Photo Book & T-Shirts

Photo books are the quintessential photocrafting project. There’s a long tradition of photo albums and scrapbooks. Rebecca Onion has some beautiful pages from an 1862 album in her article, “An Unusually Beautiful 19th-Century Illustrated Photo Album.” The Library of Congress has photograph albums dating back to the 1850’s.

Today, our photo albums may be as straightforward as a spiral book with slots on pages that hold standard-sized photos or self-adhesive pages so photos can be positioned in any orientation with a plastic sheet covering them. A scrapbook is typically more elaborate, adding newspaper clippings, drawings, and decorative items to pages that may or may not include photos. More recently digital photo books abound. Of course, there is hybrid scrapbooking to combine digital pages with physical elements! All approaches provide a great basis for photocrafting.

The subjects you choose for the content of photo books can be widely varied and we’ll look at many examples in future posts: vacations, families, events, animals, to name a few. Recently I made a somewhat unusual book for myself, a book primarily of t-shirts. Not the usual topic for a book!

Part of the pile of t-shirts that I photographed for the book.
Some of the 35 t-shirts I’d collected.

Cleaning out some closet shelves resulted in a pile of too many t-shirts.  The obvious answer was to get rid of them — but they held so many memories.  Aha, a chance to do some photocrafting: take photos of the t-shirts, make a book, and get rid of the actual t-shirts. I had a coupon for a book so that was added incentive to create a book. I could remember my t-shirts without having to store them.

So what to do? Should I wear each t-shirt and have someone take a photo for a book of portraits? I rejected that idea quickly. I decide to simply put a large blanket on the floor and one-by-one, lay down each t-shirt and photograph it.  Once I had the digital photos on my computer, I cut out the backgrounds to create .png files with only a t-shirt in each so I could do whatever backgrounds I wanted.  Frankly it would have been fine to go with those photos as they were but I routinely make tasks harder than necessary. (That said, ironing was definitely more than I was willing to do!)

A column of thumbnail images showing the numbers beside each that indicate the page on which the image appears.

It seems like a major hurdle but I think it helps tremendously to do some organizing before you start a book (or other multi-page projects like calendars.) If you have lots of images, it provides a structure for picking which images to use. In this case, the images were all similar but each had some meaning to me.

I ended up with pictures of 35 different t-shirts and a 20-page book.  (I had the option to add pages to the book but didn’t want to add to the cost.) I listed all the t-shirts.  My first obvious thought was to arrange them by the year I got them but instead decided to group them into categories (like politics, vacations, home towns.)

After uploading all the photos, offers to place them automatically but since I wanted some coherence on the pages, I selected manual placement.  I could drag the images onto pages, based to a large degree on my pre-determined order.  It’s a particularly nice feature that notes the page numbers by the images so you can always tell where to find a particular photo once you’ve placed it.

Once I got started, I couldn’t resist adding some text about the t-shirt or some other photos from the occasion when I bought the t-shirt. I decided then to make the background color different for each of the categories. It’s definitely not coffee table quality content but good enough for a relatively quick project with a very limited audience (me!)

I was very pleased with my book when it arrived; the book and picture quality is great. It’s fun to leaf through the pages and remember times and places. I do think photo books are best for straightforward placement of photos and captions. I had some problems trying to create more customized layouts. E.g. I couldn’t just double-click a photo or text box to open it for editing; the text box can’t be edited; the text settings always reverted to the default so that I had to change font and size for each piece of text.

Here’s to making photo books of just about anything!

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