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Who do you recommend I use for an online photo book service?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / February 21, 2014 8:56 AM PST

Who do you recommend I use for an online photo book service?

Hi, Lee, I hope your members can help me out. I'm a grandparent of 10 and I will be celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary soon and I want to make something special for my husband. Rather than creating a physical scrapbook (which will give away the surprise), as silly as it may sound, I really want to get with the digital times and create a photo memory book online all by myself. As best as I can describe it, it's one of those snazzy professional-looking picture books with photos, quotes, and all sort of colorful backgrounds which you supposedly can create online and then have the manufacturer put it all together and they mail it to you at a cost.

I'm having all my kids send me copies of digital photos of our family so I can get a collection together and put together a timeline of those photos to be included in the book. The problem I'm facing is finding a good online vendor that I can use. I just started looking for one and wow I'm already overwhelmed, where do I start? This is all very new to me and I'm hoping your members can help me out in giving me some recommendations as to what to use and why they use it over others. I'm not technically challenged, but my memory is, so ideally this Web site must be user-friendly and the easier it is, the better. Cost is not a factor. BTW this isn't just a gift for my husband, but a learning present to myself. Thank you kindly for your help.

-- Submitted by: Susan T.
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Check out Picasa free.
by Dafydd Forum moderator / February 21, 2014 9:00 AM PST


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Just about ANY of them! Look for the best deal.
by finzleft / February 24, 2014 4:26 AM PST
In reply to: Check out Picasa free.

My wife and I LOVE to travel, and I love to take photos. And for the last few years, this kind of book is what we have decided is THE way to go.
I've used a number of different services, and, quite truthfully, they're all about the same. Pretty often you even end up using the SAME interface from one to another. What I do is simply check to see who has the best deal at the time. Keep in mind the number of photos that you have and want to include in the book. For variety's sake, some pages will be done with just ONE photo, at maximum size. Others will be two, three or four. Some may have ten or so. One thing that I like to do is pick action type photos and put a whole series together, showing a progression.
But consider your photos, get an idea of the number of pages that you want, and consider that in your pricing. Some services will have a very cheap initial cost, or a special sale, but the added additional pages will add to your costs quickly. Others may have a higer initial cost, but with a percentage off of the whole package, you'll end up saving.
Anyway, among the services that I have used and can recommend, are Snapfish, Shutterfly, Walmart, and Walgreens. I've probably also used at least a half dozen other smaller outfits, all with equally good results. Picasa was another that I've used at least once, but I've done several books with those four. And at any point in time, more than likely at least ONE of the four will have some sort of special offer going. I'd also recommend going to the sites and signing up for their email lists, because they will send your offers regularly.
However you go, just have fun! Load small groups of photos at a time, or at least SELECT small groups of photos at a time. It helps if you pick out the photos that you want to begin with, rather than add all sorts of extra photos that you won't use. Use the "storyboard" feature that many will offer, to help you organize the photos into group. And take your time with it. It's a good way of reliving your experiences.

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My newbie clients..
by JCitizen / February 28, 2014 1:45 PM PST

have started using Google cloud service with Picasa as an software photo agent. They like the way it automatically backs up to the cloud and syncs all photos automatically. Of course some of them think it is obtrusive too; but their are many services like it, I'm sure.

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Photo hosting site with photo book service.
by jcc46 / February 28, 2014 11:58 PM PST
In reply to: Check out Picasa free.

I have been using for many years with no complaints. The quality of their work is excellent - I prefer their matte finish - and their customer service is spot on. Even though I usually optimize my photographs before uploading them, I have occasionally used their enhancement service, and have been pleasantly surprised with the result.

They may not be flashy, but they get the job done right first time.

They have both free and subscription service. I am not connected with them in any way.


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Try Snapfish
by wamaruna / February 21, 2014 10:19 AM PST

We were recently at a neighbor's house to view a video of photos they took on a trip to Italy. In addition to the video, they brought out what I will call, for lack of a better term, a coffee table book, professionally bound and printed on matte paper. It was a 'scrap book' done up professionally, with the photos annotated. The woman told us she and her husband selected the photos and had the option of placing them on the various pages with appropriate backgrounds. I don't recall how many photos or pages it encompassed, but it was lots. At least 50 pages with an average of four photos per page. It was very impressive. I think she said it cost her $50 delivered, which seemed like a bargain given the professional quality of the finished product. It came through the photo finishing website Snapfish. Check out their website for more info.

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Snapfish no longer
by bedwards141 / February 21, 2014 9:42 PM PST
In reply to: Try Snapfish

I used to love Snapfish. Used it to purchase all my photo prints and probably about 10 photo books a year. I can no longer use it because Snapfish will no longer let me upload from Picasa , which I use to store my photos on my computer. Snapfish says the photos are too large, but they will not give me help in how to fix the problem. I now use Shutterfly, because they have no problem uploading my photos.

