b&w images • blog • project journal


There are a number of ways to approach this. But in the name of being more thorough, I'll work from how I did it. This way I can describe step-by-step with images. The only thing that would make this difficult is to have NOT prepared

by following tips in the previous double-whammy of How-to:

For this project I used Aperture. While iPhoto does let you compose and order books, it just does not have the choices and tools that Aperture offers. There are also on-line services, which can't compare to the Aperture system in simplicity, though some offer Aperture Plugins.

I use Aperture 3.5 for this – when Aperture 4 comes out, I'll note any changes needed…

I – Make sure you are ready

• Before you begin a major Family History Book, you will want to have worked through any of the Companion Pieces that apply, especially Fixing that Family Digital Image Mess and Converting those Old Photos to Digital. Aperture should already be configured to comfortably manage your images weather digital, converted from old pictures or obtained from negative and slide scans. I was working with ALL of these.

• As far as adjusgtments to your images, Aperture is pretty sophistocated. Just get in there and explore. If needed, an image can be opened in another image-manipulating application from withing Aperture, saving it back to Aperture.

• If you make adjustments after an image is placed in the Book, it carries over…

• Quick Convert to B&W is in Book commands for Book only…

• Images can be cropped in the Book for Book only…

• Here's a view of the image work screen:

VIII – PDF Version for iPad / Reader

There is a bonus in the process – a PDF version of the book that can be easily converted into an iPad or reader PDF

and freely given out to anyone. Only a couple of little tricks to learn.

1 – Full print-size PDF of the Book

               As you can see in the images above, the File/Print Book command brings up your Print dialog box. In the bottom/left corner is a PDF button. Pressing this brings up a number of nifty choices. I recommend selecting "Open PDF in Preview".

Not only does this provide an opportunity to double check for anomilies that need correcting, it will still contain blank pages that are needed for the printer to print your book properly – pages you need to delete from the Reader version. In Preview simply select and delete all blank pages and save the PDF to your desktop. Voila, full size printable PDF of your book – mine was 388 megabytes.

2 – iPad / Reader size PDF

               This is a little trickier. I use Adobe Acrobat, in  which it is easy to optimize a PDF to whatever resolution one chooses. If you have Acrobat, go for it. You can also use a little $3.99 app (for Mac) in the App Store called PDF Squeezer. Drag your full size PDF into the window, set the resolution on 300 or 150 and save-as a new title. I find a 300dpi setting reduces a 388 megabyte PDF to less than 120 megabytes – not bad for a quality  PDF for one's iPad. If you want it smaller – only about 36 megabytes – you can set the dpi to 150. Images just won't look quite as good if enlarged beyond screen size.

II – Book Configuration

1 – Click on the + symbol in the top Tool Bar for New/Book

2 – Set Size and Price

     Mamimum thickness for a Hardcover book is 100 pages (or 50 sheets). Since I knew it would take a great deal of effort to get the number of pages I would need down to 100, it was obvious to calculate the price for 100 pages / Hardbound / with Jacket cover / heavy paper and from my experience quality printing. There are smaller sizes, but the two larger book choices are:

                         a) 11x8.5 inches = $109.19 – I use this size for my wife's Painting record books. They are quite striking.

                         b) 13x10 inches =  $169.19 – For this project I chose this size, very scrapbook dimensions and room for lots of images.

I would be ordering four copies, one for ourselves and three for our grown girls and their families for Christmas.

And they come with slipcovers.

3 – Themes

     My gosh are they all awful. Every once in a while one might want something out of a template that can't seem to be generated on a blank page, like those translucent gray rectangles for highlighting text. Simply convert the book to that Theme – button near top left – and copy the element, convert back and paste. Add more via copy/paste within the book (the Gray are in the Special Occasion Theme and the Sepia in the Snapshot Theme).

III – Pages

I advise beginning with all blank pages. BUT, that NOT being an option, I simply select the least invasive theme and delete any template items. From that point on pages can be added by going to the + sign at the bottom of the page thumbnails and clicking on Duplicate or Add New Page. Setting a Master Page is just too rigid. And, since all images placings are adjustable, it doesn't much matter which page anyway.

Notice that there is a tiny black arrow on the top page. Click here to select format for Dust Cover. If you select the Default, the outside edge will come out a white strip. Classy, but if you want text, use the alternative full template.

Page numbering control is in the little Gear Wheel under the thumbnails. Pages can be easily reordered by dragging the thumbnails – numbering adjusta automatically.

IV – Images

1 – Making Images available for the Book

          Select an Album or Smart Album on the left and view in Browser View – this might be 1996 for example. Then Select and Drag images you will be seriously considering for the Book to to the left and Drop on the small Book Icon in the list. They will now appear in the thumbnails below the large image in the Book Split View. These images can be sorted by Date or File Name depending on which type of images you are looking for in there.

     This is probably the most difficult stage – it involves deleting all those non-keepers and selecting key images from what is left. What I found worked was a concentration on selecting fun, interesting pictures rather than worrying about what makes everyone look their formal best – the ones that make you smile.

2 – Putting Images into the Bookmake sure you have selected the Book from the list on the left.

          Click on Edit Content above the Image in Split View • Click on the + sign next to it and select Add Photo Box • Select an image from the thumbnails below and drag it into the Photo Box. Note – if you want the image Full Page, simply skip making a Photo Box and drag the image onto the page.

     Some people might want something of a pattern, I did everything from pages of small images to full-page pictures with smaller images overlapping them. Samples below.

