Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shutterfly Premium Layflat Photo Book Review

This year I finally finished making our wedding album. It only took three years to put together, haha. :)

One of the reasons it took me so long to make this book is that it took me a long time to decide which photo book company to use. I knew that I wanted layflat pages, and when I first started planning this book there were only a few companies that offered that feature. (This picture is a good explanation of what layflat pages are.)

Two companies that I seriously considered were AdoramaPix and MyPublisher. I ordered different layflat photo book projects from each company to test them out. I decided against AdoramaPix because of the page constraints (you can only order very specific amounts of pages, and 76 pages was the most you could order) and the real photo paper in the books which, while very nice, wasn't as clear and sharp as I wanted. (You can read my whole AdoramaPix review here.)  I decided against MyPublisher because of the gutter in between the layflat pages and because some of the pictures in the album printed unexpectedly dark.

While I was trying to decided which company to use, Shutterfly came out with their Premium Leather photo books with layflat pages. At the same time, they upped the maximum number of pages per photo book from 100 pages to 111 pages. I had used Shutterfly many times before (you can see my big review of Shutterfly here), was very familiar with their software and print quality, and was really excited to see these new options. Once they came out with their layflat pages, it didn't take long before I decided to make my wedding album with them. So I did, and I'm very happy overall with the finished product.


Here are my thoughts on all the different aspects of the book:

Cover
I love the black leather cover with the stitching around the edges. For all of my other photobooks I have hard image covers (which I also love), but for this special album, our wedding album, it's really nice to have a classic, leather cover.

Paper
The paper used in this book is much thicker than in regular Shutterfly albums. It's double-thick; the way the book is constructed is that each page is glued back-to-back with the next page. It looks great, feels great, and has gives the book a gravitas appropriate for a wedding album.

Picture Quality
Great! Very clear and bright. Good as or better than the pictures in a normal Shutterfly book. Like with my regular Shutterfly books, I didn't have to lighten my pictures more than normal before putting them into the book. (Other companies, like MyPublisher, I would have had to make the pictures extra-bright for them to print bright enough in the book.)

Binding
Here's where I ran into problems with this book. I ordered two copies of the book - one for us and one for my parents - and both copies' bindings broke after short-term, gentle use. How the binding is constructed is that the pages are glued back to back to back to back through the whole book, and then to the covers on either end. The pages are not attached to the spine, just to each other. This probably would not be a problem in a smaller book, such as if you stuck to the basic 20-page book. But Shutterfly allows you to go up to 111 pages, and I took advantage of that fact and used the entire 111 pages. And I think that this type of construction simply cannot support the weight of 111 double-thick pages glued back to back to back. In each of the books, the binding broke when pages pulled away from each other where they were glued together. In one book, this happened to pages in the middle of the book; in the other book, it happened where the pages were attached to the cover.

To Shutterfly's credit, customer service was awesome when I contacted them about this problem. They reprinted and shipped, without charge, a new copy of each book. However, I definitely think anyone planning on making a layflat book with Shutterfly should be aware of this potential problem. The more pages you add to the book, the heavier the pages will be all together, and the more likely they'll pull away from each other and you'll run into this sort of problem.

Here are a couple more pictures of the book!

You can see how flat the pages actually lie:

 
And with the layflat pages, you can do cool, uninterrupted two page spreads. I did two in my book, one of our dessert table and one of the big group shot:


Here's right where the middle crease is. No gutter, just straight across:


Here's a picture of the spine. You can see on the bottom right where two pages are peeling apart from each other; that's the weakness I talked about above.


Here's the thickness of the 111-page premium layflat book compared to a regular 111-page book:


And compared to a regular 20-page book:



And, in case you want to see what all the different pages in the book look like and what kind of layouts I used, here's the whole book:



Because of the binding issue, if I were to make another layflat book with Shutterfly, I wouldn't go much higher than the standard 20 pages. A hundred and eleven pages, while an available option, doesn't seem like it's really able to handle the layflat format. It's just too thick and heavy and the binding on the pages pull away from each other. If Shutterfly improves this in the future and somehow makes the binding more sturdy, I might consider making another large layflat book.

But, like I said, I'm very happy overall with the book. I'm just being very careful with the new, unbroken copy that Shutterfly sent me so that its binding remains intact.

And that's what I thought of Shutterfly's premium leather layflat photo book option!

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

Shutterfly 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. How thick was your layflat book? I made a 74 page book for my in-laws and now I'm worried it will be too thick! My husband didn't want it to be "a whole big thing...". My book hasn't arrived yet.