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Snapfish? Overrated!
by iSamsung2u / February 28, 2014 12:31 PM PST
In reply to: Try Snapfish

Mixbook is the new Pro Quality online shop for photo albums and they have a 40% off deal right now. They do hardback photo albums that'll knock your eyes out. You just make your choices on design, style, and how much you want to pay and they organize it. Their presentation software is fantastic and they are my favorite now after getting a serries of my own photos sent to me as a gift. Love it.... and it makes me look like a Pro! ....ok so I am sorta and have won some contests and trips. But they can do the best job for anyone wanting top notch quality!

Another site I've used is "Smilebox". You download their program and do all the designing on your computer. Then you can choose to buy photo books if you want. Haven't used them myself, but have friends that swear by them. Of course then there is Smugmug..... just be prepared to pay the price of snob appeal that goes with their Elite Website more for professionals than people! Grin

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Mix book
by elaslita / March 1, 2014 12:50 AM PST
In reply to: Snapfish? Overrated!

Just wondering if mix book gives you the option of making a book with pages that open flat? US I assume? Thanks

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Photo Book Service
by els1 / February 21, 2014 10:41 AM PST


I publish a softcover book for the Dallas Senior Follies with images from the annual show and use for the printing. This project typically has a print run of about 100 copies. On other projects I have have used them with print runs as short as 3. They have several levels of service ranging from send them the image files and text and they will have a graphics person do layout, to drop-in image files and the book is populated automatically and you do the captioning, to completely do-it-yourself. I use a book template they offer which has numerous layouts and text blocks that I find works well with the 200- 300 images in the book. Print quality has been consistently good. Turn around time is usually in the 10 day time frame.

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I use Photobucket...
by JCitizen / February 21, 2014 3:20 PM PST

But that is just because someone turned me to it over 10 years ago! WOW! Hard to believe how long it has been. I may not log on for years, but every time I go back, all my stuff is there!

Personally, I would look at several of the top free ones, that give you the maximum free storage, and distribute backups to the cloud for these. CNET had an article about the ones that were the largest capacity; if I remember correctly. It was on one of the CBS sites for sure; ZDNet, TechRepublic, CNET. They are all easy to use, and I was a newbie when I 1st started using them, and had no problem navigating the sites without reading complicated help files. They were as easy as Facebook is now. In fact Facebook probably has fairly large storage capacity for something like that, and if all your friends and family are already there; you can lock down the photo albums with an access list to only let people you know access it. How good is the security? Who knows really? Ask Snowden! I really don't have anything to hide - so I do what is the best for each site to lock it down - but I don't wring my hands at the thought of crackers getting in either.

Perhaps Consumer's Union would rate such sites. I've not looked.

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Photobook Services
by daniloth / February 21, 2014 3:22 PM PST

Hi Susan,

There are certainly a number of photobook services available to use. For myself, I've used 4 or 5 different ones, and been happiest with, with MyPublisher a close second. The other vendors I won't name, but I found the paper quality, and binding quality to be poor. Certainly not something I'd want to put on my coffee table to share with friends and family.

I liked Blurb especially for their customer service, the range of sizes, paper types, covers, and so on. But for me, one of the biggest factors was that both of them offer free software for me to install on my computer. This means I can work on it whether I have an Internet connection or not, and ultimately, I only upload my photos and book to them once I'm completely finished. AND, I can save a local copy of my book for future editing in case I revise it for some future edition.

In both cases, the software from Blurb or MyPublisher has pre-built pages, or an option to have it 'build' the book based on the photos you give it. So long as the picture names/numbers are ok, this could be a great time-saver for you. But at any time, you can customize the page to put the photos where you want, and what size you want. It will also warn you if it thinks the quality of the photo is too low to be printed at a given size.

These books are also great places to put personal anecdotes or histories, and the 160 page book I made for my father has seen several revisions, including the reprint I made after he passed away, that included copies of the well-wishes people had put online with the obituary of the local paper.

While I prefer Blurb overall, MyPublisher often offers a 2 copies for the price of 1 promotion, which can be very tempting if you want multiple copies of the same book. Hope this helps.

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I have used several companies
by Emaven / February 21, 2014 4:40 PM PST

My Publisher was recently merged with Shutterfly. I have used both with great results. They have many templates for various designs online. Start by following them now and you can see when they have sales on the book you are looking for. They will keep your photos and projects on line for you so you can order them again. Also by sharing the link others can order the book for themselves. If you are a Costco member you can also use their photo services. They have great prices.

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by carynna / February 21, 2014 6:37 PM PST

Susan...I have used Snapfish for putting a book together. They did a beautiful job at a decent price.

