Update 5/17/2011: Wondering what Photobook America’s (Canada) photo lustre paper upgrade looks like?
Update 11/21/2010: The book is in! Part II of my review on Photobook America book quality is up!
Update 11/09/2010: Want to see some sample layouts and learn how to create custom photo book templates? Here’s the tips you’re looking for when making your own Photobook America book.
As many of you may know, Photobook America is one of the photo book printing companies that has been offering huge discounts on their products through the group buying phenomenon known as Groupon. The 70% off $35 for $115 Groupon has been offered in numerous cities across the U.S. and Canada recently and have caused quite a stir. (I bought 4 of them myself!) If you’re from up north, you may already be familiar with Photobook Canada – Photobook Malaysia and Photobook Australia round out the Photobook Worldwide group of companies. Check out my main Photobook America page for a quick overview of Photobook America’s software features. Click here to go to the Photobook America website to download the software.
Before I could get to using my Groupons, I was contacted by Photobook America to receive a complimentary $115 photo book to review for this site. The timing was perfect to make a photo book of the recent trip my husband and I took to Hawaii for the wedding of our good friends this past September!
This review will be in two parts. Part I will be on the software and Part II (to come) will be on the quality of the photo book after it arrives.
8″x 11″ portrait Imagewrap Hardcover
Currently 106 pages (base price of $65.00 includes 40 pages)
Approximately 315 photos (an average of 3 per page or 6 per spread)
- Mac & PC compatible
- Downloaded (versus online)
- You can work offline until you are ready to upload your book
- You cannot change your book style or size once you start your design
- Offers a detailed 29-page user guide in PDF form for download
- Supports JPG, JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG, PICT/PCT, TIFF files
- Use any font on your computer (yea!)
- Uses European ISO Fogra 39 or European ISO Fogra 27 standard for monitor calibration if you’re concerned about color matching
Photobook America’s software called “Photobook Designer” is downloaded from its site and is compatible with both Mac and PC. The software is well designed and for the most part pretty intuitive, so I found it very easy to create my layouts and play around with them, but here are a few helpful tips…
- Under the “Photobook America” drop down menu, set your “Preferences”. If you’re in the U.S. you probably prefer inches to millimeters. I also recommend selecting the “Constrain Proportions On New Picture/Shape Boxes” so that your photos keep their aspect ratios when you resize them. If you don’t want that setting to default on all your photos/boxes, then you can select that on a photo-by-photo basis in the picture toolbar on the right (click on the ruler icon).
- Divide up your project’s photos into separate folders before you start. I normally divide a vacation into days (day 1, day 2, day 3). Then add each folder/day at a time so you don’t have too many photos to look through.
- Save often. For some unknown reason, the software crashed on me a couple times, but it was easy to recover since I had saved frequently. Had I not saved frequently, I would not be too happy.
- After you use a photo, a red button shows that you’ve used the photo and how many times you used it
- Sort your photos in many different ways – by date taken, picture usage, etc.
- Duplicate your spreads for easy reuse on another spread (under “Page” pull down window)
- Rearrange your spreads and insert blank spreads in between pages for flexibility (also under “Page” pull down window)
- Easily copy a box or item so you don’t need to guess whether two boxes are the same size or have the same style attributes
- The Fit to Page and Fit to Spread functions are always welcome. You can instantly fill the page with your photo or have a single photo stretch across both pages.
- There are numerous options for photo containers – square, rectangular, circular, diamond shaped and unique “masks” such as hearts to change the shape of your photos
- Rounded corners are easy to apply
- Control the opacity of your photos for different effects
- Pick any color for your background, using the color picker tool
How to pick a custom color from within a photo
***PLEASE NOTE: This particular feature and tutorial is applicable to Mac users only, not PC.***
- The alignment tools are extremely helpful and very easy to use. Hold shift to multi-select the boxes you want to line up and choose how you want to align them. No guessing!
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about the design software! I found it very flexible and easy to use – but here are some thoughts…
- As with all the photo book companies, photo editing if needed is best done outside the program using an external program like Adobe Photoshop or one of the free online photo editing programs. The in-program tools allow you to rotate, flip, adjust brightness or contrast and add a vignette, but not much else.
- If you don’t want to create your own templates, the selection of pre-made templates is pretty slim, but the layout tools are very easy to use so you should have no trouble making your own.
- Besides the custom color backgrounds you can select, there are only 50 textured or patterned backgrounds available, which is fine for me cause I hardly ever use them. If you like using backgrounds however, you won’t find many provided, but you can easily load your own backgrounds and embellishments.
- Less is more – choose border or drop shadow, but not both
- Keep captions or text well within the borders of the page, according to Photobook America, they trim 1/8 inch around the page
- For consistency, choose one or two fonts at most for your book. Copy and paste your caption from the prior page so you know they are the same size
- If you use the full-page bleed, (“Fit to Spread”) make sure that you don’t put the important part of the image in the gutter (the center of the spread). A photo of a landscape probably is safest.
- Double check to make sure your items are aligned using the alignment tools
- Keep in mind the size of the book and how many photos you are putting on a page. For this size book, I generally recommend 4 to 5 photos max. Less important photos can be put in smaller boxes. Give your best shots their own page or spread so they stand out.
- Don’t be afraid to reuse a layout. A 100-page book does not need to have 100 different layouts! Duplicate a layout using that function under the “Page” drop down menu. Move it to the location you want using arrows under the “Rearrange” function. Then tweak it a bit here and there if you want to make it work with the photos you’re using.
- Be efficient – hold down the “shift” key to select several items on a page to make changes to all the photos at the same time. So, if you want to add a drop shadow to all the photo boxes, then select all of them first and then make the change to apply the shadow to all the items at once.
Well, I’m almost done with this book and plan to send it off later tonight! Looking forward to finally seeing my finished photo book. And stay tuned for Part II of my review on print quality.
What features did you like or not like about Photobook America (or Photobook Canada)? Share them below!
New to photo books? Check out my multi-part in-depth series on how to make your own photo books online!
Looking for the latest Photobook America Groupon? If there is one available, it will show up in our real-time photo book Groupon tracker below.