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    1. It was 111 pages and it's about two inches thick. Even at 111 pages it doesn't seem too thick, so 74 pages shouldn't be bad. :)

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  2. Thanks! Does that include the cover? Hopefully this won't be too much for my husband :)

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  3. Beautiful album by the way. That dessert table was amazing!

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  4. I am about to embark on making my wedding album. My photographer tried to sell me an amazing flush mount album that was upwards of $500 and would only include 100-200 images out of the 600+ actually taken on my wedding day. Because of the limited photos included and the high price tag, I passed. I then searched the web high and low for flush mount albums of the same type of quality, but with a slightly cheaper price tag and my creative control. While I have some, I would still have to shell out around $500 and not get the opportunity to include as many photos as I would prefer. The Shutterfly Premium Photobook seems like a good fit for me. 111 pages?! Yes, please! I know you said that may lead to binding issues, but I am willing to take my chances, as I would get the whole thing for around $250. I know you said the pages were double thick; is there any way you could put a photo of one of the pages upright, so I can see the thickness? Are the pages quite bendable, or are their sturdier? I don't expect the pages to me the cardboard thickness of the flush mount albums, but it would be awesome to get an idea of the thickness from you before ordering. Are the pages a matte finish, or glossier? Also, which "theme" did you use on Shutterfly to make your album? I love the clean look and white lines your book has! Thank you for your time and for writing such an in-depth review; brides everywhere appreciate it!

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    1. Yeah, I love my book, even with the binding issues! I know what you mean about trying to find a balance of quality/price/amount of pictures you can fit in. The Shutterfly book really fit the bill for me. I think if you're planning to get one that big, just make sure to handle it carefully. I don't have a shot of the pages standing upright; but I might be able to get one this week and add it to the post. The pages aren't really bendable at all; they're very sturdy. The pages are about the same shininess of a regular Shutterfly; not matte, more of a semi-gloss. And I used the theme "The Big Day." I didn't use many of the embellishments, but I did use some of the "idea pages" over and over.

      Thank you for your comment! I'll see if I can add that picture of the page's thickness!

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  5. THANK YOU! You are awesome! Now that you have answered my questions, I am SO looking forward to making mine!

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  6. Hi,
    I just wandered over here from the Adoramapix review :)
    Would you say that the print quality of this book was better than Adoramas? I thought that photo print is much better than standard pixelated print.... How would you say the two compare from the print-quality standpoint? Could Shutterfly's pixelated quality really top Adoramas photo paper quality? Also does one's color pop more than the other's? So confused lol! Thank you so much for the reviews by the way!

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    1. Hi! I'll try and answer all your questions from both posts here on this one. :)

      I too (originally) thought that AdoramaPix would be better for my wedding album because they use real photo paper, and I thought that that would make the images crisp and clear (which was the most important thing to me in my book). I ordered that AdoramaPix book (the one whose review you read) to test them out. Although there were things I liked about the book - the thickness of the pages and cover, the metallic sheen to the cover - all of the photo paper had a slight texture to it that made it so that the pictures weren't crisp. The texture of the pages took the washed the fine detail away. Also, the pictures weren't as bright as they had been on my computer screen. A solution would have been to really increase the brightness in photoshop before putting them into the book, but that would have washed out more detail.

      I was very satisfied with Shutterfly's print quality. I had been worried about pixelation, but I don't notice it at all. When the book came that was the first thing I looked at, but it's really not a problem at all. The pictures look very nice. And the pictures do look sharper because, unlike the Adoramapix book, there's no page texture washing out detail. The pages are smooth and so you can see the little details. If you are really really looking, you will see the color dots, but you have to be looking really hard.

      Neither is the same quality you'd get from a glossy print. The AdoramaPix page texture makes it so the pictures aren't as sharp as a regular print, and the Shutterfly printing process does leave the little color dots that you can see if you are looking very very closely.

      The Shutterfly book's colors were brighter and popped more. I didn't have to adjust the brightness from the original pictures; they printed just as bright and nice as they looked on my computer screen. The AdoramaPix pictures, like I mentioned above, did look darker than on my computer.

      There was no gutter on either the Shutterfly book or the AdoramaPix one, which was great.

