Creating a book in Adobe Lightroom

If you ever wanted to create a portfolio, travel book or an eBook but didn’t know where to start or how to do it, Adobe Lightroom 4 offers a simple and easy way to create these books and even send them to be printed professionally. Adobe has partnered with to offer an easy way to make books matching numerous Blurb printing formats. You can change book size and quality and see the final price on the fly, right in Lightroom Book module. However, you are not required to use Blurb services to publish a book created in Lightroom, you can also export your project as PDF and print through other companies or publish it as an eBook for various digital tablets or other platforms.

A user not familiar with Book module might click on it once, quickly feel overwhelmed and never try to experiment with it again. If that has happened to you or if you are just looking for some guidance on how to create a book, keep on reading. I will go over the features you will need to get familiar with to create a great looking book.

First thing you need to understand is that Lightroom Book creation is by no means a substitute for a dedicated design program, such as Adobe InDesign. However, for a photographer who is looking to showcase his/her work in a presentable manner or even create a simple book, Lightroom Book creation is a great alternative. Everything is done within the program and every change you make to an individual photo through the Develop module will automatically be reflected in the book.

Book Preferences

Book Preferences in Adobe Lightroom

By default, when you start the Book module by clicking on Book in the top-left Navigation menu, Lightroom will Autofill the book with all the images in your current library. It will do this by using Auto Layout Preset, usually “Left Blank, Right One Photo,” which puts each photo on a separate spread with left page being blank. If you have a lot of photos loaded into your library and a relatively slow computer, it might take a while for the program to create all the pages. Keep in mind that Blurb book maximum amount of pages is 240. To change the default settings, go to Book>Book Preferences on the top Navigation bar (when in Book module). This will open a new window with several Options:

Layout Options have Default Photo Zoom drop down menu with Zoom to Fit and Zoom to Fill. Zoom to Fit will place the entire image on a page; Zoom to fit will cover the whole page with the image, which means some of the image will get cropped if it’s not the same ratio as the page.

Autofill Options have one checkmark box, Start new books by autofilling. This is the option that automatically creates a Book with all of your photos using a preset. I recommend unchecking this box so you can create your own custom pages one by one to achieve the best looking result. However, if you want to create a quick book with all of your photos using a specific preset, leave this option checked.

And finally, Text Options contain Fill text boxes with Filler Text, Title metadata or Caption metadata. Filler text is just a generic text which will show you where the text boxes are on pages. Filler text will not print and you can disable it by unchecking Filler Text box in Guides panel. Title and Caption metadata option will use the text from image’s Title or Caption. If Constrain Captions to Safe Text area is checked, Lightroom will not let you move any captions to areas where the text might get cut off by the printing process.

Book Settings

Now let’s get back to the main Book module window and go over all the panels on the right-hand side. The first panel you will see is Book Settings. This is where you can choose whether you want to create a book to print through Blurb or to print/publish through other means by creating a PDF or JPEG files. Note that you can also export PDF through Blurb book settings (the button is at the bottom left corner) but if the Logo Page is On, the PDF will have Blurb logo on the last page in the PDF.

When you select Blurb book in the Book Settings you will be presented with various sizes, covers and paper types Blurb currently offers for print. Changing these setting will change your books dimensions and price. As you manually add and remove pages from your book project, the price will get updated as well. Keep in mind that the Blurb book estimated price does not include shipping which can vary on your location and speed of delivery.

Notice that when you set different covers for any book, the cover types in the editing panel will change accordingly. For example: Hardcover will let you place text on the side of the book while Dust Jacket allows you to add image and text on the inside of the jacket. Also note that whenever you export as PDF, Lightroom will always create two PDF files, a cover and a book file.

If you select options other than Blurb book, you will have the ability to specify Quality, Color Profile and File Resolution of your exported book, as well as Sharpening and Media Type. Consult with your publisher on which settings would work best. If your image is smaller than intended Resolution there will be an exclamation point icon next to that image, clicking on that icon will detail the problem. However, if you don’t have an image with larger resolution it doesn’t mean you cannot print the book. Some have printed with lower than recommended resolution and were happy with the results.

