Blurb B&W photo books

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bakubo
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Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:36 am

Some of you may remember this thread from 2013 about making photos with Blurb:

viewtopic.php?f=52&t=7473

Last year as an experiment I worked on making my first Blurb book using Lightroom 5.6. I finished it and ordered a copy in August. It is B&W standard landscape (10x8 inches, 25x20 centimeters), softcover, 90 pages, printed on premium lustre paper. My costs for the book are $44 + $23 for standard shipping here to Japan. I got a discount off the regular price because Blurb was having a temporary sale.

After spending about 4 months working on it and then 5-6 weeks waiting to receive it after ordering it I was hoping for it to be pretty good. Well, what shall I say? I am disappointed, especially for the price. Here are 3 photos to illustrate what I see. I tried to adjust these photos to be as close to what I see when I look at the book as I could. I took a photo of the cover and a page in the book that has the same photo. You can see how different they look. I would say the cover is much too contrasty with a too high black point and the photo inside the book has too low contrast with no blacks, just dark gray and a bit of a green cast. Then the last photo is a 100% crop of a close-up of a different photo in the book, but all the photos look the same. Even from a normal viewing distance you can see the newspaper-like or CRT-like pattern. By the way, the cover doesn't have this CRT-like look to it, but all the photos on the pages do.

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I don't think I will order anymore. If the price was cheap, maybe $10 with inexpensive shipping then I would feel differently, but this Blurb book is pretty disappointing to me. Even inexpensive regular photo books at the bookstore are much, much better.

Mine was meant as an experiment that if it had worked out satisfactorily would have resulted in me making several more books over the coming years. As it stands now, I have decided that the current Blurb B&W printing is not worth all my time and effort.

What has your experience been?
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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby pakodominguez » Thu Mar 19, 2015 2:38 pm

Hi Henry,
printing on the digital era is always a challenge (i always share this post on color management: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/27922167)

Do you have a high resolution PDF of the original design to share, so I can give you a better opinion?
The dots you see at close up is the result of the printing technique (digital press). If you want something smoother, you have to find a service that prints inkjet or photo paper.

Files were sRGB or Grayscale? The cover was probably printed on 4 colors, that's why the extra contrast and the blue cast. The pages were probably printed on black only, that give you a neutral BW -but the ink is transparent: the color of the paper will affect the final image. HP is now offering gray ink for BW (indigo digital press) and the result is stunning, but I don't know who is offering this on the photo book world.

Adoramapix have a sale now on photobooks, use coupon code PXSAVE60 expires 3/22 (shipping international is flat rate, 29$ I believe...) -if you take advantage of the offer, PM me with the order #.

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby Birma » Thu Mar 19, 2015 10:41 pm

I can see why you are disappointed Henry :(

Great offer Pako!
Nex 5, Nex 6 (IR), A7M2, A99 and a bunch of lenses.

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Mar 20, 2015 3:06 am

pakodominguez wrote:Hi Henry,
printing on the digital era is always a challenge (i always share this post on color management: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/27922167)


Thank you. I will read that.

pakodominguez wrote:Do you have a high resolution PDF of the original design to share, so I can give you a better opinion?
The dots you see at close up is the result of the printing technique (digital press). If you want something smoother, you have to find a service that prints inkjet or photo paper.


Yes, I did some searching and discovered this poor B&W quality is a characteristic of the HP Indigo printers that Blurb uses. :( Last year before I started on this project I had spent time searching about Blurb photo quality, but later I realized that all the info and opinions I read were about color photos, not B&W photos. After I got this book back I searched again specifically for B&W and discovered some info that also said the quality was not so good.

There are people selling B&W photo books on Blurb and some are at quite high prices. I imagine most buyers are going to be disappointed with the printing quality though. As I said, my cost is $44/book (not including shipping), but for people who sell them then they mark up the price to try and make a profit, sometimes mark it up a lot.

