At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: photo books

How to View Your Photo Book on Your iPhone or iPad

You’ve just created a physical photo book using your favorite online book-making service. Bravo! Now, you’ve decided you also need to create a digital version that works on your iPhone or iPad. Here’s how you do that…

I know the idea of creating a digital version of a physical photo book is entirely counterintuitive… I’ve been talking for years about the need to create photo books to organize your pictures. I’ve been preaching that merely maintaining your photos in digital form isn’t the right move. I’ve been warning how hard drives and Cloud services will likely not protect your precious digital files in the decades to come.

Photo books will stand the test of time. Plus, they serve as an analog platform right now to enjoy all of your wonderful pictures that are locked away in digital form.

So why do I suddenly see a need to reverse engineer this solution and figure out how to generate a digital version of a photo book?

Slow as Molasses
Well, there’s one problem creating photo books… You have to wait for what seems like forever after you order them online, because they take a few days to print.
(It can take over two weeks to receive them without express shipping.)

If you’re trying to hit a deadline to create one of these books as a gift and didn’t plan early enough in advance, you may need a digital version to show off to the gift recipient as a ‘preview.’

And that’s not a terrible back up plan, because people are used to viewing pictures digitally anyway.

The Price for Immediate Gratification
Sure, you can pay a few bucks to have your book-making website do it for you.
(I use Blurb through Adobe Lightroom…and Blurb’s price to create a PDF version is $4.99.)

But when I ran across this exact situation recently, my finger immediately deselected the “Create a PDF” button. I figured that creating a sharable digital version of a photo book is something Mr. At Home with Tech should be able to do by himself for free.

I needed to preview my new photo book via an iPad. And then I wanted to email the gift recipient an online link to the photo book as well.
(Emailing the file itself wouldn’t be an option due to the large file size.)

So, here’s how you do it…

Save the Finished PDF Book Using Adobe Lightroom
As opposed to just using a website’s book-making tools, there’s one big benefit to creating your photo books using software that resides locally on your computer.
(Such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Photos)

You’re creating the finished file first before uploading it to the book-making website. And the file you’re uploading is a PDF. You should also be able to save that exact PDF onto your computer’s hard drive for your own use.

Adobe Lightroom’s book-creation module offers you the option to export one large PDF or a whole bunch of JPEGs that represent each page.

In ‘Book Settings’ on the top right… you’ll see the choice of ‘Blurb,’ ‘JPEG’ or PDF.

  • Choose ‘PDF’
  • And then on the bottom right, click ‘Export Book to PDF’ and choose the destination

Now, it’s time to get that file onto the iPad…

Move the PDF Over Via the Cloud
There are a variety of Cloud-based methods to easily move the PDF over to an iPad.
(Like Apple’s iCloud Drive)
But I’m a big fan of Dropbox, and that’s the route I chose…

  • Export the PDF into the Dropbox folder on your Mac
  • Then, find and open the PDF using the Dropbox app on your iPad

Save to iBooks
Finally, you want to save the PDF locally for easy access. Sure, it’s always available via Dropbox, but the big PDF takes some time to load up. And the pages don’t show up cleanly on Dropbox. The iPad’s screen dimensions don’t match the book’s… so there’s some page overlap.

Instead, use Apple’s native iBooks app. It’s is a great solution!
When viewing your PDF via Dropbox on your iPad or iPhone…

  • Tap ‘Export’
  • Tap ‘Open In…’
  • Tap ‘Import with iBooks’

Now, each page shows up cleanly and independently as you swipe through!

Send a Link Via Dropbox
If you’ve used a Cloud-based sharing method to get your file onto your iPad, you should be able to also create a web link to that file, which you can then email to the gift recipient.

In the Dropbox app on your iPad…

  • Select ‘Share’
  • Tap on ‘Create a Link’
  • Tap on the ‘Mail’ icon
  • Type in the email address
  • And ‘Send!’

Best Gifts Ever
If you’re wondering after all of this whether you actually still need the physical photo book, don’t lose sight of your original mission!

The digital conversion is icing on the cake and satisfies an immediate need for instant access.

But when your gift recipient eventually opens up the actual book, you’ll remember that sometimes going ‘old school’ still has its advantages…

Why Forwarding Photos May Not Be a Welcome Gift

You should think twice before sharing lots of digital photos with your peeps. Sure, it may be fun for the recipient to take a quick look. But guess what happens after that…?

All of this time, I thought I was doing my family and friends a favor by emailing downloadable Dropbox links of photos I’ve snapped at group settings. I’ve been doing this for years. What’s not to like?

I know that people generally love to participate in digital photo sharing.
It’s immediate.
It’s free.
It’s easy.

It’s also a quick and simple gift.

But you’ve got to admit, it’s something of a sloppy art.

Even so, I figure that folks can be responsible for what they do with the pictures they receive.

Well, yes.
And… no.

I think the problem is many people today just don’t have the time to do anything with your photos once they take a quick look at them.

