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Self-Published Photography Books

Manual Exposure: Eye-Opening Self-Published Photography Books

InDesign Magazine issue 86 cover
This article appeared in Issue 86 of InDesign Magazine.

When you hear the word “book,” what often comes to mind is a bound volume of text. But for the vast majority of us, we experience our world visually—as pictures, not words. This may be why we are so innately receptive to photography books, where images tell the story. Open a photography book and your emotional response to what you see will be immediate, long before you can put your reaction into words.

The digital press has made book publishing more accessible and affordable than ever, even for full-color books. It has certainly been a blessing that anyone can now create a photo book through their web browser using online templates, but the result is often a sameness and predictable uniformity in look and feel, from design to paper stock. Instead, many photographers are inspired to push the design of photography books in different directions, creating distinctive volumes that you couldn’t create by pushing buttons on a website. The books that these photographers and designers create are often collectible works of art in themselves.

We wanted to find out what role Adobe InDesign has played in the design of self-published photography books. When we started looking around, nearly all of the books we encountered were produced using InDesign. Taking a closer look, we found that the design of each book expresses the photographer’s intentions in fascinating and highly personal ways.

Each photographer featured in this article not only thought about imagery, layout, and typography, but also asked the question: Is the conventional form of the book the best way to tell the story? Ultimately they found ways to enhance their narratives through thoughtful and sometimes unorthodox design choices, and by close collaboration with book designers and writers.

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Conrad Chavez

Conrad Chavez

Conrad Chavez has provided education and training for digital media and publishing for over 20 years. His work includes the last three editions of the book Real World Adobe Photoshop for Photographers and the video Color Management for Photographers and Designers. He also contributes articles to publications including and, and is a photographer. To learn more about Conrad, please visit
Conrad Chavez

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