UPDATE 7/1/11 & 9/20/11: A reader contacted me via this post to tell me that Picaboo has changed the paper they use for the Madison from the pearlescent paper to a 110 lb. semi-gloss archival quality paper (it still lays flat). So, that is a significant change from the original paper, so while the software features remain the same (save for the ongoing updates that Picaboo does from time to time), please keep in mind that my review is of the original paper which is no longer available. Additionally please note the base price for a Madison has increased to
$129.99 $199.99 for the first 20 pages and $1.99 for each additional page.)
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The folks at Picaboo contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their new Picaboo X software. I’d never tried Picaboo before, but I had read about the debut of their new lay flat Madison photo books so I was looking forward to giving it a try.
In terms of subject matter, I’ve finally started to shift from making wedding photo albums to working on photo books featuring our honeymoon. For the Madison book, I decided to make a “highlights” book of our honeymoon. My new hubby and I traveled to a part of the world we had never been to before – Australia and New Zealand. It turned out to be our most favorite vacation to date with the most memorable part for me being the Great Barrier Reef and his favorite part, being able to play with kangaroos and wallabies. We went for about 2.5 weeks and despite being advised it may be too much ground to try to cover, we managed to visit a part of both countries and journeyed through an extreme of temperatures, from 80s in Port Douglas to 30s in Queenstown. The first honeymoon book I created was my underwater adventure in the Great Barrier Reef – featured in my review of Apple Aperture.
Here’s the stats for my Madison photo book:
|Book size:||11×8.5 (width x height)|
|Cover:||Hardcover – Full Photo Cover w/Leather|
|Price:||Normally $159.69 (complimentary)|
|Ordered/Received:||Aug 5 / Aug 12|
Picaboo Software Review
Picaboo’s newest software, called Picaboo X was released this past April 2010. I never tried the prior version (Picaboo 2.5) and I read on Picaboo’s site that any books created in the earlier software are not compatible with the new software, but that you can have both versions of the software running. The new software is compatible with both Mac and PC platforms and requires a free download of Adobe AIR, a process that initiates directly from Picaboo’s site. After the short download, the program runs on your desktop and doesn’t require you to be connected to the Internet to work.
Jumping into the book designing process is very quick. To start, you select the theme you wish to use.
There are 16 themes such as wedding and travel related themes with some additional options under the main headings. Then you select the folder where your photos are located and after a speedy upload (the 619 photos I started out with ended up taking only 1 minute and 17 seconds), you can go right to creating your photo book.
Unlike many companies, you don’t have to upload full-sized versions of your photos before you can start. That’s a great feature to have – sometimes when you’re ready to get to work, you just want to start and not have to wait for a lengthy upload which in some cases can take hours depending on your Internet connection.
Picaboo X features fully customizable layouts and also preset layouts to choose from and they are all easily accessible on the left side of the workspace. What’s particularly nice is that you can change your book style midstream or at any time during or after the book creation process. Your interior pages remain intact so you can preview a number of different book covers and styles before deciding on a final style.
If you like lots of background choices, there are 10000+ of them. A helpful zoom tool allows you to do a quick full size preview of the background and the “Favorites” tag allows you to mark the ones you like and place it in a separate folder so you can easily locate it when you’re creating the layouts.
You can also add the background to your photo tray located at the bottom of the workspace for easy access. The embellishments offered include some crazy looking photo corners. In program photo editing includes, zoom, move, brightness, contrast and saturation. A red eye removal tool is offered, as well as a tool to convert your photo to black and white or sepia versions. You can also add a border or shadow to the photo. Borders are available in any color you select.
1) The quick start is really quick – you can start creating your book without waiting for a long upload;
2) Fully-customizable layouts are a must for me – creating your own layouts or altering the provided ones is easy (with one caveat listed below in the “Wish List”)
3) The workspace is easy to navigate and straightforward. The main navigation panel on the left side of the workspace makes it easy to access the design tools;
4) The software allows you to apply a border or shadow to all photos on a page or to all photos in the book. This function makes it easy to change all items in a book with one click;
5) The photo editing tools offer more options than are normally available within book layout software. It’s a time-saver to be able to adjust or make quick tweaks to brightness, contrast and saturation without having to exit the program;
6) Being able to change book styles at any time is a great function not offered by many photo book companies. This makes it easy to order different versions of the same book as gifts without having to recreate the whole book. This would be useful for instance if you wanted to keep a more expensive version of a book for yourself but still be able to give more affordable versions as gifts. Not that your recipients don’t deserve the very best, but you may not want (or afford) to give a $300.00 version of your baby’s keepsake book to every grandparent, auntie and uncle, but you still may want to give a just as memorable $30.00 version.
