Talking photo book
paper types (and creativity)
with photographer Dan Milnor
I was never any good at math. The exactness was what I always had an issue with, preferring subjects like English and History where there were versions of a story or options when it came to how something ended. So I was in heaven when I found photography. Besides shutter speeds and apertures, there was little math involved. And, after learning the basic technical tradecraft, I was left with discovering the world how I saw fit. There was no right and wrong.
I’ve made many, many books over the past few years, using a vast array of materials. The modern photography world is full of choices, from how you capture your precious images to how you process and print. Within these choices there are subsequent choices including what software you apply, what chemicals you use—or even what material you print on.
Blurb offers a myriad of options and, chances are, will offer even more in the coming years. In my job as “Photographer-at-Large,” I am often asked by photographers “What paper should I use?” My answer is not meant to be deceptive, only encouragingly vague, because the truth is I don’t know. Only you can know.
Like photography, choosing a paper isn’t about right and wrong but rather personal preference. Just as some photographers enjoy high-color images, others prefer de-saturated color or even black and white. Paper is a similar situation. Uncoated paper isn’t any better or worse than coated paper. Thick pages are not necessarily better than thin and bigger isn’t always better when it comes to your book size or even how many pages you have.
Here’s what I do. I make test books. Before I start a photography project I typically choose what film stock I’m going to use. I do the same when I make a book. I view the photographs and try to match what paper I think best fits not only with the content of my images but also helps create a certain experience for the viewer.
Many of the books I’ve made with Blurb break down into two categories: Portraits and documentaries. Many of the documentary books deal with serious subject matter, while many of the portrait books deal with kids and are light-hearted and very upbeat. I certainly don’t design these books in the same way and typically I don’t choose the same materials. For the portrait books I use the Blurb Proline Uncoated paper because it offers me a slightly desaturated look, which I actually enhance even further by “opening up” my images (making them brighter than I normally would). My documentary work is primarily black and white, tends to be on the darker side, and is filled with grain and contrast, so I choose the Proline Coated paper because I feel it best translates the richness and deep blacks I want the viewer to experience.