What You See Is Not What You Get

I completed my second photo book with Shutterfly, and I now understand more about how the Shutterfly process works and why I had difficulties with my first book. This book also required two reprints and it’s still not perfect, but I like the finished product.

The first challenge I encountered was with the autoenhance feature which was automatically applied to all photos. This feature worked fine, except for the cover, spine, and back of the book. I had created the cover using Artisan since I wanted a great deal more flexibility than Shutterfly’s online cover creation process offered. What I didn’t realize was that Shutterfly’s autoenhance feature would affect the cover, spine and back differently since Shutterfly’s preview system did not properly show the application of this feature. I received a melange of different background colors on the front, spine, and back of the book. I called Shutterfly, and they agreed to reprint the book.

Whit edge on reprinted photo book

The reprint corrected the problem with different colors on the front, back, and spine of the book. Unfortunately, it had a new set of problems. When I originally ordered the photo book, I had ordered a standard book since that was what was on sale. When I had the book reprinted, I had the option to change to lay-flat pages, which I did. What I did not realize was that the two books are different sizes and Shutterfly’s process does not properly account for the size differences. The failure to correctly size the cover led to white edges on the cover. I had previously seen this problem but had not understood why it occurred. Now I understood the reason for the white edge. Shutterfly also failed to properly adhere the book block to the front endsheeet, which meant my book was falling apart when I received it. I called Shutterfly again, and they again agreed to reprint the book.

The third attempt was a success or at least I am calling it one. My final book is pictured above. It still doesn’t match the online preview since the preview shows the design of the cover centered and in the actual book it is shifted to the left, but I am going to call it a success.

So, why am I still using Shutterfly with all the problems I have encountered? It comes down to three reasons:

  1. Shutterfly’s auto album creation process is outstanding. The page layouts are better than I could create, and even with some manual corrections this process saves significant time. Other companies that offer auto album creation processes have far more limitations on the process and do not produce the same quality results.
  2. Print quality is spectacular. I always order the professional 6-color printing, and I am amazed at the quality of the printed output. The quality of the printed output is truly photographic, even when I am ordering a book that is not produced using traditional photographic paper.
  3. With the sales Shutterfly runs, pricing is good.

I hope Shutterfly continues to improve their book creation process. What the customer sees on their screen is what they expect to receive, and if they don’t get it, Shutterfly will get complaints. The current process requiring multiple reprints to get a good book needs to change.


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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