Why Blurb is on My Last Nerve

For my final project in my photography class our professor assigned us to get a book published with a collection of our work.  This is something we will do at the end of each semester of the advanced photography courses.  It was something I was excited about doing.

There is a great quote by Ansel Adams that has always been important to me.

The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.

If a print is the performance, a published book is its international tour debut.

Walking into interviews with clients as well as potential graduate schools with a book of your prints is far more impressive than a CD or website.  I know, we all pretty much shoot only digital these days and creating a beautiful website is easier and easier every day.  However, sometimes there is something about holding a print in your hand, putting your nose up against the texture of the paper, that is so etherial… so different to what pops out of the computer screen.

I was ready to get my book together and published and I was ready to throw out the cash to get it done right.  I went to Blurb as per my professor’s suggestion and from all the great reviews I’d read over the last few years.  I had actually had a few pictures printed into a Blurb book earlier in the semester with fantastic results.

After putting the book together, forking over the extra cash for image wrap, a hardcover and premium paper the book was ready to be mine.

The book arrived and got great reviews from Twitter friends, my professor and my peers.  In fact, everyone that saw it seemed to love it.  So did I!

Well until I compared it to what I had created on Blurb’s Booksmart software, and what you see on their webpage…What I saw was alarming.  Pictures were extremely dark, some pictures were over-saturated, b/w pictures seemed blue/greenish and some pictures showed signed of some rather extreme jpeg like artifact-ing.

Here’s and example.  The first picture is what you see on Blurb.com


Now, here’s a scan of that same picture as printed in my Blurb book.


Book Version

Here’s another example.



And again, the scanned version from the Blurb book.

Blurb Book

Book Version

Now, can you see why I’m pissed at Blurb?

Their response?  I should have brightened my pictures before sending them to be printed and that it is solely the responsibility of the creator of the book to make these compensations.

However, some of the same pictures in this book were in another blurb book. The exact files with no modifications and they looked great!  So, clearly, this is bullshit.  They are giving me a credit to reprint the book but first I have to boost the brightness of all the files, completely arbitrarily as there is no real way for me to know how they will come out.

Shouldn’t they come out as they are put in? I’ve printed HUNDREDS of pictures in dark rooms and on several high end printers.  There are paper profiles, color spaces and gamma settings for this kind of stuff that are put in place to prevent these things from happening.

Blurb has sent me on my way with more work to get my book looking like it should.  I feel that they should be the ones making these modifications since, well there really isn’t a good way for ME to make the changes.

Maybe it’s the “it’s your fault” that is really irking me.  It is not my fault.

Next time I’m going to try Aperture, Blurb.com no more.

If you want to see more of my book, in all it’s original file glory, check out it’s page on Blurb.com.

Rant off.

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6 thoughts on “Why Blurb is on My Last Nerve

  1. Yikes. That’s quite a difference. And it’s unprofessional for them to say *you* should arbitrarily increase brightness in this day and age, as you said, of paper profiles, ICC profiles, etc. I’ve had many things go to press and turn out like I intended (even if the printing company wasn’t top-notch) because things are so standardized.

    Let me know how your experience with Aperture’s book printing goes. I’ve been meaning to do one for some of my vacation shots (as well as make prints for framing) but haven’t gotten around to it.

  2. Justin, please give one of our books a try. We print pages and cover on real photo paper, Fujifilm Crystal Archive Album paper, and have ICC profiles for the paper, so you can control things like color etc. Please email me at ingridspangler@adorama.com if you have more questions about our books, I’m happy to help.

  3. If your books contain mostly photos, you might consider going with an imaging lab, who will typically offer higher quality papers (as Ingrid suggests) and better color quality. mpix.com, whcc.com, and adoramapix.com are all good (@adoramapix is running a 25% off special on their books right now on Twitter too).

    Nice work, btw.

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