© 2010 photobookgirl

My Shutterfly Softcover Photo Book Review



Recently, Shutterfly announced an offer for a free 5×7 softcover photo book through its Facebook fan page.  I posted the offer in one of my June deal posts, but the response to the deal was swift and if you didn’t claim your free book immediately, Shutterfly unfortunately ran out of free books.

I was probably one of the last folks able to secure a coupon code, which I hoped to do so that I could share this review with you! Although I ordered prints about 4 years ago from them, I’d never tried Shutterfly’s photo books before.

Here’s the stats:

Book size: 7×5 (width x height) Actual measurement: 7.1 x 5.5
Cover: Softcover
Pages: 20 (double-sided)
Binding: Perfect Bound
Price: Normally $10.39 (cheapest shipping $2.99, with tax $0.31) Total paid $3.30 with promo

Shutterfly’s Software

Shutterfly’s software runs off their site.  From the outset, you choose to make either a “Simple Path” book or a “Custom Path” book.  Simple Path is Shutterfly’s autofill function which works with up to 400 photos with 1 to 4 photos per page.  You have a choice of more than 20 styles and it’s available five sizes.  Custom Path gives you more flexibility.  You can use up to 1000 photos with 1 to 16 photos per page.  With Custom Path you also have the option of selecting photo covers in satin, suede and leather die-cut windows.  So, if you want to have more options choose Custom Path.  If you want to make a quick book of a set of photos, choose Simple Path.  Note that you can still make changes to the book if you choose Simple Path, but the photos will be placed chronologically.

Shutterfly Simple Path vs Custom Path

Select Simple Path or Custom Path

You know what I chose – Custom Path.  I’m just a custom kind of girl – what can I say?

For this photo book I selected my favorite photos of our honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand taken in July 2009.  We just celebrated our 1 year anniversary on June 27, 2010 by the way!


I uploaded my photos from my computer and began to layout the photos.  Its drag and drop interface is similar to other sites with online software.  Shutterfly’s layouts are not customizable, so you have to select from the layouts provided.  (Update: Shutterfly now has a customizable version of its software called custom path.) As you can see from the photo below, the layouts are at the left and the photos I uploaded appear at the bottom of the screen.  Notice, although I can enter captions for every photo on page 2 of the book, if I decide not to enter any text, that box will disappear and it will not print out in the final product.  You can also check that in the Preview.

Shutterfly book making software

A screenshot of Shutterfly's workspace.

PhotoBookGirl TIP: With any photo book project, be sure to save often.  This software is online, so if you have trouble with your Internet connection (who doesn’t?), you may lose your work if you don’t hit that save button frequently.

Shutterfly also has a unique function called the Storyboard.  If you click on this, you’ll be taken to a different user interface which can be useful if you have an idea of which photos you want to put on which pages.  You can drag photos to the Storyboard on the right and it will reconfigure your current layout.  If you use this from the beginning, the software will select layouts that fit the number of photos you picked.

Storyboard Screen

The Storyboard allows you to select which photos will go on a given page.


1)   Software is easy to use, uncluttered and has a clear progression of tabs at the top: from selecting a style, to laying out the pages and cover, to previewing the final product;

2)   Storyboard function can be a helpful tool to help arrange which photos will appear on which page;

3)   Pages can be easily rearranged – just drag and drop;

4)   When your mouse hovers over a photo, a box temporarily opens to show you a larger version of your image (about 2.25 x 1.5) which is much easier on the eyes and makes it helpful to distinguish similar photos;

5)   You can apply some editing to your photos within the program: red-eye reduction, convert a color photo to black and white or sepia, or change the saturation or give a photo a soft focus;

6)   You can put a custom photo on the spine;

7)   You can put a full photo on the back cover

Wish List

1)   More flexibility with text boxes – I found the text boxes for captions to be pretty limiting;

2)   Offer fully customizable layouts – Since I’m big on customization, it’s harder for me to be limited to set layouts.  As with pretty much any company that does not have fully customizable layouts, you can create your own layout in a separate program however, my photo book reviews are geared towards the average user (and likely new user) and I assume that you don’t have your own design software or that you don’t have time to create your own layouts unless it’s offered within the company’s book-making software. (Digital scrapbookers note that a separate part of the site is geared towards uploading your own jpeg layouts.)  (Update: Shutterfly now has a customizable version of its software called custom path.)

3)   Split photos on spine – a photo is allowed on the spine, but what I think is odd about allowing a photo on the spine is that it wraps from the front around to the back.  If I have a different photo on the rear cover, even if I try to match the image on the spine to the front cover, the back photo doesn’t match.  I wonder if splitting the photo for the rear could be a future option, but that’s not a huge deal;

Editing the Cover and Spine.

Editing the covers and spine.


