Print Your Photos - Albums | Consumer Album Company Comparisons
Last year I did a 100 Day Project involving printing my personal photos: 100 Days of Personal Photographs. My goal was to get my photos off my computer and into albums (I had already printed what I wanted over the years for frames). I had photos from all the way back in 2005 when I received my first digital camera that needed to be printed. I completed albums through 2013 during the 100 days. I wrote a blog post about my project here. I wanted to finish a couple more albums before writing this blog post comparing my experience with designing and buying consumer albums. I finally finished and received my album of 2015 photos so I'm ready to share my experience with you!
For each company I tried, I will list the Pros (+) and Cons (-) I encountered with each and then my overall opinion on my experience and the product.
*Note: This is just an account of my experience with each company I used. I did not try all options within each company so there may be other options that would have been better than the ones I tried.
Before launching my photography business and discovering the wonderful world of high quality professional photo albums, I mostly used Shutterfly to print photos and make albums. So that's where I started.
+Sales/Coupons - There always seems to be coupons and sales that allow you to save a good bit of money.
+Scrapbook Elements - If you like the scrapbook look, there are a variety of embellishments and text options to give you a scrapbook feel.
+Shipping - The cost and speed of shipping were good.
-Time Consuming - The process of designing my album was incredibly slow and time consuming. I often became frustrated when the designer wouldn't respond when I was trying to drag and drop a photo into a template. It took me almost two hours to design 20 pages.
-Limited Layouts - I found the layout options limited and ended up customizing them most of the time which was again, very time consuming.
-Quality - The quality of these books are mediocre at best.
Verdict: I used these albums of the sake of saving money on my older photos that weren't very good quality anyway. Plus, I have an old Shutterfly site so most of my older pictures were already uploaded to Shutterfly which made that part a little easier. If you're printing mostly snapshots, phone pictures, or photos taken with a cheap point and shoot camera, this would be an ok option. For the amount of time I spent creating these, though, I wish I would have tried another company sooner and spent a tad more but not spent so much time on these.
MPix is the company I recommend to my clients who are printing their digital files on their own. The print quality is one of the best I've found for a consumer lab (and they're owned by the same company as one of the professional labs I use). When I went to make a book though, I discovered that they were pre-designed with limited layout options and had a smaller maximum images allowed per book than what I needed for my annual book. I ended up not ordering a book through MPix for this project. This may be a good option for a session album if you purchase the digital files from a session and want to do an album on your own.
Mixbook was a company I came across when googling photo album companies and I'm so glad I tried them!
+Easy - The uploading process was fairly easy, drag and dropping photos into templates went smoothly, and it was much easier to customize.
+Layouts - The layouts were customizable so I was able to get what I wanted with each spread.
+Coupons - When you sign up for their mailing list, you get a 50% off coupon which makes your first album very affordable. They run sales often too so watch for those if you're on a tight budget.
+Quick Shipping - I was pleasantly surprise with how quick the shipping was.
+Quality - I was pleased with the quality of my album. The cover was similar in quality to previous books I'd tried but the pages and picture quality was much better.
-Cost - The only con I found was the cost if you pay full price, which really isn't terrible, just more than books I'd bought in the past.
Verdict: This was a nice option, especially if you want to keep costs down because you have a lot of books to print like I did when I started this project. I wish I had found them sooner!
I've heard great things about Blurb so I wanted to give them a try...
+Drag and drop - This feature was easy and worked very well
+Layouts - Once you drag and drop your images you can cycle through layouts to see what fits best with your images.
+Price - I was expecting that everything was going to be so much more than Shutterfly but it really wasn't bad. Most companies offer at least a coupon on your first order when you sign up for the email list and several other album companies, Blurb included, run decent sales throughout the year. So don't feel trapped into the one you think is the cheapest just to save money.
+Book Binding - The album has a really nice book feel.
-Customizing Layouts Difficult - It wasn't as easy to customize a layout to make it what I wanted and there were limited choices on layouts. Rearranging the photos was also sometimes frustrating as the layout would often shift as I was dragging and dropping.
