© 2012 photobookgirl Shutterfly Review 2012 PhotoBookGirl

Shutterfly Photo Book Review 2012 Custom Path Update

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Update 1/24/2013: After making several books recently with Shutterfly, I have to add a few things to my wish list regarding the software. First of all, they really need to add a “copy” or “duplicate” button. It’s a lot easier to copy titles and text headings than it is to redo them. Same goes for photo boxes. When making layouts it’s a lot easier to copy a photo box than it is to create one from scratch, especially if I want it to be the same exact size so it lines up properly and easily. In fact, duplicating a whole layout would be a big time saver. It’s a lot easier to copy a whole layout, change the photos and make minor tweaks than it is to build a new template altogether. If you are using a premade Shutterfly template, then this issue is not as important, but for those building designs from scratch using Shutterfly’s software, it’s an essential feature to have. Also, it’s odd to not be able to work across the spread. You can’t move a text box or item across the center of the spread – it will get deleted if you try to drag anything from the left to right side or vice versa. I hope these get added soon!

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Since Shutterfly updated its software to allow for custom layouts, they have been making continual improvements.  The Custom Path of two years ago, is not like the Custom Path of today.  (b/t/w Custom Path is the option that allows you to alter and create your own layouts.)  As someone who tries to keep up on all the latest photo book news, I’m always excited to see the improvements that companies have been making to their software.

I think these latest updates are a definite upgrade and looking back at my earlier Shutterfly review, a lot of the items on my “wish list” were eventually adopted.

Customizable layouts – check!

More flexibility for placement of text boxes – check!

Remove page numbers – check!

Customizable layouts is a huge plus in my book and is the most important feature to me software wise.  Try as I might to just take a stock design and be happy with it, I’m always tweaking and making my own.  More recently however I have been admiring many of Shutterfly’s pre-designed photo book themes.  I found a really cute one to use for PhotoBookBaby’s three month photos, taken by the talented Gretchen Villaluna Baria of Moonhouse Productions.  We had so much fun with Gretchen and we got some beautiful photos, including some of our first family portraits.

Shutterfly Photo Book

The Shutterfly theme featured here is, “Happiness Is”.

Here’s the stats:

Book size: 8 x 8 (width x height) square
Cover: Custom Hard Photo Cover
Pages: 37 pages (double-sided); 65 lb. glossy paper
Binding: Glued
Price: $46.99 each + $7.99 shipping = $54.98 TOTAL (without discounts) (Best Buy promo 20 pages FREE + 20% off additional pages) + tax + shipping = $22.71 out of pocket
Ordered/Shipped/Delivered March 10 / March 14 / March 20 (10 days)

Shutterfly’s software resides completely online so you don’t have to do any upgrades or updates to use the software.  A big benefit is that once you upload your photos you can work on your book on any computer that has an internet connection.  Downside is if you don’t have internet access you won’t be able to work offline, so it depends on what works for you.  I normally have internet access no matter where I am so it has been easier for me to finish books when I’m not tied to sitting at my desktop.

How to make this book:

1) Choose “Custom Path” versus “Simple Path”;

2) Pick a size;

3) Pick your theme – (“Happiness Is”)

4) Load your photos and the preset templates will pop up ready for you to drag and drop.

Shutterfly Review

In order to use the new customization tools, you do have to click on “customize page” (bottom left hand corner).  This mode allows you to select an item to resize it or move it.  So, you’ll basically be toggling back and forth between the customize mode and the normal mode while you build your book if you choose to make specific adjustments.

I didn’t end up changing much of the layouts, so if you like how my book turned out, you should have no trouble reproducing it (with your own photos of course!).

Tips/features of Shutterfly’s new Custom Path software:

  • You can create your own layouts but be sure to utilize the alignment tools so you know your photos line up (if you mean to have them line up);
  • Make global changes to your text by using Shutterfly’s text settings tool.  You don’t have to go back to each caption if for example you decide you want to use a different font or size for the headings;

How to change all the text in your photo book

  • Embrace the “undo” button – don’t be afraid to try different things in your designs.  If you don’t like it, just click undo;
  • Want to add more stickers, frames or backgrounds? You can click on the bottom of the column to “Get more”;
  • Change sizes and styles midway through the process – a nice option to have if you decide you want to make a different size book for family or friends or if you just change your mind.  See below for how to change your book size in Shutterfly.