LR can output a pdf instead of sending the book to Blurb and I did that last year to see what it looked like. Looked very good. Photos are generally 3000-3800 pixels for the long dimension. Resolution is not the problem. Take a look at the close-up to see what the Indigo printer produces. As I said, even at a normal viewing distance you can see it and I don't even have young eyes. :)

pakodominguez wrote:Files were sRGB or Grayscale? The cover was probably printed on 4 colors, that's why the extra contrast and the blue cast. The pages were probably printed on black only, that give you a neutral BW -but the ink is transparent: the color of the paper will affect the final image. HP is now offering gray ink for BW (indigo digital press) and the result is stunning, but I don't know who is offering this on the photo book world.


These were all converted to B&W in LR and then the channel mixer and other controls were used. Although there is a slight green cast to all the photos on the pages the main problem is CRT-look and no blacks or contrast. The reason I showed both the cover and the same photo inside is so you can see how different the same photo file looks in two places.

Thanks for the info about the new ink. I will try to find out if Blurb is using it now.

pakodominguez wrote:Adoramapix have a sale now on photobooks, use coupon code PXSAVE60 expires 3/22 (shipping international is flat rate, 29$ I believe...) -if you take advantage of the offer, PM me with the order #.


Thanks, Pako. I may give that a try. I suppose I could just upload the pdf produced by LR? I will have to wait awhile though. We have been here in Japan a year and we are flying back to the States next week. We are very busy and I just don't have time to deal with this now, but later I will look at it again.

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Mar 20, 2015 4:28 am

For others who may be contemplating making a Blurb B&W book here is more info. I read this before I made mine:

How to Prepare Black and White Images for Blurb

http://www.blurb.com/guides/color_management/prep_bw_booksmart

Although the cover is a bit too contrasty it looks a lot better than the photos in the book, IMO. I could in LR make the images have even higher contrast with a higher black point to boot, but then what would the cover look like?

The colorful CRT-like look to the images would not change though no matter what else I did since it is an artifact of the HP Indigo printers, from what I have read.

I meant to post here about my experience a few months ago, but got busy and forgot about it. A few days ago I saw something that reminded me of it though.

By the way, I selected the Premium Lustre paper which is more expensive than the standard paper. There is a slightly more expensive paper called ProLine Pearl Photo that I considered, but I read somewhere that for B&W it was inferior to Premium Lustre.

I suppose it really does depend on your expectations. And for most people expectations are partially determined by price. If your expectations are that you will pay a lot, get sort of like newspaper quality B&W printing, on nice paper then you will be happy. Maybe I am being too harsh. A few minutes ago I took a look at the book again. At a distance it looks pretty good, although the contrast is low with what should be black just gray. Some people like that look. The multi-color CRT-like look though is rather distracting to me. Not what you see in even a cheap magazine.
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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Mar 20, 2015 5:02 am

Birma wrote:I can see why you are disappointed Henry :(


I am posting this for a couple of reasons. It might be good info for someone thinking about making or buying a Blurb B&W book. Also, I am hoping that someone might know of anything that would significantly change the result. Pako has suggested reading the post he linked to and I am reading that. My gut feeling is that with some effort the result might be slightly better, but the limitations of B&W printing with the Indigo printers is the main issue. The new ink Pako mentions though might make a big difference. I will have to check more about that. After I have more time to deal with this maybe I will try to print the pdf using the Adorama service to see how it turns out. In a few days though I will no longer have an address to ship stuff to though and also will not want to carry stuff around like a book while we are traveling. :)

Years ago when I shot film and whenever I made a trip back to see my parents my mother always wanted to see some of my photos. Back then I would sometimes set up the slide projector or more often just show her a photo album of prints. Well, as the years went on and I started shooting digital she almost never got to see my photos even though she wanted to. I would put them on my website and she didn't use a computer and had no internet service at her house. Once or twice I brought my laptop over and showed her some photos and I always planned to make prints and an album after traveling, but my wife and I are nomads these days and would only be around for a few days so it just never got done. She passed away last year. I now wish that I had gone to the trouble to make albums for her or even some of these books. Anyway, that is what initially motivated me to work on this first one last year, but it is not the only reason. Too late for my mother though. :cry:

By the way, this is about someone's photo book with a close-up of a B&W photo. They mention Blurb, but used another service to print. Probably the same Indigo printer though.

http://www.peterscottdavison.com/artifact-uprising-hardcover-photo-book-review/

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:15 am

Here is the photo as it was sent to Blurb (except this one is only 800 pixels on the long side). I would appreciate people's input as to what you see looking at it on your computer and comparing it to the book cover photo and the photo inside the book that I already posted. Pako, you may have insight into this. Thank you.

