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The Rise and Rise of the Photo-Book

An Overview of Contemporary Publishing

Doug Chinnery

Doug Chinnery is a fine art photographer, workshop leader and lecturer with a particular interest in the transformative opportunities of landscape photography.


Modern print technology, advances in papers and inks and computer aided design have lifted the photo book from what were, on the whole, fairly dire offerings if you go back twenty or thirty years, to what are these days often beautifully conceived, designed and printed portfolios of a photographer's work. They may reflect a single project, a retrospective or focus on a region or technique. Whatever the subject or format, every few days there seems to be a new photo book on offer to tempt us to invest in the work of a photographer that we admire.

It is impossible for any but the very select few to get a traditional book publishing deal with a publishing house like Dewi, Argentum or Arum. These houses need us to have a real ‘name’ with a massive following, like Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite or Michael Kenna. They produce large hard bound books and have to print in volume, so a large market has to be there for the investment to be made. The photographer also has to have a very large portfolio of high-quality work to select from. For most photographers, though, this route is not available.

With so much new material flooding our consciousness and social media streams vying for our attention, I thought it might be good to take a step back and look at the whole landscape photo book industry. Many of us, me included, are avid collectors and I am sure probably the majority of us harbour a secret (or not so secret) desire to one day see our work featured in a photo book ourselves. Who wouldn’t like to think their work is preserved for ‘eternity’ in the British Library, complete with its own ISBN number?

So, what is it like to run a landscape photography publishing company? What kind of work are the publishers looking for? If you do manage to get them to publish your work, will it make you rich? What about self-publishing? How can that be approached? What are the pitfalls? I approached several publishers and self-publishers to ask them these kinds of questions and more to get a feel for the whole business of getting our work into print and in front of an audience. I found the answers fascinating. Here is what they had to tell us. 

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  • Aaron Dickson

    Great article, really useful insight into the publishing scene and food for thought for any of us hoping to get published one day.

    • Thank you Aaron – I’m pleased you found it useful. I hope you get a book out there one day!

  • Paul Gotts

    Really enjoyed the article Doug. Bought a good few of these books and informative to hear the stance of the publishers

  • Geoff Kell

    Excellent article Doug. Very inspiring and enjoyable. It’s great to see such a grassroots move towards creativity and sharing work, there’s still nothing to beat the printed image. I love photo-books – after all they make great Christmas/birthday presents so, it’s easy for our families! I’ll definitely be looking at some of the ones featured. I also agree that the self-publishing route with a high quality finish is very appealing – especially if there is an option for just personal use which would help make me “do something” with my own work. Thank you.

  • Euan Ross

    Great article. Looking forward to seeing what comes of Greg’s Venture Press.

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