3 – Adjusting the Image

          For Photo Box Aspect Ratio and Photo Box Allignment click on the Book Actions gear button just below the page Thumbnails. Or simply work manually. Double click on the image to enlarge or shrink the image within the box. Y0u can even set exact size in controls just above the Photo Border setting.

4 – Photo Borders

          The control for adding Photo Borders, located just above the Book pages thumbnails, is a little screwy. Using the sizing arrows generates borders beginning at a full quarter inch. I simply type in 0.01 by hand and from that point on copy/paste this setting everywhere. Then the color or shading can be set right there. I find that images look better if set off slightly by a very thin light gray to black line.

5 – Moving Images – Images cannot be dragged from one page to another – but they can be cut and pasted.

6 – Send Backward or Move Forward – Buttons are to the right of Edit Layout – these come in handy if overlapping anything.

7 – Filters

          Just to the left of the Send Backward button is a small set of Filters. Here is where you can set any image to print in your book as B&W or Sepia. Personally I prefer to do my own B&W conversions, but the Sepia works pretty good when needed.    

1 – Making Imgaes available for including in the Book

8 – More:

          •  You will notice that a number in a red dot appears on thumbnails to let you know which images are in the book, and how often.

          •  To get to the thumbnail, click on the image in the Book.

          •  To work on the image from the Book file, simply double click on the thumbnail.

V – Text

1 – Text is a little trickier than images, not difficult but definitely something of a chore if you, like me like the limitations of a set font and a short list of set sizes and styles. You can find these under the "T" next to Edit Layout. Here's my system:

2 – With Edit Layout selected, click on the + sign and Add Text Box. A gargantuan box with a size 50 "INSERT TEXT" will appear.

3 – This is the frustrating part. If you simply put smaller text in there at this point, Aperture will not let you shrink the box. So usizenless you want your text huge, click on the "T" and select any small text format. This will allow the box sixe to be later controlled.

4 – To gain control over the text, press the Command/T keys on the keyboard. The text control box will appear. You can select your font, Italic or Bold, size, etc. right here.

5 – Text allignment commands are under the little Book Actions gear under the page thumbnails.

6 – Don't even think about copy/paste for text boxes. Not happening.

VII – Ordering the Book(s)

A simple matter of clicking on Buy Book top/right of the window. Aperture will generate a 300 dpi PDF file and upload it to the Printer.

You will have your Book(s) in about a week.

Viewing Tip

Mostly with text, but somewhat with images, it is easy to get things much larger than one wants on the page because of viewing smaller than it will be printed. Make sure to have a view setting where you can see the page actual size. With my Display this setting is:

Single Page – you choose double or single page bottom left of large window

Viewer – you select Browser, Split View or Viewer top/right

For those with a smaller Display, there's a little Size Adjustment Slider on the far/bottom/right of the window.

My Book work space – Family Book is selected bottom of List on left. Select any other Album and Aperture instantly exits the Book and reverts to normal mode. There's a lot here so I'll try to point out what everything involved in creating the Book.

For working on images, there's a lot more.

Tool Bar

Browser / Split View / Viewer

Size Slider

Image Thumbnails

List of




Page Thumbnails

Single/Double Page Views

Image Line

Theme Button

Sort By

Page/Text/Image Controls

Edit Content / Edit Layout Controls



Zoom, Show Original, etc.

Browser / Split View / Viewer

A couple of notes:

     • The Spotting Brush is to die for – brush is resized by sliding a finger along the Magic Mouse.

     • Lots of Plug-ins available, some free – just check on line.

     • The only thing I DON'T do in Aperture is my serious B&W work – I move RAW copies out, work in Photoshop and save print files elsewhere.

VI – Test Printing

If you're anything like me, you will want to see test prints of the pages. I did the entire book for editing, and still missed a couple of minor corrections. If you don't have a wide printer, you will just have to print samples on 8.5x11 paper. Better than not at all. Here's what I did:

1 – Using an Epson 1400, I set up a custom paper size at 10x13. The I cut a stack of 10x13 paper. Naturally I knew anything on the outside edges would not print, but this was only a factor with pages containing full-page images.

2 – I would print the even pages, turn them over and print the odd.

3 – The first thing that I noticed when I held the pages together at the inside end is that ALL content needed to be shifted a full 1/4 inch towards the outside of the page (left pages to the left / right pages to the right). This is a result of the binding. Otherwise everything looks way off center in the final Book.

4 – This is when you sit down and make fin-tuning adjustments.

Slipcase – Front of Jacket – Back of Jacket (with shadow of my head - oops)

I opened with my wife's pedigree from her family tree along with her DNA profile. This is followed by early family pictures that also sport additional family tree information and a few pages of her growing up. Then the same for me. Our B&W wedding photos took two pages. There was plenty of room for text and explanations when called for. I wanted this to be my ultimate gift to the family. Every year of family life is represented – from one to three pages each with years noted in top corner. The Book is about evenly split between B&W and Color pages.

Occasionally I would fill the page with a shot and overlay individual photos.

The fact that I first completely organized and readied my images – resulting in the three companion pieces to this how-to – allowed me to spend most of my time and mental effort formatting the Book itself without feeling overwhelmed by the task. Printing sample pages and assembling them with a clamp made a big difference. It allowed my wife to edit and make suggestions and me to make notes on the pages. We went through three of these.

This was a good Christmas…

The Ultimate Family History Book – a Hardbound Book

and Anybody can do it…

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