I printed my first full Blurb photo book recently. I'm one of the Texas Stars' photographers and the team finished a stellar season back in June. The guys won the AHL's highest prize, the Calder Cup! As a tribute to the team's success, I wanted to do something special for them with my photos. This book is a long photo essay that tells the story of their journey from training camp to victory in the Calder Cup championship in the 2013-2014 season.
It wasn't easy selecting photos and a layout for the book. There were so many moments that I wanted to share and I certainly didn't want to leave anyone out. Many hours were spent culling photos from the entire season. I tried to come up with a layout that would maximize the number of photos without looking cluttered. The result was a 60 page 11x13" landscape book printed on premium lustre paper. Most pages contain 6 images, with a few full page shots sprinkled throughout. The story of the championship season is all crammed in there as I saw it happen through my lens - the many victories, the few defeats, the training, the camaraderie, the joy, the pain, and the passion.
The book was laid out in Lightroom. I did this for convenience and price. Being that this was my first Blurb book created in Lightroom I got a 25% discount. It easy for me to prepare the book since I had put all my image picks into a collection. I just had to select a template for each page and drag images from the Lightroom collection. I was working with hundreds of images and it was nice that Lightroom indicated when an image had been used in the book and how many times. This helped me prevent duplicates. The only negative thing about using Lightroom is that there was no way to soft proof the images since Blurb's CMYK ICC profile does not work in Lightroom. I spot checked a few images in Photoshop using Blurb's profile and otherwise soft proofed with sRGB in Lightroom on my calibrated monitor. Since Blurb's ICC profile is generic and not specific to any of the papers they use, I'm not sure how accurate you can be with it anyway. A solid color proofing workflow seems to be one of Blurb's weaknesses.
The process of creating the book was painless and actually kind of fun. The variety of template pages built into Lightroom worked well for my purposes. One nice thing about using Lightroom was that I was working directly off of my original raw files and my Lightroom develop settings. Appropriately sized JPEG files in the sRGB color space were automatically created and uploaded to Blurb once I completed my layout and image adjustments and submitted my book directly from Lightroom.
After a little over a week, I had my finished book. How did it turn out? Overall, I'm quite happy with it. The quality of the book's binding looks great. The paper is decent quality but it isn't a very heavy stock and there isn't much of a tactile feel in the texture. Next time I'd be tempted to upgrade to Blurb's Proline paper to see if I like it better. The images are sufficiently bright and crisp with good contrast. There is a very faint tinge of cyan color cast - not enough to be a huge concern and I didn't expect any better without more precise color management control. I'm particularly forgiving in this situation because I know the color in my hockey photos isn't 100% accurate due to the type of lighting used at the rink. White balance literally changes shot to shot out there (welcome to my hell.)
For a one-off book of 60 pages I'm happy with the result at this price point. There is no way I'd get better quality or more precise color control without spending considerably more. Blurb is definitely a bargain for a book of this nature.
Special thanks to Alisa, Graphic Designer of the Texas Stars, for the cover layout!