photo book publishing path

Fellow photographer Sara Francis has published photo books and asked to share the trials and tribulations of getting them into print. Please welcome Sara with these guest posts as she shares this five-part series on getting a photo book into print.

Your Photographic Forever; a five-part series that will make you want to put your images into print. Why Print a photo book now?

In spite of distancing and upheaval, it’s a great time to publish a photo book—your photographic art in book form. My personal experience on the road to publish my retrospective and photo-memoir kickstarts this series. Here’s the good news.

All book sales, including art and photo books, are up more than 100%. As photographers, we already own and work with many of the tools needed to conceive and design an attractive, salable book—without paying for costly designers and editors. Printing costs are now much less than you’d expect.

The concept of a book, a stunning, coffee table book, hard cover, with a wide-ranging folio of our own work, well, that’s a goal that most of us have fostered for some time. I tried all sorts of avenues, including university presses for my 60-year photo project and memoir of the Taos Native American Pueblo, the artists of Taos I have known and the wonder of the region. Yes, strong regional interest and potential audience. I discovered four major roadblocks.

A great title, and also an informative, attractive contents page must grab attention. Note that most books are filed with only the spine showing, so be sure to have title, author and publisher name or mark showing.

Choose your publisher

Institutional presses, if they accept you at all, take at least two years to come to print, and you have little say in the design and presentation. Exclusively photo and art book printers have limited funds and take a handful of projects a year. Many say they approach only photographers they themselves name. No chance to submit. More mainstream publishers are so genre-conscious that images, especially images with text or poetry are simply not a fit they consider. Worse, publishers who claim support for new or regional artists mostly just want to sell you their design and editing services, so you still have little input.

Image and text, both poetry and memoir, tell the story of why I photographed this child.

This the bad news I encountered, and it was a deal breaker. I’ve spent more than three years figuring out how to do it myself, my way. I set out to work through the entire process from concept to design to print to distribute and promote. I wanted my book to look just like I wanted, not someone else’s design. At this point I can give you more good news. Over 50% of all books published are now independently or self published. And this trend continues to increase.

Ceremonial color proves a good foil for the sepia duo-tones in telling the regional story.

Steps forward

Classic rule of thirds composition in a grab shot, again unfolds the story.

Here’s the breakdown of steps to make the process financially feasible and technically manageable. In this series I hope I can coach you to think seriously about publishing and start the process toward reward under you own hand.

Printer choice

Bob is the first one to tell you that you don’t get rich on a book. My job is to show you steps to publish that won’t break the bank. And the riches! The satisfaction of a beautiful book is worth everything.

Proceed to Part Two of your book publishing path.

Sara Frances

author photo sara francisSara is a many-decades Master Photographic Craftsman out of Denver whose artistic focus has always been book making with images. Her albums won PPA merits starting well before digital capture, as well as for what is believed to be the first ever awarded portrait album. She has evolved from daily, shorter-term studio photography into exclusively special projects of long commitment. Her second hybrid photo/memoir art book, Fragments of Spirit, now published under her own mark, Photo Mirage Books, is available mid-December 2020.

Renewing her lifelong interest in creative writing, she was recently was accepted for Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Poetry Collective, graduating a year later with a forthcoming hybrid work marrying over 275 manipulated iPhone images with 120 poems: What to Wear to Paradise.

Her three-year quest to learn all facets of the art book industry has influenced her to give back with hands-on publishing classes. She is a judge for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and for Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA.) She teaches for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Denver, for PPA Super One Day seminars, and also mentors hybrid image/text projects.

To find Sara on social media search SaraFrancesPhotographer or email –

international photographic competition results

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) hold the International Photographic Competition (IPC) each year. My results.

The Jury

A panel of 36 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from over 5,000 total submitted entries at PPA headquarters in Atlanta. Judged against a standard of excellence, 1,706 images were selected for the General Collection and 865 (roughly 17 percent) were selected for the esteemed Loan Collection—the best of the best. The Loan Collection images will all be published in the much-anticipated “Loan Collection” book by Marathon Press.

“I’m thankful that these challenges exist through PPA. Having your work reviewed and judged by top industry professionals helps keep my image making from becoming static. I get feedback on new techniques which is priceless in keeping me growing my image creation skills.”

‘Another World’ was captured at the Toadstools in Southern Utah.

