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Photo Books - mini review

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CTYankee View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote CTYankee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Photo Books - mini review
    Posted: 15 November 2007 at 23:28
A couple years ago, I pretty much gave up on 4x6 prints and the family album. We were already way behind on getting prints into albums - years earlier, I was frustrated enough with trying to find the right number of horizontal & vertical pictures for each page that we started adhering pictures to 8x10 card stock to arrange pages how we wanted (all archival stuff from Light Impressions of course). But that was a royal pain which is why we fell behind.

Then I discovered photo books :) You can get then in soft cover, hard cover, varying sizes, cool layouts for each page for a variety of quantities of pictures (an array of small pics, a full bleed pic, etc) and themes for fun books like a summer vacation. And you can trivially type in some text that gets printed as captions to make it easy to remember details (and fun for people looking at them).

The first few I ordered were all from Shutterfly. And they're quite good. Binding is great; cover materials are nice. The books I ordered have a "window" in the front cover that lets you see through to a photo. One downside is that there's nothing on the spine to let you know which book is which on a bookshelf. Pages are a bit thin and can get folds if you don't flip pages carefully, but that's true of many books of photos. And the printed pages are very enjoyable to look at. One thing that always bugged me about Shutterfly is that they always have some sort of sale going on ... xx% off this product or that, free shipping for 3 days ... so any time I want to order anything, I feel that I should wait for the deal of the day to roll around to the product I want to order, else I'm getting ripped off :)

I wanted to try a couple other options, despite being generally satisfied with Shutterfly. I did some research and people seem to like blurb.com and mypublisher.com. Tried Blurb first. They offer printed dust jackets. I read that the printed pages were nice but that the pictures on the jacket weren't so great. I had the opposite experience. Dust jacket was beautiful but printed pages were grainy and even "streaky" or "banded". Even casual observers like my wife and her friends weren't impressed. The dust jacket is a plus - makes it easy to see what the book is from the spine. I read complaints about the thickness of the paper, but it was fine; no thinner than Shutterfly that I could tell.

Then I tried MyPublisher. Again, printed dust jacket. The dust jacket is very glossy and shows finger prints. It doesn't hold a fold, so wants to slide off the book (Blurbs folded tightly around the cover). Printing on the dust jacket was fine, if slightly washed out compared to the same print inside the book. But inside, the prints were very impressive. The paper feels a bit heavier than the other two. Images really jump off the page, though, and are very clean - nice, smooth skies compared to either of the others, but particularly compared to blurb. There was some dried glue on one page that you can see when the light hits the page right. I contaced customer service via email and they sent me a credit for a reprint. (That's on its way to me now).

I was impressed enough with My Publisher to print more with them.

Shutterfly offers printed covers (not dust jackets, actual printed covers which would be kind of neat) on smaller and larger sizes. Right now, I'm doing 8.75x11.25" ... thought about trying larger sizes, but they wouldn't fit on a bookshelf too easily. Between MyPublisher and Shutterfly, prices are reasonably close, until you get to the largest size. Shutterfly's large book is 12x12 and after the first 20 pages, you pay $1.49 per page. MyPublishers large book is 15x11.5 (a bit more real estate, but not much) and they charge $2.99 per page after 20.

I average around 3 pictures per page (mix of everything from single page full bleed to many-pic arrays) ... one fun 2-page spread I did from our recent NJ vacation album had a 3x3 array of pictures of my daughter playing mini golf all on the same hole on the left page; right page had a photo of her sinking the putt with the caption "a hole in 10 !" (Actually, it was a 2-pic page; the other "picture" was a scanned image of our score card). Another 2-page spread was 2 3x3 arrays of shots of our daughter doing cannonballs in the pool - none of them individually an award winning shot, but 18 of them tells the story of how much fun she had jumping into the pool ! Then plenty of 1 & 2 picture pages to get that average down to 3.

In the past, I might have shot half a dozen rolls of film ($5 each plus $12 processing & printing at a local lab) which is $100 or so before buying album pages. With digital, I shot far more photos (I put 150 in the book, never mind the ones I opted not to include !) The photo book cost me around $60 and is far more enjoyable than looking at the same pictures in an album.

