PhotoMag: a new app for creating photo magazines


When I return from a vacation I like to create a photo magazine containing a few dozen photos. Nothing as prestigious or expensive as a photo book, but much handier to pass around to family and friends than a phone or having them gather in front of a computer screen. The equivalent of one of those photo albums that could hold 12 or 24 4×6 prints. It’s not a book you design, with custom page layouts, but rather a book that you stuff with prints as quickly as you can. (If you want a fancy book, there are many ways to create one.)

With MagCloud, the magazines are cheap. For example, I just made one with 60 photos for $6.40. (Twenty cents a page, with two photos on a page. Add two pages for the covers.) Doing a book with Blurb would cost about $25. (MagCloud is owned by Blurb, who bought it from HP, manufacturer of the printers that MagCloud uses.)

You can easily create a suitable PDF with Lightroom’s Print module, but I don’t like the way it positions captions. For one thing, you have to reserve a fixed amount of space below each photo for the largest caption. It’s better to vary the size of the photo, so the photos are bigger if the captions are short. Also, Lightroom has no provision for front and back covers, which are full-page-size photos. You have to add them to the PDF with another program, such as PDFsam Basic (free) or Acrobat (expensive). And, of course, not everyone has Lightroom.

I developed a great app for producing these magazines called ProofSheet, but it’s Mac only, and I have no interest in programming a similar app for Windows. For a while I used a PHP program that I wrote that formats the pages as HTML, and then uses the browser’s print facility to create the PDF. That worked fine, but it was impractical for anyone other than me to use, because it has to run locally, not on a server. Uploading the photos to a server is too cumbersome and too slow. Installing a local server is too much to ask of most people.

Recently, I wrote PhotoMag, using the portable technologies offered by Electron. It does as good a job as ProofSheet, but has fewer formatting features. (No page titles or information above the photos, only below.) It’s fine for my purposes, and it might work for you, too.

If you want to use PhotoMag, it’s free, and you can download it here. It’s for Windows 64-bit only. I’ve only tested it on Windows 10, but it might run on earlier versions as well. It’s implementation is entirely portable, and I expect I’ll have a Mac version in a few weeks, but don’t hold me to it. (Meanwhile, you can use ProofSheet on a Mac.)