Musings on Photography

A few SoFoBoMo observations

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on June 25, 2009

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On May 1, 2009 at 6:42am Pacific time, there were 588 people registered for this SoFoBoMo 2009. I just checked. Right now, there are 846 people registered. That means (to my surprise) that 30% of the people who have registered (so far) registered AFTER the start of the two month window. Interesting, eh?

That total of 846 registrants (so far) is almost exactly 5 times as many as last year. And to think that on April 1, I jokingly predicted that we might get three times as many registrants as before.

So far, there are 148 books uploaded to the website. I don’t think we’re going to get 5 times as many books as last year’s tally (which was 60). Beyond that I’m not insane enough to attempt to project how many books will be finished and uploaded.

Some observations:

1. As I predicted, a lot of the people who planned on using Booksmart (the software you get for free from Blurb.com) discovered, to their horror, that Booksmart watermarks proofs that you print, thus making it really really hard to generate a clean PDF to upload for SoFoBoMo. Some of them have just gone ahead and uploaded that watermarked PDF, which I think is fine even though it’s perhaps stretching things a bit. Some of them have discovered this problem, and just given up, which I think is disappointing. But the whole business points out the value to working out the details of your workflow in advance of starting your month.

2. So far I’ve seen books assembled with Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, the free Scribus, Photoshop – and that’s just the toolsets I know about.

3. The 15MB limit on PDF size for upload caused some consternation as people came up against that limit. Some thinking will have to be done for next year about better ways to handle that.

4. Reading the blog stream, I have been struck by a) how many people thought it was easy, and b) how many people found it too hard. There’s a definite skill set to getting a book done.

5. I observe that some people who finished last year and registered this year have not finished books this year. Despite the ‘skill set’ observation above, doing a book remains hard. If things do not click, it can be really hard.

6. There are people who have participated twice now, and who have announced already that they will participate next time around.

Got thoughts or observations on this stuff? Comments welcome…

11 Responses

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  1. Andrew said, on June 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Too busy this year, but I’m definately in for next year! Be great if you can add some learned tips to next year’s web site.

  2. Martin Doonan said, on June 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Some more observations:
    1. In general (not just SoFoBoMo) people give up too easily. Slightest signs of things not being as expected and the towel is thrown in. Relates to your last post in some ways. Whatever happened to human ingenuity and working things out? (This stuff frustrates me every day at work.)
    2. some toolsets seem better/easier than others. Most have reached for the first one at hand and got frustrated that they couldn’t get it to do what they wanted. See point 1.
    3. 15MB is plenty. My experience – I use Scribus, have the pdf options set nicely and can get good quality images in a small package easily. Again, reading the blogs, there was a lot of expectation that this would be a simple one-click deal. See point 1 (I see a theme developing here…)
    4. I found it easy because I set myself up that way. I relaxed all notions of super-high quality and used the challenge to experiment. I read into a lot of people’s experiences that they have been to focused on producing world-class quality. More emphasis needed on using this as a test or proofing experience that can be carried on later at leisure.
    5. I got luck that it clicked but it was touch and go for a while. None of pre-thought ideas made it to fruition. It can be as much about time, motivation and opportunity as skills.
    6. Yep. And I’ll be there next year, too.

  3. Markus Spring said, on June 25, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I do well remember last years appeal to “stop procrastinating”. This could be a central point for quite a number of interested people (besides the technical issues that Martin pointed out), and in a certain way it continues the chain of ideas in yesterday’s post about ‘expectations’.
    For non-professional photographers, who usually don’t have to deliver a certain amount and quality of a fixed subject matter, achieving a body of work instead of single keepers can pose a challenge that not everyone is able to meet (speaking from personal experience, last year). For me this was the Central Point, this “get going”, working and keeping at it when it comes to selection, layout and then the technical problems. And this feeling of “having done it” is what I experienced as rewarding, admitting however that sometimes I felt pressurized.