With the Blurb and MyPublisher books, I tried a 2-page single photo spread where you drag the same photo onto both pages, then zoom in and align so the photo spans two pages as a panoramic. It was great in both books, but the MyPublisher book was bigger - it was effectively a 22" wide print made from a 7D photo and looked great !

One difference between them is Shutterfly has you upload photos, then collect the photos you want to start a project and work on it online, over their server. (You can gather photos uploaded at different times, and even include photos that friends have uploaded and shared with you). On DSL, it's pretty quick and I never objected to working that way. You can work on it from different computers easily. I typically upload 1/4 res (1000x1504 pixel) images and print quality up to a single page full bleed is fine. With Blurb and MyPublisher, you download their software, work on your project on your computer, then upload the project. I worked with full res photos and the full upload doesn't take that terribly long - you might want to walk away from the computer for a bit, but it's not an overnght kind of thing ! I can't say I have a big preference between the methods.

A friend is going to be trying a book through mpix. They're known for making quality prints at reasonable prices. Their books have been sort of low-tech with softcover books being punched and spiral bound. At Photoplus they had a prototype of a more competitive book with a printed glossy hardbound cover, but it's not available yet. When my friend gets his, I'll try to remember to post impressions here. It's tough when you don't know how the pictures looked prior to printing (in my case, I know if a pic was a noisy ISO 3200 shot, an underexposed shot I boosted, a holga shot or an OOF shot that I couldn't resist ...) And if I get some time, I'll take a few snapshots of the books themselves.

Finally, regarding layouts, they're amazing, but you quickly get jaded, wishing for even more options :) Some people (with more time to spend on these than I have !) create their own layouts in PS ... you just create a blank canvas using dimensions and resolution specified in the Support info (or support forums) from either company and create your own layout ... add layers, put text wherever you want it, much with opacity - the sky's the limit ! Just flatten it and save as a jpeg, then upload it as a full bleed image.

Sorry for the lack of organization ... I kept adding more as I thought of it. Hope this info is useful to someone !
April Foolishness
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IanMiddy View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote IanMiddy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 November 2007 at 16:37
CTYankee - I've had one book back from MyPublisher & very happy with it - but it was colour images of flowers - have you included any monochrome images in any of your books - just wondering how B&W comes out [eg any colour casts] ?

Thanks

IDM
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CTYankee View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote CTYankee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 November 2007 at 17:10
I did not have any b&w in the MyPublisher book. I did try it in the Blurb book and the b&w pages were pretty nice. They have a slight color cast, I'd say greenish brown. Fine for what I did, but I wouldn't be happy if trying to print anything "artsy". Hopefully MyPublisher will do a better job with b&w (I'm not sure if I have any b&w's in the next book I'm working on).

As a followon, last night, I imported a batch of pictures into MyPublisher to start on a new, bigger (more pages, still 8x5x11") book using one of the more 'traditional' themes ("Bestseller" or "Modern") rather than the fun travel theme I used, and I have to say that the page layouts are limited compared to Shutterfly. For two-picture layouts, for instance, you can pick 2 verticals, 2 horizontal, or 1H & 1V (with choice of which is on left or right). And they're vertically centered, same height, left to right. So two horizontals ends up being something like 2 3.5x5" pictures. And for most layouts, it appears that there's one caption box per picture, which can be overkill. With Shutterfly, you have more layout options - for 2 horizontals, for instance, you can have one in the upper left and one in the lower right ... may not end up much bigger, but another nice option. And it seems that Shutterfly offers more layout options with a single caption box per page rather than one per picture (though you never have your choice for a given layout). So before I start this next book, I might spend an evening playing with creating a few pages in PS to see how time-consuming it would be.
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IanMiddy View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote IanMiddy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 November 2007 at 17:20
Thanks for that - maybe will give it a try with another 20page 'tester' to see how they come out...

...on the layout front, I tended to use a lot of 4's [3h, 1v], a few 3's [1h, 2v] & 2's [2v] and 4 whole page [h] without captions...

[I had no idea what the flowers were, and put the cam/lens/location details as an 'overall' desc on the rear leaf]

Will maybe have to give your 'pano' tip above a go with a viaduct shot I have!

