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Author Topic: Across the fold photo books  (Read 5685 times)
Stuarte
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« on: June 21, 2007, 07:12:02 AM »
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Recently I bought several weighty and beautifully printed books of high-quality photos, only to find that some of the photos are printed across the fold!  Even if I force the book open and as flat as possible the overall effect of the image is ruined for me.  

In practical terms, it means that I'm now unwilling to buy fine photo books off the Internet unless I can be sure in advance that none of the photos are printed across the fold

Does anyone out there actually think having across-the-fold printing is a reasonable price to pay for getting a really big photo?
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russell a
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2007, 04:20:05 PM »
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I agree.  I hate across the fold reproductions.  I recently got a large Elliott Erwitt book via the internet and found multipage reproductions.  One would think if he were involved he would know better.  There was no conceivable reason to do it, the photos were't even particularly detailed. (And, in the latter case I would rather have one page with a full frame then an additional page(s) with details).  In the Erwitt, there were full frame thumbnails in the back, but they were too small to be satisfying.
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Rob C
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2007, 09:19:35 AM »
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Probably all to do with money-saving devices; perish the thought that a book might contain a blank space!

Rob C
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ternst
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2007, 10:23:10 AM »
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As a book publisher and photographer perhaps I can offer a different view. First off let me say that I agree about the way that most two-page spreads are published - ruins the image for sure and I can't believe how often this is done. But this fact is all about the design person being an idiot or knowing nothing about composition or how the book is printed and put together - I'll get to that in a moment.

I'm putting the finishing touches this week on the eighth coffee-table picture book of my images , and it includes 11 "double-truck" spreads (I prefer to do my own design instead of letting someone else do it so that I have total control of the final product). It has nothing to do with money - the cost is exactly the same. It has everything to do with my personal desire to show the image larger, that's all. When you create some works of art there is often a great deal of fine detail in parts of the image that you simply cannot see well enough when it is only enlarged to a single page. Putting it across two pages simply allows the reader to view the detail better. Of course, you generally have to have great image quality in the first place, otherwise it will look bad. However I once knew an editor at National Geographic who told me "If it is a weak image make it BIG!" I guess the idea was that something large would have such a positive impact that the poor quality would be overlooked - something I do not agree with. The image has to be better than the rest first.

You can't just slap any old image across two pages and expect it to work - one mistake the design folks make all the time. The composition and subject matter has to work first. What I do is look for images that have interesting composition on either side of the image, generally looking in at each other, and with no important info in the "gutter" (that is the fold where you lose a bit of the image). What I see most designers doing is simply looking at a double-truck spread without taking that gutter into consideration, and more often than not they put the most important part of the image in the gutter (probably shouldn't be in the middle of an image anyway).

The second mistake they make is that they don't have a clue where in the book to place these two-page spreads. You see, a book is printed on large sheets of paper called "signatures" that contain 8, 12, 16 or more pages on each sheet. Once both sides of each sheet are printed, that sheet is folded and eventually trimmed. There are only two pages on any single signature where you can place a two-page spread without the picture being cut in two (or printed on two different parts of the sheet that are not together), and unless you place the image there you are asking for trouble (the two sides not lining up or the color being different). It is possible that the two sides of a single image might even be on two different signatures if not placed correctly. It is just simple math - all you have to do is divide the number of pages in a signature in half and that is where you put your image - a 12-page sig for instance would have a "crossover" on pages 6-7 - i.e. a photo placed across those two pages will remain intact when the book is printed, trimmed, and bound, but no other pages on that sig will be. In fact you can open up the book and lay it flat and you will see one complete image, nice and big. I continue to be stunned how many picture books don't follow this simple rule. For me, heck I begin the entire book design process by asking "how many pages are going to be in a signature?" Then I select and place those crossover images first and build the rest of my design around them.

By the way, pattern images with no central subject make terrific double-truck images, and printing them larger really can make them pop.

So YES, a lot of the images you see published in picture books look like crap - because the designer choose the wrong image to place there, and/or put it in the wrong place to begin with on the signature.

And also YES, some images look just terrific and can add a great deal to the enjoyment of the reader if done correctly.

It has nothing to do with money.  