STEP 1: Select Change Book Size under “Book” pull down menu;

Shutterfly how to change book size tutorial

STEP 2: Choose the size you want (I like that it instantly prices out the book for you as well.)

Shutterfly photo book review

A notice pops up about the change in size.  Don’t like the change?  You can go back by clicking “Undo”.

STEP 3: Here’s the book converted from it’s original square to an 11 x 8 landscape format:

Custom path shutterfly review 2012

PhotoBookBaby’s toesies are just as cute in the 11 x 8 size! 🙂  Note that you may have to tweak the layouts a bit after the conversion, but the software does a reasonably good job in reformatting.  It’s always tricky when you change book formats (if the software even allows you to do that in the first place – many don’t).  I was skeptical about the ability to do this with different ratios, but it worked pretty well.  In this instance I would likely have to reposition the titles and captions as well, but it’s a huge time saver as compared to having to redo the book from scratch!

Print Quality and Book Construction

I won’t repeat anything from my prior Shutterfly hardcover review but you can check that out for more details.

Print Quality

The overall print quality of the interior pages was very good.  Skin tones and colors reproduced faithfully.  I’ve never been disappointed with the sharpness of the printing or the paper quality with Shutterfly.

I was surprised by a recent change however.  Shutterfly now prints on 65 lb. archival paper whereas it used to be listed at 100 lb.  I expected the paper to feel considerably different when compared it to the book I printed about two years ago, but actually there isn’t a huge difference.  I do note that the old paper may be slightly stiffer and a bit more opaque while the new book may show a little more bleedthrough than the earlier one, but it’s still a high quality paper.  I like that it’s just about the right balance between matte and gloss.  As I’ve mentioned before, it can be very hard to compare apples to apples when it comes to paper, as one company’s 100 lb. paper and another company’s 100 lb. paper can feel substantially different from one another.  Paper weight may provide you with a guideline as to thickness of the paper, but the way paper feels can also depend on how stiff the paper is.  Even with a significant change in the numerical value of the paper weight, surprisingly I don’t think it would change how I ranked Shutterfly in comparison to other photo book companies.  For more details on how photo book paper compares across companies see photo book paper comparisons here.  If companies keep changing their paper stock, then I’m going to have to do a major update of my paper post!

As for Shutterfly covers, they are more glossy than the average photo book.  It would be nice to have an option of a matte cover, but that’s not a big issue.

The binding is glued and is well constructed.

Summary

Shutterfly’s new Custom Path will give you a lot more flexibility than earlier versions of Custom Path and is a welcome upgrade.  Shutterfly has a very good selection of ready made themes that don’t look cheesy.  It will look like you spent days making a book, when in reality the book making process can go as quickly as you want it to – it’s up to you how much time you spend altering the layouts.  Print quality and construction are solid and paper quality is one of the best.  As to price, Shutterfly is around the middle to middle-high end of the pack, but Shutterfly runs very frequent promos so be sure to check them out before ordering.  If you are sign up for Shutterfly’s emails, you’ll often get personal promo codes and even codes for free books (I just got one recently! Yea!).  For this book, I got the base 20 pages for free due to a promo Shutterfly was running with Best Buy (we purchased a camera and received a special code) and then I saved an additional 20% off the additional pages with the promo they were running at the time.  You can generally stack promo codes with Shutterfly, so be sure to plug in all applicable codes.

Check out the latest Shutterfly promos here!

For new members. Sign up here.

The true test of any photo book project (that’s meant as a gift) is the recipient’s reaction.  I made this book for me and my husband but I also showed it to PhotoBookBaby.  He let out a little squeal when he saw the photo of himself in the brown cap.  He’s too young to recognize or know that he’s looking at his own image, but he likes the book.  I’ve even read it to him at bedtime and he was quite captivated!  Unintentionally it turned out to be a lovely storytime book!  Thank goodness PhotoBookBaby likes photo books!

