Photo Project – Compile a Family Cookbook

A cookbook comprised of family recipes is a treasured photo project. Ask family members to contribute their favourite recipes and create a truly special gift to share with them. We’re introducing this project in January as it does take some time and effort to pull it all together. We’ve provided all the detailed steps for you, but give yourself lots of time to complete them. You can tell your family you’re working on this project, or just ask for recipes and surprise them with a complete cookbook when you’re done. Family cookbooks make fantastic holiday gifts! Here are the steps we recommend:

Start with a Plan

  1. Spend some time planning your book. Will it include family favourites? Will you ask family members to contribute recipes? Will you include a certain type of recipe, like only baking recipes, or will you include a wide variety of recipes?
  2. Think about the layout for your book. Will you only have recipes, or will you include photos? Will you have the recipe on one page and a photo on the facing page? Or will you have a recipe on each page and a smaller photo to accompany it?
  3. If you choose to include photos in your book, which type of photos will you collect? Pictures of the finished product? Pictures of the family member who sent you the recipe? Pictures of this person holding the finished product? Pictures of the ingredients?  Will you use stock photography?
  4. Will you include stories in your book? Think about how you might want to include this element too. You can ask your contributors why a recipe is their favourite. Maybe your Grandpa’s favourite pasta sauce is the one your Grandma made when they were first married. Now I might want to include their wedding picture and some details from when they were first starting their lives together.
Family Cookbook Photo Project by Family Photo Solutions
Family Cookbook Photo Project by Family Photo Solutions

Begin collecting the recipes

  1. Ask you family to send you their favourite recipes. Decide ahead of time whether you’re sharing that you’re making a family cookbook.
  2. Keep track of the recipes and who sent them.
  3. Decide how you will name the recipes. “Tomato Sauce”, “Grandma Smith’s Tomato Sauce” or “The Sauce that Sealed the Deal”.
  4. Check the recipes. Make sure they make sense – if you have a peanut butter cookie recipe that seems to be missing the amount of peanut butter required you will need to follow up with the person who sent you the recipe. A great way to check the recipes is to make them! This also gives you a chance to snap a picture of the finished product.
  5. Collect any pictures you need to include in your cookbook.

Decide where you will publish your book

  1. Look at a variety of photo book publishing sites to see what options and prices are available. An alternative to printing with one of the book publishing sites is to consider designing your pages in Canva, downloading high quality PDFs for each page, and binding them at Staples. Another alternative is to print your recipe pages and gather them in a binder.
  2. Decide on the style of your book – will it have a coil binding so it’s easy to leave open while you’re following the recipe? Will it be a hardcover lay flat style book that may be heavier but stays open on its own? Will it be a softcover book so it’s smaller, lighter, and cheaper to print the send the number of copies you need?
  3. Would you like to include a picture on the front and back covers of the book? Would you like to be able to print text on the spine? Let these decisions help you narrow down your options.
  4. How many pages will your book have? Make sure the publisher you are considering can make a book in your preferred style this size.
  5. Many book publishers include sample books on their websites. Look at a variety of them to help you determine the layout for your pages.  Look at the way they use pictures and the size and style of the fonts they choose for text. Look for some that show recipes and how they lay out the recipes on the page. Decide how you would like your pages to look. Check out and I also like to look on Pinterest for layout ideas!
  6. See if your preferred publisher offers a cookbook theme – a selection of pages already designed as a cookbook. If you find one you like, then this is the easiest way to put your book together.