  4. Amanda McGlothlin said, on June 25, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    This is the second year that I participated, and I really like this project. For me, photography is not my every day job, so I tend to get off-track with it. When I have a project that requires something of me constantly, I can stay focused and excited.

    Last year, the pressure of what other people’s books might look like unfortunately kept me from working as hard on my final layout as I should have. This year I really wanted to create a book that I would want a printed copy of, and I am more excited about the finished result. I certainly got bogged down and tired some days, but I enjoyed my topic and so I kept coming back to it. I think the key is to chose a topic that is broad enough to keep you interested for the duration, but be flexible enough to tweak it if you get bored.

    I’ll definitely be back next year. For those of you still struggling to finish, good luck in these last days. If you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  5. Hugh Alison said, on June 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Workload got on top of me – 16 hour days and 7 day weeks for the last month.

    I finally have a day free (Saturday 27th) to take some pictures, and probably Tuesday 30th free to assemble the book. Nothing like having a bit of pressure. Maybe I’ll get the book done after all.

  6. Juha Haataja said, on June 25, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    It was a first time for me, and even though I had a topic planned beforehand, nothing came of it. I was almost giving up, but then I started up anyway, and did the book in three days from start to finish.

    What helped greatly was practicing the workflow beforehand, all the way from taking to images to designing the layout to typesetting the book to generating PDF output.

    Later I discovered a way to get a much better quality PDF file (compress with Ghostscript) and a way of importing the pages as jpeg images into Booksmart for printing, but these weren’t absolutely necessary for the SoFoBoMo project.

    I’ll sign in next time also!

  7. Richard said, on June 26, 2009 at 4:10 am

    This project really helped me gain focus. Not just focus on what needed to be done on my book, but also focus on how I approach photography in general. I am a better photographer for having done this. I used Power Point to make my book, which was sort of a mistake in some ways, but it was easy. Next year as part of my prep work I will learn In Design, and now that Blurb has the PDF upload option, it should help me get my printed version faster.
    One thought for next year; what about setting up a forum for better sharing amongst participants? Maybe just a Yahoo Group even.

  8. Alex Brikoff said, on June 26, 2009 at 10:50 am

    A couple of things:
    1) Richard: There is a SoFoBoMo forum on Flicker but a limited amount of actual discussion.
    2) Regarding my own SoFoBoMo experience, it was a fun and challenging experience. I’m glad I did it. Coming from an engineering background, I found it worked best for me to set a schedule with actual milestones to help keep me on track during my “fuzzy” month. The challenge to myself was to beat my schedule, as it was, I finished my book with one week to spare. I really wish that Blurb had their “PDF to Blurb” feature available when I was doing my book, it would have been a time saver! As far as next year goes… Yep! I’ll be back.

  9. Rusty said, on June 26, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I’ll be back. 15 MB is not an issue. I was frustrated by some colour and luminosity degrade in the conversion to PDF but that is my incentive to learn In Design, at least enough to do this again. I also think that it helps when you have an idea or a story to convey, which most books do, perhaps that contributes to making it easier.
    Thank you Paul, you have created a real community here and doing this has re-energized my photography.

  10. Stephanie said, on July 3, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I’ve been following the project ever since I found out about it a few months ago. Was unable to participate this go-around but am excitedly looking forward to the next one! Is this going to be yearly or might there be talk about doing it twice a year?!

  11. Anita Jesse said, on July 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I was reading back through some of your previous posts, along with the comments, while looking for the appropriate spot to put down my comments on your books. You have touched a great number of lives. Many of us are feeling fortunate, indeed, to have found you on the web and we know that we are indebted to you for presenting your challenge—a challenge that you might not have guessed would have such a profound effect on so many photographers.

    Not surprisingly, your books are outstanding—technically superb and filled with your passion. I had mentioned to you once before that I had a little trouble viewing the books. The images have stirred feelings in me that are sometimes unsettling and, truthfully, most days I wanted to avoid your books. Finally having come to grips with my own demons, I spent time with both of them and wanted to tell you how much I admire the work. These are beautiful spaces and deserve to have been honored by your work.


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