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Unless you're a famous photographer, your photo book will probably be more successful if it is arranged around a strong theme, rather than a greatest hits monograph. So when making a shortlist of photos to include, think about the themes of your work. You can spark ideas for thematic grouping by looking at the work of others. You may over a period of time also notice that some themes emerge organically. I find that by keywording images, themes in my work that I hadn't even known were there begin to emerge. Over a period of time I might only half knowingly amass a group of images around a theme.
It can sometimes be surprising to revisit my keyword list and find that I have 10, 20 or more images tagged with the same keyword. Bridge and Lightroom are very useful tools for making short lists of images. They allow you to stack photos, make pics, filter your view, and batch rename your images to lock in a particular image sequence. Once you have decided upon a theme, you should determine the criteria for including photos in your short list. Firstly, do the photos fit the theme? As hard as it may be to leave them out, photos that are off topic must be excluded, no matter how good they are. Secondly, are the photos good enough? Both aesthetically in terms of focus and composition but also technically in terms of resolution or pixels per inch. While you can in some cases get by with slightly less, ideally you want an image resolution of 300ppi or pixels-per-inch.
You can use Bridge to view the images' metadata and find out the images' dimensions in pixels. Dividing this number by 300 will give you a quick estimate of its potential maximum image size at optimum output. Thirdly, do the images belong together? Are they all in color or black and white? Mixing the two can be tricky. Do they fit the same mood? For example, are they all interior shots or exterior shots? Are they all day shots or night shots? When it comes to telling a story, consider the narrative flow of the pictures.
If your book is about a time-based event, then the shooting order will largely determine the order of the photos. But even here, you will probably want to make exceptions from a strict chronology. Some images will naturally complement others, either because of their subject, color palette, or mood. And may work better arranged on facing pages. Consider the rhythm of the images. Your rhythm may be a completely consistent one with all the images at the same size and at the same location on each page. Or your rhythm may employ contrasting scales for visual interest and punctuation.
It's also worth mentioning that the images that best fit the theme will not necessarily be your best images. To round out a theme, perhaps by pairing close-up detail shots with long-range views, you may end up choosing images which, by themselves, are less than stellar. Keep in mind data is the some of the parts that is most important. And throughout the process of making your short list don't loose sight at the fact that what you leave out can be as important as what you choose to include.
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