Saturday, September 7, 2013

Shutterfly Photo Book Review

I will never get tired of talking about photo books - I just love them. I could talk about them for hours. I think they are such a great way to get the pictures out of my camera and computer and into a format that my family can enjoy. And, lucky for me, I have a husband with infinite patience who will listen to me talk about them every day, all day long.


I've been making photo books since 2010. I don't remember how I first learned about them, but I do know the first company I really knew the name of was Shutterfly, and they were the place I went to when I wanted to make one. The first photo book I made was an 8x8 book of our honeymoon, for Jason for his birthday. When it came, I think I liked it even more than he did. (Man, I'm like those people that give golf clubs or something to their spouse, when their spouse doesn't golf and they do.)

During the rest of 2010 I made a few more 8x8 books, but in 2011 didn't really do anything with photo books until the end of the year. That's I got bit by the "record my personal history" bug - and I've never recovered. I decided that I wanted to document my entire life in photobooks, and I've been working on that since.

At some point, I researched all the photo book companies (either in 2010 or 2011), and decided to stick with Shutterfly for most of my projects because they seemed like the best fit for me in quality and price. (To see the different reviews I read, check out this post: Photobook Comparisons.) In total, I've made fifteen books with Shutterfly, and I thought it was high time I finally wrote a review on them. So, bear with me for how long this post is - I guess I've got a lot to share after having made so many Shutterfly books!

Shutterfly

Website: www.shutterfly.com
Number of photo books I've made with Shutterfly: 15

Software

For the most part,  the software is fine. It can be buggy, and there are some improvements I'd like to see made, but overall it's not at all bad to work with. You upload your pictures to the Shutterfly site and work on your book online, so you can access it from any computer (which is great). They have a large selection of page layouts, backgrounds, and embellishments. On top of that, you can fully customize each page's layout until everything is just where you want it, in the dimensions that you want it. One thing I wish Shutterfly would implement, though, is being able to save your custom layouts. Some layouts I alter in similar ways over and over again - I'd like to be able to save it so I could just select my customized layout without having to do it all over again. But, overall, the software is just fine.

Paper Quality

Very good. I've always liked Shutterfly's paper; it's nice and thick, and I've never noticed any bleed-through (being able to see the picture on the other side of the page). It's good paper.


Photo Quality

Shutterfly's photo quality is very good. In the earlier books (the ones I made in 2010), the pictures were more grainy, but they seem to have gotten better over time. The pictures are very clear and bright. With other photo companies, I've had problems with the pictures sometimes turning out too dark, but I've never had that problem with Shutterfly. With those companies, I now know I have to brighten images before uploading them to the software. With Shutterfly, I don't have to worry about that. I know it's hard to illustrate printing quality with a picture of a picture, but here's an attempt:

Nice, bright, and clear.
This is the first book I made, printed in 2010. You can tell (or at least my very picky eyes can) that the picture's a bit more grainy. 
Printed earlier this year (2013) - nice and clear.

Binding

Shutterfly's binding is good, but it can look a little bit different on every book you get. Here's the binding on a bunch of the books compared; I'll give you the page number and dimensions.

20-page 8x8 book:


20 page 8x8 book:


111-page 8x11 book:


20-page 8x11  book:


52-page 8x11 book:


20-page 8x8 book:


The binding on the four 8x11s:


And five 8x8s:


I have had a problem with the binding before, but it was successfully resolved by customer service. Last year, I ordered a 20 page 8x8 book. When the book arrived and I was flipping through the pages, I noticed that I could see right down to the glue between two of the middle pages. You shouldn't be able to see that - usually the pages are tight enough that it would take real effort to see down that far. But there it was. The pages seemed very vulnerable along that seem - they laid too flat and seemed like they could come off really easily. Here's a picture I took at the time:


So, I contacted Shutterfly customer service and explained the problem - and they offered to send me a free new copy of the book, with free 2-day shipping! I was very impressed with their customer service, and when the new book came it had no problems with the binding. So my take-away message with the binding is this: in general, it's very good. And on the occasions that, for some reason, it isn't good, customer service will replace your book with no hassle.

Cover

The cover quality at Shutterfly is very good. I always go for the regular hardcover. They have a couple different options - softcover, matte, padded, cloth, leather - that I haven't tried and I'm not likely to. I have done the premium leather cover for my layflat wedding album, but that's something I'm reviewing next month and I'll talk about it then.

