• The photobook wars

    MyPublisher, Mixbook, Snapfish, and Shutterfly compared


    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…


    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.


    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).


    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 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.

    How my photo prints came out

    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?

  • Introducing: The Blue Spring/Te Waihou (aka I live in paradise)

    I had no idea this place even existed until recently. Know how I found out about it? Instagram! All in the name of work, of course.

    Near the Waikato town of Putaruru, the Blue Spring is so ridiculously pure it supplies the majority of New Zealand’s bottled water. Photos don’t do the blue, clear water justice.

    This was a quick stop for us on the way to Taupo so we parked at the Leslie Rd carpark to make it a 10 minute walk to the stream. (There’s another track from Whites Rd to the downstream part, which apparently takes 90 minutes to walk.)

    Blue Spring Te Waihou near Putaruru

    Blue Spring Te Waihou near Putaruru

    Blue Spring Te Waihou near Putaruru

    Blue Spring Te Waihou NZ near Putaruru



  • Oh snap. My favourite photos from 2013

    Anyone else still struggling to catch up to 2014? Let’s cling to the past together in this week’s Foto Friday.

    distrito restaurant scottsdale arizona

    Snapped in Scottsdale with my blogging buddy Athena! I adore the colours and the framing.

    Gothic Belford Hostel in an old church in Edinburgh, Scotland

    The kickass Belford Hostel in Edinburgh, housed in an old church and oozing with character.

    new orleans wagon 

    No single photo can accurately sum up the vibe of New Orleans, unfortunately.

    Tiger roaring at Chicago zoo 

    I’ll never forget the roar of this tiger at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. 

    Arizona painted cliffs - NZMUSE

    I am head over heels for the striated colours that punctuate the Arizona desert.

    The magical, mystical white sands in New Mexico - hut included

    I love all my photos from the otherworldly White Sands like children, so picking this shot was kind of a crapshoot.

    Massachussetts fall colours - Blood red fall leaves, when New England turns crimson

    Massachusetts in autumn needs no introduction.

    Iceland mini horses at golden circle gullfoss

    Icelandic horses FTW!

    italy red purple sunset streaked sky

    The sunsets in Italy restore your faith in the world. 

    colosseum in rome lit up by night nzmuse

    The Colosseum is infinitely more impressive by night. 

    purple bike orange building viterbo

    I just had to capture this scene in Viterbo.

    Santorini buildings

    It is truly impossible to take a bad photo on Santorini.

    Dancing house in prague with red tram - NZMuse

    Prague’s Dancing House; the tram happened to come along at just the right time and complete the image.

    Ballerina in a gritty London skatepark - Southwark

    Ballerina meets skate park in London

    amazing cave halong bay vietnam colours

    Vietnam’s Amazing Cave is proof that Mother Nature is a BAMF.

    carved bamboo sticks in hue vietnam

    Some things are the same all over the world, as I found in this tranquil wee spot near a monastery in Hue.

    hoi an ink drawings

    Hoi An is like that charming boy Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love.

    cambodia night market lights on water nzmuseSiem Reap’s sultry side.

    koh lanta boat rock sky nzmuse

    A day cruising the Thai islands is never wasted.