That requires organization.
And good organization takes time.
Organization that even I have a hard time maintaining.
In fact, I’m still years in the rear at creating those ‘annual’ family photo albums to proudly live on our book shelves.

Some Assembly Required
I suppose emailing one or two photos shouldn’t really be a problem to handle. Even several… if they’re good pics.
But when you just throw twenty or thirty photos at someone, because you just don’t have time to do anything else, that just shifts the burden of organization onto the recipient.

You might think that you’re still doing them a favor, because once they go through everything, they’ll certainly separate the creative wheat from the chaff.

But you’re essentially sending someone more work to do.
That’s not such a great gift, is it?

Now, this is not a universal declaration. Take me for example…
If family and friends want to send me lots of unfiltered pics… I feel that’s better than not receiving anything at all.
(But I readily admit… I probably don’t represent the norm.)

The bottom line is you should always know your audience before you click on ‘send.’

The Analog Advantage
If you want to give the true gift of photo sharing that doesn’t require anything else to do, then you may have to suck it up and put in a little more effort…

And do you know what that looks like?
(I think you do.)

It’s a physical photo album or a photo book that’s completely done!
(How analog)

Will that take more time than you’re willing to commit?
Well, of course… there’s the rub.

Case in Point…
I’m always appreciative when someone hands me a little photo book celebrating an event or activity.
Sure, I might think… “Huh… I might have done that a little differently.”
But the reality is… I probably would never have gotten around to doing it at all!

And there’s your opportunity…

So recently, when a family friend scoffed at receiving a bunch of photos I emailed over, I didn’t take it personally.
Instead of a “Thank you,” I got a “When am I going to have the time to do anything with these?”
(And I had even gone through the batch to pick out the best ones!)

It was clearly time to create a tangible photo book…
Not to mention that I also received a direct request for one of these as a birthday gift.
(Isn’t clarity a wonderful thing?)

The Inner Truth
And for those of you digital geeks out there who don’t own a printer or know what a piece of paper is anymore (let alone a physical photo album)…
Guess what?
Deep down…
…You know you’re craving the same thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone made you a physical photo album or book?

It’s okay.
Your secret is safe with me.

What’s Old is New Again
It’s not so old school.
People love photo books.

And there are lots of companies out there serving that need… like Shutterfly.
Since I’m doing my photo management in Adobe Lightroom, there’s an integrated process to work with Blurb.

It’s time to stop taking the easy way out by throwing your photos to the digital wind and hoping for the best.
Roll up your sleeves and create a physical photo collection that’s actually complete upon arrival.

Now, I’d better take a bit of my own advice and get to work on the birthday gift… The party is next week!

Don’t Look Too Closely at iCloud’s Shared Photo Streams

It’s always nice to get an invitation to look at family pictures online.  The only problem with Apple’s Shared Photo Streams is the pictures don’t show up in full resolution.  And that could be a problem if you’re planning to use them to create a photo book.

It’s always nice to get an invitation to look at family pictures online. The only problem with Apple’s Shared Photo Streams is the pictures don’t show up in full resolution. And that could be a problem if you’re planning to use them to create a photo book.

I never really got excited when Apple introduced iCloud Photo Streams.
The concept of storing your most recent 1,000 photos in the cloud for 30 days and having them sync across all your Apple devices didn’t do that much for me.

That’s because the functionality in ‘My Photo Stream’ is designed mostly for pictures taken by your Apple devices. The admittedly slick idea is to enable those photos to ‘phone home’ and seamlessly beam themselves back to your mothership.
(But you’ve got to use your computer at least once a month to download the photos to your hard drive before they go ‘poof’ in iCloud.)

Locate Photo #872
Plus the entire mass of pictures you snap end up in your photo stream.
(the good, the bad… and the ugly)

The pictures duplicate themselves to your other devices so you can easily show them off to family and friends.
But the reality that you’ve got to sift through a thousand images to find the one you’re looking for seems a bit half-baked.

I had lunch with a friend recently, and when we pulled out our iPhones to proudly display a few images of our three-year-old boys, I navigated to the picture I wanted in five gestures via my iTunes’ synced folder.
He needed at least fifteen gestures to quickly finger down his long photo stream.

Getting Canon to Play in the Photo-Stream Sandbox
My other problem with Photo Streams is while I do snap the occasional iPhone picture, when I’m really serious, I use one of my Canon cameras.

Then, I download the Canon photos to my iMac and sift through them to separate the wheat from the chaff in Aperture.
(Apple’s more powerful iPhoto cousin)

Only then am I interested in sharing the chosen few across my Apple devices and with others.

And I’ve traditionally loaded up my iPhone by syncing my photo folders via iTunes.
And yes, that takes an extra step….

While this workflow keeps my best photos close to me, nobody else gets to benefit.

