DT&G Magazine Photography Department
The Design Center / DT&G / Photography Department: / Photoshop Photos Picture Package using Adobe InDesign  

picture frames for photo packages

Photoshop Photos Picture Package using Adobe InDesign

While we're on the topic of templating this month, I thought I would answer a question asked by a Design Cafe member. Like many others, many times, he asked questions about how to put together picture packages like the ones shown above. It's really very simple if you use a more convenient tool than Photoshop. If you've ever tried to put together such a package in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, then you know it's a tedious process and offers little or no flexibility for spin-offs or templating.

Enter Adobe InDesign. As an old, died in the wool desktop publisher, I know that page assembly programs suck when it comes to retouching photos -- but I know for sure that Photoshop sucks when it comes to multi-object assembly. InDesign is really ideally suited for this process because of several built-in tools that act on objects rather than pixels. And that's what you want.

In building a simple picture package using Adobe InDesign, you'll enjoy a number of distinct benefits you won't get in Photoshop.
* Elements are objects and can be moved without selections
* Scaling, rotating or other modifications affect the container and contents
* Once set up, to change all the pictures, just import new ones.
* Border, frame and corner effects are all vector based and very quick.
* Resolution is always optimum

typical photo package with different photos in different sizes

Unlimited designs... let's build one

Above you see the first example of this tutorial. It's actually simple, once you change your point of view of building a flexible, picture package you can generate again and again.

Open a new file and using the "object" box tool (with the "x") drag out the frames where the images will go. If you know in advance what you want the frames to look like, you can drag the first one, insert an image, and style the box the way you want. Then just duplicate it for the next box, and replace the image.

RULE: Always remember: the solid pointer (or "Select" tool; tap "V") selects the object or box ... the hollow pointer (or "Direct Select" tool; tap "A") selects the contents of the object or box.

drop shadowNote in the diagram above, I've placed strategic elements on their own layers, and then labeled the layers clearly. Do this in the beginning, and it will save some trouble later. Remember you can show/hide or lock/unlock those layers utilizing the icons to the left of the layer in the layers palette.

In this example I added a little drop shadow to the boxes to raise them off the background. You can modify borders, fills, corners and other object styles from the Object menu. Note, that I shift/selected all the boxes with the Select tool before initiating the shadow function. That applies it to them all at the same time! enlarge

RULE: Unlike Photoshop, you really don't have to worry too much about resolution so long as the photos are either at least 3,000 pixels in any dimension, or 300 dpi. InDesign handles all the resolution for you. In these examples all the photos were 300 dpi, and all had to be REDUCED to fit into the layout. I built a keyboard stroke to initiate the "SCALE" contents dialog, so for each photo, I hit the stroke, and 'estimated' my reduction. Something else you cannot do in Photoshop.

Watermarking WATERMARKING: Here's another trick you won't find in Photoshop. Because the watermark is created as a separate text object, on its own separate layer, there's no need to worry about resolution, or affecting the image in any way. Once your client approves the package, you simply turn off that layer and it's ready to print. No second step process is needed.

Use the TEXT tool and drag out a box. Key in the type of your watermark, copyright, dates, what ever -- and it's ready to go. You can make a black or gray filled version for light subjects, and a white type version for dark subjects. Notice here, I gave it a bit of a slant using the angle setting in the tool bar above. It's also on its own layer at the top of the layers stack. enlarge

BRANDING: for more appealing products, your customers will like, you may want to consider a "slogan" of some kind. You could also offer to insert what ever the customer wants ... up to so many characters. Here I merely used "Friends Forever" for this example. Once again, that text on its own layer. Handle your company name the same way, on its own layer, and perhaps you can offer branded and unbranded versions. I would use the watermark version WITH branding, then when delivering the paid package, remove the branding.

Unlimited designs... Shapes and Treatments

So, let's do it again! This time I created a vertical or "portrait" version similar to the sample sent in by the Design Cafe subscriber. Here, we've raised the "slogan" to the top, making a nice presentation statement. Perhaps you'll want to keep a selection of fonts on hand and let your clients pick the one they like best. You can get pretty creative with fonts, so be careful. You don't want anything to really distract from the photos.

box shapes and corner treatments

Object SHAPES: Once we liked our finished design, we saved it as an InDesign Template, and continued modifications. Note under the Objects menu you can convert the shape to what ever shape you like. So we converted those side boxes to ellipses. Another trick Photoshop can't handle without a a lot of trouble. (Open this sample and you'll see that inverted corners really don't go very well with ellipses!)

CORNER TREATMENTS: Also under the Objects menu you'll find "Corner Effects" where you have a whole new collection of corner treatments. We selected the inverted circle here -- but just for an example. I don't think I would actually use that along with the ellipses. A round corner would be more appropriate. You can set the style and the dimension from that dialog box. If you've got a styled border with a stroke, then it modifies the border and stroke as well.

finished picture packages ready to sell

AUTOMATION: for production shops or you automation freaks out there, you can add some very cool features to this system. First, there are database tools available where you merely encode the picture frames in your InDesign file so that photos are pulled from a selected file in the database. Pictures appear automatically, along with the appropriate "Client" name. If that's too steep for'ya, then try this:
Always name your photos the SAME, in their client file folder. Now, physically copy the template file into a different "client" folder -- and "Refresh Links". InDesign pulls in the photos in the new folder because they have the same names. Presto! A 60-Second Picture package. You may need to adjust scaling or cropping as the new subjects may not be exactly like the previous ones. Try to do THAT in Photoshop!

The Right Tool for the Right Job: Although all my examples above are in black and white, the whole process works the exact same for color subjects. And remember, each time you create a new layout, you've added another product you can sell to your customers or clients. Oh, and by the way -- you can do the very same projects in Quark XPress, PageMaker, or any of the leading desktop publishing packages as well.

As an added bonus, I'll put the raw InDesign layered files, along with PDF samples in the Publishers' Warehouse. There, you'll have a FREE DOWNLOAD to get you started! Just change the branding, drop in your photos, adjust the fonts to YOUR system, and you're ready to go.

If you should happen to download them and use them -- I would appreciate a PDF or a screen capture to add to this article! Just let me know.

... and thanks for reading!

Fred Showker
Fred Showker, Editor / Publisher of DTG Magazine


Photoshop 911 Call Reports

Here comes this month's batch of reports from the Photoshop 911 call line. The most interesting is how one user solves the problem of removing the background from multiple shots of a rotating product for a 3D video... there are seven others, and you'll want to read them all:
In the Photoshop 911 FAQ department

Participate in your Design Center

Lots of fun and information for all... don't forget, any community is only as good as the participation of its members. We invite your tips, tricks, comments, suggestions and camaraderie.
Advertise your products or services among these pages! Call: 540-433-8402 for details.