4)   My biggest issue – Allow users to remove the page numbers!  Page numbers only make sense if you have a table of contents or index, but that’s not the case here.   I think page numbers are distracting in a photo book and there should be an option to remove them if you don’t like them.


The page numbers aren't necessary...

Print Quality & Book Construction

This softcover book has a sturdy cardstock type cover with a semi-gloss coating.  Per Shutterfly’s site, the interior pages are 100 lb. gloss coated text weight paper.  I found the paper weight to be very good – it feels substantial.  It appears to be the same interior paper used in their hardcover books.

As for print quality, all the photos shifted somewhat to the red side of the spectrum.  It was noticeable in some photos more than others, especially some of the photos of our faces.  If I could go back, I would turn off the “VividPics” function, which is a default automatic color enhancement that Shutterfly applies.  You can turn off the auto-correct function on a photo-by-photo basis, but if you’re turning it off because your monitor is calibrated or because you’ve already adjusted your photos in an outside photo editor, then you’ll want to turn it off for all photos in the album.


Our faces are a bit red here - just like momma roo's fur on the right! (see the joey in her pouch?)

How to turn off VividPics for all images in a single album:

1)   Open up the album;
2)   Select all photos in your album;
3)   Go to the “Edit” pull down window;
4)   Select “Apply effect”;
5)   Click on “Don’t apply automatic corrections to picture”;
6)   Click on “Apply this effect to selected pictures”

Shutterfly Turn off VividPics

Turning off VividPics default auto photo correction.

You can also turn VividPics off individually within the photo book software.

1)   Click on the photo;
2)   Edit picture window pops up;
3)   Select “Effects”;
4)   Select “Don’t apply automatic corrections to picture”

Turn off VividPics

You can also turn off the auto correction for a single photo.

Although the color slightly shifted red, the overall print quality was very good and the colors were bright and well saturated.  I did notice some banding on the cover photo and on one of the interior pages however.

The book is perfect bound which means the pages are glued to the cover.  I did notice that some of the cover was cracking leaving some exposed white surface material in the crease.  Note that this is pretty typical for most softcover books and is probably unavoidable.  A logo and bar code appears on the last interior page.  There is also a bar code at the bottom right of the back cover.


Some white spots at binding.


As for speed of delivery.  I placed the order on June 23rd with the cheapest shipping option and it arrived on June 29th, which is a good turn around time for the most economical delivery option.


Overall Shutterfly offers users an easy to use book-making program.  The software runs reasonably fast and is easy to navigate and the Storyboard and Simple Path tools can help users make a book quickly, though advanced users may feel limited since the program does not offer customizable layouts.  Print quality is very good and photos reproduce well.  Unless you think your photos need a bit of a boost, turn off the auto-correction function to keep your photos looking more like your originals.

Check out my Shutterfly overview.  Show me what types of photobooks Shutterfly offers.  Show me the latest Shutterfly photo book coupon. (Shutterfly is running a 20% off sale on their photo books through 7/6/10!  No coupon code necessary.)





Be sure to check out my CANVAS DEALS!


  1. Shel
    Posted June 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm | #

    Thank you so much for the info on Vividpics! I had a free 7×9 book (all pictures of people) and was so disappointed in the redness in the pics. I’m about to order another one (not free and a much larger size) and found your page through a Google search of Shutterfly photo book reviews! You’re a life saver. I edit all my photos, remove red eye, etc. in another program before I upload them so I would have never found it or thought to look for it.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted June 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm | #

      Glad that you found it helpful!

  2. Meredith
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:49 am | #

    Great review! Any idea if they’ve allowed users to get rid of the page numbers in the past year? Thanks!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted July 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm | #

      I heard that may be the case now, and I plan on doing a book this week, so I will find out 🙂

      • Meredith
        Posted July 29, 2011 at 7:56 am | #

        Awesome! I can’t wait to find out what you think. I’m planning on doing photobooks for our wedding and honeymoon, but I’m concerned about the quality of the photos and the binding. I’ve been researching companies until my eyes started to cross, so I was happy to find your helpful site. Have fun this week!

  3. Liz
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am | #

    Hello. It is nice to find your website. I was searching on how to better upload (I am a novice!) my PC pictures to Shutterfly. I would like to know how to drag and drop. I know how to do the other uploads except the new Express: it seems to ask me to reinstall each time I want to use it???? Where is the prompt from the upload page choices to just access the already installed Express? Thank you if you can decipher my questions! Liz

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:20 pm | #

      Hi Liz, You have some very specific questions. Let’s see if I know what you mean. Drag and drop is when you select a folder or file by holding down the left mouse button, and moving your mouse over to the location you want to place the folder into. You then release the button when you’ve dragged the file to the spot you want. Perhaps they have some bugs in their system which is making you reinstall the Express tool. This page has a FAQ section that might help. http://www.shutterfly.com/downloads/express_uploader.jsp If that doesn’t answer your question, their customer service can hopefully assist! Best of luck!