Cheers

IDM
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Kirsten27 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kirsten27 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 September 2011 at 20:19
That's such a well written review, thank you
I do have a question, maybe someone here can answer. A while back I printed a photo book with one of the companies and when I received it I noticed these weird red lines in the middle of my photos They offered to re-print it, but since I had to pay for the shipping I just decided to go with another company, Red-Fly. Everything turned out ok and they were cheaper than my first choice so that was kinda surprising.
I'm still wondering what happened to my first photo book, do you think it was something I did? I did the exact same things with the other company so I'm assuming it was their fault.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote smcabbott Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 September 2011 at 21:05
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have found myself in the same position with many years worth of digital prints and lack of desire to print them all to 4x6 and stick them in albums. I simply have too many albums already and am running out of room for them. I also had many of the same frustrations with the albums.

I agree that photobooks are a great option, esp. for the everyday random snapshots that I seem to accumulate in mass quantities. I just tried MyPublisher for the first time recently and was very pleased, although it was just one of their mini books. I like it enough that I am going to try a larger one though. I have used Snapfish a few times in the past for books, and while I think they are OK I have at times wished for better print quality. I am interested to see how the larger MyPublisher book compares.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Jozioau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 September 2011 at 01:05
If you're an Apple user, I can thoroughly recommend their photo books that you create using either Aperture or iPhoto. Aperture is slightly more sophisticated.
I've made up souvenir books of travel photos over recent years and the program is a pleasure to use.
You select a style, a size, hard or soft cover, and page numbers up to 100 pages per book.
It is fun to select photos for various layouts from one image to several images on a page or across a double page spread, add captions or text, design your cover, and when you're satisfied you email the layout to Apple using your Apple account and credit card. They will deliver a superb professional quality book to your doorstep about one week later, extremely well packaged.
From Australia the printing is sourced to Japan and the quality is exceptional - as good as any coffee table book you'd buy.
It's very good value for money as well, if you compare it with the old days of ordering 6" x 4" prints and sticking them into albums, and very much less bulky. In recent experience, about A$140 for a 100 page hard cover book 28cm x 22cm page size.
I'd highly recommend these to anyone.
Joe

Edited by Jozioau - 12 September 2011 at 01:10
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Tricky01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 September 2011 at 12:57
Originally posted by Jozioau Jozioau wrote:

If you're an Apple user, I can thoroughly recommend their photo books that you create using either Aperture or iPhoto. Aperture is slightly more sophisticated.
I've made up souvenir books of travel photos over recent years and the program is a pleasure to use.
You select a style, a size, hard or soft cover, and page numbers up to 100 pages per book.
It is fun to select photos for various layouts from one image to several images on a page or across a double page spread, add captions or text, design your cover, and when you're satisfied you email the layout to Apple using your Apple account and credit card. They will deliver a superb professional quality book to your doorstep about one week later, extremely well packaged.
From Australia the printing is sourced to Japan and the quality is exceptional - as good as any coffee table book you'd buy.
It's very good value for money as well, if you compare it with the old days of ordering 6" x 4" prints and sticking them into albums, and very much less bulky. In recent experience, about A$140 for a 100 page hard cover book 28cm x 22cm page size.
I'd highly recommend these to anyone.
Joe


Completely agree with Joe, although as with Apple products (and I've been a Mac user for the past six years, so not knocking them), it's great provided you want to do what Apple will let you. I'm not sure how constrained other book printing places are (presumably there are some rules inherent in all offerings) but Apple can be a little annoying.

Issues I've found in Aperture printing would be:

1) can't seem to zoom 'out' with photos; you can zoom in so that particular details are in the photo 'frame' space on the template, but zooming out to make photos smaller than the 'frame' doesn't seem possible.

2) You can edit frame sizes and shapes but it's difficult to do precisely.

3) I'd love an option for speicifc EXIF info to be populated in caption boxes without needing to do it manually. Not sure if anyone offers this as an option though.

4) No option for double page spreads of an image; you have to add the image twice and zoom into the left hand side of the photo on the left page and zoom into the right hand side of the photo on the right page.


Despite these issues though, I still stick with Aperture books (have had 4 or 5 printed) because of it's intergration with all my photos and the ease with which you can print to PDF. Very handy for sending to people to proof before ordering.
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