Experience with PhotoBooks?
January 12, 2006 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Alrighty, Mefiteys...who's made a photo book?

I'd really like to make a Photo Book as a gift for a friend, but have had no experience with them. In lieu of owning a Mac, iPhoto books aren't an option. The only option I've seen that really interests me are MyPublisher's PhotoBooks, a company to whom I've read iPhoto books are outsourced to anyway. I'm not interested in cheesy effects like borders, backgrounds, and themed graphics. Most important is flexibility with layout. I'm not sure about text yet, but I think I'd like to include a little, and the option to place it in serveral areas. I'd like to hear experiences people have had with MyPublisher, Picaboo, Sony's ImageStation Photobooks, PhotoWorks Books, Shutterfly Photo Books, or other similar companies, including the iPhoto books. Info on the quality of the binding, covers, photos, and so on would be most appreciated. How "professional" was the result? Also, please note the resolution of the photos that you used. Many, many thanks!
posted by youarenothere to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I made a leather bound book thru Shutterfly. I was reasonably happy with the results. The paper weight was good however you could really tell on the few photos that I had that weren't as high a resolution as the others. So I would make sure you use the highest res shots you have.
posted by mmascolino at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2006

I used MyPublisher a few years ago to make a gift for my grandmother, a photo book documenting all the china pieces she's painted. The photos were of mixed quality so, therefore, the prints in the book were too. However, I was perfectly pleased with the quality of the binding, cover, etc. It looked quite professional overall with the exception of the low resolution of some of the photos (totally my fault). IIRC, the MyPublisher software was a pain in the ass, but this was several years ago so they might have improved, plus I am not the most computer-literate person on the planet. For what it's worth, I do plan on using MyPublisher again to make my own wedding albums (several years belatedly, but better late than never!).
posted by justonegirl at 10:14 AM on January 12, 2006

I made a Shutterfly spiral-bound photo book a few years ago and was really impressed with it. The photos looked great, and they were in the order I wanted with captions I specified. Made a great gift.
posted by pithy comment at 10:38 AM on January 12, 2006

I made a little square-bound book of photos from my Flickr account using Qoop. It turned out quite awesome.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:52 AM on January 12, 2006

Another vote here for Shutterfly. Mrs. Shallow Center makes yearly albums of our 4-year-old, and they are huge -- huge -- hits with the grandparents. Not to mention with yours truly. Pretty easy to use, too, according to the missus.
posted by shallowcenter at 12:33 PM on January 12, 2006

This is an awesome thread. I have literally hundreds of photos of my tot that I've been meaning, someday, to print out, cut out, and scrapbook. I am now giddy with delight at the idea of throwing money at the problem, and making duplicate albums for the grandparents at the same time.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2006

I've made some through Flickr, which were really cool, if a bit generic.

I've seen Kodak's, and they're really nice.
posted by o2b at 1:02 PM on January 12, 2006

My wife did a couple through Snapfish that came out real nice. Since I wasn't involved with the creation of it, I can't speak of the layout tools they might provide though. Amazon had a special on them through whatever company they provided them through, but that might be over now.
posted by inthe80s at 1:15 PM on January 12, 2006

Best answer: I made a book with MyPublisher.

I have some pics of it online, I'd rather not make them publically linked to, but I could email you the link (post a disposable email address, or email me at this disposable address: mefi.10.harlequin@spamgourmet.com).

Anyway; flexibility with layout:
I didn't use any of their prefab layouts, I did the entire book using full page spread with bleed. That way each page was just a giant image that I assembled in photoshop, so I could put the photos anywhere, the text anywhere, any kind of background I wanted printed right to the cut, etc etc. This worked really well, so the flexibility is effectively unlimited.
I did each page image at (what turned out to be) beyond their max resolution, and the results were great (ie the text looks like proper text, crisp edges)

Quality of the photos:
Seems as good as those you see in standard glossy hardcover art books.
The problem is that since you don't have any samples beforehand, you can't do much in the way of checking your colour or levels for your first job. I was worried some details would be lost in dark areas, but when the book came back, it was all good. I don't know if that would be because I judged things well, or whether they have a person or software that optimises things for the printer. Probably both. :-)

Quality of the binding:
Again, good. You hardly ever see a hardbound book with so few pages as these (I think mine was about 14 double-page spreads), but other than that it's a real book.
It's been a long time since I looked at it, so I can't actually remember what the binding is, but I vaguely think it's stitched. Perhaps the site will say. (I found the site unhelpful at the time, but that was a couple of years ago, they've improved since)

I can't remember offhand, but could probably find out. I think I was working at about 100 pixels per cm (this is my favourite "don't want to think about it or don't know the printer specs" res - it makes any math calculations easy, and is a little bit higher than the print DPI of almost all printers, so errs on the side of detail, which is useful so long as the computer isn't chugging on it. If the computer is chugging and slowing you down, then a more nuanced would be better), ie one page would be about 3000 pixels wide, a spread would be 6000. I also recall that when I imported the images (as jpg) into their software for upload, the resulting filesize was only about 80meg, suggesting that the software either increased the compression or resized the images.

