This past Christmas marked my first foray into creating photo books out of my digital snapshots. Because I was on a tight schedule, I did something completely out of character: I did absolutely no research into what services were best, and instead took the path of least resistance and printed my books straight out of iPhoto, using Apple's built-in photo book creation software and service.
I'd seen Apple photo books before and knew the quality was good enough for my purposes (i.e., gift albums of two big family vacations taken a year or two earlier). Everyone (including me) ended up more than pleased with the results, but I was a little frustrated by the limitations the preset te
mplates placed on the design and layout process. Given
my schedule, though, the restrictions were probably for the best, since I couldn't do too much tweaking and was able to bang out the albums in a matter of hours. Still, I promised myself that I'd look into other options for photo books that I'd want to have more control over, such as my long-delayed wedding album (my 10th anniversary is next year, so it's about time to get that done) and baby books for my 6-year-old and 3-year old (are you noticing a trend here?).
Well, thanks to an incredibly detailed photo book roundup that Jason Dunn posted recently over at Digital Home Thoughts, I won't have to go to great lengths to research photo book services for my next project. Though he doesn't cover the Apple service that I used, Dunn's roundup is a 15-page labor of love reviewing 12 different photo book services, and includes 86 informative screenshots and images as well as a video review for each service. Though his roundup is limited by his very personal review process -- so it's anecdotal and therefore only covers things like customer service when he personally ran into issues that required intervention -- you'll be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive review of photo book printing services (or any other remotely comprehensive review, for that matter). Note that Dunn is based in Calgary, so it includes two Canadian companies in the mix.
To cut to the chase, you can just click through to his succinct and thoughtful conclusion page. And though you may not come to the same conclusions (he required more than 50 pages per album and preferred a photo-wrap cover to a dust jacket, for example -- you may not), his descriptions are detailed enough that you will certainly come away with a much better idea of which photo services will be best for you.