‘Great Blue’ was captured in Page Springs, AZ at the Bubbling Ponds.

Loan Collection

Three of my images were accepted into the Loan Collection.

‘Orange Outburst’ is a water droplet photo.


Another water droplet capture in the PPA Loan Collection.

Two were made of experimental photography involving falling water droplets. Orange Outburst and Twice Nice show the result of specialty lighting of three water drops crashing at intervals which are done by very specific timing of the drops, plus a bit of endurance. Many images need to be captured to find some that create these patterns. The other Loan image was from a composite image titled ‘Blessing Place. Bob worked with images of animals photographed at the Phoenix Zoo some northern Arizona landscape features and and clouds photographed from above. 

In addition two more photographs were named to the General Collection. I rendered a watercolor of a great blue heron in flight over the Bubbling Ponds in Page Springs. ‘Another World’ was a night sky photograph of the Milky Way made while in Southern Utah of the Toadstools. It has a very prehistoric feel.

‘Blessing Place’ is a bit of a departure from my normal work.

Images will be in the International Photographic Exhibition alongside other top photographic works from the competition and traveling and special invitational displays. These images constitute one of the world’s largest annual exhibits of professional photography gathered simultaneously in one place.

About PPA

Founded in 1868, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest and longest-standing nonprofit photography trade association. It currently helps 30,000 professionals elevate their craft and grow their business with resources, protection, and education, all under PPA’s core guiding principle of bridging the gap between photographers and consumers. See more of my artwork at or at the Gallery of Modern Masters in Hillside, Sedona, AZ.

Coming soon

Above you can see the images that were favored by the judges. Soon I’ll share those that did not make it into the General Collection.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob

never stop photographing

Today’s post is by a guest photographer from Argentina. He says they are running into many of the same issues we photographers have here in the US. Here is NIcholas Tinelli’s take on the longevity of still image creation.

Let me know what you think after you have read the post.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

We will never stop photographing!

Nowadays, video seems to be more popular on a commercial level, with websites and social networks invaded by ads of all kinds, photography sometimes remains on the sidelines. The fact is that although modern cameras also make video, it is difficult for many professional photographers to keep up with the times and offer this type of service to be more competitive in the market. I also believe that the photographer and the videographer are two very distinct figures, or you do one thing or the other. Few people can handle both things well.

So? Is photography in its last days?

I would say definitely no.

First of all there is always a need for new images and if, as a photographer, you can adapt to new technologies and specialize in a niche using the marketing tools available today, you still have a chance to live on your passion full time. Presenting your work well as a professional will not miss the opportunities to grow and create lasting business relationships over time.

nothing stop photography graphic

Nothing Stops Photography – Graphic by Nicholas Tinelli

It must also be said that photography has undergone a great evolution over the years, not only technological, but also cultural, and is increasingly consolidated among the visual and communicative arts. Many photographers find space as artists and have the opportunity to show their projects to the public. It is extraordinary to be able to see many more photographic works printed in high museum-quality than in the past. In addition to the impact they have on the public, sometimes decisive for environmental and social issues. Just think of a photographer like the Canadian Paul Nicklen, who puts photography at the service of the environment.

Documentary Photography

Let’s not forget photography as a means of documentation. It has allowed us to record our recent past and continues to do so today, faster and with more and more people connected to each other who can show their little reality. It is a story, ours, that is also written in pictures and we will always need it. Just think how many photos we accumulate every day with our smartphones to document intimate family moments.

It’s something we can’t live without. And if it will not be by profession, we will continue to carry it on even just as a passion.

For this reason, I believe, we will never stop photographing.

Nicholas Tinelli

Bio: Nicholas Tinelli is a Travel and Portrait Photographer based in Buenos Aires. He runs photography courses and workshops in Argentina and is passionate about writing. Check out Nicholas’s work here.


olympus 100-400mm lens test

Taking the Olympus M. Zukio 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 lens out for a spin. I’m liking it.

2X teleconverter

One of my favorite parts of the 100-400 is being able to add the 2X teleconverter MC20. While I lament the f/13 aperture I enjoy the extended reach. The field of view is similar to a 1600mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera. Makes getting more frame-filling images when photographing wildlife a whole lot easier.

dragonfly close-up image

100-400mm with 2x teleconverter on FotoPro Tripod

Here’s a close-up I was able to get of a dragonfly. It’s pretty amazing that it even shows the facets in the eyes. The camera was mounted on a Fotopro Eagle E6L Tripod with built-in gimbal head for easy adjustments as the little critters maneuver between reeds.


