Make a book dummy

How to make a photo book dummy:

Create a significant body of photographic work

For a photo book its best if you’ve created a significant body of work. That it has some underlying concept. Extra cool points if it has  a consistent visual aesthetic and style. Extra extra cool points if the concept and aesthetic align together in some way. Of course, some people like to make work that has no purpose, no ideology, and no aesthetic value, that’s their call. I’m coming from the point of view that you’ve wanted to express an opinion about life, the universe and everything and you want to impart these experiences, and wisdom, to your fellow humanity.

First edit

Try and get the project down to around 300 photographs. You can do this several ways by first choosing photographs that have:

Great composition

A chance moment or happy accident

Some narrative element important to your project

They are related to or echo other photographs 

Interesting lighting or atmospherics

Symmetry or mirroring of the subject matter

Or even just a gut feeling, you don’t know why, you are just drawn to them.

I would suggest printing those 300 photographs as small 6x4 inch prints.

Second edit

I start going through the 300 or so prints with a more critical eye, really separating out photographs that bring down the quality of the project. You are only as strong as your weakest image. Somehow in this edit you may start to see a connection in the visual style of the project, try keeping these photographs together. The aim, at least for my last book, was around 70-80 photographs.


Now you have a set of photographs you can begin trying to sequence them. Sometimes this can be done because the project is time based, so a chronological narrative already exists. Sometimes the work is in chapters – work made with a particular approach in mind conceptually – photographs all made in a certain town or city for example.

I like to sequence to create narratives. Sometimes my approach to sequencing is related to the subject matter of each photograph, so that as the book progresses it can conjure its own story. There’s so many different ways to read a photograph I try and go through my sequences again and again in different mindsets, almost like a method actor trying to see the book from different perspectives each time.

The best aid of to this process is to use the small prints and start laying them out on the floor or a large table. You can imagine how each page will reveal itself and the photographs. By doing this you may also happen upon accidental associations you hadn’t even imagined, so its good to keep the remaining photos from your first edit to hand as sometimes they may be needed again.

Book Dummys

Yeah... I haven’t written the text for the rest of it as I just did it and filmed it. Watch the video.

the more you see, the more you know

the more you know, the more you see

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All works and texts copyright © Edward Thompson 2022