A Step-by-Step Tutorial on Making Your Own Travel Photography Book

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I’m excited to share with you this tutorial by Mary Coates Smith, author of Touched By China. When I went to China, I did not go there with the intention of publishing a photography book, but after viewing more than 3000 photos I had taken, the stunning beauty and exquisite detail compelled me to create a photography book so that the enjoyment of this unforgettable family trip could come home with me.

Touched By China BookI was also deeply moved by my trip and wanted to use the book as a tool to visually outline the human side of China from a traveler’s perspective. My hope is to dispel common misconceptions about China that keep Westerners from visiting this beautiful country.

Here are some suggestions on how to turn your next family vacation into an enjoyable photo book:

1) Choosing the Right Camera and Accessories.

Choosing the right camera is the first step.

CAMERA: The advantage of digital cameras is that, unlike film, we no longer have to try and ration out the number of photos we take knowing that there will be an expensive development process upon returning home. So I chose to upgrade from my old point and shoot camera to a DSLR (digital single lenses reflex) camera. I opted for the Nikon DC3100.

LENS: I have about five interchangeable lenses but quite frankly the only lenses I carried with me on a daily basis were a standard zoom and a wide-angle. It becomes cumbersome to haul around more than two lenses at a time, so if you decide to upgrade to a DSLR, I would start out with the lens the camera comes with then add one extra lens based on whatever style of photography interests you. For me, that was wide-angle photography.

MEMORY: Make sure you have enough space on your memory cards.  For my 3000 photos, I filled the entire 16 GB and half of an 8 GB.

China NatureBATTERY: Make sure you carry an extra battery. The last thing you want to have happen is to run out of power in the middle of the day. The first thing I did every night back at the hotel is recharge all the batteries.

CAMERA BAG: A DSLR camera is larger and a little heavier than a pocket size point and shoot. As such, a good comfortable camera bag is essential. Mine is very durable, slings over my neck and shoulder and leaves me hands free. I use one of the pockets for personal items. This bag is all I carry. I have become very used to traveling this way and know that when I get home and have the excellent quality photos, it is worth the little extra effort.

2) Shooting Photos.

Now the fun starts.

STORY: When you decide what shots to take, think about what story your photos are telling. I like to take photos that have family members in them and many without. I always try to capture the artistic merit of the subject I am shooting.  Remember your eyes are taking in not only the landscape shot, but all the surrounding details as well. To tell the story of the visit, you need a variety of shots from close to far distance. For example, in my book I have a wonderful shot of a farmer’s market roadside stand but then I also got a close up shot of just the beautiful bamboo basket of vegetables.

China MarketCHILDREN: If you have children on your trip, I would really encourage you to buy them an inexpensive point and shoot digital camera. You will be amazed at the unusual shots they take because they haven’t been programmed yet into thinking there is a right or wrong way. Encourage them to think outside the box of typical shots. Remember you can always delete the shots you don’t like.

3) Developing Photos.

Once you have come home and downloaded your photos onto a disc or drive you will get to relive the trip.

PRINTING: I like to do my own printing.  I have tried various printers and have had the best results with the HP Photosmart. I use the full size 8 x 10” Costco glossy ink jet photo paper. I avoid the thin flimsy brands of photo paper. Your office supply stores also carry other types of photo papers. Using the full sheets lets me decide what size I want to print, everything from 3 x 5”, 5 x 7”, to full sheet. I think there are many advantages to doing your own printing but the ink does get expensive. It is all about choices in life. While someone else might like to spend the same amount on a round of golf, I get a great deal of pleasure using my printer.

China BuildingsTOOLS: I think cropping is the number one tool you can use to enhance your photos. So many times with just a little cropping you can turn an ordinary amateur shot into an interesting professional photo. Once you get comfortable with the software program you choose to use to download and store your photos, you will want to continue to experiment with the various tools they offer.

4)  The Photobook.

I love to share my photos with family and friends but realistically no one is going to want to sit at a screen or go through a photo album with 3000 photos, which is why I created a photo book for TOUCHED BY CHINA.

When readers look through my book, I hope they feel like they have taken “a trip to China” via my photos. The pre-planning phase of my trip played an important role in researching and selecting venues that would have beautiful sights. This is a very high priority for me.

ChinaLike most creative endeavors with practice you get better and better but the enjoyment can start from day one. If you have the interest it just might develop into a passion as it did in my case. Your photos can be an inspiration to create other projects too …such as beautiful greeting cards.

If photography brings you the same enjoyment that it does for me, you may want to expand your knowledge as I did by taking classes at adult education or junior colleges.  Most enrollment is easy and very affordable. The digital world is changing so fast that there is always something new to learn.

You can see a slideshow for TOUCHED BY CHINA here and click here to learn more about Mary & purchase her book.

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  1. Whittling down my vacation photos is always torture. I take 5 pics of any one scene and somehow each one has some unique advantage over the others.

  2. saminder gumer says:

    what a great idea to remember your trips and make sure you document where you have gone. i sometimes forget all my trips and this would be a great way to see them again and let the kids remember as well.

  3. These are some beautiful pictures. Thanks for the great ideas! I like giving your kids a camera. I bet they do come up with some neat ones. We got our son a camera when he was little and he enjoyed it.