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Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Shutterfly. If you click on a link to Shutterfly’s site and make a purchase, I receive a referral fee from the company. Regardless of compensation my opinions are my own.  I paid for this book out of my own pocket and this review was not at the request of the company.

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19 Comments

  1. Janet
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 12:36 pm | #

    I LOVE your book! We had a family photo shoot in January, so I’m thinking that Shutterfly’s Custom Path might help me construct a book quickly.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm | #

      Thanks Janet – I love how the photos and the book came out too! Yes, if you like one of the themes and you have a subset of photos like a family photo shoot – you should be able to make a book pretty effortlessly. 🙂

  2. Lindsay
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm | #

    Great review of Shutterfly’s Custom Path! I truly love being able to customize the layouts with this tool. My one con is that you cannot zoom in on the layout to make sure spacing is correct and are left to rely on the alignment tool. It can be difficult on my laptop (15″) sometimes to get things where I want.

    But one of the things that I really love love love love about Shutterfly’s Custom Path is the “Storyboard” feature. It allows you to place the pictures you want together on pages/spreads and then does a layout for you.

    This was a huge help in a photobook I made for my Brother and now Sister-in-Law before they got married. It really helped in sorting through the hundreds of pictures I had and how I wanted them in the book – their individual baby pictures on each page of a spread, then baptism, first holy communion, etc. They loved the book by the way, I got one for both sets of parents as well since it records their lives as babies up to their lives together as a couple and through their engagement.

    I now use Storyboard for all of my Shutterfly photobooks to quickly layout the book before going through and tweaking the layouts on my own 🙂 It is definitely a fantastic time saver!!

    Just thought I’d highlight this feature since it’s a part of Custom Path and can be really helpful 🙂

    Oh and the Shutterfly offers are always fantastic, often 30-50% off photobooks and like you said many times free book offers 🙂

    Ok I think that’s all my thoughts sorry this is long!

    -Lindsay

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm | #

      Hi Lindsay,

      If I really had my choice I would like to see actual X & Y coordinates, but the alignment tool does the trick so no big deal there. I haven’t used the Storyboard function much but it can be a helpful tool. You probably know more about it than I do, but for those who want more info on that, you can check out my Shutterfly softcover review – I have a short section on what the Storyboard tool is there. I’m glad you took the time to comment!

  3. Posted April 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm | #

    I love using Shutterfly! Thanks for this review. I’ve made two books now using the custom path (haven’t received my second one yet) and so far, so good. I recently received a code by email for a free 8×8 book with 20 pages- so it’s definitely worth signing up for their emails!

  4. Sally
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm | #

    Thanks for the great review! I’ve been waiting for these customization options in Shutterfly. It’s good to know that the quality of the final product is still very good. Now, I just need to make sure to use the coupon codes when I get them.

  5. Tricia
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 11:30 pm | #

    I have only used Shutterfly to make my photobooks since I have been using them for so long. While I like the customization of the photobook, I really struggled with how slow the response was after making a change. Due to the lag the time, I haven’t made a photobook since. I am curious to know how much time it took to make the photobook in Shutterfly and how does that compare to some of the other photobook companies. I am thinking of making a book but only with a company that I can download software and not deal with the Internet.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm | #

      Hi Tricia,

      I haven’t had any trouble with the software lagging. I have a pretty new computer however with upgraded everything – my old desktop was pretty ancient. Also I have high speed internet. Since Shutterfly’s software is online, your internet connection may also be a factor. In the past if I had any problems with programs and software not working well, usually I needed to reboot or clean up my computer (backing up files and moving them off the internal drive). I’m not a computer expert, but maybe those things will help. You could also check your browser compatibility. If it’s possible for you to try logging onto a friend’s or a different computer to see if you have the same problem, it could help you isolate what the issue is. If you’re still having trouble, there are plenty of companies that have offline software: MyPublisher, Photobook America, Blurb, Picaboo etc… but they will still require an upload at the end. Best of luck!

