Create a Stunning Wedding Album Blurb Book Using Lightroom’s Book Module
Eric and Steph Paciotti had “The Wedding With the 100 Year Flood Story Behind It” and their story is now captured in a gorgeous 12×12″ hardcover Blurb wedding album book.
It was very important to me to make this bride and groom’s wedding album book turn out especially spectacular, because the couple went through sheer hell the week before their wedding.
Why, you may ask? Well, Eric and Steph were to be married at the famous Peaceful Valley Ranch in Lyons, Colorado on September 15, 2013, but Mother Nature had other ideas, since that ended up being the week of one of the worst floods in the history of Colorado. The mountain highway to their planned western wedding site was totally washed away by flooding and the ranch itself was under water. Thus, with only three days until their wedding, the Eric and Steph had to regroup and plan an impromptu western style wedding right here in our town of Louisville.
The couple’s family and friends all pitched in to save their wedding day. Eric and Steph were married at Louisville’s Steinbaugh Pavilion, which was decorated to give it a “ranch styled” look; then their reception was right next door at the Old Louisville Inn, which we joked counted as “Irish Pub Western Style” due to the brass tractor seats on the bar stools! Their special day went off without a hitch. Amazingly, not only did the entire wedding and reception succeed at still having a western theme, but we also got a miraculous brief reprieve from the flooding rains just long enough for the couple’s portraits after the ceremony!
After all Eric and Steph went through, I was determined to create a stunning keepsake wedding album book for them. The natural choice seemed to be using Blurb books, since there is a Blurb Book Module built directly into Photoshop Lightroom, which I use to do all my professional photo post processing. Here is a screen capture of their album being created in the Lightroom Book Module:
About half-way through creating the book though, it occurred to me that I needed to determine what color profile Blurb Books uses. This is when my headaches truly began, for I learned that Blurb prints in CYMK, a color profile not possible to create within Lightroom.
After over a week of reading Blurb Book reviews, including many very good “wow” reviews and many very dissatisfied “ugh” reviews, I contacted Blurb’s support, which was not helpful at all. Despite that I’d asked for advice for color profiling in Lightroom, all their help references pointed me to tutorials on how to prep the book using Photoshop CS6 and Adobe InDesign. I was so frustrated – how could it be that a company whose book module is built right into Lightoom has absolutely no tech support available for how to actually get accurate color using the Lightroom Book Module?!?!?
It seemed possible I’d need to use a more expensive book printer. That would sadly put the cost of creating a wedding album book too high to offer to my clients at a price they’d be willing to pay, let alone allowing me to make any profit for my many hours of work on the book.
I couldn’t imagine that there isn’t a way to get good quality books from Blurb directly from Lightroom. I mean, Blurb and Adobe have partnered up and Blurb even advertises the sales of Lightroom on their website. So sad that Blurb’s tech support is still so very far behind this seemingly dreamy Adobe-Blurb partnership. I was on my own to find the best way to get good results…
I turned to the Photoshop Lightroom forum. I wanted to get the best advice on creating a wedding album book, with accurate color, directly in the Adobe Lightroom 5 Blurb Book Module. After a few different search parameters, I landed on this Photoshop Lightroom forum specifically discussing the topic (link follows below this screen capture):
Boy of boy, let me tell you, was that the beginning of a long week of trying to sift through all the advice. More technical advice than many would be willing to read, but I was determined…
Between the advice from Blurb and what I read on this forum, I started to become overwhelmed that there was no point to even having the Blurb Book Module within Lightroom, since it can’t handle Blurb’s CYMK color printing process.
It seemed likely that if I wanted to get good color in Blurb books, I’d need to download their ICC color profile, individually softproof all my photos in Photoshop CS6 (which I didn’t want to do, since I work in Lightroom). It also seemed I’d be best off creating the book in Adobe InDesign, which I didn’t want to have to learn how to use. I mean, one of the main reasons I upgraded to the newest version of Lightroom was to get the built-in Blurb Book Module feature. Now I was disheartened to learn it might be useless.
But after sifting through a week’s worth of advice from a lot of people, I came to these conclusions:
1 – There is no point in downloading and using Blub’s “supposed” ICC Color Profile, no matter what software or workflow you use. The reason is that, based on all I’ve read in the Photoshop Lightroom forums, it is a bogus and basically generic profile which is not specific for the various paper choices Blurb offers. Thus, the idea that it is a custom color profile for whatever paper my particular book would be printed on is a farce. So no point…
2 – It seemed that I could do a ton of work and softproof all the wedding photos within Photoshop to the Blub ICC profile, all for no reason, due to the fact stated above in #1.