  4. Lisa
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:43 am | #

    I have never used a photo book company yet and read your reviews. (which are so very helpful!) It seems to me the two top I looked at are shutterfly and my publisher (costco) I didn’t seem to get an answer which to use. I gathered My has good quality and shuttterfly has layout ease and customization ability. Is that the case?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm | #

      Both companies now allow you to use their premade templates or make your own custom templates. I think quality-wise they are pretty comparable and paper is about the same thickness and quality as well. I would say since this is your first book, why not try the free book offered by MyPublisher? Check out my post on FREE photo books. I make books with both companies and have been happy with both. If you want a large size book, I’d recommend the Deluxe size with MyPublisher – they use great paper! I would also suggest checking out my how to series on photo books.

  5. Alyssa
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm | #

    I understand that Shutterfly lets you use more than one coupon at a time (yay!) but does also include using an offer (Groupon, etc.) and coupon?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm | #

      I haven’t personally tried, but I thought I remember a reader saying they were able to. I don’t remember for sure however, but it’s worth a try. The companies have changed their policies from time to time, so what may have been allowed before, may not be allowed later. It could be worth a shot to try customer service to ask.

  6. Kim
    Posted November 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm | #

    Hello. I’m a first time photobooker and am working on a 12 X 12 hard cover Shutterfly book. I added a photo (full bleed) to the cover. and I added the same photo to the spine. It appears the spine photo (even though in my selection of each I chose all the way from the top of the picture to the bottom and I tried to line them up horizontally) is below the cover picture and maybe even bigger. Is that normal? will they line up ok/will it look ok when the book is bound?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:29 am | #

      Good question Kim. I notice you’re posting this on my softcover review – did you see my hardcover Shutterfly review? I find it too hard to get this lined up properly, so I stopped doing it. Spine width has to correlate to the number of pages, and I presume there has to be some standardization of sizes, so I think that this is too hard for print on demand printers to get right. Does that make sense? 🙂

  7. Alyssa
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 11:05 am | #

    Thanks for the tip about VividPics! How do you select all pics if they are spread around the whole book? Is there an easy way to do that instead of clicking on each picture?

    Thanks also for the new giveaway!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm | #

      I think you should be able to do that if you go to where the album is located. 🙂

  8. Alex
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:23 am | #

    Hello there! (: I’m thinking about ordering a soft book as well, but i have a question! I saw that there is a barcode on the back, as well as the inside of the book. Is that removable by any chance? I wouldn’t want one there. Also, it automatically comes with 20 pages. Does that mean, 20 sheets of paper double sided? Or 10 sheets of paper double sided? You really made a great review btw! This is the best one I’ve read! (: you really helped convince me to order one of these books! Thanks! (:

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 10:54 am | #

      Hi Alex,

      To my knowledge the barcodes are not removable, but I have read in a pro photographer’s forum that some use a sticker with their logo to cover any company branding, so I suppose you could do the same with the barcode. It may look a little odd, but it’s just a thought of a way to get around it. In terms of pages, it’s 10 pages double-sided. Just think of it as numbered pages in a book. Hope that helps and glad you like my review!

  9. Lisa
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm | #

    If I made a photo book and then undid the vividpics option, will the photo’s in my book have the change applied to them as well?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted August 22, 2013 at 10:31 pm | #

      Hi Lisa,

      Shutterfly actually has a forum and I found this: http://forums.shutterfly.com/posts/e8ddb5fbc1

      I can’t tell however if you have to do this before you’ve already added them to your book or whether you can do this after. It seems the full answer was discussed off forum so maybe if you post your question there, you can get an accurate answer. Best of luck!

  10. Debbie Moser
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:47 pm | #

    I’m working on a softcover photobook through Shutterfly. I’m totally stumped as to how to access the back cover to add my logo/picture. It’s probably something so simple that I’ve overlooked but yours is the only website I have found that even mentions a photo on the back cover. Thanks for your help. Great site.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted September 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm | #

      Hi Debbie, maybe softcovers don’t allow that option? I don’t recall if I’ve done a softcover with Shutterfly before. I usually only do hardcovers. hope you were able to get an answer.

  11. Posted January 10, 2017 at 9:34 pm | #

    How much of the photo gets covered on the binding edge of the pages? For example I see you have a spread in the last picture above. Do you think spreads in soft cover books are OK? Or does the binding hide a part of the photo. Thanks.

    • photobookgirl
      Posted February 16, 2017 at 10:48 am | #

      I would just not put anything important in the middle like a face. I think a landscape or anything without a face will fare just fine. Actually the photo you refer to was taken as two pictures so there was a gap anyway. I used the gutter to disguise that it doesn’t quite meet up. Looks great in person! 🙂

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *