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|
|Price:||Normally $10.39 (cheapest shipping $2.99, with tax $0.31) Total paid $3.30 with promo|
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.
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.
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.
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
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;
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.
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.
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”
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”
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.
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.)