Creating a Photo Calendar with InDesign

An overview of how I did it and the results.

This year, I decided that I needed an affordable yet memorable holiday gift to send out to all my customers and the folks I do business with. I wanted this gift to be an in-your-face-all-year-long item. That means it had to be something the recipients would want to keep and refer to.

A calendar seemed to fit the bill.

Now every year, I get sample calendars with my company name on it from various printers who print promotional items. They’re usually pretty boring; certainly not the kind of calendar you’d want to use all year long. Clearly, I had to do better than that.

The solution was a custom calendar using the photos I’ve taken over the years to show off the places I fly to and my helicopter. The challenge was to make a professional-looking, attractive calendar that was cost-effective to print.

iPhoto’s calendar printing option was the obvious choice for creating the calendar. It offers several different formats, many of which would meet my needs. What did not meet my needs, however, was the price: $19.99 per calendar. Since I figured I’d need at least 50 of them, that was far more than I wanted to spend.

My husband suggested MagCloud, which I’ve been using for other print-on-demand needs. At first, I didn’t think it would work out. After all, MagCloud produces stapled magazines sized just under 8-1/2 x 11. But then I held a sheet of paper up to the Robinson Helicopter calendar on my wall. And guess what? It was the same size.

So I decided to go with MagCloud for printing.

At that point, it looked as if I’d be creating a 28-page calendar from scratch. Not something I looked forward to. But I did a Google search for 2010 InDesign Calendar Template, which directed me to the 2010 InDesign Calendar Template by Juliana Halvorson on the Adobe Web site.

I downloaded it and discovered that it was almost what I needed. The template assumed a landscape orientation. I wasn’t sure if MagCloud would accept the document created that way. So I modified the template to make it portrait orientation and rotated all the calendar grids. A few adjustments to the margins and bleeds (which I initially got wrong) and it was a good starting point for my own project.

First up was reviewing the holidays. Juliana had included several extra religious and “Hallmark” holidays that just weren’t appropriate for a general use calendar. I removed them. I also changed the wording of some holidays — for example, changing Thanksgiving Day to just plain Thanksgiving.

Then I needed to redo the thumbnail calendars for the previous and next month that appear on each calendar page. The type was just too small. That turned out to be a time-consuming chore, as I had to basically reformat each little calendar individually. But it was worth the effort; the numbers are now far more readable.

Here’s a little movie of the calendar’s pages. You’ll need QuickTime to view it.

Then the big task: finding the images I needed in my calendar — 12 full-page images and about 16 smaller ones — cropping them for the right proportions, saving them as TIFFs, and dragging them into my working file. It took me two full days to get the job done. In the end, it was very tedious and I just couldn’t wait to finish it.

Since the calendar’s pages had to be in multiples of 4, I had to stretch my 26 page document to 28 pages. That also meant filling in 2 more pages with something. I decided to put information about Flying M Air’s services, along with thumbnail images from the big pictures.

Once completed, I created the PDF MagCloud needed to print my calendar. The first upload (which took 4 tries on my miserably slow Internet connection here in Wickenburg) resulted in an error. I’d gotten the bleed measurements wrong. I fixed them and (fortunately) did not need to adjust the layout. Two hours later, after about 8 upload attempts, the file was online. The preview looked good.

I ordered the free proof and am now waiting for it to arrive. If it passes muster — and I’m about 95% sure it will — I’ll order about 50 copies to give as holiday gifts to clients and friends.

In the meantime, I’ve “published” the calendar so others can preview and (hopefully) buy their own copies. There is one caveat, however. Because MagCloud publishes magazines and not calendars, if you buy from MagCloud, you’ll have to punch your own hole in the top of the calendar.

I’ll be doing a lot of hole-punching next week.

4 thoughts on “Creating a Photo Calendar with InDesign

  1. Maria,

    Ordered a Flying M 2010 calendar on Dec 3rd and it arrived on Dec 12th.

    Looks fantastic!

    The calendar arrives in a clear plastic mailer with the address printed within the address space on the back page. Shipped from Palo Alto. My MagCloud orders have shipped from Oregon. I’ve been placing my orders in bulk but it is good to know the rough delivery time for a single copy order.

    Spent time over the T-day holiday getting up to speed with InDesign. Once I got over the initial interface hurdles I’m very pleased with InDesign. The PDF output in InDesign is perfect and it eliminates the PDF file gyrations needed with Photoshop layouts. Time well invested on learning InDesign.



    • Rick: Glad you like the calendar. I was a little disappointed with the quality of the printing on the full-page images. Some of them had faint streaks in the solid blue of the sky. But overall, it looked pretty good.

      I’m also a bit disappointed in the turnaround time for printing. Like you, I’m also experiencing 7 BUSINESS days of turnaround time. It’s not a big deal if you know that it can be an issue. For example, I’m also doing monthly newsletters to help promote my business. Because of the sluggish turnaround time, I’ve had to get each month’s issue ready for printing a full two weeks before publish date if I want to see a proof before I send to subscribers and still get it to them before the beginning of the month. I guess I’m so accustomed to immediate gratification that it’s required a change of mindset. I can deal with it; just wish it were quicker.

      Thanks again for recommending the service. Overall, I’m quite happy with it.

  2. Find this suggestion very interesting. Besides from eliminating the PDF file gyrations what are other great factors about indesign? Are there any free trial download of these so that it will be tested first the helpful ways.

What do you think?