-Adobe Flash - The online book creator uses Adobe Flash. It told me I had to increase allowable storage so that my book could be saved while working on it, but I wasn't able to do this so there was no saving. Luckily I didn't lose the entire book and have to start over but this could be a problem. They do have a downloadable program to create your book but I didn't try it.
-Limitations with Bookify - The online book creator mentioned above has some other limitations. You have a maximum allowable images and pages in your project. You can go up to 500 images and 240 pages so if you have more than that in a year you'd have to cut some out or do multiple books. The BookWright software may not have these limitations so it'd be worth trying.
-Slow - The more images I added to my project, the slower it became. I didn't log my time, but it took several hours to create my book.
-Shipping - Shipping took much longer than other companies I used.
-Print Quality - The photos had a faux texture look similar to Shutterfly (which I am not a fan of) and the color was a little too magenta (and I keep my screen calibrated for professional printing).
Verdict: While this book didn't work well for my annual album project, I would like to try it for a different kind of project and either try the BookWright software or my own album software. Also, if you like the scrapbook look for your annual albums, this wouldn't be the album for you.
Picaboo was another option I found via Google that I wanted to try. I chose the Classic book for my project.
+Ease - Customizing my album was fairly easy, though not as easy as Mixbook.
+Scrapbooking - If you like scrapbooking options like backgrounds, stickers, and text, this one has good options for that.
+Sales - Like many others, they seem to run sales often so that you can save on your album, especially when you take a lot of pictures and end up with a lot of pages like I do.
+Layflat Option - There was an option for a lay flat book so that you don't loose some of the images in the center of the book.
+Quality - The quality on this book was great. The pages were pretty thick for book pages so they won't be so easy to tear.
-Flash - Another online editor that uses flash which seems to slow the process down.
Verdict: This was one of my favorites. I loved the ease of creating it and the quality. If you like a lot of options in your layouts and want a good quality product, this is your book. Use a coupon or wait for a sale if you're on a budget. I'd love to try their layflat option.
This one I saved for last because I've purchased square prints from Artifact Uprising and liked those and have heard great things about them. Plus I knew they were going to cost more and they don't run sales as often. For this project, I went with the hardcover book.
+Recycled Paper - I really like that they print on recycled paper as I try to be environmentally conscious.
+Quality - I have loved the quality of the products I've purchased from Artifact Uprising. The book was well put together and the images looked great.
+Dust cover - I liked that I could get a fabric cover on my book but have a dust cover to also feature an image on the outside of the book.
+Company Values - This is a company I can get behind. I love their mission and values. Read more about them here.
-Price - The entry price is higher than the other companies I tried, though you start with 50 pages. They also don't run sales as often and when they do they aren't as highly discounted as the others.
-Maximums - This was another that had maximum images you could upload (500) and even a maximum file size. This would only really be an issue if you're like me and take a lot of photos and often use a professional digital camera or are including professional photos with larger files sizes, giving you larger files sizes that you would then need to resize in order to use them (though not all of them were over the max size allowed).
-Layouts - The layout options seemed very limited. They are great if you want not more than 4 images on a page, which works well for good quality images, but when I want to include phone images in my album, I don't want those that large and would rather have more on a page.
Verdict: In order to save time (and money) on this album so that I could finish this blog post, I ended up designing it in my album design program instead of using their online design process. So I can't speak to the experience of that part, but I did really like the final product. I also really like this company and what it stands for, which was a big part in choosing to try this album even though it can be more expensive than the others. I would definitely recommend them if price isn't an issue.
Have you tried another album company and loved it? I'd love to hear about it! No matter what company you chose to go with, the important thing is to print your photos. Get them off of your computer/phone and in print where they can be enjoyed by your whole family for years to come.
Kimberly Tank is an award winning professional photographer and artist in Saint Marys, Georgia, servicing Camden County in Southeast Georgia (including Kingsland & Woodbine) and Northeast Florida (including Yulee, Callahan, Fernandina Beach, & Jacksonville). Using natural light and custom on location sessions, Kimberly Tank specializes in the family and child photography; providing an exceptional customer experience and helping you turn your family memories into works of art.
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