Update 1/24/2013: After making several books recently with Shutterfly, I have to add a few things to my wish list regarding the software. First of all, they really need to add a “copy” or “duplicate” button. It’s a lot easier to copy titles and text headings than it is to redo them. Same goes for photo boxes. When making layouts it’s a lot easier to copy a photo box than it is to create one from scratch, especially if I want it to be the same exact size so it lines up properly and easily. In fact, duplicating a whole layout would be a big time saver. It’s a lot easier to copy a whole layout, change the photos and make minor tweaks than it is to build a new template altogether. If you are using a premade Shutterfly template, then this issue is not as important, but for those building designs from scratch using Shutterfly’s software, it’s an essential feature to have. Also, it’s odd to not be able to work across the spread. You can’t move a text box or item across the center of the spread – it will get deleted if you try to drag anything from the left to right side or vice versa. I hope these get added soon!
Since Shutterfly updated its software to allow for custom layouts, they have been making continual improvements. The Custom Path of two years ago, is not like the Custom Path of today. (b/t/w Custom Path is the option that allows you to alter and create your own layouts.) As someone who tries to keep up on all the latest photo book news, I’m always excited to see the improvements that companies have been making to their software.
I think these latest updates are a definite upgrade and looking back at my earlier Shutterfly review, a lot of the items on my “wish list” were eventually adopted.
Customizable layouts – check!
More flexibility for placement of text boxes – check!
Remove page numbers – check!
Customizable layouts is a huge plus in my book and is the most important feature to me software wise. Try as I might to just take a stock design and be happy with it, I’m always tweaking and making my own. More recently however I have been admiring many of Shutterfly’s pre-designed photo book themes. I found a really cute one to use for PhotoBookBaby’s three month photos, taken by the talented Gretchen Villaluna Baria of Moonhouse Productions. We had so much fun with Gretchen and we got some beautiful photos, including some of our first family portraits.
The Shutterfly theme featured here is, “Happiness Is”.
Here’s the stats:
|Book size:||8 x 8 (width x height) square|
|Cover:||Custom Hard Photo Cover|
|Pages:||37 pages (double-sided); 65 lb. glossy paper|
|Price:||$46.99 each + $7.99 shipping = $54.98 TOTAL (without discounts) (Best Buy promo 20 pages FREE + 20% off additional pages) + tax + shipping = $22.71 out of pocket
|Ordered/Shipped/Delivered||March 10 / March 14 / March 20 (10 days)|
Shutterfly’s software resides completely online so you don’t have to do any upgrades or updates to use the software. A big benefit is that once you upload your photos you can work on your book on any computer that has an internet connection. Downside is if you don’t have internet access you won’t be able to work offline, so it depends on what works for you. I normally have internet access no matter where I am so it has been easier for me to finish books when I’m not tied to sitting at my desktop.
How to make this book:
1) Choose “Custom Path” versus “Simple Path”;
2) Pick a size;
3) Pick your theme – (“Happiness Is”)
4) Load your photos and the preset templates will pop up ready for you to drag and drop.
In order to use the new customization tools, you do have to click on “customize page” (bottom left hand corner). This mode allows you to select an item to resize it or move it. So, you’ll basically be toggling back and forth between the customize mode and the normal mode while you build your book if you choose to make specific adjustments.
I didn’t end up changing much of the layouts, so if you like how my book turned out, you should have no trouble reproducing it (with your own photos of course!).
Tips/features of Shutterfly’s new Custom Path software:
- You can create your own layouts but be sure to utilize the alignment tools so you know your photos line up (if you mean to have them line up);
- Make global changes to your text by using Shutterfly’s text settings tool. You don’t have to go back to each caption if for example you decide you want to use a different font or size for the headings;
- Embrace the “undo” button – don’t be afraid to try different things in your designs. If you don’t like it, just click undo;
- Want to add more stickers, frames or backgrounds? You can click on the bottom of the column to “Get more”;
- Change sizes and styles midway through the process – a nice option to have if you decide you want to make a different size book for family or friends or if you just change your mind. See below for how to change your book size in Shutterfly.