3 – It also seemed a colossal waste of time to softproof all my images anyhow, given that I do not have a wide gamut display and, as someone on the Lightroom forum pointed out, what I am seeing on my computer display is sRGB anyhow. So spending time softproofing did not seem worth the time.
4 – I read many people’s advice about what color working space they use to upload directly to Blurb from Lightroom’s Book Module, given that Blurb prints in CYMK and Lightroom can’t read CYMK images files. One person advised that they use RAW files in ProPhoto RGB; others seemed to think submitting Adobe 98 RGB was the best.
What none of these took into consideration was that, no matter what you do, if you upload the book from within the Lightroom Book Module, the files will automatically be converted to sRGB JPEGs upon uploading them.
This is the exact same process which occurs if you create a Blurb book using the downloadable Blurb BookSmart application, rather than Lightroom; both convert the uploaded images to sRGB, which is then used to be run through the CYMK printing process.
5 – For this reason, I decided to actually create my book using high resolution sRGB JPEGs. I wanted the book I created to be using the same working color space as the images would become when uploaded. Thus I proofed the book by creating a Smart Collection of sRGB JPEGs, which were all the photos flagged as “picks” to appear in the wedding album book I was creating. This smart collection of sRGB JPEGs is the set of images I brought into the Book Module to create the book.
6 – I created and proofed the book within the Lightroom Book Module, making any adjustments to the images right there from within the book module, which I really loved being able to do.
I was able to select any photo in my book layout, click <Develop> to make desired adjustments, and then simply select the <Book> module again to see if the changes looked as I desired within the book. This was especially helpful to tweak photos which appeared on the same page together, to adjust exposures, vignettes, etc. so the photos looked similar in the book layout.
Here is an example of a two-page spread which I found it helpful to tweak the develop settings right there within the book module, so that all the photos on those pages had similar color, exposure, and vignettes:
7 – Once the album book was all laid out in the book module, before I was ready to order, I color profiled my display.
I used my X-Rite ColorMunki, set to a luminance target of 100, which has consistently worked very well for me to get prints which identically match what I saw on my display every time. I crossed my fingers that it would work for a Blurb book also.
8 – Then, with my display freshly color calibrated, I went through the entire smart collection and judged them again with a very discerning eye from within the book layout. I double checked for exposure, with particular attention to watching out for images which might print too dark, and I analyzed each photo for black clipping. I was careful not to eliminate black clipping which I really desired to keep, such as the bride’s father’s black cowboy suit, or in other photos where I intentionally left the background with shadowed black clipping, to keep the focus on the people, not the background.
9 – On the freshly color calibrated display, I also made a note of a few images which had color which might be “out-of-gamut” paying particular attention to several people wearing turquoise, and also the bride’s red umbrella. That umbrella had to be right in the album, as it had become the icon of their “Wedding with the 100 Year Flood Story Behind It.” I tweaked each photo I was concerned about to make it the best it could be, using the Develop tab from right there within the book module.
10 – Last, prior to ordering, I set Lightroom’s book module to create a PDF and I saved it to my computer. Here is a screen capture showing the settings I used to create the test PDF (note the Book Setting at the top right is set to PDF):
After about an hour, I had a PDF proof to analyze and I was very happy with what I saw in the PDF – it looked exactly as the photos had looked when I was proofing them on my display. The full album test PDF is too large to upload here, but a link to the finished album will follow later. For now, here is the test PDF file for the cover which I created directly in Lightroom (be patient, the PDF will take a bit of time to load completely, including the text graphics):
11 – Once I was happy with the PDF, I was going to order a test book created using only a few photos with the most likely out-of-gamut colors, but I was feeling lucky! Sooooo…..
I took the plunge and ordered the full 80 page book. In fact, I ordered not just a copy for the bride and groom, but an extra copy for myself, to use as a marketing portfolio piece. I figured that if the books turned out awful, I’d insist Blurb reprint them. So I set Lightroom to “Upload to Blurb” (note on the screen capture below that the Book Setting at the top right is set to Blurb). My 80 page book uploaded in about an hour.
