Photo Book Inspiration and Tips

This is not, strictly speaking, a DIY project because I didn’t print the book myself, however I did wade through thousands of photos (and “developed” them) in the midst of packing out of Jakarta. I also did the layout myself using iPhoto. It wasn’t an easy task because, as many of you expats can attest, moving is not easy. Many evenings were spent going through Terabytes of photos to choose, develop and layout the best ones and stuff into a 56 page photo book. I won’t deny it, there were a few melt-downs because some nights I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep instead of slaving away on a computer.

It was worth the effort though, because this photo book was one of “the things that reminded me of home” tucked in my check in baggage. My husband’s former boss, Ma’am T, told me I should have a picture frame or something to remind me of home in my luggage (the shipment will come a month or two later and the first few months are the toughest in any move). I thought this was wonderful advice! Throughout the move to Berlin, whenever I was cold or homesick, I would look through this photo book and all the best memories of the past 4 years would flood through my mind and make me smile. This past week, it’s been getting extra cold and this book has already been opened once or twice to bring the glorious sunshine of Asia into my living room – if only in my mind – so I wanted to share this project with you. 

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it might be a bit funny to hear that this photo book of our 4 years of travel during our Jakarta Post is something that reminds me of home. Jakarta was my very first home with my husband and travel to the different ASEAN countries and islands of Indonesia was intrinsic to our life at post. There was even one year where we practically spent half of each month living off our suitcases. Sometimes getting back to Jakarta only for a night, only to fly out again the next morning. Isn’t the advent of budget airlines a wonderful thing?

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The photo I used for the cover is one of the very first photos I took with my then-new DSLR camera. It was a stroke of luck really and I snapped it up while we were on a crazy becak (tricycle) convoy with other diplomats going on a wild goose-chase for art around Yogyakarta.  It won 2nd place in a photography contest in Jakarta and was published in Elle Magazine Indonesia. I thought it would make a great cover for the photo book on travel.

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I think doing this photo book at the end of out Indonesian Post is a great way to remember all the best experiences (Kecak dance with the setting sun as the back drop and the magnificent Borobudur Temple), all the friends we made and even the most memorable meals and finds between 2009 to 2013 – the length of our first posting. There are even photos of our most memorable foodgasms: Babi Merah in Medan, Sambal Butter Corn in BaliBelgian Chicken in Yogyakarta and giant prawns in Yangon.


  • Personally I like “developing” photos before publishing them online or printing them out. Photographers do this so it’s not cheating haha. This is not the same as editing. Developing means adjusting contrast, light, highlights, shadows, colour temperature, etc. I use a free app called Picasa for this because I find it is so simple and idiot-proof and I get beautiful results. I tried other software but most are a bit complicated for me and they can look good on the app, but when I upload to the web, they can look different.
  • Once I’ve saved and chosen the pictures that I liked, I imported them to a folder in iPhoto. Putting them in one folder is important so it’s easy to find all the photos you need for the book in one location.
  • Create a New Book
    • Make sure you selected the folder containing all the photos
    • Go to iPHOTO DOCK (on top) > FILE > NEW BOOK > Create a book with enough pages to fit all your photos
    • Select the theme you want. I used PICTURE BOOK because I like the simple and modern design.
    • Click and drag photos to the pages and position you want. Play around with the different options on the left hand side:
      • Background colour
      • Layout – how many photos in each page (1-16 photos)
      • Text font, color, etc.
    • Save and export your book to PDF format.
    • Save this into a USB
    • And bring to a printer that does photo books
  • You can also choose all the photos you like, save to a USB in a good resolution, then bring to the printer and do the layout with their staff. In Jakarta though, I thought it would be stressful for me to do this because I don’t know how to speak Bahasa very well. Doing lay-out also takes a long time and you would have to pay extra for the service so I decided to do it myself.


Click on the links below to get more information or find specific prices and/or locations.

JAKARTA. There are many places to do this in Jakarta, but I chose to do this book in Adorama in Kemang, because they speak relatively good English in this particular branch. And they were having a 40% discount promo on photo books. Instead of paying  around USD 80 for a 56 page photo book, I ended up paying less than USD 50. The book is hardbound, A4 size, 56 pages and the pages are thick with a matte finish. You can get cheaper options with thinner paper and soft-cover, but I want mine to last a long while and go with me as I travel the world so I spent a bit more.

Adorma in Kemang:

  • 17, Jl. Kemang Raya
  • Tel. 719 2002

PHILIPPINES. In the Philippines, the same quality hardbound picture book (I got a thick kind of paper) would cost around PHP 2000 for 32 pages from They deliver nationwide.

INTERNATIONAL. This same hardbound book in the same 11 x 8″ size from Apple would cost me an estimate of USD 95 to order from Berlin. This would include shipping and Tax. Their hardbound books start at USD 30 for 20 pages.  Click here to see the options available from Apple.

BERLIN. I’ve seen Photo Welt kiosks in Rossman and it seems pretty reasonable. I have yet to muster up the courage to explore this option because my German isn’t that great yet, but these are their hard cover options:

  • CLASSIC 20 € + VAT + Delivery for 24 pages
  •  PREMIUM 27 € + VAT + Delivery for 26 pages

And it’s a great alternative to ordering directly from Apple. I would love to have to try it. I am currently finishing my JAKARTA TIMES photo book. These are photos of experiences in Jakarta itself between 2009 to 2013. I started doing it during pack out but I just couldn’t finish it. I decided that one book made during pack out was an achievement in itself so I shouldn’t put too much pressure on myself to finish the second book. This is the perfect excuse to try Apple or of Rossman Photo Welt!



I hope this inspires you to create a photo book! Have you ever done a photo book before? What experience did you capture? Other tips and printer referrals would also be appreciated. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!


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