One last thought - I've seen editors make images too small much more often - when even bother to create a fine work of art if they are going make it the side of a postage stamp where quality does not matter! Another reason why I have always published my own books (plus I get to keep all the profits). And all of my books contain ample white space too...

Tim Ernst in Arkansas
www.Cloudland.net
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Ken Tanaka
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« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2007, 11:42:55 AM »
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As someone who has a photographic book library of respectable size, my opinion is that 2-page images never "work" for any image in any sense of the concept.  It's a very badly misguided decision to present any photograph in such a manner.
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Best Regards,
- Ken Tanaka -

www.KenTanaka.com
ternst
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« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2007, 12:31:09 PM »
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Not misguided by me - I love them, if done correctly!

By the way I just got three new David Muench picture books and they have quite a few crossovers in them and they look terrific too. Different strokes for different folks...
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Ken Tanaka
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« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2007, 02:27:04 PM »
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I certainly do not want to raise a pointless argument on this subject and can accept the vanilla to-each-his-own assertion.

I would, however, like to see an image that benefits from this type of mutilation.  Can anyone post, or point to, such an image?  I have seen images slashed and splayed across two pages as sectional dividers to good visual effect, but never to the benefit of the underlying image.  

Doesn't it seem witless to wring one's hands and argue over photography's many little techie nits only to permit or, worse yet, facilitate the mutilation of a carefully-recorded and processed image?
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Best Regards,
- Ken Tanaka -

www.KenTanaka.com
Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2007, 06:10:30 PM »
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I don't see how carefully choosing and processing an image to be printed across the gutter is any more mutilatory of an act than cropping. The gutter is nothing more than a strip quasi-cropped out of an image, it's just obscuring some of the middle of the image instead of the edge. I'd say it's more difficult to find an image that "works" with a strip cut out of the middle instead of off and edge, but difficult is not the same as impossible.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2007, 11:10:10 AM »
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I have to agree with Ken - I have never seen a double-page shot that worked well. Far from it; I am always annoyed by the use of the device and canīt accept that the intrusion of the gutter is ever more than the intrusion of the gutter.

There are many problems with books and pictures and the gutter one is just another. Putting the wrong pair of shots side by side can be a disaster too, and as has already been pointed out, mismatched colours or conflicting shapes/weights/proportions can ruin both images rather than help either.

Come to think of it, itīs a remarkable achievement that any book works! I have produced quite a few calendars for a variety of clients and even there, a far less complex operation, there were all manner of messes awaiting my eager foot. Would you ever believe (or expect) that a printer could send out several thousand calendars with the wrong size of envelope?  I had to deal with that one. Very expensive...

Ciao - Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2007, 04:33:43 PM »
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As a later thouight: I have just had another look at my new copy of Haskinsīs Cowboy Kate and noted with greater care the use (his) of the double-page spread and Iīm afraid it doesnīt work well, not even for him, much as I admire his work.

If the master of the multiple-image-as-one canīt quite get to grips with the thing, and he would seem to have had control over the printing, then what hope the rest of us?

So, I have to stay with my first opinion. I know, I know, youīre all quite devastated...

Ciao - Rob C
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larkvi
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2007, 11:43:46 PM »
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Jonathan, I think that it is much more than a cropping decision. A crop allows you to selectively highlight what you wish to portray, whereas the gutter obstructs the image; as the gutter is in the same place in the book, it can hardly be described as selective, either.

The more important point to my mind is that it mutilates the flat image, and makes it physically hard to look at--suddenly, I have to shift angles to see all of it (even if there is blank space allowed in the gutter) and the image no longer has the effect of a unified whole. To me, the ability to look at the whole image and take in its effect is very important, and I find this impossible with all 2-page spreads but those in books bound to open completely flat. Even then, you have stitches; if we spend so much time removing spots and dust because details matter, why would we accept such a huge interruption in the continuity of the image from a fold?

-Sean [www.larkvi.com]
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Stuarte
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« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2007, 07:03:19 AM »
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Some excellent points made in this thread.  

And, with due respect to all concerned, for anyone who cares about the quality of images, every point is so totally "Doh!!" that I'm even more amazed now that publishers even think of using across-the-gutter formats.  

There may well be business and production reasons for printing photos across the gutter, but none of them even begin to stack up against the simple fact that it ruins a good photo.  It's aesthetic vandalism.
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