1) The biggest issue I had with Picaboo’s software is the lack of an alignment tool. The grid that can be toggled on and off does not provide the preciseness needed when you’re designing your own layouts or modifying the ones provided. If you want to know whether something is lined up, you need the x and y coordinates;
2) Given the lack of precise alignment tools, it would be helpful if the cursor keys would function. That way at a minimum you could be sure that if you were moving a photo box 1 keystroke (1 space), you could do the same to an adjacent box and they’d line up.
3) The 40+ fonts provide a few good options, but there could be more. As with many photo book companies, there aren’t enough plain, simple, clean-looking fonts. I suppose the “Dracula” font comes in handy for Halloween, but otherwise…
4) Since the Madison book is a lay flat book, it would be nice to have a way to create an instant two-page spread within the program – you can do it, but it has to be done completely manually, which can be hit or miss.
Print Quality and Book Construction
The Madison is unlike most photo books you’ve probably seen from well-known printers such as Shutterfly and MyPublisher. One noticeable difference from the get-go is the matte black presentation box the book arrives in. The box lined with white tissue, gives a professional touch to the book as well as the vellum pages in the front and back of the book.
The cover features a high-gloss laminated custom photo of your choice with your pick of 5 different colors of leather: black, brown, coffee, red or pink. The full-grain glove leather wraps from the front, across the spine and completely covers the back. The spine is not customizable.
The pages are printed on 110 lb. archival quality card stock. But don’t be fooled by the 110 lb. paper weight, as the numbers may lead you to think that the paper is just slightly thicker than a typical 100 lb. photo book. These pages are thick and heavyweight – you can’t really compare card stock to regular paper.
The paper is matte (not reflective and glossy) but has a pearlescent finish. If you tilt the pages you’ll notice a pearly sparkle to the paper. This is a very specific look, so you may or may not like it. I did like how it added a pop to my landscape photos. As for its effect on skin tones – the sparkle reminded me of Edward in the sunlight in Twilight – I guess we can all have a little vampire brilliance then… Overall, I liked the paper quality – it reminded me of the paper you’d find in an artist’s portfolio.
The print quality was good but hard to compare to other photo books as the paper is so different. The photos were a bit darker than what I saw on my screen, but the colors were well saturated and faithful to what I saw in the preview. The preview was also reliable in showing where the full bleed images would be trimmed.
The pages lay flat and the book has a very thin gutter in the center of about 1/16″. The book appears well-constructed and sturdy.
Lastly, as far as logos go, this one is nice and subtle. The Picaboo logo is debossed (creating an indented impression) into the inside back cover of the Madison.
I found the Picaboo X software easy to use and well-designed for easy navigation. Fully customizable layouts are a plus and are increasingly becoming a requirement for many photo book enthusiasts as I’ve noted from all the comments and e-mails that I’ve been getting. The lack of an alignment tool keeps the software from getting top marks, but I did find out from Picaboo that an alignment tool is in the works. The timeline for its addition to the software is not certain at this point but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
It should be noted that the Madison is not cheap, but this type of book is more suited for a special occasion – such as a wedding or anniversary. At
$99.99 $129.99 for the first 20 pages and $1.99 for each additional page (with a maximum of 90 pages), it is one of the pricier photo book options. However, you do get what you pay for – the authentic leather, presentation box, and the super-thick lay flat portfolio-like pages make for a high-quality photo book that really stands out from the typical photo books you may have seen before. (Update 10/16/2010: Hands down, the best way to save on this book, is to buy a Picaboo Groupon. There have been three versions of Picaboo Groupons circulating as of late, all ranging from 65% to 75% off in savings! You can click on this link if you want to see the Groupons available today.)
Keep in mind that this review is for the Madison book. Picaboo has several styles of photo books ranging from $9.99 to $449.99 printed on various types of papers. So, while this software review should remain consistent across book styles, the actual printing and construction will differ. I’m currently working on the FREE 20-page large hardcover Classic photo book offer from Picaboo for new users, so stay tuned for a review on that style soon. The deal expires on 8/31/2010 10/25/2010 so you still have plenty of time to make your own book.
Click on the link above or the ad below to make your own FREE photo book with Picaboo!
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If you’ve printed photo books with Picaboo before, or have a question about Picaboo photo books, please feel free to add your comment below.