Your Favorite Unseen Photo in Your Computer is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Sharing my best pictures in a timely manner has continued to prove itself an elusive tech challenge.
I’ve tried lots of solutions:

  • Recently, I bought the nixplay Wi-Fi Cloud Frame to stream my favorite photos for my wife and son to enjoy at home.
  • A year ago, I did the same for my father with a Pix-Star Wi-Fi frame.
  • Of course, I’ve got a few family Flickr albums, but I often forget to update and remind people about them.

Time for the Wife to Pick Up Your Slack
The current nut I’m trying to crack is simply finding a workflow to move my ‘best’ photos over to my wife’s Macbook Pro laptop, so she can have some fun working with them as well.

Her goal is to quickly create small event-driven family photo books.
(as opposed to my more globally-focused yearly photo book collections, which have unfortunately proven to take years to create)

I totally welcome this divide-and-conquer strategy.

But getting the photos over to her laptop and into iPhoto has been at an imperfect process at best.

I’ve traditionally exported the photos to a thumb drive and then transferred them via sneakernet.

I’ve also used Air Drop and Dropbox, but there’s got to be a better way to get those photos over…

Shared Photo Streams
(Cue up the angelic harps.)
Apple introduced iCloud Photo Sharing over a year ago.
These newer, ‘shared’ Photo Streams were designed for viewers beyond your eyes only.
They’re kind of like the MobileMe photo galleries of the good old days.

With Shared Photo Streams, you can easily create online photo albums to share with your family and friends.
(Though only up to 100. Larger families and friendship groups require another solution.)

But for me, the more enticing factor is that Shared Photo Streams allow your invited guests to view your photos directly in iPhoto, and then easily download whatever they want!

So I decided to designate my wife as the singular special guest for my new Shared Photo Stream. While this is certainly not a cutting-edge plan, and I’m admittedly quite late to the party,
I’m not embarrassed to report I finally gave this photo-stream ecosystem a whirl…

If You Want to Catch Up, You’d Better Run
In no time at all, I created my shared family photo stream, and the invitation went out to my wife’s iCloud email address.

I ran over to her laptop.

Nothing happened.

Click again.

Then I read the fine print:

To view a shared photo stream in iPhoto, your computer needs to be operating on at least the Mountain Lion OS.


I’d been running Lion on my wife’s laptop since we bought it a few years back.
So I decided this was as good a time as any to finally upgrade to the Mavericks OS…
(I’d really been meaning to get around to it.)


Two hours later…
(after the Pre-OS upgrade prep and a smooth Mavericks install)
I again attempted to connect my wife’s computer to my Shared Photo Stream.


Now, the possibilities seemed endless!
(Though there are inevitable limits.)

Here’s what Apple gives you:

  • Maximum photo (or video) uploads per hour: 1,000
  • Maximum shared streams you can share: 100
  • Maximum subscribers per shared stream: 100
  • Maximum photos and videos in a shared stream: 5,000

And all of these uploads do not count against your 5GB iCloud storage limit.

I can live with that.

But there was still one problem…

Why Optimize What is Already Perfect?
When I dragged the photos from my Shared Photo Stream over to iPhoto, I realized they had been…
(Cue the organ.)


(This means the file sizes had been chopped down from their original pixel resolution to something more ‘manageable’.)

I scoured the web for confirmation of this unwelcome development.
And indeed, I found that Apple does reduce the file sizes for iCloud-shared photos.


Look, I simply want to easily move full-resolution photos over to another computer.
(This shouldn’t be so hard!)

I couldn’t locate Apple’s official position on their photo-slimming practices.
But I discovered some intelligent speculation that Apple’s resizing logic has to do with the native screen resolution on Apple devices. It’s simply unnecessary to view a photo containing a higher resolution than what the screen can display.
The image won’t look any better…

And the typical 2048 x 1536 optimized pixel resolution should also be adequate if you want to print a photo up to 5” x 7” in size.

Plus, it’s a ‘helpful’ storage-saving strategy for iOS devices with limited storage capacity.

So what’s there to complain about?!
(The humble Home IT Guy raises his hand in the back of the room…)

The Purity of My Photo Stream
And do all photos get stunted in the Apple’s photo-stream universe?
Not if you’re working in the non-sharable ‘My Photo Stream.’
Those pictures still get clipped on your iOS devices, but ‘My Photo Stream’ shows up in full resolution when viewing it on your own computer.
(Even Apple acknowledges the importance of these photos finding their way home in their original condition.)

The Wife Must Now Save History
So where does all of this leave the future of my wife’s photo-book projects?
Well, I’m not exactly sure…

The Shared Photo Stream integration with iPhoto on my wife’s laptop can’t be beat.

Plus my own copy of this Shared Photo Stream automatically shows up on my iPhone, negating the need to sync these photos via iTunes.

No, I’m not exactly thrilled with the idea of having watered-down duplicates of my best photos on her laptop, but I’ve got back ups of the originals elsewhere…

As long as my wife doesn’t aspire to create huge photo books,
my little plan could still work.

I’d call all this progress…
And At Home with Tech, sometimes that’s just enough to declare victory!

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