  4. wow! what a beautiful trip! i enjoyed the slideshow! great tips on photography too!! =)

  5. Love the pictures! I want to one day have a good camera so I can capture some awesome pictures.

  6. Laura J says:

    Oh I love all your tips and ideas! Those pictures are so beautiful and really do tell a story! Makes you feel like you were there too! We have never done a travel book…but great idea to keep all those memories to look at!

  7. Maria Malaveci says:

    These are wonderful tips & ideas. I love taking pictures, and these books are so nice!

  8. Some great tips here! I agree that cropping is one of the simplest ways a photo can go from good to great.

  9. courtney hennagir says:

    I love taking pictures and have so many that I would love to put into photo books.How great would it be to have shelves full of beautiful photo books?

  10. nicole dz says:

    I love taking pictures with my family when we travel especially. I have so many unorganized pictures. I would love to put them in photo books to have them more securely organized. I always want my photos to tell a story, and yours do this very well!

  11. ellen beck says:

    Those are beautiful photos! 3000 of them are pretty impressive. I am always forgetting a camera and miss so much.

  12. Priscilla S. says:

    I am terrible about remembering to bring an extra battery. So important! Thank you for the tips and I love the idea of chronicling an entire trip in photobook. After a few years you would end up with quite a collection.

  13. Robin Wilson says:

    What a great way to put together memories of your trip! I know that I like to revisit mine.

  14. Amanda Sakovitz says:

    So beautiful, thanks for the tips!

  15. thanks for the great ideas!

  16. Ashleigh Gunter says:

    Definitely bookmarking this so I can refer to it when we go on vacation this summer! Thanks for the post!

  17. Tammy S says:

    These are great tips! My sister is getting married in August and we were talking about doing a photo book for her for a wedding gift. We just didn’t have much of a clue where to start. Now I know that I want the pictures on each page to tell the story. Thanks for all the great info.

  18. Maralea says:

    What great ideas! These photos are beautiful!

  19. Fu allora che il fondo, colorato top diventato il mio modello di moda quello che io vivo ancora da oggi, nella mia pigrizia sartoriale. Il mio semplice gusto significa che poco di quello che Occhiali da sole ray ban 2013 ho indossato è stato memorabile, anche se c’erano preferiti che ho indossato alla morte: tutto in verde smeraldo, il mio colore preferito, specie se di velluto o velluto. (Ma anche quelli smeraldo cavi verdi che ho abbinato con un dolcevita nero bohemien al college.) Un avv

  20. What a helpful post with some gorgeous pics. Thank you for the advice.

  21. These are awesome tips and advice. I just upgraded to a DSLR and we are planning on heading to Disney with my 4 kids ages 6, 5 (tomorrow), 2 and 10 months old next month. I want to take some really good shots for memory books.

  22. sherry butcher says:

    Very good tips, one thing I found is most people forget You Can Not plug in your recharger so do not forget that extra BATTERY. They may not sell the only one you need.

  23. Robin Wilson says:

    So jealous of your trip to be sure! But how wonderful to get to experience all of the wonder and beauty that this world has to offer. The video was amazing! Thanks for sharing

  24. Really great tips! I’ve learned about the bag thing the hard way. The DSLRs are a bit heavy and you don’t really notice until you have to lug them around for a long period of time. Your photos are gorgeous.

  25. Jerry Lafferty says:

    Wow! Some pretty awesome photos! I can tell already the first thing I need to do is upgrade my camera. My kodak easyshare will never do the job. Great tutorial and a great way to sav e those important moments

  26. What gorgeous photos! I usually just order one of those photo books from the online places after a trip to save my memories, but this sounds like so much fun!

  27. My wife and I prefer to go with the portability of our smartphones, which have decent cameras in them. We value making the memories as opposed to snapping lots of photos, but when we see a “Kodak moment,” we usually don’t pass it up.

  28. Your pictures are stunning! I made a photo book of my trip to Patagonia and it came out beautifully. Lasting memories.

  29. I like to download my pics to a computer almost every day. It frees space on the camera card and I can start the editing process if I have time. When I get home it’s not so overwhelming.

  30. These are some amazing pictures! I would love to do this as a gift for my kids when we take our next family vacation. Thanks for the tips!

  31. Cynthia R says:

    I love trip photos, went on a cross country trip by car across fifteen states and took over 3000 pictures, its been hard choosing which ones to put in a book

  32. We are taking the trip of our lifetime next month. I am hoping to somehow get a good camera to be able to document it. I don’t think this opportunity will come around again – so I do need to work it out! Your post really strengthened my resolve to do that.

  33. Betsy Barnes says:

    These photos are great, what a fun hobby, use the photos of places we’ve been and create my own travel books. :)

  34. rebecca shockley says:

    These photo’s are amazing!!! They bring to life the entire photo including all the beautiful tree’s, flower’s and home’s!!!

  35. Heather Hayes Panjon says:

    Great Tips! Such Beautiful Photos, I Love Photography Books!

  36. shelly sawicki lash neuhouser says:

    Very good tips, I’m going to have to use these to help with my “trip” telling!

  37. Richard Hicks says:

    Like the tips. I am only an amateur and always looking for ways to get better photos.

  38. There is nothing better than a good way to store your precious memories. I did this in a smaller version/diary.

  39. Great tips Tesa!

  40. joanna garcia says:

    love the pictures and great tips! i have always wanted to do this !

  41. These pictures make me want to go traveling right now.

  42. Jennifer Marie says:

    I need a good new digital camera. I want my pictures to come out good.

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