UPDATE: Please note there have been some updates to this review since the original post date. Currently only one version of the software is offered – the Extreme version (version 5.5) and good news – the price has been reduced from $299.00 to $199.00.)
Hi all! I bet some of you were wondering when I was going to get another software review up. Finally I had a bit of time after the flurry of family birthdays in July and August. It’s a rather time-consuming to do software reviews (and photo book reviews for that matter) because I actually have to sit down and learn how to use the programs. And then I’m kind of particular about it. I can’t just make a “mock” project because I have to be interested in the project to really do a good review and then I tend to write gobs and gobs. I am trying to balance thoroughness with conciseness, but it’s not working!
To summarize the purpose of this series on external photo book software, once you start making a lot of photo books, you start to crave some continuity. Trying to learn new software can be time consuming if you’re particular about design like I am and not into pre-made themes. So, you may find yourself at the point of wanting to own your own software so you can print your designs at the photo book printer of your choice and perhaps create your own templates for use and reuse on future book projects. Makes sense right?
I am definitely at the point of wanting to have full control over my designs and I have done that over the years using primarily Adobe Photoshop CS. (I also have Adobe InDesign, but I haven’t used it as much as Photoshop.) Photoshop CS is a powerful tool, but not necessarily geared towards album creation. The key to me is “drag and drop”. Ever since the invention of the mouse, we’re used to plopping things into little folders, and ease of use is essential. Click on this link, if you want to read my introductory post with my list of pros and cons of using external photo book software.
Okay, let’s talk about FotoFusion. LumaPix is the Canadian company behind FotoFusion, a software program for creating photo layouts and collages for use in albums, photo books, advertising materials, blogs etc. As many of you may know I’m on a Mac, and the Mac version of FotoFusion just came out about a year ago. According to the information from Lumapix’s website, the Mac and PC versions have the same features, so my review should be relevant to both platforms. It is compatible with Windows 7, XP, or Vista and Mac Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion. (UPDATE 2017: Compatible with PC: Pentium 4 (SSE2) or faster. Operating Systems: Windows XP (Service Pack 3) and above
Mac: Intel CPU required – 450 MHz or faster, X11 (Quartz) required. Operating Systems: OSX 10.6-10.11)
Enhanced vs. Extreme
(UPDATE: Extreme v5 is the only version currently offered and supported by Lumapix. Support for older versions of the software were closed December 15, 2016.) There are two versions of the software to choose from. Enhanced and Extreme. From reviewing the list of features, the main difference between the two versions is the output, and of course output is key if you’re planning to make photo books. The Enhanced version will give you output size of 3900 x 5700 pixels. At 300 dpi (which is the recommended resolution for printing) you can achieve a maximum output size of 13″ x 19″. What that means is your end product should be no larger than those dimensions if you want the best quality result. You could possibly stretch that to 225 dpi and therefore push the limits of end size to 17″ x 25″. In contrast, the Extreme version allows for unlimited export sizes. Another key difference is the ability to do multi-page projects (like albums) versus single pages. This second point is not that crucial in my opinion as typically you would output a single page or spread as a jpeg and upload that page singly anyway. The Extreme version also allows for output to a layered PSD or PDF as well. If you’re a Photoshop user, you’ll appreciate the layered PSD. What that means is the individual elements that make up your layout such as a photo, the caption, the frame etc. are all individual components that can be “turned on or off” at will. But that would only be important to you if you already have Adobe Photoshop and think that you want to combine Photoshop’s powerful editing tools with FotoFusion’s layout tools.
The Enhanced version is $119.95 and the UPDATE 2017: Extreme is $299.95. now only $199.00. Only the highest version of Fotofusion is available now and the price has come down considerably. That’s good news if you’re considering purchasing your own software. Originally, at the higher price I thought it might be a bit cost prohibitive for the casual user. However, now with the big price reduction, the pros of having your own software vastly outweigh the cons. So many photo book companies have come and gone and if you make more than a couple photo books per year or like to work on projects over an extended timeframe (like for an annual photo book), I think having your own software is a must. Getting to keep your photo book designs without worry of losing them is key for me. I’ve used this program for about 5 years now and I’m very happy with it. That’s more than double, so it would be up to you as to how important those extra features are. Given that most popular size for photo books is 8.5″ x 11″ and the most popular size for scrapbookers is 12″ x 12″, then the Enhanced version will do the trick. The largest books I’ve made are 12″ x 17.5″ with Photobook America and 11.5″ x 15″ with MyPublisher, so as you can see, both large books would be supported by the more economical Enhanced version. LumaPix states on its website that the Enhanced version is more geared towards scrapbookers or photography enthusiasts whereas its Extreme version may be more essential to pros. I think that distinction is pretty accurate and you can determine what makes sense for you.
To start, you can choose from a blank canvas or a pre-made template. Under the Album Templates (in the Extreme version), you’ll find preset templates for many photo book companies. Many of them are geared towards pro-photographers, but there are some familiar names such as Blurb.
Also in the Extreme version some pre-made book templates are available.
