The photobook wars

Mission: Sort out our digital photos

 

Much as I try, I am not a naturally organised person. Over the years my photo storage system – or lack thereof – has gotten OUT OF CONTROL. I’ve got pics in Dropbox, on the laptop, on Facebook, on an SD card, on a USB stick … all over the place, really.

So when I finally decided it was time to do something about our wedding photos (2 years on…) I figured might as well tackle the whole shebang. Particularly those pesky travel pics, which I really wanted some tangible copies of.

As a result, I’ve been on a bit of a photobooking spree, and tried a few different companies in the process. Here are my thoughts…

MyPublisher

I spent ages researching photobook makers renowned for their quality and that would ship to NZ. I was willing to fork out a bit for our wedding album, and MyPublisher seemed to fit the bill.

I actually quite liked the software, from the layouts to the ability to organise your photos in a particular order (though that particular drag and drop function was finicky and frustrating).

But the dealbreaker was that it’s not web-based and, uh, didn’t actually work for me. I downloaded the programme, spent ages creating my album, and then when I went to place my order – crickets. It just wouldn’t connect to the site (or something). I checked the FAQs and Googled, but couldn’t find a fix that worked. So I gave up.

Mixbook

Then it was back to the drawing board. This time around I signed up to try Mixbook. I went for a lay-flat photobook, with thick cardstock pages.

Mixbook’s software is web-based, with a fairly clean design and is simple enough to use. Definitely a fan.

The downside was that when my book arrived, there were 2 small ink dots on one of the pages. I would have let it go, except this was my wedding album! I wanted perfection! So I emailed and asked nicely if anything could be done about it. Lo and behold, they made another and sent me a perfect copy. Yay for American-style customer service.  Five stars for Mixbook (and their cute software that let me rate their response by clicking on a smiley face in the CSR’s email signature).

Shutterfly

Then it was time to make some travel photo books, which I wasn’t willing to spend as much on. Shutterfly is US-based, so shipping is ouchies. But I got a free book courtesy of Revanche, so gave them a go (free book but paid shipping wound up costing about the same as a local Snapfish book – more on that later).

Shutterfly’s got a pretty clean interface, and I liked  that you could simply hover over a photo for an enlarged view.

That said, I found it unintuitively difficult to resize photo boxes (I had to google this) and the popup menu for editing an already-placed photo did not fit my screen. (Scrolling within lightboxes is a PITA.)

The physical quality of the books is pretty impressive; they feel well made and include a lovely waffle-textured page as the first and last.

Snapfish

Snapfish has a local operation, so it wins out in terms of cost and shipping time.

That said, it’s probably my least favourite site to use for actually making photobooks.

I found the interface cluttered and overwhelming. It’s nearly impossible to find a nice plain theme if you just want your photos to shine and be the focus. I couldn’t seem to nudge using arrow keys and their guidelines/snap rules are pretty basic. And the settings didn’t seem to save across different login sessions (eg, I like the side frame to hide photos that I’ve already used or removed).

Quality wise, the first book that arrived had the inside cover bubbling up a bit as if it was damp or not glued together properly. That felt cheap and looked sloppy. (My flatmate who also has a Snapfish book had the same issue.) The next 2 books were fine, though.

Photo prints

Both Snapfish and Shutterfly offer 50 free prints when you sign up, so I took the opportunity to get some wedding prints and compare quality.

Shutterfly’s prints came out a little light, and lower contrast. Probably more natural is fair to say. Snapfish’s prints were high contrast, with very dark blacks. I wasn’t blown away by either.

To be honest, I prefer the prints I got done at Warehouse Stationery, of all places. I liked these the best – strong clear colours, natural looking skin tones, not too dark or too light.

Honestly, while I think photobooks are pretty cool, I feel like the quality just doesn’t match up to normal prints. From a design perspective they’re nifty, but there’s definitely something still to old school albums. All said and done, though, the convenience of photobooking is a huge factor.

What have your forays into photobooking been like?

6 thoughts on “The photobook wars

  • Reply Sally July 22, 2015 at 07:45

    UGH. I’ve got my bridal shower one almost done in MyPublisher about 2 months ago but then some small issue with it (I think the background was weird) held me up and it’s been sitting in my to do list ever since. These things are a total pain in the ass for me. I just want the finished product. This would be an instant where it would be well worth it to have a VA or PA figure it out for me.

  • Reply Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog July 22, 2015 at 08:15

    I’ve used uPhotoBooks a few times, usually because they’ve had an offer on, and they’re not bad. The software is pretty straightforward, and they usually ship fairly quickly. Ordering my next one through Tesco Photo, though, so will be interesting to compare them. Thanks for the tips on these ones – will have to check them out! But yes, I do still love the nostalgic feel of an old-school photo album, too. 🙂

    http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com

  • Reply Jenny July 22, 2015 at 10:51

    This is something that I’ve been meaning to sort out for a while. I even bought a negative scanner to digitize a bunch of photos too and I haven’t got around to using it! Thanks for sharing your experiences, I’ll keep it in mind when I finally get my photos sorted!

  • Reply Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way July 22, 2015 at 20:03

    I’m totally a big fan of Mixbook! I really love their customer service too!

  • Reply Dane Hinson July 23, 2015 at 07:03

    My wife has been getting really BIG into photography lately. Every family event turns into a full on photo shoot. As of now we have a hard drive full of picture folders, it will be a year end goal of mine to organize them and figure out a better process to file and access them all!

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank July 26, 2015 at 13:30

    I am a user of Shutterfly. It’s like every product they provide is really a result that meets my expectation. I think I am gonna try out Snapfish and Mixbook. Let’s see if they are also good.

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