  6. Amy
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm | #

    Hi PhotoBook Girl,
    I would like to know if you have recently noticed a decrease in quality in Shutterfly books. I switched to Shutterfly from Snapfish because of the numerous great reviews of book quality and because the one I looked at in person was definitely superior to my Snapfish books. I recently received my first Shutterfly books, and am pretty disappointed in the quality. It is not as good as the Snapfish books for several reasons – glued not sewn binding, photos printed to interior edge, paper and print quality do not seem archival – and not at all what I remember about the Shutterfly book I inspected about a year ago. Also, accounting for promos at both companies, Shutterfly books cost more than the Snapfish books. What do you recommend?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm | #

      Hi Amy,

      I’ve only done one book with Snapfish about 5 years ago and Shutterfly’s looked better to me, but I haven’t done a Snapfish book recently. You’ll find my Snapfish review here. Maybe you can see if your Snapfish book looks like mine?

  7. Posted March 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm | #

    Hi PhotoBookGirl! Just a heads up…we launched new matte finish covers for our Shutterfly photobooks yesterday. I saw that this was something you noted as a “nice-to-have,” so I figured I’d pass it along. Would love to hear your feedback!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm | #

      Hi Scott from Shutterfly! Thanks for letting me know. I’ve heard from many folks who like matte covers, so I’ll be sure to check it out when I make my next book with you guys. Thanks for keeping me in the loop! Oh, since you’re checking in, have you seen my earlier review – I have a wish list there for future Shutterfly software updates. 🙂

  8. Grace Dy
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 8:43 am | #

    Hi photobookgirl,
    My husband and I are making Shutterfly photobook for our Honeymoon album. I uploaded pictures from my Canon G15 which have resolution of 4000×3000. After uploading, the pictures on the screen ended up fuzzy and a little pixelized. It is still fuzzy and a little pixelized when I click on the picture from My pictures and Preview. Have you experienced this problem? We’re undecided because we love the design but we are doubtful because of the quality of the pictures based on what we’re seeing on the site during editing and preview.

    Thanks,
    Grace

    • photobookgirl
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm | #

      Hi Grace,

      I haven’t had that happen to me before, but I do have really good internet connection since we’re online so often. Do you think it’s an internet thing? Since Shutterfly’s software is not downloaded I wonder if it has trouble processing? I am not a computer expert unfortunately. I have also heard that there is some downsizing that the companies have to do perhaps for storage issues, but it shouldn’t affect your actual output. I would suggest contacting the company to ask them. If the product doesn’t come out right and you’ve followed all their instructions, they should do a reprint or assist. I had to ask for a reprint recently but for a different issue (layering of frames etc.) and I didn’t have a problem getting a reprint credit. What size are you trying to print? Is it fuzzy for all the photos, or only the larger ones?

  9. agnes
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm | #

    I would like to know if anyone has bought the new leather flat layout page books. If so can you describe the paper that is used?

  10. Jocelyn
    Posted May 13, 2013 at 10:54 am | #

    Shutterfly did not work for me. The fact that I have to be online instead of downloadable software just doesn’t work, for my situation. I like to be able to work on my books whenever I have a few minutes, meaning I often have no connection. Also being on satellite internet (all thats available in my area) it was just too painful. When I did try it the pictures often did not display well and I was not sure if it would print poorly, if it was my connection, or just the way things displayed with their online system.

  11. P.A Fennell
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm | #

    Shutterfly has been my go to for photo books. Sharing books for others to print is great, especially for family albums. I wish you could convert square books(8×8) to rectangle sizes(8.5×11) or vice versa or that couchers purchased from Groupon, Travelzoo could be used as a credit if you let it expire.
    Their customer service has been great and very responsive. Love their graduation invitations but wish I could pick the color schemes.

  12. Kathy Backus
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 9:57 am | #

    I want to make a wedding album for my daughter and son-in-law. Ive read that pages often fall out of larger Shutterfly books. Can you tell me if this issue has been resolved. Are the books made any differently to prevent this? Thank you!

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