After looking at numerous online photo book printers for a wedding album which I created for two clients of mine I decided on Bob Books, but the lack of solid user reviews with pretty pictures fully illustrated images to boot to help make my decision was an issue… so after using Bob Books I decided to write my own!
Firstly, my fundamental approach to wedding photography is the final physical photo album is king, far more important than having every single shot on a CD and a super album published on your Facebook page…. but with the digital age and me just experimenting as to where I want this wedding stuff to go; I happily accommodate all requests from the bride and groom, I love the instant feedback from all the family/guests when the pictures are published online – but the album is still king, and shall remain so purely for the sole fact that images look a thousand times better in print. Even your holiday snaps on 4×6 will look better when you flick though them, not click-through them!
What I wanted in a printed photo album was high quality printing, great paper, a lay flat bind and something a little more extra than the ‘standard’ photo album which you can get at most online photo labs and supermarkets these days. Nothing wrong with these, but not special enough for a keep sake, and the wedding album needs to last at least until the bride can show it to her children when they are getting married, so we’re talking 20-30 years life to not fade or become loose in the spine (that’s the book, not the bride!!).
So after a lot of research and homework I settle on Bob Books http://www.bobbooks.co.uk/. And more specifically their Photographic option photobook which is not printed but developed onto 300gsm photo paper and then bonded in a way which allows for a full ‘lay flat’ design on each page, allowing for images to cross the center line and not lose anyone in the center gutter. It’s more pricier than your average book, but the added cost is worth it for the improved paper and bind which will last the test of time much better. All the nitty-gritty can be seen here.. http://www.bobbooks.co.uk/faq/photobooks.html#how-its-made
I will touch briefly on the design software, which you can download for free and is needed to use Bob Books, as they only accept books created in this application (no pdf’s, psd’s etc). The software is very good and easy to use, if a little quirky and clunky in some of the finer details. It has plenty of options to customise your book, has a good grid layout which you can fine tune to 1mm if you want everything to be in alignment perfect like me, and you can also design the pages yourself in an external editor and import the pages (tiff or jpg) as full-page spreads. I would advise getting the Pro version which by the looks of it only removes a Bob Books logo on the final blank page.
So after designing the book using the Bob Books software and sending it off, one week later (site quotes 1-2 weeks) it arrived back, sealed and packaged up in a strong cardboard book envelope. And there it is… in all it’s glory.
My first impressions of the book was how thick it was, really thick and solid-looking, more impressive than what I was expecting, and I suspect this has a lot to do with the 74 pages of 300gsm paper used!
Then was the quality of the cover, which is a standard glossy hard back cover that you can have created much like any of the other pages. The cover is stiff enough, well wrapped and the quality of the print very good. The gloss finish looks good, which I have tried to capture in the image below:
Spine of the book looks good and the binding system looks professional and solid. Overall the first impressions were great, and as my fiance said… “it looks just like a real book”… so can’t be bad!
Onto the inside of the book, full of 74 pages (sides) of beautiful 300gsm weight photo paper we have the finished glorious album. The paper is much higher quality than your average photo book paper, with a slight texture to it and a pearl gloss to it. It’s thick enough to “feel” more impressive, but not too thick that it feels stiff. It’s difficult to capture how this looks, but trust me, it just looks and feels “right”.
Print quality is just superb and the book really makes your images look superb! Colours are recreated perfect and there are no issues with shadows being lost or highlighted areas becoming washed out. From my PC screen to the final print I am very happy with the colour reproduction. Full page images look fantastic and the fact the book pages lay flat allows for all of the image on a single page to be seen. Double page spreads also look fantastic, with little image quality loss from my Canon 40D files (which the software warns you about anyhow when you add images which have a resolution which is too low for optimal prints). Another bonus that the pages lay flat is you can have images overlap the centre spine and there is no image loss in the gutter, which gives you more flexibility when designing the layouts and you can have single images lap over to the next page.
Print layout is almost 100% accurate as far as measurements and bleed area compared to the software representation of the page edge. Where I positioned images in the software to just fit people in – squeezing in their feet and heads onto the height of the page – the printed page reflects this, not cutting off any hair lines and again gives me the confidence to create better layouts.
Final page is a blank page with a small bar code, and the back cover also has a small bar code printed on it.
If you are going to use these for professional services, the bar code is minimal and does not detract from the final image. Initially the final blank page was a surprise to me, as it doesn’t state that this page will be there. I am assuming if you use the non-pro version of their software this is where their logo would go? But after thinking about it, this last page protects the final image page from the cardboard book cover, so it’s a benefit it is there.
The real clever part to these books, which I have touched on briefly before, is the lay flat binding, which allows the pages to be… err… laid flat.. dur! This is one of the main reasons I chose Bob Books and the Photographic option, and it’s totally worth the money!!
Instead of all the pages stuck to the spine, and you loosing a couple of centimeters per page in the gutter, it lays each page flat. As you turn the pages they all lay flat. Full page images are full-page, and double page spreads lose nothing in the gutter. You can put someone’s face near to the crease and you can still see them. Again, a bonus when designing the layouts giving you better flexibility when positioning images.
Overall I am incredibly satisfied with the whole product from start to finish. Bob Books provides a great service, and their Photographic option for their books is just fantastic in terms of quality, finish and cost. If you are looking into finding a semi professional binding service for wedding albums, photo books etc, or just want the best possible quality printing you cannot go wrong with Bob Books! I will definitely use them again for future projects and cannot recommend then enough!
Only one request to Bob Books would be to have some kind of optional book cover/wallet additional extra to store the book in. As a wedding album service, the only thing missing is something to put the book in to protect it when not being looked at and in storage. I have seen this option at other sites, and it would be a nice addition.
Oh, and if you search on Google, there are a few coupon codes which give you some money off the final price, even better!!