Prepare to build your book

  1. Organize the recipes for your cookbook. Will you put all the baking recipes together? Will you have sections for Appetizers, Entrees, Desserts? Will you put all of Grandma Smith’s recipes together? Will it be random? Will you include a Table of Contents? Spend some time figuring out the order.
  2. As you get your pages in order there are a few things to consider. Have you included a recipe from everyone? You may have 6 aunts and have recipes from only 5 of them. Yes, that 6th one will give you some weird recipe that you will never use but you know what? Everyone knows that 6th aunt. It’s far better to include her weird recipe than to exclude her and risk 10 years of family turmoil.
  3. Also, you have 4 recipes from Grandma Smith and only 2 from Grandma Jones. Yes, in a family cookbook you need to balance them out. If Grandma Smith is a fantastic cook, you should make a cookbook featuring her recipes later. For a family book look for balance.
  4. Every family is different. Think about any other factors that may trigger your family and take care of them.
  5. Make the first few pages for your book. If you find the publisher’s website confusing or difficult to use, try another one. There are a lot of publishers out there! If it’s difficult building your own pages, try applying a theme to your book and just add the text and pictures.
  6. If you’re having difficulty making the book, or are short on time, many publishers offer a service that builds the book for you. You only have to build the book once then print as many copies as you need.
Family Cookbook Photo Project by Family Photo Solutions
Family Cookbook Photo Project by Family Photo Solutions

Make your book

  1. Build your entire book. Use the preview option on the website to flip through the pages and see if you like the layout.
  2. Make sure the font you’ve used is legible. This is a recipe book – it has to be easy to read while you’re busy cooking and measuring ingredients!
  3. Make sure the text is large enough to read easily.
  4. Make your front and back covers. Choose a title for the front cover. Add text to the back cover to show you made the book. Made with love by…. Is a lovely way to personalize your book.
  5. Add text to the spine of the book if this is an option. Make sure the text is an appropriate size and font and is positioned where you would like it to be.

Edit your book

  1. Make sure your book is complete. Are all the recipes included? Are all the pictures included?
  2. Ensure your pictures and text are within the appropriate margins for printing. Don’t have anything close to the edges of the page, give yourself a very big margin so nothing gets cut off when they print the pages or physically cut the pages.
  3. Make sure your pictures and text avoid the gutter, the middle of the book where the two pages are attached to the binding. Don’t have anything close to where the two pages come together in the centre of the book. It’s hard to read text that is on that bend in the page where it connects to the binding. Give yourself lots of space from that edge of the page too.
  4. Check your typing. Look for spelling errors. It helps to read your sentences backwards.
  5. Check the alignment of your typing – does everything line up or are there extra spaces. Is the space between lines of typing consistent. Look for anything that doesn’t look right.
  6. Double check your recipes. Check what you’ve typed against your recipes. Pay special attention to the amounts of ingredients – tsp and Tbsp can make a big difference!
  7. Look at your text. Have you been consistent?  Have you used the same font for the text on every page? Is the size of the text the same on each page? Is the font you’ve chosen legible? Have you been consistent in your choice of fonts and size for titles and headings?
  8. Look at the details. Did you attribute each recipe to the contributor? Are the correct pictures on each page? If you used anything like a line to separate the title from the recipe, have you used it consistently on every page? Have you been consistent in the way the recipes are written?
  9. Did you include a Table of Contents? Check that the page numbers you’ve referenced in your Table of Contents are correct. Check that each page in your book has a page number if you’re using them.
  10. Check your covers. Make sure nothing is close to the edges. Check your spelling. Make sure your text looks right. On the back cover make sure you’ve positioned any text in a space that will not be covered by the publisher’s markings.
  11. Check the spine. If you added text to the spine of the book, make sure it’s legible. Check your spelling. Check it’s centered on the spine. Check you like where it will be printed – some publishers let you choose whether to position it at the top of the spine or in the middle.
  12. The more time you spend editing, the better your finished book will be. I like to walk away from the project for a day or two after I finish editing and before I push the print button. Come back and give your book one more look with fresh eyes before sending it to print.

Print your book

  1. Print a test copy for yourself. This will give you a chance to examine your actual book with a very critical eye before ordering the 20 other copies you plan to send to family members.
  2. You may want to print a few extra copies – this would be a fantastic housewarming gift or wedding gift for those teens and younger adults who may not appreciate it now, but would love their own copy in a few years.
  3. If this happened to be a book of Grandma Smith’s recipes get her to autograph it before sending it out!

Thank your contributors. Be the first to try a recipe and share the results with everyone. Start the conversations and challenge your family to use the book. Enjoy!