Making an Instagram Book Just Got Easier

There are a billion ways to turn your Instagram images into books. Some are easier or more convenient than others, but if you're a control freak, you like things done a certain way. So awhile ago I wrote a big ol' post about exactly how to turn your instagram photos into a book, and have used the process to make four volumes of books containing roughly 1000 instagrammed images. They are awesome (if I do say so myself). Here's a photo of all four books: insta01

(They're made by Blurb. You can use this link to save $20 on your own bit of blurb/instagram awesomeness.)

The only part of the process that I've been less than 100% satisfied with is collecting the Instagrammed images. Up until now, I've been downloading my entire archive (from InstaArchive), then separating the photos that I've added since making my last book so I can include the newer ones in the new book. Not a huge pain, but not as convenient as it seems like it should be.

Happily, I've since discovered the IfThisThenThat website. It allows you to set up what they call "recipes" which are like little formulas that can do awesome things—like archive your own Instagram photos for you. In my case, I set it up so that every time I post a new image to Instagram, my IFTTT recipe will grab the photo and put a copy of it in a designated DropBox folder for me. Score! My set up looks like this:


Now, every time I'm ready to make a new book (I do so about every 250 images), I don't have to sift through my whole archive to find the new stuff. I just download them from my DropBox! When I'm done, I empty the DropBox folder, and I'm all set to start shoot for my next  book!

For the step-by-step on the whole process, check out my earlier post.

Have fun!

How to Turn Your Instagram Photos into a Custom Printed Book

*** This post has been updated to make it even more awesome! *** Let's be real.

I appreciate scrap booked labors of love as much as the next gal, but honestly, if my future (yet-to-be-conceived) children are to have any chance of having their memories live on in an analog format, I can't carry on with the fantasy that someday I'll make scrap booking a regular part of my life. Maybe for a special gift, but definitely not a monthly/yearly thing.

Thankfully, I found a painless alternative.

I've been stewing about how I can make it easy to make sure that our family memories (and bits of daily life) have a life beyond a dusty ol' pile of hard drives.

(This is one of my favorite What the Duck comic strips by the genius Aaron Johnson)

I generally recommend that each time you download photos (whether from your phone, or your "real camera"), pick your 10-20 favorites and order some prints. When they come, just drop them in a photo storage box. Getting fancy with glue and scissors is nice, but totally not required.

Of course, if you're like me, as diligent as I am with taking care of client images, when it comes to my own personal photos—I'm lucky if I download them 3 or 4 times per year. In fact, I've gotten to the point where—like lots of folks—most of the time, the only camera I have with me is my phone.

And the most action my personal photos ever see is if they happen to get posted online via Instagram, etc. So it made the most sense to find a way to make a book from my Instagram images.

And since sifting through my entire photo collection in search of the images I happened to post to Instagram is not likely to happen (like trying to find a needle in a haystack), I was on a mission to find a better way.

Enter Blurb. There are a lot of book-making solutions out there (especially when it comes to Instagram and other social photo sharing sites), but many leave much to be desired in terms of design flexibility, ease of use, and product quality.

Having been a Blurb fan for years, I already knew that I wanted them to print my books, but the online tool they provide for printing your Instagram images has some sort of bug that jumbles the images out of order if you try to add more than the default of 52. And since I was planning to include roughly 250 images, this was a serious concern. (This is really too bad, as otherwise this tool would be so great!)

Blurb also makes a book plug-in for Lightroom, but after playing around with it for awhile, though the interior page layout options had what I wanted (a single square image per page), I found the cover layout and material options to be limiting (compared to the choices Blurb offers elsewhere) and ultimately I wasn't able to cobble together the book in the specific way I wanted. So, I turned my attention back to Blurb's free desktop application (called BookSmart).

Here's the Step-by-Step

  1. Download your photos from Instagram. You can use something like InstaArchive to download a .zip file of your entire collection. After you make your first book, I suggest creating a recipe with IfThisThenThat ( so you can have your instagrammed images sent to your DropBox Account where they'll already be waiting for you in a nice organized folder (this is my favorite method). Unfortunately, they'll only be sized to 612px x 612px. Don't panic. We'll deal with this in step 3.
  2. Sort and renumber the files. Use Bridge or Lightroom (or whatever works) to renumber the images. They should already appear within Bridge in chronological order, but if with long goofy file names, there can sometimes be problems with file order, so I always make sure to renumber.
  3. Batch upsize them. Bummer that the archived or DropBoxed images from Instagram are so low res. (it will be ok, breathe!) Use a quality plug-in to scale them up without tearing a hole in the universe. I use Alien Skin's Lightroom plug-in called Blow-Up (they have a free trial as well as a verion of the plug-in for Photoshop). I size my images big enough to print 4x4 @300ppi (1200 x 1200 pixels).
  4. Decide on a page layout. Choose one of the existing layouts in Blurb's desktop application and drop in your images. Or, for more control—build your own layout.

    I wanted a single image per page with plenty of white space around it, so I wrote a Photoshop action to build out each 4x4 image with a nice white background to fill out a 7x7 page. You can write your own, or download my custom action here (for a 7x7 book). Then batch run the action on the whole folder via Bridge.

  5. Design a cover. You could use InDesign (recommended), Photoshop, or do it directly in BookSmart (Blurb's free desktop application). I'm a control freak who wants a consistent cover design for all my books, so I designed accordingly (using InDesign) and will swap the images (and colors) with each "edition." I also included a place for volume/date information to note the time span for each book. For example, Vol. One reflects the fall of 2011 through the spring of 2012. Additionally, I included a photo of both Emir and I on the back to quickly document how we change over time. In the future, that image be a whole family photo. If you have InDesign CS4 or newer, you can download my front/back cover InDesign templates here. Drop in your own photos, edit the text, and export to jpg.
  6. Put it all together in Blurb's BookSmart. It's easy to load the photos, select them all, then drag and drop onto the first blank page and you'll see the rest will auto-complete, building your book in minutes, no matter how many pages you have. (Their limit is around 284 pages or so, so if you have more than that, plan to split it across multiple books.)


