Friday, November 17, 2017

Blurb Trade Books

I've done a fair number of "trade books" on blurb, with mainly black and white photography. They're cheap as anything. I have successfully learned two (2) things.

The first is to be aware that pictures (especially masses of black) will tend to show through, especially with the bargain paper. Be a little cognizant of that, and consider your layouts appropriately.

The second is that the blacks are weak and it can be a bit disappointing if you do black and white with large masses of blacks.. It's not like they're grey or anything, but they're weak. So, first of all, make sure you have beefy blacks. If you "crush the blacks" as they say, starting from slightly open and airy looking darker tones, you're going to get a greyish mist instead of a photograph.

In order to get a picture that reads more or less normally, I push the very darkest tones down, and lift the darker greys (the ones right above the darkest ones) up a little to shove some contrast down into the darker areas, and then I tack everything else in place. This is all in a curves adjustment tool of your choice, and it looks a bit like this:

The result will look terrible on screen, with plugged up shadows and whatnot. Don't you worry, those are gonna open right back up. The result reads pretty well to me in the final print. The blacks, while weak, still read OK. There's nothing to be done about the narrow tonal range available, but you can fool the eye as it were, to a degree.

If you print "straight" you will wind up with a bit of that "crushed blacks" look, with the slightly "open" darkest tones. Which might be what you're looking for. If you're a weirdo.

Why "crushed" blacks means "lightened" I do not know, but there it is.


  1. I just did a small Trade Book and totally agree with Andrew. I even used the cheapest paper, because it is warm toned, and that's what I was after. I did the small 5x8 version because that is the same size as the small saddle-stitched booklets I print on my Epson 3000. The Trade Books are inexpensive, so I think the best way to approach a project with them is to just do it, order one copy, and then make layout and other changes. I guess a lot depends on one's way of working and philosophy towards projects. What I have learned is that if I sit around and fiddle too long with layout and print optimization, I never get around to doing a book, so I just 'do it,' get the proof copy into my hands, look at it for a while, let it sit around, get other peoples comments and then make the changes I think will get me where I want to be. I think it was HCB who never really cared for the fine print, but was only interested in what his photos would look like reproduced in magazines - I am beginning to think that way too because, for one thing, I am running out of wall space to hang prints.

  2. I am encountering a similar problem with the Blurb black and white trade book. I have made the first test with standard BW paper and the sharpness and contrast is not as expected or comparable to the original photographs.

    Have you tried using standard color paper to print black and white photo trade books?