Lightroom to Blurb Booksmart proof book using watermarks: a workflow for wedding photography

So you have your images in Adobe Lightroom and you want a quick proofbook with blurb Booksmart so the bride can find her images. The Lightroom print module has some easy options for creating a 2×2 grid with file number underneath but

  • My original file names aren’t numbered simple serially
  • adding file names decreases the space available for proof images, making them smaller
  • the print quality of small file names is poor as we have to go through several tiff>jpg>Booksmart conversions.

I have a simple solution to create a proofboox using a 12″ x 12″ hardcover format offered by blurb that ends up with final image sizes being 95% of a traditional 4″ x6″ proof print. The secret is watermarking the images using Watermark Factory 2.0 ($50).

A note on color management: I use sRGB exclusively as converting from one to another inevitably ends up in color shifts unless you are a color management guru – and let’s admit it, you aren’t. True, ProPhoto or Adobe RGB colorspaces are wider but the color gamut of Blurb’s press is closer to Srgb than any other. If you just want it to work without hassle or surprises, stick to sRGB.

Export images from Lightroom

Once you have custom sorted the images to the desired order, select all images in LR by hitting CTRL-A in library module, then fo File>Export and export all images as 8bit TIFF files numbered serially (1,2,3…) with dimensions of 1200×1800 – which is a 4″x6″ print at 300ppi, close enough for what we are doing. Watermark factory will accept 16Bit TIFF files but it doesn’t render them properly with my version. I export to a separate folder on the Desktop named “project “x” files for watermark”

Q: Why are we resizing all the images to a specific number of pixels?

A: Because if the files have been cropped to different pixel sizes the watermarks will end up being different sizes when rendered to the final proof page.


my lightroom export setting to prep images for watermarking

Import images into Watermark Factory

Now open up Watermark Factory (alternatively Photo Mechanic $)  and import the whole “files for watermark” folder.  Setup a text watermark that uses the file name (minus the file name extension- some other programs do not have this option and who wants .jpg?) of each image. I use Arial, 48point, -20X and -15Y offset and an opacity of about 50-60%. I don’t mind if a few of the watermarks aren’t legible because they are in order so it is easy to figure out from the surrounding photos. Save this as a profile in case something happens and you need to re render a portion of the images as WMFactory doesn’t have a value for the opacity, just a slider and guessing a new value will end up with an inconsistent effect.

Export watermarked images from Watermark Factory

Make sure the image processing options are all unmarked and select JPG file output format (LR doesn’t import any of the other better options such as PNG, and WMFactory doesnt output TIFF) and make sure the JPG settings (the “…” button) it is at 100% image quality with no blurring and not progressive. Press the play button and export all the files to a new folder called “projectx watermarked files for LR”

Sample image with watermark:

4x6 image with watermark

Re-import watermarked images into Lightroom and export for Booksmart

Now open up Lightroom and create a new catalog, import the images with no auto processing. Sort them by file name. Now we are ready for the print module where we will be printing to a PDF file. As the printer determines the dimensions of the page you will have to go to printer preferences and create a new profile using the Blurb page dimensions. These are found NOT on the Blurb website (endless confusion will result as there is conflicting information. According to the Booksmart engineers, always use the dimensions Booksmart gives you) but by opening up booksmart, creating a blank book of the size you want and mousing over the internal pages in “edit” view. A brief pop-up will say the full bleed sizes which for a 12×12 book is 3563px wide x 3609px high. Note that it also pops up 11.88″ x 12.03″ @300dpi but a quick calculation reveals that those dimensions are a pixel off – close enough I guess because the page will be trimmed. So we create a new PDF page with 11.88w x 12.03h dimensions.

UPDATE: Lightroom version 2.x and up allow you to print directly to a JPG file, saving an intermediate step! Just go with the dimensions from blurb booksmart, 300ppi, quality 100 and you are ready to go!

In LR print module setup a 2×2 grid with all margins set to .375in (.125in bleed +.25in safe area). I am tempted to get closer to the safe area but if the trim off the top and bottom are not proportional one print edge will be closer to the edge of the paper than the other and it will look unprofessional. a .25in space from the trim line puts it far enough away so a small difference wont be noticeable. As a compromise, I use .30in margins.

Set the cell spacing to zero – this will cause the images to butt up against each other which is a compromise for maximum image size. To help mediate this issue as well as define the border of each image create a black or dark grey stroke of .5 point or more. Note that using the .2point minimum stroke weight WILL cause problems as it is so small when blurb resamples the line it will end up with an inconsistent dotted effect – not good. Even .5 point stroke doesn’t render in the booksmart lo resolution previews so I use .6 point stroke so avoid worry. Set the “print jobs” settings in LR to 300ppi resolution with no or low print sharpening, JPEG quality at 100 and color management to sRGB and intent as perceptual.

An example of the full bleed page output from lightroom, ready for importing into Booksmart:

2x2 image grid output from lightroom now ready for import into Booksmart

Note this is a full bleed page and will be trimmed near (~.15in) to the edge of the top and bottom image

old proofbooks style with filenames under each image

Old proofbooks style with filenames(see arrow) under each image. The text was >tiny< and along with a .2pt stroke didn't render very well (aliasing/compression/resizing issues?) in the final book.

Import full-bleed pages into Booksmart

Now the wedding photographers dream: a folder with serial numbering “projectx -1.jpg,…”, just import them into booksmart (or drag and drop), highlight them all and select “autoflow” while in edit mode. Viola! That is about it – design the covers and you are done! Note you will have to go in and delete the books default words “books title” and “author” from the cover as well as delete the index page, etc. Also the last page has a blurb logo you can pay extra to have removed.

Warning: Text on the spine with imagewrap is risky. I first got back a book with the spine text far, far off from center. A $150 error as I was at a deadline and had to give the bride something. The re-ordered book just had a white spine.

Blurb Coupon Code

Coupon code for 20% off and free shipping through 11/24/2009: BLURBTREAT – saved me $60 off my last order of two books. Yay!

Here is a discussion I found useful in figuring this workflow out:

Flickr: Discussing Creating a Proofbook in Lightroom in Adobe Lightroom

Next: Actual pictures of the finished Blurb book


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