 PS: Save 20% on your Blurb books through Dec. 8th with the code ANY20

Making Time for Creativity

One of the mistakes I made early in my business, was forgetting to budget time into my schedule for myself to recharge, recalibrate, and dare I say it—relax. I was shooting like a maniac on every day of the week, with multiple sessions per day and one or two weddings every weekend. Ba—nanas.

This went on for about three years before I finally got my act together. When I think back to that time, I still can't quite figure out how I managed to hold it all together, but I'm grateful that I was able to grow from the experience.

These days, I have a much better grip on things and regularly make it a point to give myself lots of breathing room for all kinds of passion projects—photo related and otherwise. While it's not always easy to look at your calendar and simply draw a big ol' line through days, weeks, or even months at a time, it's one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. The payoffs can come in the form of increased focus, new and expanded ideas, and of course—creativity.

Recharging my batteries also means that I'll have more time, attention, and energy to devote to clients, enabling me to provide them with the best possible experience.

Like most things, if you don't allocate time for "taking time off," it's unlikely to happen. With this in mind, I've blocked out the rest of 2012 to devote time to several writing projects, travel, teaching, and hopefully—lots of nephew squeezing. :) I look forward to sharing my adventures along the way!

Before you go, check out this TED Talk from Stefan Sagmeister who shares the value he's found in routinely taking an entire year "off."

Mentee: James

Of all the fabulous folks I've had the pleasure of providing photographic mentoring to, James is certainly the youngest. He's an amazing young man whose excitement for photography is hard to miss. We've been working together for quite some time and the improvements he's made in his images is notable... and of course, above that.... he's having a blast (definitely a key component). :) I recently caught up with James and his sister Catherine for a shoot to commemorate his senior year as well as to provide some additional hands-on shooting experience with his sister as the lovely and cooperative subject. Nice work guys!

For the Crown!

For the past three years, I've had not only the honor of photographing various Mrs. Nebraska contestants, but have actually been fortunate enough to photograph the winner each of those three years! This year's glamorous crown holder is none other than Jennifer Hart. She arrived with several jaw dropping gowns from the exceptional Omaha shop, The Winning Crown Boutique (owned and operated by past Mrs. Nebraska winner, Michele Strom). This one was my favorite. She looked like a living, breathing water-color painting! 1241


Gorgeous as usual Jennifer! Best wishes at nationals!

Just Because...

Because you can. Because it's fun. Because tomorrow is Tuesday (or... as I write this, tomorrow is Sunday). Andy called me up (actually, he emailed me....) and asked me to book a shoot as a b-day surprise for his sweetheart. These two cutie pies are young college pups who just wanted to have some radtastic photos together. That's about as much 'because' as ya really need. Way to rock it out you two!

(ummmm.... is she super model gorgeous, or what!?)


Lovin' that scarf! I also was touched by the incredibly gentle way Andy has about him. He is an ever doting boyfriend. Always sure to open doors, etc.... appears that he is quite smitten!


and the shoes.... ;)


Their 'just because' shoot took us to a carousel. Color me excited! That was a welcomed surprise!


Andy had some very definite ideas about what he wanted.... here's my loose interpretation of one of them.


Cute as a button!


You two are adorable. Thank you so much for thinking of me for such a great shoot!

Band of Brothers

Way back when.... I had the honor of photographing Myke's senior photos. This time, he came back for a few fun shots with his older brother Benji. What a pair these two are!

I *love* this photo. So funny that all you see of Benji is his arm! Ha ha!

Benji is studying music at Hastings College. I love the way you can 'feel' his laughter in this shot! (That purple shirt is AWESOME btw!)

A red tie.... naturally deserved some attention from the camera....

Here's Myke proving he's still got the moves that rocked his senior session last spring...

You two are a blast! Thanks for taking time out of your busy holiday schedule to come and visit!

Emir is on a Roll!

Emir has been busy putting the camera I bought him for an early (super early!) birthday present to good use. He shot my cousin's wedding in Miami with it. He took it to the polls to document Tuesday's election. On Halloween, he even took it downtown and shot images of party goers in their costumes!

Today, he took it with him to the office and shot this image of fellow designer, Ryan. Great job sweet thing!

Springboard: Kipper

Look out world! Kipper is large and in charge. A few weeks ago Kipper came over for a Springboard photo shoot.

We headed out about the town and had quite the adventure. We ran into a little snag trying to figure out how to tie the neck tie (I will admit I'm yet to learn), and ended up asking random passersby on the street. After numerous failed attempts, a gentleman at a downtown barber shop finally rescued us. I knew he'd know how to tie one!

Look at him workin' it!

Spider man!

I LOVE this shot!

I love how he can be silly.....

and serious. Way to go Kipper!

I hope you had fun Kipper... I know I did! Great work!

More Springboard Gals

Robin came back a few weeks ago with two more Springboard gals for some fun portfolio photos. Here's Lauren & Mercedes rockin' the lens. :) They did such a great job!

I love the scarves, hats, sunglasses, and cowgirl boots they brought. When planning wardrobe for your shoot.... don't overlook accessories... they can make such a difference!

I love these two! (above + below). Proof that a great photo doesn't require a big huge grin... sometimes subtlety speaks volumns....

DrAmA! Love it.

Mercedes was rockin' the 'arms behind the head' move. :)

Nice work ladies!