Creating a Photobook/Zine

Photobook by Thaiba Mahmood

Photobooks are an amazing way to showcase your personal practice. It allows you to live with the art and appreciate it, to take it in and absorb it. A photobook establishes a connection. It's also tactile, so it's a very engaging method to present a collection of work.

Things to consider when making a photobook:

  • Subject – what is the subject? What am I going to point my camera at? Explore a subject/theme of your choosing, finding a starting point not a project, but allow your work to develop through practice

  • Gathering images – this can come through research, looking at photobooks, taking inspiration from other artists and photographers, actively taking pictures to develop your subject. Engaging with subject in depth, why are the images working? How does the photographer get to the picture?

  • Editing images (physically) -if possible, edit through each image by printing the images and laying them out to establish a sequence and flow. Narrow down to smaller number of pictures, interrogating pictures think about strengths of which pictures are working and how they relate to idea, engaging with images

  • Sequence of images – order of images, why do the images go in a certain order? Why is this image first/at the end etc? however, the photobook does not have to be sequences in a linear fashion – think about how narrative is constructed in movies, for example, some movies start from the end and go backwords – momento

  • Printing & paper type - to relate subject/idea, pages could be rough to show roughness, soft to show softness, pages torn etc

  • Materiality – this can be from family archives to texts and quotes. How are you communicating narrative through the images you have? Aesthetics, photographic process, camera settings, lighting, sequence – order of photographs, can always change the order and can change the narrative

  • Typography – do you want text in your photobook, and if so, why? Does the text work alongside images or is on a separate page to the image? Hierarchy, alignment, letter spacing etc

  • Cover design – things to consider typeface, size of text, readability, image/no image, scale of image, back cover etc

  • Design – this shows the reader what the book is about, what are you trying to convey, for example having small text gets the reader to go close to the book so they can read the text – creating closeness and intimacy

Things to consider for Design & Page Layout:

  • Keep image sizes in the book consistent

  • Design like you sequence: thoughtfully, playfully, with revision, refinement

  • As a photographer we are not designers - keep photobook design simple: mostly, photobook design is about negative space: how you can use that space to make your images work on the page: size of images

  • Is your work quiet and intimate, if so, could there be more breathing space around images?

  • Is your work intense and cathartic, if so, could images be full bleed that spread right the way to the edges of the pages to communicate this?

  • Scale – how does the scale of the book and images relate to the subject/theme

Book Specifications:

  • Dimensions of book (width x height)

  • Hardcover or Softcover?

  • Stock (weight and name of paper)

  • Print Method (Digital Print? Physical print? Etc.)

  • Binding method

  • Any finishing considerations (foiling, embossing etc.)

  • Any other considerations? Colour stock? Unbound? Unique binding?

  • Begin to make visual/critical research then shoot initial work for project. Do not overthink it!

  • What you photograph, genre, style, and subject is up to you

  • Emphasis is on sequence and narrative to create a strong final book work

When making any type of photobook it is important to consider the theme and base the layout and design of the photobook around the theme – how can you represent your theme through image sizes, negative space, text etc.