How to place photos in your paperback

When formatting the paper version of book, photos are a must if you’ve written nonfiction. Pictures, maps and illustrations can add value to your book in a number of ways.

There are several elements to consider when placing a photo in your book, though. Among them are photo selection, using copies, format, dimensions, resolution, color, and placement in the text. Let’s look at each one.

Photo selection
A photo for the sake of having a photo doesn’t benefit the reader, so only select those that enhance the book’s quality. For example, the photo should illustrate a concept that otherwise is difficult to visualize. In my hiking guidebooks, that might be a trail map or a picture of a rare flower that can be seen along the path. A photo also could provide additional but relevant information that wouldn’t appear in the text. For my books, this might be the view from a vista or a trailhead sign that misspells the trail’s name (which can be pointed in the caption).

Never use the original
Always work with copies of your original photo. Should you crop or accidentally delete the original, you then limit your options for using that picture in your book. Place the copies in a new folder so you do not confuse them with the originals.

Photo format
Photos can appear in a number of formats. The most widely accepted format when uploading paperbacks is a jpeg (.jpg), so convert all of your photos to that type. Portable network graphics (.png) also are widely used but still not universal among print on demand companies. Never use photos that are bitmap (.bmp), vector (.eps or .ai), Photoshop (.psd), or raw camera (RAW or Exif) files.

Photo dimensions
Always be aware of the photo’s dimensions. As there is a limit to how large a book’s file size can be, the more large photos you add, the more likely you are to go over that limit. The best solution for maximizing the number of photos in your book while maintaining photo quality is to ensure the photos are the exact dimensions – that is height and width – as they will be in the book. All you really have to do to achieve that is set the photo’s width to the amount of space that a full line of text (the distance between the left and right or the inside and outside margins) will take up in your book; just check to assure that the height isn’t longer than the amount of space between your top and bottom margins.

Use photos that are 300 dpi (dots per inch). This ensures they will appear in your paperback at the highest quality possible. Photos smaller than 300 dpi will increasingly appear pixelated the closer you get to 1 dpi. And there’s no real benefit in going more than 300 dpi.

Use color
Color photos in a paper book greatly raise the production costs and so ups the price you must charge readers. Because of this, most of the time you’ll want to grayscale your photos (that is, make them black and white). Always keep a color version of your photo sized for the paperback, however, as it can be used in your paperback.

How to place them
Once you have a jpeg photo that is the correct size and dpi (and in color if possible), you’re ready to place it on your MS Word document. Begin by setting the manuscript in single space mode. After the last line of text that you want the photo to appear after, hit ENTER key twice. Insert the photo there. On the line below the photo, type the caption/cutline. Use a different font and point/font size than the manuscript’s main text to help distinguish it; italics often is all you need. At the end of the caption’s text, hit ENTER twice and continue with the manuscript’s main text.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.