STEP 1: Select Change Book Size under “Book” pull down menu;
STEP 2: Choose the size you want (I like that it instantly prices out the book for you as well.)
A notice pops up about the change in size. Don’t like the change? You can go back by clicking “Undo”.
STEP 3: Here’s the book converted from it’s original square to an 11 x 8 landscape format:
PhotoBookBaby’s toesies are just as cute in the 11 x 8 size! 🙂 Note that you may have to tweak the layouts a bit after the conversion, but the software does a reasonably good job in reformatting. It’s always tricky when you change book formats (if the software even allows you to do that in the first place – many don’t). I was skeptical about the ability to do this with different ratios, but it worked pretty well. In this instance I would likely have to reposition the titles and captions as well, but it’s a huge time saver as compared to having to redo the book from scratch!
Print Quality and Book Construction
I won’t repeat anything from my prior Shutterfly hardcover review but you can check that out for more details.
The overall print quality of the interior pages was very good. Skin tones and colors reproduced faithfully. I’ve never been disappointed with the sharpness of the printing or the paper quality with Shutterfly.
I was surprised by a recent change however. Shutterfly now prints on 65 lb. archival paper whereas it used to be listed at 100 lb. I expected the paper to feel considerably different when compared it to the book I printed about two years ago, but actually there isn’t a huge difference. I do note that the old paper may be slightly stiffer and a bit more opaque while the new book may show a little more bleedthrough than the earlier one, but it’s still a high quality paper. I like that it’s just about the right balance between matte and gloss. As I’ve mentioned before, it can be very hard to compare apples to apples when it comes to paper, as one company’s 100 lb. paper and another company’s 100 lb. paper can feel substantially different from one another. Paper weight may provide you with a guideline as to thickness of the paper, but the way paper feels can also depend on how stiff the paper is. Even with a significant change in the numerical value of the paper weight, surprisingly I don’t think it would change how I ranked Shutterfly in comparison to other photo book companies. For more details on how photo book paper compares across companies see photo book paper comparisons here. If companies keep changing their paper stock, then I’m going to have to do a major update of my paper post!
As for Shutterfly covers, they are more glossy than the average photo book. It would be nice to have an option of a matte cover, but that’s not a big issue.
The binding is glued and is well constructed.
Shutterfly’s new Custom Path will give you a lot more flexibility than earlier versions of Custom Path and is a welcome upgrade. Shutterfly has a very good selection of ready made themes that don’t look cheesy. It will look like you spent days making a book, when in reality the book making process can go as quickly as you want it to – it’s up to you how much time you spend altering the layouts. Print quality and construction are solid and paper quality is one of the best. As to price, Shutterfly is around the middle to middle-high end of the pack, but Shutterfly runs very frequent promos so be sure to check them out before ordering. If you are sign up for Shutterfly’s emails, you’ll often get personal promo codes and even codes for free books (I just got one recently! Yea!). For this book, I got the base 20 pages for free due to a promo Shutterfly was running with Best Buy (we purchased a camera and received a special code) and then I saved an additional 20% off the additional pages with the promo they were running at the time. You can generally stack promo codes with Shutterfly, so be sure to plug in all applicable codes.
Check out the latest Shutterfly promos here!
For new members. Sign up here.
The true test of any photo book project (that’s meant as a gift) is the recipient’s reaction. I made this book for me and my husband but I also showed it to PhotoBookBaby. He let out a little squeal when he saw the photo of himself in the brown cap. He’s too young to recognize or know that he’s looking at his own image, but he likes the book. I’ve even read it to him at bedtime and he was quite captivated! Unintentionally it turned out to be a lovely storytime book! Thank goodness PhotoBookBaby likes photo books!
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Shutterfly. If you click on a link to Shutterfly’s site and make a purchase, I receive a referral fee from the company. Regardless of compensation my opinions are my own. I paid for this book out of my own pocket and this review was not at the request of the company.