Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Photobook Update

About a year ago I wrote a post about our 2016 photobook that had just arrived.  I talked about how much I liked My Publisher, after making 10 books with them over 3 years.  A few days after that post published I got an e-mail that My Publisher was going out of business.

Great.  Fantastic.

(not really)

I was able to order Luke's year 4 book but after that I would need to find a new company which was overwhelming and stressful.  I had gotten used to My Publisher, their software and sales.  I was very happy with how my books printed.  No reasons to switch until I had to!  And now I had to.

Pineapple cookie jar
Since then I've tried another 3 photobook companies and think I've finally settled on one I like.  So here are my thoughts.

I order all my prints through Snapfish so when we had to make a photobook style adoption profile book last year, that's where I started.  It's web based (My Publisher was software downloaded to my hard drive) but the process was fairly straight forward.

The adoption books are so much different than the annual or vacation books I do.  Our annual books I'm usually trying to cram in as much as I can in 100 pages and so most pages have at least 5 pictures, if not more.  Text is usually minimal.

Our profile pictures have much more writing and usually only a few pictures per page.  With those I was mostly able to use the standard layouts with a few tweaks.  They are each only 20 pages each which might seem like a lot to fill with talking about yourself (says the person who has published over 800 blog posts largely talking about myself) but it can actually be difficult to fit in all the agencies want you to talk about on top of showing your life.

They are VERY different from our annual books but they should be, with a very different intent.

My biggest problem with Snapfish was that adding text was SO SLOW.  We're talking 30 seconds to type a word.  A full minute just to get the site to respond to my wanting to edit a paragraph.  Times 20 pages with text.  It was ridiculous and so frustrating.  I knew I wouldn't be able to do a 100 page book there without making myself crazy.

They do have constant sales (Shutterfly too) and the price was fine, the finished product is fine.  But given how much time I spend in the making mode, I need that process to be easy and this wasn't.

(Although when we needed a slightly different profile book for another agency, we used Snapfish again since the first one was there.)

This is where I ended up last year for our annual photobook.  All my googling lead to many favorable reviews for them and even a few bloggers I already followed. 

I don't know if it was the layout style I chose but I did not like their standard layouts.  I had to edit every. single. layout.  Most of them had pictures going off the pages, significant portions of them.  I had selected a rectangle shaped book but it was like all the layouts were made for square books.  It may have been the style I selected but I couldn't figure out how to change it. 

It defaulted to a border every picture, which I had to go and take off.  AND, biggest, I couldn't save my edited layouts to use again on another page.  Which lead to having to edit every layout and took a lot of time.

Lay flat pages....I miss you.
But once I was comfortable with the process and figured I didn't like it...I was 50 pages in and I didn't want to recreate all of that in another book so I stayed.

The plus side was that I could do a book more than 100 pages so I didn't have to agonize about being a page or two over.

The other downside, of all 13 non-adoption photobooks I've ordered, this one was the most expensive, even watching for sales.  With 100 pages it came in just over $100.   A significant enough difference from the ~$75 I had been paying for the same number of pages and lay flat from MyPublisher.

They were crossed off the list.

It wasn't until I went to do our Florida photobook and spent a lot of time over a couple weeks in the software that I really became comfortable with this one and it became my new preferred.

I've found their standard layouts to mostly work pretty well and, while I didn't count, I think they are more options with different photo counts.  They also offer page layouts that cross a full page span which I don't use often (faces often seem to fall on the crack) but are a nice option for really showcasing favorite pictures. 

Big plus: I could save my edited page layouts to use again in the same book.  I didn't know I needed that until I didn't have it.

I also think it's easier to rearrange page order or add pages than in Mixbook.  And the process for adding a picture as the page background is easier.

The biggest problem I've had with them is that once I use a picture in a book, it disappears from available pictures, even if I added the picture a second time.  Which is helpful when you want to make sure you don't use the same picture multiple times...but sometimes I DO want to do that.  I usually pull a few favorites for the cover and title page and I almost missed some of our Florida favorites in the main part of the book after I put them on the cover.

I've only ordered one book through them and it was $75 for 84 pages and lay flat.  I am happy with that price.

Final Product
I've mostly talked about the process of making the books because, as I told Matt, I spend more time making the books then I will spend looking at them, at least immediately.  If they are a pain to make I will not want to be in there every week or multiple times a month to keep them up to date.  I need the making process to be easy or I will fall behind.

I really don't see much of a difference in the final products.  I do think MyPublisher had higher quality than any of the other ones I've used but since they aren't an option, I need to move on.  I don't see a huge difference between Picaboo and Mixbook and it would be hard to compare small differences without printing the exact same book with the same pictures in each.

I do like that Mixbook is closer to the size of all our My Publisher books but that's alone is not enough of a reason to stick with them.  Also, that might not be an issue for you.  

So with that a non-factor it comes down to cost and ease of making it.  And right now Picaboo wins for me.  I strongly considered trying a book in Blurb, especially after Young House Love wrote a post a few weeks ago about how that's what they switched to, but I'm comfortable with Picaboo and happy with the final product.  So why switch?

I order at least 3 photo books a year: our annual yearbook, Luke's (his go birthday-birthday), and one per vacation (usually one a year).   Per my time tracking over the last 9 months, I spend an average of about 90 minutes a week on photobooks and picture managing, which is less time than I spend on Instagram or reading blogs.  It's doable to stay on top of.  I think it's important enough work to dedicate time to it.

If you feel desperately behind, I'd recommend starting with January 2018 and then work back through past years as you make time/motivation.  But just starting is a huge step!

Have YOU made photobooks? Any other companies I should consider?

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