Image

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby pakodominguez » Fri Mar 20, 2015 2:47 pm

bakubo wrote:For others who may be contemplating making a Blurb B&W book here is more info. I read this before I made mine:

How to Prepare Black and White Images for Blurb

http://www.blurb.com/guides/color_management/prep_bw_booksmart


"Since the book is still printed using four colors (CMYK) the grayscale mode will neither be honored nor produce the best results."

Well, this is not an Indigo issue or sub-performance. It will depend on the press' workflow. I don't know yet (But I need to investigate it because I'm working on an offer for photographers that want to do self-publishing, printing a small amount of books, in the 2000 copies and want to take care of the distribution themselves, mostly artsy work...) how a book made with LR5 looks; how the PDF is composed in case you have sRGB and Grayscale images, and details like that.

Technically, a PDF can contain and honor both color modes (sRGB and Grayscale) -and any Indigo press will be able to recognize what to print 4 color or black only (nobody prints black text on 4 colors...). BTW, in the case of photo related work, you can print 6 colors on the Indigo, adding light-magenta and light-cyan for better gradients -and the quality is noticeable better.

The problem I see (and is a problem that we also face now) is related to the workflow. If the PDF that you are sending get flatten to a jpg-sort of file, everything on your book become sRGB: you will be printing BW images in color process and you can only have a color cast (this is true in press as well as photo paper) Unless the difference is dramatic, you will never notice it because the eye adjust the photograph to the image that you have of the scene (we say that most customers are just color blind...). Any press will prefer to flatten the files in order to avoid dealing with fonts.

Keep in mind that this presses (like us) are dealing 90% of the times with consumers that have no idea of the printing process and, in order to keep prices low, needs to standard the process. Even a working photographer (what they call a "Pro"...) is not necessarily knowledgeable about printing, not are they good book/album designers. A CSR here can finish their shift on tears...

Henry, you think that 40 $ for a photobook is expensive, but it is not. That price it is much better than what you had to pay few years ago for the production of 1 book. The photobooks we make are probably a little more expensive that that if printed on HD glossy or luster paper. If printed on the new Fuji DeepMatte paper, it will cost way more (because this paper cost double that the regular paper).

Quality wise, an Indigo press is pretty good, even for photo work. It has its limitations and you will always get a better photo-quality with the traditional silver-halide or a good Inkjet printer. We do photobooks on silverhalide, and calendars on inkjet. We will be able to offer photobooks on inkjet and digital press (Indigo) by the second half of the year. That will allow us to introduce some beautiful substrates that are not available on silverhalide. If you want the higher quality and just a short run (1 to 20 or so copies of your book) silverhalide is the way to go. Or probably inkjet, depending on the binding you want. If you need 50 to, lets say, 2000 or 3000, Digital press is your best solution. For higher quantity than that, offset.
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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby pakodominguez » Fri Mar 20, 2015 3:05 pm

bakubo wrote:
Birma wrote:I can see why you are disappointed Henry :(


I am posting this for a couple of reasons. It might be good info for someone thinking about making or buying a Blurb B&W book. Also, I am hoping that someone might know of anything that would significantly change the result. Pako has suggested reading the post he linked to and I am reading that.

