Foss for foto book designing


I did it 2012/2013. Most photos are mediocre at best, but anyone who didn’t try it would be surprised how hard it is to come up with 365 ideas for a photo and squeeze that into your daily routine.


I can imagine, my new years resolutions include 1 edited image per day from the backlog and 1 scanned roll of film each week. But mean values, since this has mainly to be done at the weekends.

So it seams you did it (I am at page 7 now and really have to go to bed, but the page counter goes to 37 and I assume 10 posts per page). Congratulations! The best about it are the titles :stuck_out_tongue:. And interesting to see that you used the opportunity many times to try techniques, e.g. long exposure etc.

For your book project, I would try to get the page count down by grouping images together and have several arranged on one spread. This may reveal some interesting relations between images, and could end up in a reasonable-sized photo book (page count-wise).


Sorry for quoting myself here, but we urgently need a backlog manager in darktable ;-).


Yeah, I have a TON of backlog. Many ten thousand.

(Mica) #25

I have a tag in darktable, or rather a series of tags: not_started, in_progress, done, printed… Of which backlog could be one.

(Luc Moreau) #26

Interesting; I use Darktable myself but I chose to use the color labels for this : I assign different colors for when the finished photo has been printed or shared on a few specific sites on the net. No color label means “backlog” :slight_smile:

(Bart) #27

Maybe we can convince to free their software.
They have a forum1 but my German doesn’t carry much convincing power I am afraid.

(Pat David) #28

On a related note to this, and displaying my lack of Scribus skills, is it possible for us to put together some community-built templates for assembling photo books that we could use (maybe tailored to a few of the more popular services)?

I’ll take a stab at one a little later, but any knowledge about this would be helpful. We could write up a tutorial on how to use them, too.

(Mica) #29

I can take a look at doing this. Can we get some examples of layouts people might like?


I think a general tutorial would be much more helpful than “just” templates, since the page sizes are so different for the different services. However, probably scribus allows a more generalized way of templating that adapts to the actual sizes, I am unfortunately not that deep into scribus.

What I can offer is a lot of questions concerning such a project, where I stumbled over particular issues that hindered me during my tries of starting a photo book. Some of them are:

  • Sorting the photos: Using darktable, what I really miss is doing sorted collection as preparations for photo books. Of course I can add all images that may be used in the project into one collection by adding a tag, but there is no possibility to bring them into an arrangement that reflects their order in the book.
  • Building reasonable page templates and working efficiently with them, especially with images and text.
  • Aligning images into the template layout, especially if the box is fix and you want to shift your image around to see the best crop (as told before, this already improved a lot).
  • Vertical text alignment. While this was implemented in scribus, I have no idea which version I have to install to get the feature, all that seem to be available precompiled for ubuntu seem to lack this feature.
  • Export: How to maintain the book for print including bleed and have an PDF export without bleed?
  • Double-side spreads: In principle, these are simple in scribus, but for “lay-flat” photo books with, e.g., saal (a German supplier) an odd number of horizontal pixels is required if you want to upload image files instead of the PDF. That was driving me crazy (not a particular problem, but probably there’s a solution out there).

Furthermore, there’s another problem. Not being a designer, I have to learn a lot to do a reasonable font choice, typography, layout (I prefer classical layouts which are focused on the pictures and text and avoid colourful clipart), … Probably such a tutorial has to kickstart these points as well to result in beautiful photo books. (For a good kickstart into general typography I can recommend from, at least for the German speaking folks)


Btw, what about a PlayRaw photo book project to finish until christmas as an example project to make a tutorial?

@patdavid, please do not read beyond this line …

We could then raise some money to have one hardcopy ready for Pat for Christmas as a big thank you for the effort he puts into this place here.

(Mica) #32

Good points @chris!

I will try and take these into account.

(Tobias) #33

I know this two can do books with 200/250 pages:

(Isaac Ullah) #34

Anyone try Laid out Book Creator? Seems like just the thing for photo books. Here’s a good write-up about it in Linux Magazine. I haven’t used it yet, but came across it looking for FOSS tools for booklet layout. Scribus is great, but IMO, it’s not that great for multipage documents, especially when you need to be able to switch from galley to page mode to n-up mode seamlessly…

(peter) #35

“Sorting the photos: Using darktable, what I really miss is doing sorted collection as preparations for photo books. Of course I can add all images that may be used in the project into one collection by adding a tag, but there is no possibility to bring them into an arrangement that reflects their order in the book.”

+1 for this feature. I also would like to sort images within a Filmroll/Folder in a custom way. I remember Adobe Bridge could do this. Afaik there are nearly no apps (for Mac) around that let you sort your images your way. It would be a great feature in Darktable.


I already thought a bit about an implementation. The problem is that, IIRC, in darktable every (xmp+raw) file double has to be self-consistent. I would therefore and for other reasons prefer to have a solution that is reflected in the xmp files and does not only rely on the data base. A possible implementation could be to give every raw file a UID (e.g. by checksumming the raw file) and refer to the next and previous ordered list entries (or only one of these) within every xmp. Unfortunately this would break if one element is removed from outside darktable. One could add some redundancy by tracking a number of subsequent UIDs within each xmp and/or rely on the database to recover from removal outside darktable whenever an image that has references is loaded by checking all corresponding xmps and rewriting them if necessary.

Unfortunately I lack the necessary programming skills to start such an implementation.

(Mica) #37

I believe darktable writes it most of its database content to the xmp file regularly, unless you’ve turned that preference off.

You could come up with your own XML schema for xmp to order things, but that’d get messy fast. You could use tags in darktable to order, as in order|001, order|002 etc.


That would not allow to move images around very easy, because for the worst case, every xmp would have to be rewritten. Therefore my idea with the linked list which would require only three files (for the minimal list case without redundancy) to be changed if one file is moved: The moved file, the old predecessor and the new predecessor.

To make it more clear:

But to be efficient in finding the starting point of the list, one would probably have to implement a scheme that links next and previous list item.

Of course this could be implemented solely by using tags as storage. Probably a lua solution is possible. Only the sorted display of the images would be difficult to implement that way.

(Mica) #39

Of course one would instantly want multiple, named lists. :slight_smile:

I think I’d rather just do this for a specific output, eg, when I make my photo book, I’ll order them in the DTP program.

Anyway, I’ll start looking at scribus tonight!


Indeed, if a picture is allowed to be part of several lists, an identifier for each list is required.

Great :-D. Unfortunately I have to start looking at my pillow now because I have to get up early tomorrow.