In Search of…Easy Photo Books that Look Great

About a year or so ago I made some photo books from my Cambodia images.  I used Apple iPhoto’s books creation process to organize and layout my books.  I opted for the 8.5×11 hardcover books with about 10 extra pages.  The entire process ran me around $40 a book, which I found a little pricey but the quality seemed well worth it.  So last week I decided to print a couple of photo books from my Arizona vacation but I thought perhaps there might be a better, cheaper solution.  I recalled that Mpix had some nice books being displayed during Photoshop World so my first thought was to give them a try.  After all, everyone I know that has used them has really raved about their quality.

I downloaded the book creation software called My Photo Book (clicking the preceding link will begin the software download), which is available in both Mac and PC, and began working my way through the interface.  I tried using the Fast Track method which let’s you select they type of album you are creating, the images, and then goes about the job of auto-filling everything in for you.  This seemed like the best option to begin with because I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to creating the book.

I have to say that there were some features that I really liked in My Photo Book but there were also some things that drove me batty.  The Auto-Fill is pretty vanilla in its layout selection.  It just figures out how many images you have and what orientation they are and starts filling in the blanks.  Also, the rendering of images into frames seemed to take an excessively large amount of time (see image below after 5 minutes).

Once the images had rendered into their proper frames, the software was pretty flexible when it came to resizing, rotating, moving, and enhancing the images.  This was probably the best feature I found for this particular book software.

When it came down to it though, I felt that if I really wanted a great looking book, I would have to hand layout my images for each page, taking the time to size and position each and every one.  While this software certainly offered that option, the whole process just felt slow and very manual in nature. In fact, it was so slow that I was still waiting for my images to render into the frames after 20 minutes.  These weren’t huge images, just slightly large so that they would print well.

After using the iPhoto book creation software, I find that I have been spoiled by how easy and fast the iPhoto software really is.  In my world, where I have way too many things to do, waiting for images to fill frames for a book just isn’t one of them.  So I am putting the question out to you, my readers.

What book printing service/software do you use for your photo books?

I know there are many to choose from but do you think any are better than the iPhoto service?  Please write me a comment and let me know.

As for the price, both Mpix and Apple charge about $30 for a hardcover, 8.5×11, 20-page album (that’s 10 double-sided pages).  Mpix has what they call a custom cover which will run you about $50 for the same size and page count.  I’m not sure what the custom cover is but I guess it’s pretty nice.  Apple offers the same size book in a softcover for around $20 while Mpix only prints up to 7.5×10 in softcover at a price of $25 for 24 pages (12 pages, front and back).  To do your comparison shopping, click here for Mpix and here for the Apple iPhoto pages.

For the record, I went with the iPhoto Book, copies are available in the lobby.

Comments

  1. mike meyer says:

    Were the images from a D2x? 35 megabytes per image. Were you uploading RAW files or were they jpgs? Maybe if you had resized them before dropping them into the page they would have gone faster. Do you know what rez the printer outputs at? I would think it’s not more than 133 lpi, so if your book was going to be 8×10 inches even a full page image wouldn’t need a file as big as a D2x creates. So if you took all your images and resized them for the largest page, that would still leave some wiggle room for smaller images. I’ve never done this myself but I would figure that might have been an issue.

    mike meyer

  2. sorry about the experience you had, but I have used Mpix for their books and they have come out great. I agree with fasttrack, you really need to lay the pages out manually. The good thing is you can customize the the page layouts any way you like, and then you can save those layouts to use in future book projects. Take a little time to render, but notthe time you were having

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jeff. (And Mike and Randy in the comments.) It’s been ages since I did a book with iPhoto, and I should do another this summer, so any feedback on any software or web publishing is greatly appreciated.

    Andy

  4. The article was great, thanks for sharing. Have you tried blurb? I have their software installed but have not completed the materials for the book yet. Therefore I have only looked at it quickly.

  5. I use blurb.com – I’ve created 3 books thus far and have been completely impressed. I’ve found for more unique pages I do use photoshop to help with the design because it does limit me from doing more than just plopping a photo and text on a page. But the software is super easy to use. I’ve also heard that lulu.com is good too but I believe you have to use another program like indesign to create your book.

  6. I have used blurb.com to publish 2 books, one a small 24 page vacation book from Scotland, the other a 50+ page complilation of images I took during a 6 month long nature photography contest last year. I found the software very easy to use, they have many very useful templates although I did find for a couple of things I wanted to do I used photoshop to create a composite image and then dropped the composite into one of their templates. I have been super pleased with their service and they even run an online bookstore where you can market your book through them and send people to their link to purchase. I’ve even sold a couple that people found through their search engine!;) All in all I would recommend them. 300 dpi images loaded plenty fast.

  7. Bettina says:

    You can also make books with PhotoWorks.com, theirs is set up for people with less computer skills and time. They are really good quality books though.

  8. marieboyer says:

    Just made an iPhoto book for the first time. I loved the process of making the book. The reds and yellows were way oversaturated in the finished product, although my family does not seem to notice. They love it.

    I am going to try Blurb.com next. Then Mpix. I want to find one and stick with it.

    Great timing on your blog entry. Thanks.

  9. I used Snapfish to make birthday presents for my two best friends — one was of our trip to china years ago and the other was a book of all the pictures that I had of and with my best friend over the past 30 years. They both loved the books.

    I also used Snapfish and Shutterfly to put some books together from my kids weddings, and I used a Photoworks album for my best friends wedding. My daughter is using Picaboo for her Africa trip because they have so many backgrounds you can use

    I looked at Blurb, but it didn’t fit my needs — I think it is for someone who might import the pages from another program since the Blurb software isn’t as robust as many out there. Same with LuLu.

  10. We have developed a photo/scrap book design, sharing, and printing site at http://www.PhotoAlbum.com. It has a complete freestyle layout tool that runs free right in your browser. Books can be made into online “Flipbooks” for sharing. High quality printed books are available at very low cost. For instance a 12″ by 12″ hard bound book with your custom designed cover and 20 pages of your designs is only $39.95 with free shipping!

    Printing is done on archival quality paper and hard bound books are sewn for a lifetime keepsake.

    David Lewis
    PhotoAlbum.com

  11. ron mergeler says:

    i need a source for some easy software for photobooks that allow me to print my own……what do you think of

  12. I have used MyPublisher for quite a few books. I used Shutterfly, once for a small free book. The pages separated from the binding after time. I see that Shutterfly bought MyPublisher, so I am sure that will improve the product, although I only used Shutterfly that one time. I helped publish a Mixbook photobook, and did not like it. Of course, I was familiar with how MyPublisher worked and Mixbook was new to me. The advantage of Mixbook is that you can invite others to upload and add pages and photos to the book (so handy for a family project)! I want to try Blurb using Lightroom, and hope I am not disappointed!

Trackbacks

  1. […] far this week I have covered the Mpix photo book printing software.  So today I will jump into the Booksmart software by Blurb printing services.  Booksmart is […]

  2. Doreen Berg says:

    PhotoWalkPro » In Search of…Easy Photo Books that Look Great http://tinyurl.com/y9g8mqq

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