      Anyway, you can probably tell that I am biased towards the Shutterfly book - but I really did like how my book turned out with them compared to how my sample book turned out from AdoramaPix. I think maybe the only way for you personally to tell if you'd like AdoramaPix or Shutterfly (or another company) for your whole album would be to order a small book from AdoramaPix (I got the little one I ordered when they had a sale) and see what you think. I was really leaning towards them for the exact reasons you are - the real photo paper, no pixelation - and was planning on doing my wedding album with them until I got the little sample book I ordered - and then the lack of *crisp* pictures made me rethink everything and changed my mind.

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    2. Thank you SO much. You don't know how much this helps! Looks like I'm going to end up taking your suggestion and get a sample book :) I really appreciate your reply though thank you!

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  7. I just made this same type of book to showcase my son's Bar Mitzvah photos. I love the quality of the print and the nice leather cover, but I had major quality control issues with the binding and the cropping. I used some photo layouts that went to the edge, and the cropping that happened did not match the cropping lines I was shown while working. I contacted customer service, and they printed me a 2nd book. The second book's cropping was better, but they clearly used much too big a binding for the number of pages I had (there was all this extra space between the covers. And some of the folded pages were not flush with the binding, so the center crease was not in the right spots for some of the pages. I contacted customer service a 3rd time, and they re-printed the book again for me. This time, the binding was better, the cropping on the sides was better, but they goofed on the cropping of the top/bottom, so at least 1 photo actually cuts off the top of a head and a few others leave less margin on the top than I would like. I am not sure what to do--I feel like I cannot contact them again or I will look like I am trying to get free books out of them. This is such a nice product in theory. In practice, there are just too many inconsistencies with the production.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! That is seriously a pain and sounds like a really frustrating experience. Yeah, I don't know what I'd do either - probably contact them again, but who knows if the 4th book would turn out all right? I'm sorry!

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  8. This is a wonderful review! Thank you! :) I agree with you about the pages in the AdoramaPix books. My AdoramaPix book is beautiful, but when I compare the color and sharpness to my regular Shutterfly books, I prefer Shutterfly. I've been thinking about doing a lay-flat book with Shutterfly, so this review was just what I needed.

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  9. Beautiful photo book! May I ask which of the Shutterfly layouts you used, and what size album you ordered? I plan to make a wedding photo book using Shutterfly too. Also, how long did it take you to put the album together? Thanks!

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    1. Thank you! I did the "Wedding Collection: The Big Day" theme for the book, and used a lot of the sample layouts from that theme. The album was the 8x11 size. It's been a while, so I can't remember how long it took to put together; a couple weeks, I think. Good luck!

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  10. Have you tried MILK Books? www.milkbooks.com Exquisite quality albums with beautiful presentation boxes. They too have lay flat options and leather quarter binding just like the traditional albums. I have ordered from them a few times, we treasure every single one and I know they will last.

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    1. I haven't tried those, although I've heard of them lately. They seem like they're a bit out of my price range, although they do look lovely.

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    3. The quality is definitely worth every cent for them, without a doubt. I've printed with a few companies now and MILK still surprises me wonderfully with their quality every time they arrive! They often have fantastic specials so I have the books ready to go and then check them out when the specials come up.

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  11. Thanks for a great review and for sharing all the photos of your gorgeous book - and congrats on your wedding! I'm doing a smaller (55-page) travel book and am going to try out the layflat pages for the first time. I like how thick it is compared to the standard Shutterfly book.

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  13. Hi Jocelyn,
    I am making my wedding album right now on Shutterfly... I was planning on doing the hardcover, normal pages. My question is... will the pictures that touch the spine on certain layouts, and on two page spreads, get cutoff partially where the spine is? I know the layflat looks awesome with no cutoff, but will the pictures still be viewable with normal pages?
    Thank you!

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  14. Hi! I love your wedding photo book. After reading your review and much research I have decided to go with shutterfly for my wedding photo book. However I was wondering what size you ordered. I am torn between 11x8 and 11x14..

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  15. Hi, I'm trying to decide whether to try Shutterfly or Mypublisher. The damaged pages seem to be a common complaint with Shutterfly, but I haven't heard as much negativity with Mypublisher. Did you try a Premium Album with Mypublisher? The price difference is quite a lot - approx $640 for a 14x11" with an additional 20 pages (so 40 pages in total) vs roughly $250 with Shutterfly. I'm a little torn which way to go with it. I will be annoyed if the pages come apart but if I'll get similar quality and have to spend more than double, maybe Shutterfly is the way to go? Would love to hear your view after having now had your album for a couple of years. Thanks!

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