and the caption ‘New York 2013.’
Ultimately, I chose my most dramatic image. This picture does not need a caption.
The back and front cover of the book is a single image, wrapped around. With its bold colours (and perfectly placed New Yorker sign) it’s the photo that captures the feeling of this photo collection.
The finished product
The image wraps around the cover, which looks gorgeous.
The photos look bright and beautiful, and the unconventional approach makes for an interesting collection.
Try it yourself
My photobook turned out better than I could have imagined. As you set out on your summer travels, think about an ‘impressions book’ as you look for interesting photo opportunities. Once you’re home, download the Home Edition software and get started.
By Angela Ford, photo blogger