Here are the covers of my 8x11s:


I do wish Shutterfly offered more cover layouts in their software. You can customize the layouts - add more pictures, move things around, etc - and while I don't mind doing that with the inside page layouts, I'd like to have some more ready-made cover options for the covers available. For some reason, they don't offer the "Get more layouts" option in the software for the cover like they do for the inside pages. You either have to choose from one of their smallish selection of cover layouts, or go into customization. I don't know why they just don't offer the same, full selection of layouts for the cover that they do for the inside pages.

Here are the spines:


And the backs:


And the 8x8s:


Book Sizes

Shutterfly offers a lot of sizes of photo books. They recently added a couple more, and now have (height x width) 5x7, 7x9, 8x8, 8x11, 10x10, 12x12, and 11x14 photo books.  I've always made 8x8 or 8x11 books. When I first started making photo books, I always made the 8x8 size because they're cheaper and Shutterfly often has "free 8x8 book" promotions. But before I made my Girls' Camp book, I did some calculations and realized that 8x11 books (which are actually 8.75x11) had 96.25 square inches of space per page vs. 64 inches per page in the 8x8 books - and that's a big difference! For a 20-page book, you get 645 more square inches to put pictures on. And ever since I made and received my first 8x11 book, I definitely prefer that size. I still make 8x8 books sometimes - they're great gifts, and they're a good size for a "single event" (one birthday, or photoshoot, or vacation) type of book. But for the types of books I usually make (year reviews and the like), 8x11s work better.

Here's an 8x8 book compared to an 8x11 (really 8.75x11) book:


Page Layouts

Shutterfly offers a very large selection of page layouts, and full customization on top of that. I use the customization feature pretty often, to nudge pictures and text around or to change dimensions and sizes of pictures.

Here are all of the page layouts in some of my 8x11 books, and the layouts of some of my 8x8 books. You can flip through the pages by clicking the buttons. (For mobile users - I don't think the embedded widget will work for you guys. I'll post a couple regular pictures of layouts after these widget things.)

My "Girls' Camp" photo book, the first 8x11 I ever made:
                                        Click here to view this photo book larger


Below is the book that covers my junior year at BYU, the year Jason and I were engaged. I went more "digital scrapbooking" with this book, creating my own layouts in Photoshop, using my own backgrounds, and then uploading them to Shutterfly. I like how the book turned out, but I'm still more of a just-do-it-all-on-the-website type of person:
                                       Click here to view this photo book larger


And here's my "Freshman and Sophomore Years at BYU" book. I think this one might be my very favorite of all:
                                 Click here to view this photo book larger


Some 8x8 layouts:
                                        Click here to view this photo book larger



                                   Click here to view this photo book larger

For the mobile users: Here are a couple 8x11 layouts -



And a couple 8x8 layouts:



Page Count

Shutterfly books start at 20 pages and can go up to 111 pages. Additional pages have an additional price per page (which is different based on the dimensions of the book you're making). When books go on sale, extra pages go on sale too.

Here's the thickness of a 20-page 8x11 book compared to a 111-page 8x11 book:



Price

Shutterfly is very reasonably priced, if you buy order your books during their sales and use special offer codes. I've gotten really, really good deals by stacking special offer codes and sale prices.

Things I've learned over the course of making so many Shutterfly photobooks:

  • I personally prefer the 8x11 size. I can fit more pictures on each page and I like the layouts better. I like the size in my hands and on my shelf.
  • In general, I prefer more pictures on a page vs. less. It's just how I like to tell the story. I made my first couple books intuitively like this, but then after reading a lot of reviews on the website Photobookgirl and her saying that she recommends not putting more than 6 pictures per page, I began to question my methods. "Maybe I should be putting less," I thought. "That way each picture will get more attention." So that's what I did with the "First Half of 2011" book that I made this year - I spaced out the pictures a lot more and put less on each page. And you know what? When I finished, ordered, and received that photobook, I liked those layouts the least of all. That's just not my style. I've learned just to trust my instincts about what I think looks good. And that's what you should do, too - trust what you like.
  • Feel free to use as many pages as you need to tell the story. When I first started making photo books, I felt very constrained about making sure I didn't go over the first 20 pages, because I didn't want to pay for each additional page. But you know what? The extra pages are worth it. And they're usually on sale, and don't cost that much anyway. Just this week, by stacking several deals, I got an 82-page 8x11 book for $18.77, including shipping. Just do it. Just use as many pages as you want. It's worth it.
  • To get the best prices: Always, always, always wait for a sale. Sign your email up with Shutterfly so that you get their coupons and special codes in your email. Search online for promo codes before you order anything. Like them on Facebook so you see the deals they post to their Facebook page. When I buy Shutterfly books, it's almost always with at least one special offer code AND during a sale, so that the offers stack on top of each other.

