Thursday, January 17, 2008



Paul Butzi is putting the finishing touches to the Solo Photo Book Month challenge. I want to urge you to take part. Not for me. Not for Paul. For you. But why would you want to put a book together ? All photographers seem to want to put a book together. It is a cool thing to do - to have a book of your images, in your hand. We print few enough images any more. Digital photographers have drives stuffed full of digital images and not enough printed. At least I fall in to that category and I suspect many of you do, too. Lots of unfinished images, cluttering up the place. Maybe some of them get released into the wild and end up on flickr. Even there though, they are seldom solid enough for you to really look at them. A single finished print teaches you a lot about the image that is hard to discover on a screen. A book is a different order of magnitude, again. Final. Solid. Scary.

That I think is why many of us don't do it. A book seems like such a big task. Daunting and also final. You have to commit to the content of it. Those pictures are there to last. So all the fears well up. I'm not good enough. I don't know how to do it. I don't think I can finish it. Who am I to be putting a book together? Well, why not ? Even if you are the only person who ever sees the finished book, you'll have achieved something. The end result is a completed, finished piece of work - as polished as you can make it. It might be a file generated with a free pdf printer from any word processor, or a presentation tool, even Microsoft works or Adobe InDesign. It could be a or print-on-demand work. Perhaps you use it as something to approach a publisher with. It might just stay on your hard drive, never to be seen by anyone other than you. But it would still be a finished book. With your name on the cover. How cool would that be ?

But a book is a big commitment and a lot of work. That to me is the beauty of the SoFoBoMo challenge. It isn't a huge commitment. It'll all be over in a month, one way or another. You'll either have a book, or you won't. It can't stretch out into a multi-year or multi-decade albatross around your neck. You finish it, or you don't. So the scale is a whole lot smaller. The opportunity to procrastinate and prevaricate over choices or deciding when it is done just isn't there. The required number of pictures isn't too high - 35 - but enough that you'll need to engage, think about it and make an effort. Along the way you'll learn about editing your images - making those final painful choices on what to include or not. You'll probably learn a bit about book layout, design and what goes in to making a book. You'll find out how good you are at working to a deadline - or not. You'll actually finish something. That in particular is powerful stuff. It forces you to make decisions and live with them. You might find you don't like those decisions afterwards and that way, you'll have learned more than if you never started. I'm sure once you finish the first one that the next book will be that much more like what you actually want to create. If you never finish, you'll never get to start the next one and the next one and the next one.

The challenge would also be a fantastic opportunity to pick a project and shoot images on a consistent theme or subject. Return to a theme multiple times. Explore it. Go a bit deeper than those great one off images you always take. Or start a new short-term project if you normally work on projects already.

So give it a go. Sign up and commit to participating in SoFoBoMo. Make a book.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post on the SoFoBoMo Gordon, very inspiring - just signed up myself and am nervous/excited at having made the commitment to myself that I'm going to do it. Hoping to see a few of the results as well.

Anonymous said...

I am interested. Since getting married a year and a half ago, I've wanted to put together a yearbook of photos with text and design it myself (I love page layout design!). I've been held up on doing that due to photos being scattered across hard drives. (which I'm in the process of fixing!) Also, a post back or two got me to realize that a self-published book of photos might make a GREAT gift.

This month-long project could be really, REALLY cool in terms of having a physical finished product. When I get off this plane, I'll check it out.

Meanwhile, I really just wanted to say that I do plan on going tomorrow!

John M. Setzler, Jr. said...

Looks like fun... I think I'll have to give this a go :)

Bud Simon said...


I just found your blog - looks cool. I like the thoughts on the book.

It looks like you do a good job and have some interesting stuff - thanks for sharing!

Paul said...

Gordon, bravo on the post. You hit the nail on the head. It is fear and that inner critic that we all have. I've decided on a theme, Around The House, and am eagerly looking forward to doing it. My trigger finger is getting itchy!

BTW, I'll be in Austin some time in April to shoot wildflowers with a couple of friends, I hope to meet you at that time, if you're open for that sort of things. I like to meet fellow bloggers.