12 – I chose the “Premium Lustre” paper option, partly because it would keep the cost to where I could meet the price I’d offered my clients and still make a decent profit. I also chose the Premium Lustre rather than the more “professional” Pro Line Lustre because the samples on the Blurb website with the Pro Line Lustre actually had a bit too much glare for my taste. Although the Pro Line is a heavier paper, I decided the Premium Lustre was a good happy medium – thicker and glossier than the standard, but less expensive and less prone to glare than the Pro Line Lustre. After the upload to Blurb, I added Pro Line Charcoal end papers (nice touch) and specified two copies of the book.
13 – I also paid $4.99 for a PDF download. I did this even though I’d already created a PDF within Lightroom because I wanted to see what came back after the upload to Blurb. I have to say, I was very pleased with the PDF which I downloaded from Blurb immediately after uploading my order and I became really excited to see the printed books!
14 – My order was promised within 10 days (the most affordable turn around time). I was very pleasantly surprised that my books arrived in 5 days and I was stunned with the results! DARNED NEAR PERFECT!
Poetically, the books arrived on Valentine’s Day, so I was able to present the bride and groom their copy as a “Happy First Married Valentine’s Day” surprise tucked inside their front storm door. They hadn’t even known I’d placed the order yet, so it was fun to surprise them like this!
15 – I was so happy with the results that I had to laugh at just how much stress I’d put myself through prior to deciding to place the order. I came to the conclusion that sometimes, we might just take ourselves a bit too seriously as professional photographers.
Granted, if I were creating a fine art landscape photography book for public distribution and sales, I might choose a more high end printer. But for the average wedding or family portrait clients, I can’t imagine needing to go with a more expensive book printer.
I can’t say there weren’t some very minor differences with color and darkness, but when I say minor, I mean so minor that no average client or even most very savvy clients would notice.
Regarding concerns with out-of-gamut colors, I was pleasantly surprised. The bride’s turquoise earrings look just like they really looked; her vibrant red umbrella printed as the exact shade of red it really was. All this worry about color profiles and out-of-gamut colors seemed a lot of worry for nothing. I truly love the results I got.
16 – Most importantly, the bride and groom love the results. To quote the groom, “The album book is just amazing ~ better than we could have possibly imagined it would turn out!” I couldn’t have put it better. 🙂
To summarize the process I followed for a great finished Blurb book, based on my experience, I recommend:
1 – Create and proof the book within the Book Module using images which have already been exported as sRGB JPEGs into a smart collection. Use that collection to bring the images into the Book Module, so what you are seeing is exactly what will be uploaded to Blurb.
2 – Use a professional quality color calibrator, such as an X-Rite ColorMunki or one of the many other high quality devices out there. If you wish to learn why I use ColorMunki, read my ColorMunki Review. Whatever device you use, be sure to calibrate your display one last time, immediately before making any final edits to the images in your book. Be sure your images are as perfect as you can get them, paying close attention to shadows, black clipping, and colors which are most likely to fall out-of-gamut.
3 – Create a Test PDF within Lightroom first and see if you’re happy with the PDF result. If you are, take the plunge and upload the book to Blurb directly from the Book Module. I figure the worst that can happen is, if you aren’t happy with your results, you send the book back and tell Blurb you are dissatisfied with it. From all I’ve read, they have remade orders for everyone I read about who said they were not happy with the first printing, and they were satisfied by the second printing.
If you wish to see the book I created, and just sold for $250 (YAY!), see my online preview of the entire book on my Blurb account at this link:
Sooooooo….. if you’re agonizing over how to get a decently priced Blurb book, with accurate color, from directly within Lightroom, give it a try.
The great news is Blurb gives Lightroom users a 25% discount on the first book order they upload directly from Lightroom. This is why I took the chance and ordered not just a test copy, and not even just the full 80 page book, but actually ordered two full copies: one for the bride and groom and one for me. It would have been a shame to waste that first-time Lightroom 25% discount on a short “test book” so I’m glad I took the chance and ordered two. The discount really made that promotional portfolio copy affordable for me!
Hopefully, you’ll be as happy as I was on the first printing. I couldn’t be happier and I believe Blurb books are a very high quality product for the price range they offer. This is a huge relief, given how convenient it is to create Blurb books directly within Photoshop Lightroom.
So go for it, and let me know how creating Blurb books in Lightroom’s Book Module works out for you!
As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images