This reading about color management is what we all need if we want to print out photographs. Just color-calibrating your monitor with a devise is not enough.
bakubo wrote:My gut feeling is that with some effort the result might be slightly better, but the limitations of B&W printing with the Indigo printers is the main issue. The new ink Pako mentions though might make a big difference. I will have to check more about that.
As I told you before, an Indigo press can deliver a better quality than the one you got. I don't know who is offering the gray ink. If we finally got it, it will be for special projects only, at least at the beginning.
bakubo wrote: After I have more time to deal with this maybe I will try to print the pdf using the Adorama service to see how it turns out. In a few days though I will no longer have an address to ship stuff to though and also will not want to carry stuff around like a book while we are traveling. :)
AdoramaPix accept PDF for photobooks only if you have a Pro account (...) but you can re-export your book from LR as JPGs spreads and put it together using the on-line tool (flash-based, you don't need to install anything)
bakubo wrote:Years ago when I shot film and whenever I made a trip back to see my parents my mother always wanted to see some of my photos. Back then I would sometimes set up the slide projector or more often just show her a photo album of prints. Well, as the years went on and I started shooting digital she almost never got to see my photos even though she wanted to. I would put them on my website and she didn't use a computer and had no internet service at her house. Once or twice I brought my laptop over and showed her some photos and I always planned to make prints and an album after traveling, but my wife and I are nomads these days and would only be around for a few days so it just never got done. She passed away last year. I now wish that I had gone to the trouble to make albums for her or even some of these books. Anyway, that is what initially motivated me to work on this first one last year, but it is not the only reason. Too late for my mother though. :cry:
Yep. We are all fully digital now, but a print is still the best way to archive and/or showcase a photograph IMHO
bakubo wrote:By the way, this is about someone's photo book with a close-up of a B&W photo. They mention Blurb, but used another service to print. Probably the same Indigo printer though.

http://www.peterscottdavison.com/artifact-uprising-hardcover-photo-book-review/


Henry: you will always see dots. Bigger or smaller. But any printed image is composed of dots. If you want a more photo-like photobook, you need to order from a service that print on traditional silverhalide paper. Or good inkjet.
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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby pakodominguez » Fri Mar 20, 2015 3:08 pm

bakubo wrote:Here is the photo as it was sent to Blurb (except this one is only 800 pixels on the long side). I would appreciate people's input as to what you see looking at it on your computer and comparing it to the book cover photo and the photo inside the book that I already posted. Pako, you may have insight into this. Thank you.

Image

The file is fine and any well calibrated printer will do a good job with it. I'll need a high resolution file in order to run a test doh...
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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Sat Mar 21, 2015 4:41 am

Thanks, Pako, for all the additional info and your thoughts. You clearly know a lot about this so I appreciate your comments. I think that later when I am again in a place where I can spend some time on this I will give it another try by sending it to Adorama.

I am not criticizing Blurb since, as you say, $44 is not so expensive to make a single, print on demand, medium size, paperback photo book (if the result is acceptable). From another point of view of someone who might think about buying someone else's book though then the pricing might not look so great since $100 or $150 for a not so good print quality B&W book would probably be compared to a $15 or $25 or $65 B&W photo book at the bookstore that has much better print quality. It mostly depends on perspective.

By the way, Blurb does lots of marketing of their photo book printing service, has tied in with Adobe and has the Blurb service built into Lightroom, and it figures prominently on their website so it is not unreasonable, I think, to say they have sort of set some expectations:

http://www.blurb.com/photo-books

I don't have ambitions to sell books, but I did start thinking about making some and then I could order one from time to time as a gift and have it shipped directly to someone. Of course, if anyone did want to order one then I wouldn't prevent them. :lol: While searching around I saw comments from people about trying to get good B&W output from Blurb (and other printing companies) and some recommendations from people with experience was to keep sending the book back, tweak the files, re-upload, work with customer service, etc. and with enough time and effort you could probably get a book that was okay. The problem with this advice is that it strangely assumes that a person will go to all the work and trouble of making a book just so that they can get only one copy printed. If you go to that much trouble you will probably want to over time order another one and another one or allow other people to order one. I read about how someone did go through all of that and after a few iterations finally got a good one. Then later ordered another one and it had problems again. :lol: Also, he complained that the books other people order or that he orders and have shipped directly to someone else would never be in his hands so he couldn't inspect them. Anyway, it is the nature of this sort of printing at this stage in its development, I guess.

