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There are several resources out there for people looking to create a photo-book of memories captured on film. For folks that do not wish to mess with an actual scrapbook and the cutting, gluing, arranging, etc., Shutterfly.com offers a great alternative with professional appearance and is also easy to use. So here is my review of their photo-book tool, along with tips and suggestions for making the most of your Shutterly.com book.
Before you begin, my first tip is to use promo-codes and sales. My wife and I have not actually paid full price for a photo book yet, using two promo codes for free photo books, and other promo codes for half-off. We received one of those promo-codes when my wife registered at Motherhood during her pregnancy. The other promo-code for a free book was received via email from Similac in one of their periodic “great deal” emails. So for both of those, we’ve only had to pay shipping which is around $8. The rest were puchased as Christmas gifts for about half off. I realize that not everyone will have promo-codes available, but at least order if they are on sale. A standard 8×11 hardcover book will cost about $30-35 with shipping, so I wait for one of their regular 20% or more off sales.
Think about what you want this photo book to be. Three that we have done have been books that simply cover a certain timeframe (My daughter’s first week, my daughters first 6 months, and a 2011 Year in Review). But you should know before you start what you’re trying to create. Are you going to present chronologically, or by themed pages? Have a fair idea of how you will organize your book and then get started.
This can take a little while depending on your connection, and the number and size of pictures being loaded. There’s no harm in uploading more pictures than you’ll need as you will later choose which pictures you want to add to your photo book project (You can add everything, or narrow it down if you want).
They have several size options ranging from 5×7 to 12×12, and you can choose from soft cover, hard cover, padded photo cover, cloth hard cover, and leather covers. Their prices include 20 fully customizable pages, but you have the option to add pages for $0.50-$1.50/per page more.
Styles are essentially templates that Shutterfly has available for all sorts of photo book themes (small sample of styles shown here). Choosing a style does not at all limit the possibilities of where you can go with your book, but starts you off with sample books, backgrounds, embellishments, and “Idea Pages” you can copy from or to get the creative juices flowing. You still have the potential to add any layout, any color/patterned background, any embellishment, or idea page from any other style.
This is by far the most time consuming step. I DO NOT recommend their “Simple Path” that will automatically create your book, arranging photos, backgrounds, and layouts. This takes away your ability to choose which pictures are larger or smaller, takes away many of your customization abilities, and doesn’t allow for some of the cool features Shutterfly has available.
Rather, I recommend the “Custom Path.” This allows you to control every aspect of the book. You can choose from all possible styles and designs available on Shutterfly. You choose what pictures go where, what fonts to use, and can even edit pictures once they’re added to the book. Remember to save your project as you go just in case something happens to your computer or connection so you don’t lose any work. Below I’ve summarized some of the various features available to you on the Custom Path:
Layouts: You can arrange just how many pictures and the dimensions of those pictures that you want. Be careful not to add too many pictures on a single page or they could be too small to see very well. They offer several layout templates, but you have to option to resize any or all of the picture sizes and positions on the page. Take advantage of that customizability to arrange text or embellishments around your photos. You can also have only text on a page if you choose.
Backgrounds: These are the backgrounds on top of which you photos will be placed. The “Style” chosen when you begin provides you with several default backgrounds, but if you want something different then click on the “Get More Backgrounds” link and add as many backgrounds as you think you’ll want in your book.
Embellishments – These are the decorations you can add to your pages, in the form of stickers or frames. The stickers are pictured here to give you an idea, but they literally have thousands of options grouped by occasion, category, or color. Embellishments provide that extra touch to make the book truly yours and not simply a collage of photos. I definitely recommend using them, but don’t go overboard. Use only enough in keeping with the theme of your book, as too many stickers on a page will just look crowded and messy.
Idea Pages – These are the template pages that you can copy from, or use as a starter for your own page. I utilized the 4th of July idea page to get one of my pages started, and modified the layout and text to match the pictures I wanted to add to that page. You don’t have to use them at all, but they are there if you need them. Again, you can click on the “Get More Idea Pages” to see idea pages from other styles of photo books.
Text Editing – The layout’s you choose include small text box areas. Remember that you have the ability to customize any page, resizing the text box to meet your needs of anything you’d like to write. You can also change fonts, size, color, and alignment to fit your book.
20 to 101 pages available – The standard book is 20 pages. But if you want, you can create up to a 101 page book. Just remember that additional pages cost $0.50-$1.50 per page depending on the size of your book, so making the 101 page book will be costly.
Photo Editing – The features here are limited to pretty basic edits, but are still useful. You can crop, rotate, edit red-eye, and work with a few image effects like black & white.
You have to opportunity to view your project in a full screen mode to make sure it looks good. Once you’ve made any last edits, save the project and begin the order process. Once you complete the order, Shutterfly even provides you a 30 minute window to go back and cancel the order if needed.
Processing and shipping may take a couple weeks, but it is worth it. Show off your photo book to family and friends, and if you have a family member that just loves the book, keep that in mind for a future gift idea. You can go back to Shutterfly at any time and order the same photo book again.
I promise I’m not a Shutterfly employee, just a very pleased customer. If you decide to use their site for creating a photo book then I hope these tips help you. And if you have any questions about the process or comments for making your own photo book then post them below.