With MyPublisher, never pay full price. They almost always have some kind of special going, and many of them amount to 50% savings (though are usually of the buy-one-get-a-second-copy-free variety, however I think getting two copies is an excellant idea in and of itself).
posted by -harlequin- at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2006

"My only complaint was a wee logo they put on the inside of the back cover"

Forgot to add - MyPublisher does that too :-(
posted by -harlequin- at 2:16 PM on January 12, 2006

I had a set of about 12 photo books printed by Fastback Creative Books in Berkeley, Calif. (I see you're in KY, but they ship). It's not cheap, but the excellent quality justifies the price if you want something truly outstanding.

I did the layout myself (the website has guidelines on how to prepare your files) and then provided them with a disk with PDF (and layout and image files for backup). They will also do layout for you for an additional charge.

Photo resolution was excellent. No issues with ink running or bleeding. I chose a glossy softcover binding, which has held up well so far (only ~ six months old). They will, if I remember, accomodate most any layout, design, or dimensions. Bleeding photos to the edge and across spreads was not a problem.
posted by donpedro at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2006

Oh: super friendly folks working there, too.
posted by donpedro at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2006

I made a nice 8 and half by 11 paperback photobook through Lulu.com and I was very happy with both the quality of the printing and binding. I did the layout all on my side, in Photoshop. Then you just need to turn it all into a pdf file, upload, and order however many copies you want of your book. You can do color or black and white.
posted by RoseovSharon at 3:36 PM on January 12, 2006

I made a book with Qoop with photos from Flickr, and I must admit that I was disappointed -- it was one of the first generation books, however. The photos were washed out, and the placement of text and photos on each page was irregular, and not terribly aesthetically pleasing. But, I am still interested in giving it another shot in the future.
posted by headlessagnew at 3:50 PM on January 12, 2006

Response by poster: Great responses; thanks everyone! (and this after I called you all "Mefiteys") Stupidly, I didn't even think of the PS layout trick harlequin, missmerrymack, and RoseovSharon mentioned - I'm definitely stealing that one. donpedro, I'm tempted to drop the cash for one of those Fastback books just for the purdy covers. It looks like they, along with Lulu, are geared towards multiple printings, though, right? I just need one, and perhaps an extra for myself.

I don't use Flickr, but hopefully someone else can be helped by the information on the quality of their books (or lack thereof).

Oh, and harlequin, I'd love to see those photos, just drop them to youarenothere@mailinator.com.
posted by youarenothere at 7:11 PM on January 12, 2006

They told me they specialize in smallish orders. As soon as I get around to it (as soon as my mac is fixed), I'm supposed to design and publish another book, also through Fastback, of photos I took at two friends' wedding. They only want three copies. The fine folks there told me (I think) that they do get 1- and 2-book orders, though most are between 10 and 100.

Also -- this may be good for you, given the distance -- they allow for sending files via FTP.
posted by donpedro at 7:45 PM on January 12, 2006

I just want to add that I've seen donpedro's book in person, and the quality was excellent. And the printer (Fastback) did an excellent job as well. :)
posted by DaShiv at 9:15 PM on January 12, 2006

It looks like they, along with Lulu, are geared towards multiple printings, though, right? I just need one, and perhaps an extra for myself.

Not necessarily. Lulu works on a "print on demand" basis, so they only print a copy when one is ordered, which is why there is no upfront cost. You can set your photobook to be private so no one can buy it but you. This is actually in my opinion the perfect option for one-off type print jobs. Just buy as many copies as you want, even if it's only one.
posted by RoseovSharon at 4:39 AM on January 13, 2006

I used the photo book software on the York Photo site to make 2 photobooks of wedding pictures for family. They had about 8 layout screens to choose from, including the full page bleed option mentioned above, so you could put your own unique page layout together for every page if you are handy in photoshop. I am not, so I appreciated the varied layouts available. I chose the caption option, and it really worked out great. Both recipients were very, very pleased. Also, the cover was cloth, with a large sort of photo-sticker and title on the front, which looked very professional. The first book is full price and multiple orders of the same book are half off, so it cost about $60 for 2 books around 30 pages each (~$40 + ~$20).

Quality of photo reproduction was excellent, though I am not sure of the printer resolution. There was not one blurry photo in the bunch, though, even in cases where we blew up a photo to a full size bleed. Online proofing option was also pretty handy.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:56 AM on January 13, 2006

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