In Design CS4 Photographers Look. The Lightroom Of Album Design

PinExt In Design CS4 Photographers Look. The Lightroom Of Album Design

by Gavin Seim Updated 11/09:

Images stuffed into mat pages, then an album covers is becoming less and less attractive to clients. If you’re designing wedding, event, or portrait albums you’ve probably played with making layouts in Photoshop or another program to then have printed as flush mount albums like Kiss or Asa Books, You might have also used press books like the ones from WHCC. Once you have a good design there’s loads of choices, but it’s the design that’s the challenge.

As many people know the service and support of Adobe has gone in the toilet in recent times and while they need some competition to slap them back on track, their software is still great. Today I want to talk about In Design CS4 and how it relates to album deisgn. I’ve tried various tools for album design, some of which worked really well. When it comes to crunch time however, I’m finding In Design is the king.

I learned the basics about using ID for albums from a video that Kevin Swan made. And now gives free on the Kiss books site. Not required but it was sure a great crash course and I use it often to hone up my knowledge. The bottom line is that it’s fast, easy and powerful. Once you get the hang of it.

In Design was not actually designed for photographers to make albums. Rather it’s the industry standard for designers doing layouts on magazines and other published material. It turns out however that it works a treat for doing albums. Bear in mind it’s not a photo editor. What ID rocks at, is laying out pages and doing it fast.

I cringe when I think of doing individual pages in Photoshop. It’s not a page design tool and it’s tedious to do layouts with. What I love about ID is that the entire project is contained in a single file. All images on the pages are referenced to the original files on your computer similar to when one makes a web page. You can edit and change you design in one place and when it’s finished just export the final file as a PDF of JPEG’s. Kinda like the way we use Lightroom.

indesign 3 In Design CS4 Photographers Look. The Lightroom Of Album Design

indesign 2 In Design CS4 Photographers Look. The Lightroom Of Album Design

indesign 5 In Design CS4 Photographers Look. The Lightroom Of Album Design

Here’s my workflow:

  • Edit images in Lightroom & Photoshop using Seim Effects.
  • Export final high res images for galleries, client disks, ect.
  • Start a new ID project with my album page dimensions.
  • Drop the images in from Bridge into In Design.
  • Use In Design’s tools for fast borders and duplication.
  • Export my final layouts as High Res JPEG’s or single PDF for printing.

In Design CS4:
You can certainly use an older version of In Design to make albums with, but now that I’ve introduced how powerful it is,  let’s go over some cool new features in CS4 that are relevant to photographers, as well as some quick tips.

Loaded Gun: This is for multi image placement. It’s not totally new but it’s been enhanced. You can select multiple images for your layout (from the Bridge for example) This gives you a cursor that allows you to shoot images onto the page wherever you want. You can also use arrow keys to select an image from those loaded in the gun. Now that you have the image gun you can drop them into a frame, or click and drag to make a scaled frame. This is called proportional place and it will be a huge time saver. The scale feature is brand new.

NEW: Hold down command shift while placing multiple images with the gun and you’ll get an automatic grid. While still holding mouse use arrow keys to add more cells.

NEW: Revamped links panel: Now has thumbnails of image links. Also an image used multiple times in your layout will show in a drop down of that image in the links panel allowing you to manage where it’s been used and click it to take you to the page where is resides.

NEW: Revamped buttons panel, hyperlinks etc.  Interactive documents are easy as pie:

New: The Smart Guides save a ton of time in aligning images. Wish they were in PS because they RULE. This has to be my favorite feature.

NEW: Connect Now.  Allows you to start a web meeting from a CS4. It’s free for up to 2 people, and you can pay to add more. It’s a great way to train and be trained.

The Straight Dope:
At nearly $700, like most Adobe products, the program is overpriced . You may already have it however if you own one of the Adobe suites, or you might consider getting a suite for a better value. It’s not radically different from previous versions, but many of the new features  are great for an album design workflow and there are other new features worth considering if you’ll be using it for other projects.

The more I use In Design the more I love it. It’s making album design a snap and as I learn it I’m using it for other projects, like promotion materials for my business. I think in the future this will become a common studio tool for us.

If you use In Design already I think this is a worthwhile upgrade at $199. If you don’t use it, but have album design as part of your job it’s well worth looking at. You could also pick a previous version (like CS3). You won’t get all the latest features, but you will save some cash.

Here’s a few of my latest weddings that include album design slidhosws. All one in In Design.

Wedding Photography Album1

Wedding Photography Album2


TIP: Object/Frame Fitting to set default fitting options (not new) but this can be applied to your frame style and when you drop images in with the gun they will scale.

TIP: Save object styles from a project as In Design Defaults. With no project open, click the option menu of the object styles panel (it’s a dropdown on the right of the panel). Select “load object styles”. Then navigate to a previous In Design document in which you made object styles. Select that project file as the source and ID it will pull the styles from the selected placing them as defaults within In Design.

TIP: Hold down the hand tool to get power zoom box and navigate around. Scroll to resize the box and use OPT+CMD to spring load.

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  • Robert

    How do you handle sharpening? When exporting the layout to jpeg (or even pdf), the original images will be resized which will introduces a level of softening. There is a piece of software called LinkOptimizer that allows for sharpening and running of actions, but the price is too prohibitive.

    The softening is clearly visible when comparing the original image with the exported layout.
    Do you sharpen images prior to inclusion in an InDesign layout and hoping that the softening is ‘limited’? Or do you:
    – after the InDesign export, load the layout (jpeg) into photoshop and apply sharpening, perhaps splitting a double-page spread into 2 parts via an action, etc and re-save. (in effect saving a jpeg twice) or
    – load each of the images back into photoshop, resize based on placement / size in the layout and relink back into the document? (This is time consuming and defeating the reason for using InDesing in the first place).

    An option to export to TIF would have been great, but that option does not exist in InDesign, so interested to find out your findings in getting the best final layout image quality ready for printing.


    • Gavin Seim

      Hey Robert. I’ve not really had a problem. I sharpen some images when doing primary processing and sometimes I sharpen the batch a bit on export from LR, but as for In Design I don’t usually worry about it. I export my In Design files as JPG or PDF and send to the lab. Remember that most labs making photographic prints will sharpen accordingly in printing.


  • Kristine

    Hi Gavin,

    It’s my first time designing an album in InDesign. This may seem like a pretty basic question, but I want to ask it before I start designing. When editing images in Photoshop, what’s the best size to resize photos to for use in a KissBooks album? 300 dpi at 12″ longest side? Or, do I just save each edited photo as a jpeg at the camera’s natural resolution? (Makes for HUGE files.)

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

    • Gavin Seim

      Kristine I usually design albums with 10×10 pages myself. I will often export at full res just so I have lots to work with. Sometimes I’ll do serious cropping during an album design to fir the look I want. Full res JPEG files at a quality of 90 or so are fairly big, but the final image collection is only about 400 images generally so it’s not that big of a deal.

      That said I do sometimes limit my export to 3000px or so and it’s enough. I just tend to like having everything to work with that I can.