Apart from choosing the images for a photobook, perhaps the next most critical decision is what book format to choose. If you change your mind after you have started designing your book, you will typically find that the software will not allow a change of book dimension. At Cahoots we offer 2 square formats and 2 landscape formats, and in this article we offer some suggestions for the most suitable book format for particular topics, and some considerations that might help you narrow down your choices.
21cm Square Small Fun
Being our smallest offering, this format may be the preferred option if price/budget are paramount above all else. However, it is certainly the case that larger sizes do normally offer better value in terms of cost per square cm. If considering a Small Fun, we would recommend keeping it relatively thin. The Cahoots software will allow 100 pages for standard paper in this format, but we would recommend going no more than half this, preferably much less. The reason for this preference is that the pages have a tendency to want to close up, so one must always hold the book and pages firmly as the book is being viewed. The lower the page count, the less of an issue this is. An A4 Classic Landscape is worth considering as an alternative, as the weight of the extra page width partially mitigates the tendency of pages wanting to stay closed.
Some people simply have a strong preference for the small compact format, in which case we would suggest considering upgrading to the layflat option (for up to 60 pages), as it negates the issue of “gutter bulge” and also removes the issue of the pages tending to spring up vertically.
The Small Fun format lends itself well to recipe books, farewell books, short trips, Instagram portfolios and gift books.
A4 Classic Landscape
Being one of our most popular formats, the A4 Classic Landscape is the perfect choice if you expect the book to be stored in a bookcase, as the height of the book should fit in standard shelving (however, if important, you may want to check the depth of the shelf).
Being rectangular in shape, it is well suited to landscape images in full bleed (i.e. no page margins). However there are plenty of layout possibilities for portrait and/or landscape combinations. Being rectangular in format, unless you have panoramas, there is less opportunity for dragging images across the binding (as this will normally result in cropping from top and/or bottom of the image).
In this book format, the Cahoots software will allow up to 200 pages of standard paper (60 for layflat). However, as with the Small Fun, unless you are a fan of thick books, we would normally recommend a 72 page maximum for best “usability”.
The A4 Classic Landscape is a very versatile format, and lends itself to virtually any photobook topic, whether it be a travel book, event book, personal history, school project, baby book or just a simple portfolio.
30cm Square Large Luxurious
The Large Luxurious is a format that can serve a dual purpose as both coffee table book, as well as still allowing for bookcase storage – typically in the bottom or top shelves with other tall books.
In terms of “page real estate” it offers 50% more space than its smaller sibling, the A4 Classic Landscape. There are both pros and cons of the square format. On the plus side, the square format offers many possible combinations for tesellating multiple portrait and/or landscape images. However, if choosing to have full bleed images on a single page, some cropping will necessarily occur. (But this isn’t a problem if you opt for layflat paper, because images can span left and right pages with virtually no image loss, although the binding seam will still be visible.)
Maximum page count for this format is 200 pages (60 in layflat). The same comments on page count apply here, as for the A4 Classic Landscape.
The size of the Large Luxurious book implies a topic of special significance. Consequently this format is frequently chosen for weddings, travel books, family histories, family yearbooks and milestone birthdays.
A3 Large Landscape
The Large Landscape is way to big for any bookcase, so this format is usually chosen when one wants to make a real statement, since this book will normally find a home on a coffee table, or stored carefully away in a custom made presentation box (available in matt black finish from Cahoots).
Due to the heavier standard paper (200gsm) used for this format, the maximum page count in the software is 140 (60 for layflat). But once again, for reasons explained previously, we’d recommend a page count of no more than 60, if possible.
All the layout advantages/considerations for the A4 Classic Landscape, apply to this big brother version. Keep in mind though, that your images will be much bigger in this larger format, so your source images will need to be of sufficient resolution (if you want to make any of them full bleed). Similarly, if any of them are not quite in perfect focus, seeing them in a larger size may make that more obvious. It is worth taking extra care to properly inspect your chosen images in detail to ensure you will be happy with the resulting printed images in the book.
Large Landscape is well suited to portfolios, family portraits, travel books, in fact any topic where the book designer wants to create a photobook that simply demands attention by virtue of its size.
Now I want to change my format – what now?
Most photobook software will not let you change format mid-stream. The reason being that it is not easy to change from square to rectangular, or vice versa. Assuming you did not want your images cropped, or stretched or squeezed, you would not end up with a useful conversion. Some software will let you move to bigger or smaller versions in the same relative dimensions, but that comes with some potential issues concerning optimal image print resolution.
Nevertheless, there may be occasions where having started with a particular format, one realises that a better choice would have been something different. The immediate response is to count the number of hours you have spent on the book to date, and the thought of repeating all that effort may be just too daunting. BUT, most of that time has probably been spent thinking about what photos go on what page and other design considerations such as backgrounds and borders, and possibly some text.
While there is no denying that restarting project will consume some additional effort, you may be surprised how quickly you can re-create the book in your new format. For Cahoots software, we would recommend making a proof version of the existing book that can be displayed in a different window (web browser on Windows or Preview on the Mac). Start a new book with Cahoots software, and simply go page by page, choose the same photos, backgrounds etc. It may not be such a huge task as you had envisaged, and you may come to the conclusion that it was worth it in the end.
If you need to downsize from Large landscape to A4 Classic Landscape, or from Large Luxurious to Small Fun, Cahoots may be able to assist in these circumstances, for a nominal processing fee. Contact us if this service is of interest.
Hopefully this article has provided some useful information to help you decide which format to select for your next book. If we’ve confused you, or you have more questions than answers, you may find it beneficial, if feasible, to visit our Subiaco store, where you can see for yourself some of the practical issues we have touched upon. You’ll find a range of sample books on various topics that may help in you in your decision making process as well as giving you some design inspiration. If you can’t make it to the store, feel free to reach out to us via our contact form and we’ll do our best to answer your queries.