Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

Summary: There are a number of photo sharing and printing sites that offer photo book making tools. Considering how many there are, it can get a bit confusing and hard to pick just one. Here's a hands-on look at Shutterfly's new book making process to help narrow down the field.

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There are a number of photo sharing and printing sites that offer photo book making tools. Considering how many there are, it can get a bit confusing and hard to pick just one. Here's a hands-on look at Shutterfly's new book making process to help narrow down the field.

Now when developing a photo book via Shutterfly, customers have two options: a simple path that just lays out all of your photos chronologically, and an all-new Custom Path, which allows users to fully customize each page of the album.

  • Some of the improvements seen in this updated program include:
  • Ability to use a photo as background
  • Add, move and resize photos and text (rather than just standard templates)
  • Allows users to add embellishments anywhere in the book
  • Supports up to 1,000 pictures per book and 25 images per page

Even with customization, users can get these books done quickly if needed using the Smart Autofill and Storyboard features that populate the pages with images and caption spots using some of the many templates outlined on a single web page.

To start the photo book making process, one just needs to sign up for a Shutterfly account and then upload photos. I found that the higher resolution the better, which seems a bit obvious but it will take longer to upload these to Shutterfly's server.

Once the photos are ready, it comes time for picking what kind of book one wants. That goes for both layout size, amount of pages and the theme. Shutterfly offers both too many and too few options when it comes to this area. There are only a few preset themes to choose from, including the usual ideas: weddings, birthdays, baby showers and traveling. Of course, there is a standard yet sophisticated black and white option for portfolios. Furthermore, Shutterfly provides way too many options for page layouts depending on how many prints one wants on the page. While it is nice to have choices, sometimes it can be an overload.

However, there are only five choices for cover types (i.e. basic hard covers along with leather and faux lizard exteriors), as well as only five choices for book size ranging between 5x7 and 12x12. Obviously the more pages one adds and the size of the book will determine the price point. But as an example, my 12x12-sized colorized book with 47 pages and a standard hard cover rang up for $76.39 - not including shipping and taxes.

For photographers who truly want to get into the thick of customizing their books, Shutterfly provides plenty of tools, including sample backgrounds, fonts and fun embellishments. The latter might remind some of clip art, but I actually wish I had played with these more in the making of my own book. Some of the details (especially those for the travel theme) were rather attractive. For those who can't make up their minds or are in need of help when it comes to layout ideas, there is also a useful and aptly-named feature called "Idea Pages" that provides examples using your uploaded photos and different photo layouts.

Overall, I found Shutterfly's Custom Path tools to be easy for the average consumer with enough extra stuff for customers who like to dabble more in page designs.

I was more than pleased when I received my finished product. Even though the price tag was a bit high for a photo album, it felt justified nonetheless. The quality of the hard cover and the interior pages felt professional, and the resolution on the pages (even when the Custom Path editor told me the pixel counts weren't high enough) didn't look grainy but rather almost as clear as on the HD display of my computer. I would certainly recommend Shutterfly's services for personal photo book making in the future - so long as one has the time to make full use of the book editing tools and enough of a budget for such a project.

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8 comments
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  • RE: Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

    Shutterfly is a great company to do business with. Last Christmas, I created and ordered 30 custom calendars for gifts featuring some of my photos. When they arrived, the colors were way too vivid. I called Shutterfly (a real person answered!) to express my disappointment. With their 100% guarantee, they had me tweak the colors and reorder at no cost. WOW! The second batch was spot on. It turns out that my proofing in Photoshop was flawed (my fault), but they honored their guarantee. Oh, and by the way, their calendars are beautiful. I also created and ordered a book from them, which turned out very nice.

    I would like to see though a downloadable version of their online software as can be had at Blurb. It makes it much easier, faster and more efficient to produce that way. Also, the download version of Blurb's allows you to use any of the installed fonts on your system, plus one can create pages any way they wish without the constraints of templates.
    kydna@...
    • RE: Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

      @kydna@... I agree Shutterfly is a great company to do business with. I was looking to start my own photo book a while back, I was able to get some great ideas from them. <a href="http://freescenicpictures.com">scenic pictures</a> | <a href="http://www.ulyssenardinwatch.com">ulysee nardin</a>
      Karren1924
    • RE: Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

      I think the key here is having the proper <a href="http://www.inkcartridges.com/">printer cartridges</a> for your computer.
      rctnp6
  • Nothing new to the industry

    This isn't a new tech. PhotoBooks{etc} and other companies have had a "custom path" for several years. I'm surprised it took Shutterfly so long to catch up.
    PhotoBooksEtc
    • RE: Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

      @PhotoBooksEtc I've used Photobooks previously however Shutterfly offers the best books since the photos produced are reminiscent of <a style="text-decoration: none; color: #333333;" href="http://www.worldpaintings.de/en/index.php">oil paintings</a> - a very nice effect.
      starksdev305
  • RE: Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

    I have been a Shutterfly customer for five years and own three sharesites and have made 3 books. Recently, I tried to make a book in Shutterfly's custom path for my son's 1st year. I kept getting error messages! I would work on my book for an hour and two and then get "try again" error messages all the time. I emailed tech support two times and did what they suggested (changed browsers, updated flash, disabled my anti-virus) and still the same thing. I could work for an hour or two and then get booted off. After three days of this and a 70% done photo book of my son's first year, I called the number Shutterfly provided me with for tech support. First I talked to customer service and then tech support; neither had an answer or had any clue how to help me. Both representatives I spoke to on the phone were difficult to understand and had limited skill in customer service and technical support. I understand their job is tough, but it is the company's prerogative to provide good support and train and educate their service representatives. Overall, I still don't have my book done and am so frustrated that I will transfer my business to Mixbook instead. Shutterfly-GOOD RIDDANCE!
    jldelane
  • RE: Hands-on review: Shutterfly's Custom Path photo book making process

    very nice, thanks for sharing

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