Photo Book Creation at Shutterfly

I recently finished creating a photo book using Shutterfly’s online photo book creator. I had various reasons for selecting Shutterfly, but the primary reason was the need to deal with an overwhelmingly large number of photos from a family trip to Europe.

Before beginning, I verified that the books that Shutterfly produces would meet my quality requirements:

  • Permanent adhesives used for binding – PUR, not hot melt
  • Appropriate paper weight – 65# cover (heavier than my other books)
  • Print quality – six color professional printing is available
  • Size availability – no 12×12 softcover is disappointing, but otherwise the options are fine (I will have to settle for 10×10 for softcover).

Overall, the process went reasonably well, and in a weekend, I was able to create a 111 page book for our trip. More about the 111 pages later.

My comments do not mean that I did not have problems and did not have to make adjustments. Here are some of my thoughts in hope of helping others with this process:

  • Get rid of duplicates and photos with problems before uploading. Shutterfly has not yet learned that they don’t have to put every photo in a book. Edit photos prior to uploading if at all possible.
  • Get the dates and times correct. Shutterfly will use this information to create your book and if it is wrong the results are not good, with photos appearing in seemingly random order. This warning is particularly important if you include photos from multiple sources. The problem I had was that my camera was on U.S time and my phone automatically corrected the time to European time. In one case, I also used fake times for some photos to get Shutterfly’s photo book creator to put the photos in the order I wanted. Windows Photos will allow you to change the date and time a single photo. Correcting the data for a large numbers of photos is more complicated than I can cover here.
  • Expect to make some adjustments to the pages that Shutterfly creates. Shutterfly doesn’t always know which photo is most important and in some cases their cropping is bizarre, but these are relatively easy changes to make. Cropping can be adjusted and it is easy to swap one picture for another. I also wound up deleting some of the photos to make space for titles and captions.
  • Shutterfly’s photo selection for the cover and title page appears to have no logic. You will need to change these photos to ones that are more suitable. Actually, the tools for editing are too limited. I wound up using Forever’s Artisan to create my cover, since I could not figure out how to create the cover I wanted with the tools that were available. It was not difficult to upload a new cover to replace the default. I did the same thing for the title page.
  • European characters are a problem that I could not resolve. I had travelled to Norway and Norwegian place names include Norwegian characters that Shutterfly’s photo book creator croaked on. It simply would not let me enter these captions. Apparently, somebody at Shutterfly made the dumb decision not to provide full unicode support for the fonts that they offer, and because you cannot use your fonts you are simply out-of-luck.
  • Some of the embellishments did not resize correctly. I resolved this problem by not using those embellishments, since they were not critical.

Now, I am at the point where I have a photo book, at least one that is happily living virtually on Shutterfly’s servers. I shared the photo book with my family and they were impressed, but I have no intention of ordering it right now. At over $200 for the photo book with the current sale, I am still suffering from sticker shock. By the way, “50% off almost everything” doesn’t include extra pages.

I am wait for a better sale and will place my order then. I am also hoping that the Norwegian text issue will be resolved by then. When I do order a book, I will write a full review of the printed book here. Until then, enjoy the virtual cover that I have included with this blog posting.

About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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12 Responses to Photo Book Creation at Shutterfly

  1. Monica Lee says:

    I, too, resorted to Shutterfly over the weekend to create a photobook (fortunately, I think I can keep mine to only 22-24 pages. I was disappointed with the lack of background designs, but the upside of that is that my photos will take centerstage. Thanks for this review. It was interesting.

  2. Janess Pasinski says:

    Hi Mark- curious minds want to know – why did you decide to use Shutterfly over FOREVER to make your book? As an aside..on the 16th FOREVER has free extra pages which is the best deal when you have a lot of pages-and we have a 12×12 softcover – so your book would be approx $35! You would have to reduce your pages to 99..but in 12×12 perhaps you could squeeze all your photos in!

    • Mark Mizen says:

      I wanted to try a different process that would simplify book creation. I like Artisan, but the initial process of creating a photo book was overwhelming with the number of photos I had from Europe. Also, I did not initially realize that I would be creating a 111 page book and the costs would be what they were. Shutterfly also occasionally offers unlimited extra page sales, and I will wait for one. In the best of all worlds, some company would develop a system that combines the best of Shutterfly with the best of Forever, but at least at this time that system is not available.

      • Janess Pasinski says:

        Mark – you can do all that you can do on Shutterfly, directly on FOREVER.com with Design and Print and Autobook. With Design and Print (D&P) you have templates/themes to choose from and you populate your photos on each page. With Autobook, you put your folders in your FOREVER storage account album, and click create, and it will automagically create your album in seconds. I am an Artisan lover, and it does take time, but I have also used D&P and Autobook when I need a quick yet beautiful solution. Give it a try! I’m happy to help if you need! I’m a CM from old and have met you several times back in the day 🙂

  3. Linda Ritchey says:

    While I do appreciate your post about Shutterfly, that’s a LOT of settling for what Shutterfly offers and allows. This information confirms that I should continue to create my own layouts in FOREVER Artisan. I will be interested to hear the differences in the quality of printed books if you do print through Shutterfly.

    • Mark Mizen says:

      I wish there was a system that combined the best of Shutterfly with the best of Artisan. I actually used Artisan to create my cover, since I couldn’t do it on Shutterfly. The problem with Artisan has always been the effort required to start and complete a project. Artisan lacks an effective autofill routine, and in my opinion, that is a major problem.

  4. Interesting comparison. I appreciate that you try these different resources with your honest evaluations, whether good or bad. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Shutterfly in other aspects. I’ll be sticking with Forever, too.

  5. Andrea Lauer says:

    This is great information, Mark! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Kathy Baids says:

    That’s funny, Mark. The very first digital book that I created was with Shutterfly and I was so frustrated by all of their limitations! That’s when I switched to StoryBook Creator all those years ago. That’s a lot of settling; I wish you well.

  7. Pingback: Shutterfly Wins at Automatic Photo Book Creation | All About Images Blog

  8. Pingback: Two Reprints Required | All About Images Blog

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