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Look at Blurb and Shutterfly
by kydna / February 21, 2014 10:35 PM PST

As a primarily landscape and wildlife photographer, I use Blurb for creating photo books of my work. I also use it for creating heirloom quality family albums. Blurb in my opinion creates the best books at their price point; very professional looking. They have both online and downloadable book making software. I use the downloadable version, as I have more control of what can be done.

I use Shutterfly for creating calendars and inexpensive, funky little books for special occasions, vacations, etc. Creation is online. Quality is great, but the book covers look more like children's books than a good coffee table book such as what can be produced via Blurb.

Both have EXCELLENT customer service. I recently had a photo album made through Blurb. One of the books had colored streaks running through several of the pages. I contacted Blurb, got an immediate response, and said they would replace it, no sweat. I received the new book within five days. I was expecting at least 10 - 14. I also received a followup email asking if it came and if I was happy with it. Yes I was!

With Shutterfly, I ordered a batch of 34 calendars I once created out of my landscape and wildlife photos as Christmas presents. Upon receiving them, I was unhappy at how the colors came out; didn't look the same as on my monitor, and I calibrate my monitor routinely. After contacting Shutterfly, they replaced all 34 for nothing and without any hesitation. I did have to adjust my colors down on screen in order to get the right colors on the calendars. I've used them since and will use them again.

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Photo Book Sites
by newpeg / February 21, 2014 11:58 PM PST

Dear Susan,

I like shutterfly. I have also used snapfish a lot. Both of these are fun and easy. I recommend uploading some pictures to shutterfly and play around with creating photobooks. They have big choice of sizes, styles and covers. You might also try My Publisher. My cousin has made some nice books with them. Good luck and enjoy. It's really very easy. Play around. You can make a book and save it online for free. Even share it online with friends. You don't have to order a hard copy until you are ready and have it just right.

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I'm working on the same thing - only different!
by rhondaloooful / February 23, 2014 1:05 PM PST

I have four younger brothers and we lived a pretty lousy life (not worse than everybody but - well, you know). There were not many pictures taken and hardly any kept by our parents who ended up divorced. My mom passed away with MS and I found just a small box of pictures she'd kept of all of us (more of me, the oldest, of course and then less of each younger brother. I was able to contact my father in another state (we do not communicate very often as he is not comfortable I suppose) and he agreed to send what he could find. There weren't many from him either but I contacted him again to ask for some of himself, his family too if he didn't mind and surprisingly he did send me about 20 more. All together, there are probably 250 plus pictures. It was extremely difficult to put them into some kind of order on my own. I used my MacBook Pro to group them by child and then a few wedding pictures I had of each of us, my mom's family and my father's. The Mac uses Shutterfly to create projects but I had already starting using it for other things so I kind of worked it out on my software first and then uploaded them to my Shutterfly Account because they have better discounts. Usually, if you sign up and start putting your pictures in little folders that you know you want to use later, AND sign up for their emails, you will come across 50% off many times, sometimes even Plus 15% off the 50%! BUT DON'T THINK it still won't be costly. For five books, I'm still thinking it will be close to over $400.00 due to the size I've chosen, style and number of pictures. You can allow them to fill in the book for you and then go in and put in a "caption" or "text" line for you or just arrange them yourself and add text as you go. I found that to be easier but then I'm not putting in too much text -- just some quotes, names and dates. Good luck with your project and let me know if you find something easier, less expensive or whatever as I still haven't finished (need to earn the $$ first too!).
Blessings, Rhonda

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ShutterFly is awesome
by emmausdan / February 28, 2014 11:46 AM PST

Yes, go with Shutter Fly!! It is easy to use, templates, clip art, etc

Signup for email, sometimes Groupon has a coupon for them.

I have discovered that it is better to get a photobook ready and then use a coupon or deal. Sometimes a coupon is only good for a week and then I might not find time to select the photos, add labels, format, select templates, etc

Good luck and God Bless

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I have used Shutterfly for numerous photobooks
by mellital / February 28, 2014 12:17 PM PST
In reply to: ShutterFly is awesome

I find it very easy to use and the price is usually right. Wait until they offer you a discount, which is practically all the time. Doing this for trips and birthdays really helps to remember important events. A few things I do that have made sense to me are:

1) When I do a book for a grand kid's birthday, I always put the names of the children in the photo in the book at least once. In 10 years when my now 6 year old looks to see who was at her 6th birthday, she will not remember who they were unless the names are there (and maybe not even then).
2) I limit myself to 1 photo per page. When you start putting multiple photos on a page, they get so small that it is hard to see them. I especially do that with calendars.
3) Obviously, I always put the date of the event on the front cover.

Enjoy your photo history!

