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Layflat Photo Books: An explanation

Wondering exactly what a Layflat Photo Book is? This article goes over the difference between regular bound and layflat bound photo books, and a few other facts.

Layflat Photo Book

By Tim Weaver

Designer at Presto Photo

There has been a new format of photo book that’s sprung up over the last few years, the Layflat Photo Book. If you haven't ever seen one for yourself, you might wonder what so special about them for the price. In this blog post, we are going to cover the differences between a standard photo book and a layflat photo book, what reasons you might want to go for a layflat, and some tips for the new possibilities that layflat photo books provide.

What is a layflat photo book?

You may notice with most books (photo books, hardcover, softcover) a page curl as the pages go into the spine of the book at the center (most people refer to this as the gutter). Because of this page curl, you’ll tend to lose information in this area. Traditionally in book design, you wouldn’t place important content in this area, like text or photos of faces. This also hides parts of an image that are in a 2 page spread, as part of the image on both sides of the book are lost into this gutter area.

The only way to get around these limitations of regular binding in books, especially photo books, is to print with a Layflat binding. A layflat photo book is a photo book with a binding design that allows the pages to lay down flat when the book is open.

Regular Book Spine

Standard Bound Book

Hinged Layflat Spine

Hinged Layflat Bound Book

Seamless Layflat Spine

Seamless Layflat Bound Book

There are two different binding mechanisms that allow for the layflat style. The first is a seamless layflat style, which is an uninterrupted print on a sheet of paper that are all bound together in a book. This allows for a continuously flowing image that can lay flat.

The second method would be the hinged layflat style, which the paper is cut and a plastic hinge is placed in between the two cuts. Since the plastic bends much easier than paper does, it allows the book to lay flat in a similar fashion.

Each method has it’s pros and cons. The hinged method is economical, pricing is usually comparable to a regular bound book, but the middle of the spread will have the color of the hinge. The seamless method is more expensive, but offers a beautiful edge to edge layflat experience that is second to none. It really matters about your priorities.

When should I go Layflat?

In theory, any book will work great as a layflat. The main reasons you would want to go for a layflat binding type beyond pure aesthetic reasons is if you plan on printing a lot of two page spreads. A two page spread is a term for content spanning two page of a open book. This would be great for panoramic photographs of landscapes, photographs of big groups of people, and if you want to print any landscape image that is wider than just 1 pages width (think a painting or a photo that has a very specific dimension that you would never want to crop).

The major limiting factor for most layflat bindings is the page length of the book: our max for Seamless is 120 pages, and for Hinged is 152 pages. Traditional bound books can go to 300, 400, even 500 pages depending on the type of binding. So if you’ve got a real whopper of a book, you might need to edit the book down to fit.

What can you do with a layflat photo book?

One utilitarian use of a layflat book would be as a lookbook that would constantly be open, be it on display at a trade show or in your business and office. It’s much easier to view the information on the page at more angles, and has a more professional flair.

Another great use would be for art and photography. As mentioned earlier, some photos and art are created at unique sizes and image ratios, and if you want to print them to their fullest size in a book, you’d have to print them on a two page spread. If you were to print them in a standard bound book, you’d lose a massive amount of the important image in the middle gutter with this design. The layflat option opens up design possibilities for your book, so you can stand out and offer something that most books won’t be able to.

Hopefully this article sheds some light on layflat photo books, and why you would want to consider ordering one over a regular bound photo book. PrestoPhoto offers both of the options mentioned above, the Hinged Layflat and the Seamless Layflat, in multiple sizes for both. If you’ve already printed a photo book with us that you’d like to see has a layflat, that’s simple too: just go to the products buy now page, and sort the purchase options by Bindings to easily find Seamless, Hinged, and in some options Hinged with leather covers.

Author Tim Weaver

Tim Weaver

Tim is a North Carolina native, extreme book geek, and sometimes thinks he's an artist. When he's not whipping up amazing graphics and designs for Presto Photo, he's probably sipping a coffee with his cat and organizing his art book collection.