Whew! That was one long review. If you have any questions about Shutterfly or my experience with them, feel free to ask! Happy photo book making!

To check out more of my photo book reviews, check out these posts:

Shutterfly Premium Leather Layflat Photo Book Review
Shutterfly Calendar Review
York Photo Photo Book Review
MyPublisher Photo Book Review
AdoramaPix Photo Book Review
Collage.com Photo Book Review
Photo Book Comparisons

26 comments:

  1. Your photo books are beautiful. I like you like as many photos on the page as possible. Thanks for all the great tips.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love how these turned out! All of my pictures seem to live in my computer, so thanks for the nudge to get them into some books. We are so happy that you shared this with us at Monday Funday this week... have a good one!

    Take care,

    Trish

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is an excellent and very thorough review! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for the review! I've seen Shutterfly throughout the ads but have never used them myself. It's great to see a real review of a product so that I can decide how that works for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. How did you stack coupons to get the photo book that cheap? I tried to stack a free shipping with a free book they had given me, and I couldn't.

    Ps- great review! I love Shutterfly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just kind of experiment each time to see which coupons will work together. :) Sometimes you can tell from reading the fine print on each discount, other times you just kind of have to experiment (once your stuff is in the cart, you can look click on "recalculate" and look at the different discounts you can apply) and see which ones will work together. I've had times where I thought I could use some discounts at the same time only to find out I actually couldn't, and other times where I was able to use a couple discounts together that I wasn't expecting. So yeah! I just kind of experiment each time.

      Thanks! I love Shutterfly too. :)

      Delete
  6. Wow great post! Thanks for sharing on last weeks Thrifty Thursday! I have used Shutterfly before too and loved them - I also have a few coupons for them now, can't wait to make more!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi! Thanks for your great review, I am thinking of making a Bridal Shower- Guest Photo Book from Shutterfly. This is the first time I will order and am worried about stuff being cut out due to bad margins. Have you had any trouble with this, or are they usually good (no warning sign= pages will look good)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Shutterfly's very good about the margins thing. I've only ever had one thing cut off, and that was when I ignored their warning sign. So, yes, no warning signs = the pages will look good. :)

      Delete
  8. Great post! Thanks for your insight!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm new to this...Do I wait to design my book until there is a sale or can I design it and save it and then just wait to purchase once there is a sale?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can design it and save it and then just wait for a sale. :)

      Delete
  11. Very informative and thorough reviews of Shutterfly and Adoramapix. I am wondering if you have had any problems or noticed a change over time with customer service at Shutterfly. I live in Canada and was quite disappointed with my last two orders (Aug and Nov 2013) seeming to get lost and have to be resent, only to have 2 copies of each order show up eventually. I have the feeling customer service is based off-shore and the agents are wanting to set the issue to resolved as quickly as possible, without actually reading through the issue and responding appropriately. Have you had any issues in the past year?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pat! I've never had any problems with their shipping, but I've always ordered from the continental U.S. - I'm guessing their shipping gets less great internationally. I have had a few customer service "chats" where it seemed like the person was just following a script, and not understanding my exact issue. Luckily, most of the times the customer service seems to understand and do what I need them to do, though.

      Delete
  12. i am making a 8 by 8 photo book how many pictures should i put on a page

    ReplyDelete
  13. wow, nice photo book!
    very informative post and inspiring too! You make me want to create my own photo book. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. wonderful review! do you prefer the standard pages or glossy pages? i can't decide...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! I've never tried the glossy, but I really like the standard. I think they have just the right amount of sheen to them.

      Delete
    2. I was tempted to choose the glossy ones but chose standard pages after reading your comment. Nice books and reviews!

      Delete
  15. Thanks for your blog! Just what I was looking for :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks soo much! Super informative & just what I needed!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I just wanted to add that in addition to sales and and coupon codes, there are often terrific Groupon offers for Shutterfly photo books!

    And another idea for books: Over the past year, a friend of mine lost all three of her long-time owned pets (the oldest would have turned 19 this spring!). For her birthday I created a book for her with around 150 photos of her precious critters. It turned out beautifully, a wonderful keepsake.

    While we all love our digital photos, there's something about being able to hold a book and touch the pages to relive fond memories! I just adore them!

    ReplyDelete
  18. hi great review! i have a finished photo book 8x11 111pages watiing to be printed but with all the codes i have found its still $89 did you ever buy groupon? hesitant to do it if its still gonna cost alot? and what kind of deals did you get a book with so many pages under $20. thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. What do you think about the 10X10 option versus 8X8?

    ReplyDelete

We love comments! Thanks for taking your time to share your thoughts.