I was enjoying the dark skies of Sedona from my back patio. Just for fun I grabbed the 100-400mm 2X combo on the OM-D E-M1 Mark III and shot the moon.

1/2 moon photo

Incredible detail handheld 1600mm field of view.

Lens fully extended. Handheld at 1/400th of a second. After cropping down to the square I ended up with a file size about 2200 pixels.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob


sunrise time-lapse at watson lake with platypod

PlatyPod tripod is a utility tool I’ve started using more often. I bought mine about a year and a half ago and set it aside for a bit, as it was not front of mind. I started using it again and found quite a few new and different ways to support my camera and lights. Now, the Ultra model stays clipped to my Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 camera bag.

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

sunrise photo watson lake prescott arizona

Sunrise image selected from time-lapse captures

Having outfitted my car for camping I was able to be on site for sunrise and moon-rise shoots. I’m sharing some of the sunrise footage I made with my Lumix G9. Capturing time-lapse images adds to possible output. Of course, there’s the time-lapse processed at multiple playback speeds. Multiple images can also be processed together for noise reduction or other creative uses. Individual images can be selected for processing different times.


Link to sunrise video. It is magical seeing time compressed. There is a different perspective when everything is shown faster. The world can be viewed in many different ways. Being a stills photographer/Lens Based Artist I seem to be drawn to what can be shared starting with individual captures. Putting the photos together gives me another creative outlet.

Low to the ground

platypod tripod at watson lake prescott arizona

Platypod Ultra tripod with a couple leveling bolts in place.

When making this set of images I wanted the camera to be low to the ground which, is a perfect use for the PlatyPod tripod. With no legs the camera is not affected by wind and stays steady Many regular tripods can get low as well, but end up with legs splayed.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

FYI I am currently creating paid content for PlatyPod.


slices of sublime moments

Slices of sublime beauty wait in the wetlands of Sedona. The more time I spend in nature the more gifts seem to come my way. I have found however, that I have to be open to the experience.

Open to the experience

Pursuing dragonfly images in the wetlands is joy to me. Having to slow down and observe moments and behavior allow my brain to take a break. Sometimes I have the end in mind to such an extent that I forget to leave room for happy accidents.

This day was not one of those.

Reeds from the wetlands in Sedona, AZ form beautiful shapes curves and lines


An Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III was fitted out with the new ** M Zukio 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 lens with an MC 20 2x extender. The long lens compresses the scene and helps create a shallow depth-of-field. The camera rested on a FotoPro Eagle E6L tripod. The built in gimbal head makes it easy to maneuver the camera lens combo.

Back button focus

Because I use back button focus when photographing wildlife the camera only changes focus when it is engaged. Because I have to search for the wildlife through a long lens the focus was slightly off as a scanned the reeds. What I saw was a little slice of magic. That serendipitous moment led me to try this as a technique. Light and shadow in yellows and greens played soft silhouettes in my viewfinder.

I worked the scene and share a couple of the resulting images here.

Post processing

Very little post-production was done on these photos. A little spot cleanup here, a tiny dodge and burn there were all that was needed. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

PS – if you have any questions let me know

** I am testing the 100-400mm lens. Release date is September 15th, 2020

new head shot

It was time to update my head shot. Don’t want to be like the cobbler that has no shoes.

The gear

I set my Lumix G9 with DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens on a tripod. I used the modeling lights of my Paul C Buff White Lightning 1200 flashes (no longer manufactured as I bought these lights when I first started around 25 years ago. Which is a testament to Buff lighting longevity!) Camera right had a 42 inch umbrella about 60 degrees off axis. Camera left another Buff light with no umbrella and a seven inch reflector for the background light.


Studio head shot

1/80th second f/1.2 ISO 200. Camera was triggered by Panasonic’s Image App on my phone which allowed me to set focus and see what the camera sees. Great for making a self portrait.

Color or Black and White

Black and white processed with Nik Silver EFEX Pro

Using Adobe’s Photoshop the file was processed in color with very light retouching. Removed a couple stray hairs along with a wild eyebrow hair. Nik Silver EFEX Pro (part of the NIK collection) was used for conversion to black and white.

Which do you like better? Color or black and white?

