My wife and I run a small Day Spa in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I am responsible for promoting our business. I design all of the advertising and printed materials in addition to being the Webmaster for our Website. Late last year, I was trying to decide what we should do to promote our business in a way that will keep us in front of our clients year-round. A calendar seemed to be the logical choice.
At first I considered going through a traditional offset printer, but when I realized how expensive high-quality, full-color printing is for this kind of project, I decided to consider the next logical step — using the Internet for delivery to the client and allow viewers to print on demand. There are huge advantages to using this method and it fits perfectly for this project. Because the Internet is such a fluid medium, the calendars can be updated regularly if needed and placed back on the site live within minutes. Another advantage is there’s no wasted copies left over at the end of the year and since the viewer is printing their own copy, no printing costs.
You don’t have to be in business or advertising to make a really nice calendar though. And even though January is already here, you still have plenty of time to make the most of the year by starting on your calendar now. Even if you give the file out to a few close family and friends, it’s still a great way to show off your photographic skills while giving your family and friends a useful keepsake that features your images. The really good news is that this isn’t as complicated as it seems and with a little time, you can create something that many will treasure and again, the bonus is that you can do this for pennies.
I had a particularly good photo year in 2006 and have several images that I shot that didn’t fit what my normal clients would want, so I decided to use these to make a calendar that would promote my wife’s spa and give me the creative outlet for my work that I wanted. I decided that making a free, downloadable Adobe Acrobat PDF file would omptimize image quality while keeping the file size to a minimum. In the first week, the calendar was downloaded 4,000 times, far exceeding our expectations. If you’d like to view and download this calendar as a reference for your work go to: www.elementssalon.biz/calendar.html
The single hardest part of creating a calendar is editing the images. I have thousands of images that I’d shot through the year that would “fit” my calendar and decided to go through these and edit for the very best 12. I decided early in the process that I wanted something lightly consistent, but unique from month-to-month. It sounds more difficult than it really is and I started by making a list of the best images and compared other images to these favorites, keeping an open mind while editing. Don’t “marry” yourself to a few favorites and don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit by adding and taking away images. I think of this as a “King of the Hill” competition, where the best gets knocked off by the bigger, stronger one. Remember too that the size and orientation should also match. Most image editing programs allow you to specify a crop size, which is ideal for consistency in sizing the final images.
Shoot for accurate color and the highest quality possible. I had decided at the beginning of the design work that I wanted to maintain a high quality image and used a 300ppi (pixels per inch) resolution, which prints well on just about any printer. A little bit of care in prepress preparation will go a long way in giving your images a high quality look and feel. If you don’t have an image editor, you can find free editing software at:
Next, take a look at other calendars and see what features they have that you want. You can make this as simple or complex as you please — including the months before and after on the page, national holidays or even special family occasions and birthdays. There really are no limits to what you can include. I decided that my calendar would be very simple; it has no holidays or special occasions, but room designed into the number area that will allow the user to write in any special notes or events that are meaningful to them. In essence, it allows them to customize their copy of my calendar.
The other good news is that you can use ANY word processing or layout software. I use Adobe PageMaker 7, but you can use MS Word, Word Perfect, Quark, In Design, PowerPoint, Publisher, Excel or even free or low cost versions of EasyOffice and Open Office. You can find these software titles at:
There are also thousands of legally licensed, free fonts available on the Internet that will give your document the character it needs to match the mood of the images. Font Freak has a multitude of both Mac and PC fonts and you can find them on the net here:
Once you decide what will be included, the next step is to sit down and design your first page. This part of the process is the most time intensive because you’ll want to experiment with fonts, colors and style. Remember to keep an open mind and try different things
In my calendar, I decided that I didn’t want boxes around the days, so I simply made a text box that would fit 5 vertical rows of numbers and then aligned the text to the right side so that the numbers lined up. Make six additional copies of these by highlighting the box and copying (control or command + C) then paste them (control or command +V) at equal increments. Place a day of the week above each row and then number the days accordingly. You’ll want to make sure you design 5 rows for each column to allow for months requiring more than four one-week rows.
I referred to my calendar on my computer as a quick, easy way to check the days for each month. In Windows, you can double click the time on your desktop, and Mac users who are running OSX can go to their “Widgets” and view a calendar as well. Simply go to the month you’re designing and ensure that your numbers and days in your layouts match up. Once the first month is done, it simply becomes a matter of selecting all of the elements on the page, then copying that entire page and pasting it onto a new page. On the new page, edit in a new photo, change the days to their correct position and other information as necessary.
When you’re planning your calendar, keep in mind how it will be viewed by the audience. I designed mine to be readable from a distance of six feet. This means that the photo needs to be large and composed so that the viewer immediately knows what the image is about. Attract viewers from a distance and draw them into your work with high quality images that are full of detail. You can test this by printing out your first page and placing it on a wall or door, and then viewing it. Your pictures should be prominent in the design — taking up at least half of the page.
In planning my calendar, I decided that I wanted a little more room to give the text some size and “breathing room,” so I chose a legal size page for my layouts, giving me a full three inches over the standard page size. I find that it also fits the proportions of a calendar better, and since legal sized paper is fairly common, it’s easy to print. Another good reason to use Adobe Acrobat is that the printer software contained in Acrobat allows you to shrink the page down to fit standard 8.5 X 11 inch paper. If you plan on placing the file on the Internet, it gives you a small file as well. My calendar is designed to print high quality images and for 12 months of images and data the entire file size is less than 6MB.
If designing you own calendar seems a little too daunting, doing a Google search for “Free Calendar Templates” will yield several results, including HP’s free templates. HP says that they are designed for small business promotion, but can be used by individuals as well. The address is:
These templates are designed for three months per page, so you only need four photos. Others give you a full page per month and again, if you design your own, you can adjust size and layout to your liking.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun creating your calendar. Taking your time and thinking the pages through will give you results that are amazing to all of those people who are looking at your work. You’ll also get personal satisfaction in knowing that many people are looking at and enjoying your images year-round. And it’s not too early to get started on an 18-month 2007-2008 calendar to start this July!