This is the fifth in a series about creating photo (and other) books to help you, your family, and future caregivers focus on the richness and significance of your life -- instead of primarily on infirmities you might develop.
Photo books may sound great. But how exactly do you create them?
First, understand that it really is possible. If you are somewhat computer literate, then the odds are that you can do it. "Computer literate" here means able to point a cursor at a box on the screen and click; drag and drop images or files; select a typeface and font size; and handle other basic tasks. And if you don't have these skills, you probably have a friend who does.
Second, decide on the topic or event to cover. The main hurdle is that you need to have enough photos or objects that can be photographed to make it plausible to create a book. We have put in as few as 35 photos and as many as 230, and created books as short as 30 pages and as long as 90 pages. Don't worry if the photos are old black-and-white ones that you don't have in digital form. As long as you have the photos, you can "get there from here."
Third, select the photos. If you have a thousand pictures available, choose about 100-200 that you feel are best - to cover the topic, tell a story, or convey a point you wish to make. If you feel that you must include a lot more than that, consider breaking up the topic into smaller chunks and making two or more books.
Fourth, prepare the photos. If all the pictures are digital (on your computer) and you don't use photo editing software, you are done with this step. All those black and white photos from Kodak Brownie cameras from half a century ago? No problem. Many home printers can be used to scan photos - and documents such as ticket stubs or certificates. We use an Epson printer/scanner that cost about $80. It quite faithfully captures what it sees. If you want to crop, straighten, brighten or otherwise adjust your photos, you will need to use photo-editing software. Personal computers often come with some basic photo-editing capabilities.
Fifth, collect the photos you have prepared in their own folder on your computer and make sure you know where it is located (e.g., on your computer desktop or elsewhere).
Sixth, decide what book creation and printing service you wish to use and download or access online the free software they offer. If you search online for "make a photo book," you will see many choices. My husband and I have used www.mypublisher.com to make more than a dozen photo books. (Full disclosure: my husband owns $700 in stock in mypublisher.com's parent company, Shutterfly. He bought it because of our great experience with mypublisher). Some companies try to make it so easy for people to use their software that they limit the choices you have. If you have more text than their text box can hold, or want to move a photo around on a page, you are out of luck. Mypublisher.com has no such constraints, one of the reasons we like it.
Seventh, follow the service's instructions to start a new photo book. You will generally get to choose the dimensions of the book - from a small pocket-size, to about 11x8.5, to a giant size such as 15x11.5; a style or theme, such as "wedding" or "travel"; the cover type and material, from linen to leather; and other similar features.
Once these basic decisions are made (and you may be able to go back and change most of them later), you will have a chance to drag the photos you have prepared into a staging area so that you can easily select them to put onto the pages of the book.
If you get stuck and the Help feature doesn't help, some services (including mypublisher) have a phone number you can call for live help from real people. I've used this feature and almost always solved the problem.
Next week's column will continue with tips about next steps.