The focus of this posting on photo books is design considerations when creating the layouts. It's good for me to get them written down so that I can go back to this post as a point of reference when creating books in the future.
First, due to the bleed and trim tolerances that are part of the printing process, it is necessary to be careful about placing elements too close to the edge. All journaling, titles, and captions as well as photos that should not appear cut off probably need to be at least an inch from the edge. In PSP, guidelines can be set up to mark the bleed and trim lines based on the spec from the publisher. (In the case of Shutterfly, I believe you can actually download templates with these lines already on them.) Further, if you create the layout as 12x12 and then plan to size down to 8x8, the "1 inch" margin needs to be set at 1.5 inches on the larger size in order for it to be 1 inch when sized down. So recommendation number one is to set up the bleed and trim guides before starting the layout.
Another thing I haven't mentioned before is the gutter. That is where the pages come together at the binding. In a perfect bound book, the pages will not lay flat. The binding and the curvature will obscure some of the inner part of the layout. This is yet another reason to keep the journaling, titles, captions and photos away from the edges.
The next design consideration is also related to the printing tolerances. It's probably a good idea to avoid using symmetric page borders. If the publisher doesn't trim the exact same amount from each edge, your layout will lose the symmetry, and it might look "off." This would include avoiding layouts in which a slightly smaller paper is centered and stacked on a larger paper for a page border. It might also include papers with borders built into the design. Just keep in mind when selecting the background papers how they would look trimmed - and since the backgrounds are extending to the bleed line, they are definitely going to be trimmed.
As a corollary to this, I would also avoid placing elements in such a way as to try to have them extend from the left hand page to the right. If the page trimming isn't exact enough, you may see a noticeable shift up or down and the result would look sloppy - like fabric stripes that don't line up at the seams!
The next few items may be more of personal taste, but in general I tend to prefer the subjects of the photos to face toward the center of the book (in the case of one or two large photos) or the center of the page (if using many smaller photos on a page). This is why it's nice to know if you are working on a left-hand page or a right-hand page when you are working on the layout. That way you can use appropriately oriented photos - or since we are working digitally, mirror the photo. Similarly, if I were working on a left-hand page and had text or journaling adjacent to the gutter, I would right-justify the text so that the jagged side would face the outside. But again, this may be more of a personal preference and not a hard and fast rule.
These are the design considerations that come to mind as I write this. There may be others, but these are the main things I want to keep in mind as I create the page layouts.
Well I think the topic of photobooks is pretty well exhausted! After I get mine done and printed I will try to write a follow-up on how it turned out. By the way, I have all but decided to use Shutterfly for the publisher. So we will see how it goes.
That's it for now.