Auto Layout

Auto Layout Preset Editor in Adobe Lightroom

Let’s get started on actually building your book. You can use Auto Layout panel to apply a preset to all the pages in your book. You can also create your own custom presets by clicking on preset drop down menu and selecting Edit Auto Layer Preset. This will open up Preset Editor window. If you are planning to make a book with a repeated style from page to page, this is a great way to do it. And even if you want to have different page style in your book, you can tell your preset to randomize layouts from your favorites (which you can specify). If you choose a Fixed Layout for left/right page, you can select how many photos you want to have on each page. Lightroom will then show you all available layout in that category. Lightroom claims to have more than 180 professionally designed layouts.

Zoom Photos to Fill/Fit, as described above, will crop the photo to fit into the entire page or resize the photo to fit on the page with some visible background, if the photo’s ratio is different from book’s ratio. Match Long Edges will resize images to look more proportional on the page. By checking Add Photo Caption you will place text associated with the photo on pages. Checking Align With Photo, as the name implies, will align the text with photo. Additionally you can check Use Text Style Preset to specify the exact text style to be used. You can select from a number or general presets or create your own in the Type panel (described below).

Once you select a desired preset to be automatically applied to your book hit Auto Layout. However, if previously there was a preset applied through Auto Layout function you will need to clear it for the new one to be applied. Click on Clear Layout to do it. Remember, you can always go to individual pages and images and modify them, even if Auto Layout was applied, so you are not constrained by your presets.

Adding, moving and deleting Pages

There are several ways you can add a page in a Lightroom Book. You can use Page panel to do so. In this panel you can see a preview of a page you are about to add. To choose a specific layout, click on an arrow icon on the right side of page thumbnail. A list of all available layouts will pop up. These layouts are broken down into numerous categories. 1-4 photos, multiple photos, two-page spreads, and text pages. All the other categories are just a combination of these pages presorted by theme. If you don’t have any pages selected in the main editing window, when you select a specific page style, that new page will be created all the way at the end. If you have a specific page selected, and then choose a page style, that specific page will change its look. Furthermore, once you have selected a page style you can click on Add Page in the Page panel to change other pages to that style or add new ones.

Create a custom page layout through Print module

While there is a large number of page styles you can choose from, there might come a time when you will need a very unique style which does not exist in page layouts. There is a quick workaround which can help you create your own custom look. It’s not perfect and you can’t automatically apply it to other pages but for that one time that you really need a custom look it can be very helpful. To create a custom page, go to print module on the top right navigation panel. In the Print Job panel, on the right hand side, selects Print to: JPEG file. Also in that panel make sure to do Custom File Dimensions to be the same size as your book. Then just drag and drop images from your image strip on the bottom by the document. You can resize images there and position them on top of each other by right-clicking on them and sending them back or forward. There are numerous other options in the print module you can use to really customize your page look but they are beyond the scope of this tutorial. Once you are done customizing your page, click on Print to File button in the bottom right corner and save the JPEG file to your desired location. Then just add that file to your image strip and load it into a blank page as a photo in the Book module.

You can also create a Blank page. If you have a selected page, clicking on Add Blank button in the Page panel will add a new Blank page right next to it. Creating a Blank page will not replace your selected page. If no pages are selected a Blank page will be created at the end of your book. Note that you can also Add Page and Add Blank by right-clicking on any page and selecting these options in the drop down menu.

You can also reposition your pages any way you like. The best way to move pages is to select a page first. Once a page is selected it has an orange outline. Left-click and hold that orange outline while moving the page. Wherever you decide to move your page, all the other pages will reposition accordingly.

To remove any page, simply right-click on it and select Remove Page from the drop down menu.