I suppose choosing a matte paper would hide the CRT-like characteristic better, but I read that the Premium Matte paper was even lower contrast than the Premium Lustre paper and it looks less sharp.

Has anyone else here had any experience either making a photo book or buying one from these on-demand book printers?

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:35 pm

Pako, I was just wondering if Adorama has done any updating of their book printers or ink? I got an advertising email today from Adorama today about photo books. Anyway, I am still in Japan.

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby pakodominguez » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:02 pm

Hey Henry,

This (the email you got) are photo books printed on photo paper (silver halide) -the same product we have been offering for 5 or 6 years already. The best quality you can get for photo books.

We are technically capable of printing book on digital press (Indigo) and to print them on black ink only (so, no color cast, unless the paper itself have a color) but there is no commercial offer yet. We have been working on two offers, one for soft covers books (you can print only one copy, mostly for consumers) and a second offer for self publishing, where you can order a small edition (25; 50; 100 copies). On the second offer we will be able to print black only and probably offer special finish, like spot coating and fine art substrates. This is a project for next year and it will depend on what binding system we adopt for this product.
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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Nov 20, 2015 11:17 pm

pakodominguez wrote:This (the email you got) are photo books printed on photo paper (silver halide) -the same product we have been offering for 5 or 6 years already. The best quality you can get for photo books.


Okay, that sounds really good. I uploaded the PDF for the book I made with Blurb to Adorama and discovered that it would cost over $150 each though.

pakodominguez wrote:We are technically capable of printing book on digital press (Indigo) and to print them on black ink only (so, no color cast, unless the paper itself have a color) but there is no commercial offer yet. We have been working on two offers, one for soft covers books (you can print only one copy, mostly for consumers) and a second offer for self publishing, where you can order a small edition (25; 50; 100 copies). On the second offer we will be able to print black only and probably offer special finish, like spot coating and fine art substrates. This is a project for next year and it will depend on what binding system we adopt for this product.


I hope that comes to fruition. Actually, I didn't realize that Adorama photo books were done using more than one process: photo paper or Indigo printer. On the website I only see one way to make a photo book and, I suppose, it is the photo paper type you mention:

http://www.adoramapix.com

I didn't see a way to specify the Indigo printer. How does one do that? I would like to check the price.

Thanks for the info!

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Re: Blurb B&W photo books

Unread postby pakodominguez » Sat Nov 21, 2015 8:40 pm

bakubo wrote:
pakodominguez wrote:This (the email you got) are photo books printed on photo paper (silver halide) -the same product we have been offering for 5 or 6 years already. The best quality you can get for photo books.

Okay, that sounds really good. I uploaded the PDF for the book I made with Blurb to Adorama and discovered that it would cost over $150 each though.

it will depend on the size and amount of pages (and paper finish if you pick the beautiful Fuji Deepmatte paper, that cost 2 times the price of the other papers) There is now a 30% off on photobooks (the coupon code is on the website). I recommend you to order a)smaller size or b) less pages as sample and decide if the quality worth the price.
bakubo wrote:
pakodominguez wrote:We are technically capable of printing book on digital press (Indigo) and to print them on black ink only (so, no color cast, unless the paper itself have a color) but there is no commercial offer yet. We have been working on two offers, one for soft covers books (you can print only one copy, mostly for consumers) and a second offer for self publishing, where you can order a small edition (25; 50; 100 copies). On the second offer we will be able to print black only and probably offer special finish, like spot coating and fine art substrates. This is a project for next year and it will depend on what binding system we adopt for this product.

I hope that comes to fruition. Actually, I didn't realize that Adorama photo books were done using more than one process: photo paper or Indigo printer. On the website I only see one way to make a photo book and, I suppose, it is the photo paper type you mention:

http://www.adoramapix.com

I didn't see a way to specify the Indigo printer. How does one do that? I would like to check the price.

Thanks for the info!

If you re-read my message, I never said that "Adoramapix photobooks were done using more than one process". *AdoramaPix only offer photobooks on photo paper (silver halide)*. We run 3 different printing systems, including silver halide, digital press and inkjet, but produce books on silver halide only.
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