Yours in Creative Photography,          Bob


car camping aka boodocking – my build

With all that is going on with Covid–19 this year I knew I wasn’t going to be able to travel in my usual way. That led to outfitting my Toyota RAV 4 for boon docking, AKA car camping. My photographer friend Jose Robertson who came through in his vehicle when traveling 2 years ago inspired me.

The start

About a month ago Jose came through on another trip I had the opportunity to test my set up under his watchful eye. During his travels we camped at Lake Powell, Arizona for a couple nights. He taught me a lot and showed me I needed a few more modifications.

I’ll be doing a more in-depth article for the online magazine For now you can get an idea of how I fitted out the car.

A peek into the build

A look in the back. Cot with sleeping pad. Removable shelf. Bins for organization.

Not wanting to add a lot of weight or to remove seats I added a five-inch cot to sleep flat.

A shelf that is installed with no attachments to the car is a huge help. This went through a few design iterations. Especially since the cot was billed as being three inches tall. The shelf was redesigned with the five-inch actual cot height! The bins help organize. Bottom bin is the kitchen with stove, gas, cooking tools and utensils. Top bin holds my personal such as clothes and toiletries.


Testing the setup. I assembled the ‘camp set up’ in my driveway before hitting the road. testing is good… Trust me on that!

Here’s an image from Watson Lake in Prescott, AZ with the vehicle in use. I’ll share more soon I’m heading out on a new lone adventure on Monday!

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

PS – my photographer friends will recognize that part of the support for the shade are two background stands I repurposed.

food for thought

I don’t normally get too political. We are an amazing country with lots to be proud of. Lately though we seem to have been backsliding into a morass.

The Newsroom

I will share this clip from the show ‘The Newsroom‘ and ask that you take a moment to watch, listen and process. I think this was from 2012. Don’t get me wrong. We have a great country. Unfortunately, it appears we have been heading down a track of nationalism and ‘me-ism’ that has derailed many of the things which we valued in the past. As this clip is from 2012 our problems obviously didn’t start in 2015 or 2016. They have been building for years. I liken it to the frog in the pot of water that is set on heat. Because the heat builds up slowly it is not noticed until it is too late.

I believe much of our problem has to do with too much money being involved in our political system.

Believing everything you see and sharing it on social media without vetting the information and the source.

Media outlets being under the control of too few people.

Entertainment shows parading as ‘news outlets’ and spewing hate and derision across the airwaves. Hate and fear sell more. I think the terminology used to be ‘If it bleeds it leads.’ Why do we have to constantly see all the bad news without another voice showing all the good that is happening, Every. Single. Day.

We see so much bad news reported that it becomes the only thing we think is in the country.

The best line from this monologue is, “The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing there is one.”

What can we do as individuals?

Perhaps each one of us can begin the healing process one step at a time. Don’t call names. Check your posts before you share. Share as much good news as you can.

I’ll let the clip speak for itself and ask what can we do to get back on track?

Yours in Creative Photography,   (if a bit off subject in today’s post)       Bob

Here’s a link for those who are seeing this in my post notification email.

nightscape photography time lapse

I’ve been enjoying the cooler air at night photographing Nightscapes and Starscapes. Today’s high was 107 here in Sedona, Arizona. Decided to lay low during the day!

Platypod tripod

I’ve been playing with the Platypod Ultra making some time-lapse videos for them. I bought the Platypod about a year and a half ago and wasn’t using it very much. But when they asked me to work it a little more I’ve been finding more and more uses. In addition, it now hangs off my small Think Tank Mirrorless – 20 camera pouch when I go hiking. I’m finding it gives me a stable platform while adding very little weight to my kit.

platypod with mirrorless mover 20

•• Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 with Platypod Ultra Tripod hanging with a caribeaner.

Watson Lake, Prescott, AZ

I spent a couple nights car camping, AKA boondocking, in my RAV 4 during the last full moon. Here’s a time-lapse I made of the moon for Platypod getting up off the horizon. See more of the boondocking story here.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob

For those who are viewing this in the Successful-Photographer email notification here’s a link.
•• The reason I use the Think Tank MM 20 is that it is small but robust. I’ve been using this bag for about five years and it is only starting to show some wear. Know that I am a mirrorless shooter with Lumix and Olympus gear so It’s just the right size. They make larger models such as the MM 30 for larger camera gear