Placing content on Pages

Once you have your page setup you would want to place your content there. Lightroom makes it extremely easy to place and edit content on your pages. Since you already have images loaded on the bottom strip, all you have to do is drag and drop images in places you want them. Each Page layout has a designated area for images (identified by grey area, which can be disabled in guides). All you have to do is drop your image into that grey area and your photo is there. You can also perform additional customization to images placed on pages. Click on an image inside a page and you will see a zoom scale pop up. Using this scale you can zoom in to a specific are of your photo, which you want to be shown. Additionally, you can reposition an image inside its dedicated area by simply dragging it around. When working on individual pages, you would typically want to see one page on your screen, or even see it zoomed in. Here are some quick shortcuts that will help you with your page navigation (Mac users substitute [Ctrl] with [Cmd] key): [Ctrl]+[U] will show you selected page zoomed in, [Ctrl]+[T] will show you full selected page, [Ctrl]+[R] will show you selected page spread (two pages), and [Ctrl]+[E] will show you all of the pages in your book.

You can also place text into your book. The text length can be as short as one word title or as large as numerous pages. It’s all up to you. There are many Page layouts which have dedicated field for text. I will go into more detail on text customization later in this tutorial.

Guides Panel

Guides are a very important aspect of design, especially when designing for print. Guides Panel lets you disable/enable sets of guides. While sometimes guides can be distracting when designing a page I recommend enabling guides and checking your entire book before sending it for print. Here is a quick overview of what each guide set is responsible for. Page bleed is an area around the edge of each page which might get cut off during book creation. Text Safe Area is an area best suited for text placement, after all if your text is placed too close to an edge it might not look professional. When you create new pages, areas dedicated for photos are shaded in grey for your convenience, you can disable these shadings by unchecking Photo Cells guides. However, photo placeholders will still be there, just their outline will become hidden. And finally Filler Text guides are responsible for showing or hiding the text you use to make production notes in your book. Filler text will not print whether you hide it or not.

Cell Panel

Cell Panel is responsible for cropping your content within its dedicated placement. You can crop your content globally or select a specific side. To crop an image globally just select it within your book and slide the padding scale inside Cell Panel. If you only want to crop a specific side, click on a black triangle inside Cell Panel, this will open up individual scales. Check only the sides you want to crop and slide its scale.

Caption Panel

You can place a Photo Caption or a Page Caption through the Caption Panel. Photo Caption can be placed above, over or below a photo. Photos that occupy entire pages can only have captions that are over them. Offset scale will move the Caption through its designated area, for example: if the caption is placed over the image, its designated area is that entire image.

Page Caption, as its name implies, is the title of your page. You might often have pages with several photos under similar theme; this is one of the cases where Page Caption can be handy. You can choose to place Page Caption on top or bottom of a page. Offset scale works just like it does with Photo Caption.

Type Panel

All the text in your book can be formatted through the Type Panel. This is where you can choose the Font, Color, Size, and Opacity of your text and if you click on a little black triangle inside the Type Panel you will have more advanced formatting options. If you have a specific formatting that you find yourself using often, you can create a Text Style Preset and apply it to your text whenever needed. All you have to do is set all of your formatting, then click on two arrows next to Text Style Preset and choose Save Current Settings as New Preset from a drop down menu. Next time you need to use the same formatting just select it from that same menu.

Background Panel

Last but not least is a Background Panel. Many people overlook this handy feature and just leave the background white. While some books benefit from having minimalistic look with plain white pages most books can benefit if you just change background color or even add some texture to your pages. Adobe Lightroom gives you both options. You can just choose a specific background color or set an image as your background. Most images stand out in black color, so if you don’t want to fiddle too much with background, consider just setting it to black for your photo book. However, if you want to create a more advanced look, you can place an image as background. You can place your own by just dragging it from the image strip to a light square inside the Background Panel or choose from several templates offered by Lightroom. To do this, click on black and white arrow box inside the Background Panel, choose a category and then choose an image you like. If you are using images from these templates, you can also set a specific color for those outlines. When an image is loaded as a background you can choose how visible it will be by sliding the Opacity scale. Typically the background image should be barely visible to just serve as an added texture so consider using low opacity.

