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:
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.
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.
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.)
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 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:
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