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Shutterfly is excellent
by Boston / February 28, 2014 12:10 PM PST

I used Shutterfly to make 3 books with my pictures in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I got to know Shutterfly when my (startup) biotech company had used Shutterfly to make picture books of the company for the employees in 2007.
After that I also got pictures (various formats) printed from Shutterfly.
I have always been pleased with Shutterfly's choices, quality, timelines and prices. They even ship to Europe (for orders placed and paid in the US).

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by isphoenix / February 28, 2014 12:22 PM PST

I made photobooks using Shutterfly, Blurb and Snapfish. Snapfish redid my photobook trying to correct poor binding to no avail. They were cooperative but failed to produce a book with decent bonding. So, I have several copies of that photobook. Over time, the covers warped. Also, the color of the images I used were distorted in the photobook. So, I definitely would not recommend Snapfish.
Blurb's customer service was poor enough to put me off using them after my first book.
Shutterfly has never failed to impress me with their product as well as overall service. I've used them to produce several books completing my last one yesterday. Go Shutterfly!

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Its a matter of quality or quantity
by Pets / February 28, 2014 12:23 PM PST

There are many possible services available. Some designed for the photographically challenged eg Snapfish - simple, cheap, no thinking required you upload prints, have them adjusted automatically & are offered a variety of templates for background & design. Then there is my recommendation ''Momento'' - you download the software, work at your leisure & pleasure with advanced designs & embellishments to create something truly individual. They also offer high quality paper & covers. This does not work out cheap & remember postage is additional, you mostly buy per page.

My main recommendation is, think it through carefully, your wedding is over & all memories rely on the photos. For this I would recommend using a professional service to do it well. This is not an occasion for experimenting.

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I have used Blurb and Shutterfly and recommend Blurb
by rcm1301 / February 28, 2014 12:39 PM PST

I have used Blurb and Shutterfly in the past and Blurb is the best. Easy to use, many layout options and their print quality is excellent. Have been using them the last 4 years to create each year a photobook for grandma's and no problems what so ever. The 4 year old versions' binding is still perfect. Their pdf and iPad versions are also great! The binding of the Shutterfly version we used has fallen apart after 1 year.

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by jjm99 / February 28, 2014 12:40 PM PST

This is my favorite currently. Lots of layer options.

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Costco & Shutterfly
by Ann1460 / February 28, 2014 1:08 PM PST

Costco is so reasonable and has frequent specials if on email list. Easy shipping for us.
Shutterfly has nice designs, specials, too. Haven't seen any "ugly" books so far.

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There is a BIG difference!
by 4USA / February 28, 2014 2:45 PM PST

Happy anniversary, Susan!

Here's my 2 cents:

1. I was a Kodakgallery woman forever until they ceased doing business. No one will ever come close to their QUALITY.

2. Then, my daughter lured me to and because she uploaded all her 'babes pics there, I started using their services. They have continued to get better and better w/ their user interface for photo albums, calendars, etc. and so now putting albums together is a snap (pardon the pun.) Their quality is not as good, but crying over kodakgallery doesn't bring them back. I recently made a series of photo albums for my husband for our 47th anniversary and they were NICE!

3. I recently had to make a photo album using and wanted to scream because their interface is SO tiny and difficult to work with. Because of that, I couldn't really critique it as I did it and was VERY disappointed in it when it arrived (and it was for one of my GRANDdaughters who had been in the hospital ... DRATS!)

4. Absolutely! I couldn't agree more w/ one of the submitters who said 'look for the sales' and for prints, I'd agree. But because making album is much more detailed and time intensive, I would definitely stay w/ snapfish. So, get on everyone's email list and SAVE! SAVE! SAVE!

5. PS: Something I've been doing for several yrs now when I'm invited to a party or celebration of any kind or visit w/ friends or family out of town, I bring my Nikon, snap a bunch of pictures and then make a photo album of our time there and send it to them as a thank you. These have been very appreciated!

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Kodak Merged
by Tom_SF / March 1, 2014 11:52 AM PST

Kodak Gallery merged with Shutterfly just recently.

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Photobook Service
by JayCNET555 / February 28, 2014 5:19 PM PST

I recommend Shutterfly/ Snapfish hp/ Photojaanic... Lot depends on where you are located.

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Photobooks, etc.
by lifot / February 28, 2014 9:41 PM PST

I have been very satisfied with Shutterfly!!!!

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I had good results from Blurb
by Chigal48 / February 28, 2014 9:59 PM PST

I use
I found that most of the online services are within the same price range and offer the same size books.

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I like Blurb
by robertmulligan100 / February 28, 2014 10:13 PM PST

I have done several books with Blurb and have been happy with their service and printing. My largest was a 225 page wedding album and it looked great, client was so very happy. I have always used their better paper.

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