Additional notes

When you are done with your project and are ready to publish it, just click on the button in the lower right corner of the Book module. Depending on your Book setting this button can say “Send Book to Blurb” or “Export Book to PDF (JPG)”.

When you save a book once, you won’t need to save it ever again. Adobe Lightroom will always keep track of all the changes and save them automatically. However, if you decide to have another version of your book in a slightly different variation, you can just duplicate it with a different name and take it into another direction. To do this, just right-click on your Book name in your Collections and choose Duplicate Book, you can then rename it following similar procedure.

When in Book module each image in image strip will have a number on top of it. This number identifies how many times a particular image has been used in the current book. Note that you can always go back to Develop module and edit any image you like. All the changes will be automatically reflected in the book. Keep in mind, however, that this can also be a negative aspect since you may unintentionally do some temporary editing on a file and then print the book without noticing that the changes have been applied.

If you are interested in learning about book creation in a video format, check out this Lightroom Webinar

I hope you find this tutorial useful and ask you to please comment if you have questions, additions or have noticed inaccuracies. It will improve the quality of this posting and help more people in the future.

This entry was posted by Alex Gumerov.

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  1. You have a wonderful website and I will spend much time reading your great articles.

    I am trying to build a PDF book with Lightroom4. I use 300ppi JPGs as my starting images. When I create the book by clicking on the “export book to PDF” the book is created. When I view the book in Adobe Reader all is fine…the B&W images are nice and contrasty, etc. When I view this same book in Adobe Acrobat Pro 7, the B&W images are washed out, the blacks look faded, and are not as contrasty. When I view other PDF books made by other photographers in Acrobat 7, they look fine. I’ve tried many fixes, but nothing works. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you for this consideration.

    • There might be several explanations for this. Are your images in RGB or CYMK color profiles? Have you tried printing a page? Are the images washed out on prints as well? Also, Check if Proof colors is on, go to View>Proof colors on your Acrobat Pro to check for this.

  2. thanks so much for this post. i’ve been looking everywhere for the best program to create album pages – BUT i want to be able to purchase my photo books from whoever has them discounted at the right time. i’m pretty familiar with illustrator and was hoping to use that to layout and design my pages but can find nothing on the topic and doing everything from scratch every time is so time consuming. i want to occasionally be able to template and add art to my own pages (but that will be more of a rarity). i also use lightroom and did not know it had this feature.
    is LR the suggestion you would give for design/layout of photo book pages – printed by various companies? and to do that would i just save it as a pdf? AND and it will not lessen the print quality by saving as pdf and importing instead of using whatever publisher’s design software??

    i’m sure the answers to these questions seem simple to everyone else but i have been struggling trying to figure out the best solution to my problem.

    thank you so much for your time and expertise. :))

    • Lindsey, You can absolutely use LR for your quick book creations since once you get the hang of it the book layout can be done very quickly and efficiently. PDF was essentially created as a standard for sharing documents and making accurate prints so any respectable publishing company should accept your PDFs as source files for printing. Furthermore, LR will export in highest quality possible so saving in pdf will not cause any loss in quality.

  3. Hi, Is there a way to change the page size from the default? I wanted an 11X17 landscape page size, but it seems like I’m stuck with the presets. Is that right?

    • Since Blurb only print books up to 13x11in landscape, Lightroom’s book module only has those presets by default. You can make custom templates/sizes using Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or a free program But if don’t want to use any other software but still want to make custom sizes like 11x17in, your best bet would be to use Print module. Select that size in the Print Job panel and place your images the way I described in the second paragraph of ‘Adding, moving and deleting Pages’ section. Then you can print each file as JPG and send those files to whoever will print 11×17. While this is not the most optimal method it’s still useful if you only have Adobe Lightroom as your creation tool.

  4. Great information. I’m hoping you can help with creating a new auto layout. Every time I create one and save it, it reverts to 1 photo on both left and right sides. Any ideas? I’m using LR 6.1.