Some are provided free of charge whereas others require the purchase of credits. (UPDATE 2017: Version 5 comes with all free backgrounds and templates. No additional purchase is necessary.)
To create your own layout you can start with a blank canvas and choose the grey button with the plus sign to create an image or text box. It’s very easy to make a quick layout like this one below.
You can make one box, copy it and paste it to get two same sized boxes. The boxes snap to align with the other boxes so you know they line up. You can adjust size by dragging the corners of the containers. You can also control precise placement by right clicking on the box. Numerous options are available to fine tune the frames, shadows, text. Since this software resides on your computer, you can use any font you want. Your images don’t need to be loaded into the program, thumbnails of the images are pulled from the location your photos reside and you have quick access to any folders with photos.
Key tools such as duplicating boxes, the ever-important “undo” button and alignment tools are all available in the program. You can also adjust frame and shadow width to your liking as well as rotate a photo at any angle. FotoFusion however does not have built-in photo editing except for red-eye removal. However, you can click on the image you want to modify and the program will prompt you to create a copy of the original photo so that the original remains untouched. It will then launch the photo editing program of choice and then allow you to make your edits.
I found the menus to contain lots of submenus that can be a bit confusing to navigate. Some functions seemed buried under too many levels, but after time I suppose you would get used to it and remember where they are. Any program takes some time to learn. I did like the slider bars on the various tools as well as being able to type in an exact number to get the exact effect I was looking for.
The Extreme version offers lots of mattes (called masks by some companies). They allow you to cut out your images into different shapes (like circles, ellipses, stars, hearts etc.) but I couldn’t find the one tool I love to use which is rounded corners. I may have overlooked it given the myriad of submenus, but I couldn’t locate it if it exists. That would be an odd function not to have so I’ll check with the company about it. (UPDATE: Rounded corners were added in an updated version of the software. You’ll find it listed as the “rounded” option under the “Frame” settings. You can even adjust the degree of curvature.)
Although there is a lot to navigate, there is an online manual as well as video tutorials, all easily accessible from the main workspace.
Software Comparison Chart
It’s probably best to show you my checklist of features that I like to see in photo book software. This is a list of preferences I’ve developed over time, some of which may or may not be important to you. Since I’m doing a series of posts on the subject, I’ll keep adding onto the chart as each company is reviewed. Here’s Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Lumapix FotoFusion compared side by side. If you want to read my full review of Photoshop Elements 10 check out the link.
(For the photo book companies compared side-by-side check out my Photo Book Company Comparison page.)
||Adobe Photoshop Elements 10
|Photo Editing||Full-featured including red-eye tool, healing tool||Red-eye only, must use external program to edit; Non-destructive editing keeps original untouched.|
|Photo Organization||Images can be placed in the “project bin” to make them easier to locate.||Can tag, rate and categorize images to make them searchable; Can organize photos into “buckets” to make them easier to find.|
|Photo Manipulation||Yes – trim, can cut out figures||Yes – called “matte” tool, can cut out figures|
|Masks (overlays)||Yes||Yes – called “mattes”|
|Backgrounds||Yes any color with eyedropper tool, some textured; can use opacity and blur tools to create backgrounds from your images.||Yes – any color with eyedropper tool. Also see textured “papers”, some included, can pay for additional papers at dotScrap; can also use opacity and blur tools to create backgrounds from your images.|
|Instant Two-Page Spread||Yes||No, but you can drag corners to get same result|
|Fonts||Any font on your computer||Any font on your computer|
|Rounded Corners||Can’t recall – will check|
|Alignment Tools||Yes – precise placement||Yes – precise placement|
|Copy Tool||Yes||Yes – can also set default settings to make frames, text etc. consistent.|
|Custom Photo Box Shapes||Yes||Yes – called matte|
|Frames/Borders||Yes – adjustable||Yes – adjustable|
|Clip Art||Can’t recall – will check||Yes|
|Design Across Spread||Yes||Yes|
|Work on Entire Book in One File||No||Yes (in Extreme, not in Enhanced)|
|Adobe Photoshop Elements 10
||$69.00||Project bin keeps your photos readily accessible as compared to Photoshop CS; Work in layers to easily toggle on and off changes or additions; Good for photo editing||Specific photo book tool with layouts and templates only works in very limited sizes; Can’t use tool for custom sizes – limited to creating single pages for export; Not a lot of themes and backgrounds||PC & Mac FREE trial available|
|Lumapix FotoFusion||Supports custom sizes; Ease of drag and drop; Photos don’t require upload; plenty of masks (mattes) and frames available; Easy and precise alignment tools||Lots of drop down menus make it a bit hard to find features – interface could be better;
||PC & Mac FREE trial available, (note link will start a direct download of the free trial). Watermark will appear on output prior to purchase.|
Try out LumaPix FotoFusion for yourself. You can download the free trial instantly from here. Are you a FotoFusion user? Let me know what you think!
Please note: I am an affiliate of Adobe and LumaPix. If you buy the software I receive a commission, however I found the companies independently and was not asked to write this post, nor was I compensated for it. As always my opinions are solely my own.