Best online photobook maker?
January 4, 2018 6:16 AM   Subscribe

My parents went on a big trip a few years ago, and my dad kept a blog while they were on the road; now he'd like to make the photos into a coffee table book. What are his best options? Help me give him this project as a nice gift!

More to know:

1. The website is still up, but a hosting migration broke a lot of the links to photos (they're online, but not visible). He may want to use some of the text, but I don't know how much.

2. I'd like a web-based tool where he and I can collaborate, in case he needs help or has questions, or I need to adjust some formatting for him remotely.

3. Ease of use and fun quotient is more important than price, as long as I am not buying him a $1000 photo book.
posted by deliriouscool to Technology (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have heard good things about but have no direct experience with them.
posted by episodic at 6:23 AM on January 4, 2018

I used Photobox for this and was happy with the result. It has an online editor for the book.
posted by crocomancer at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2018

So, my wife and I did a bunch of photo book making after our wedding in 2016, but we didn't use anyone's online layout tools (we used InDesign). We used both AdoramaPix and Blurb, and for what you're looking for, I'd bet Blurb would be the better choice. They've got good online layout tools, the cost was very reasonable, and the quality was great.

If you're wondering why we used two book companies: we wanted copies of our wedding album for our respective families (which went through Blurb) and we wanted the ultra-high-end board-printed version for ourselves (which went through Adorama).
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:24 AM on January 4, 2018

The Wirecutter does a deep dive comparison: The Best Photo Book Service
posted by bluecore at 8:43 AM on January 4, 2018

Wirecutter recommends Shutterfly if you don't use a Mac. I use Shutterfly all the time and I recommend it, too. I usually get a free 8x8 photo book from Coke Rewards a few times per year which gives me 20 free pages. I pay for about 10 more pages and shipping, which runs me $20-$25. They have decent layout tools with an easy learning curve. You can go with standard templates and then customize them to tweak dimensions.
posted by soelo at 9:08 AM on January 4, 2018

I've used Photobox for years and it's good enough for me to stick with it. Web-based page layout editor that works pretty well and gives a decent preview of the final result. You can let it auto-layout the entire thing, although I always lay out every spread manually. (I spend several evenings on this, for a 160pp book.) You can add captions and set a default style for text throughout.

There's pretty much always a sale on so expect to get at least 70% off the marked price. (So I typically get a 160pp A4 landscape hardcover photobook for ~£50.) On the occasions that there was a printing flaw, they replaced it for free without quibble.

As far as I know Blurb can give you a higher quality product, but I think it's quite a bit more expensive. (Especially as it costs extra to deliver to the UK, last I checked.)

You'd need to download the photos from the blog, so you can upload them to Photobox or whatever service you're using. They'd need to be adequate resolution for the size you're printing them at. (The tool will flag photos if they're low resolution.)
posted by snarfois at 9:20 AM on January 4, 2018

I use the Apple Photos software to design my photo books, and I also buy them through Apple. Using desktop software instead of internet-based software is much faster, because you're not uploading all the photos. They're just there, in the photo editing software. And you don't need to be online to work on it, which can be a benefit if you're on vacation or something. The other reason I prefer a desktop application is that the book resides on my hard disk, I back it up, and I don't worry about the company who made it going out of business. So if my house burns down, I can just order another copy of the book. (Duplicates of my hard disk backups are kept offsite.) I don't have any idea how long the web-based companies keep your project.

Also: Apple's software is very well designed. Apple's print quality is incredible, and the bindings are great. I once got a book back that was poorly printed, called them, and they created a new one and overnighted it to me for no charge, and didn't ask for the badly printed one back. So, super customer service.

I've used Shutterfly and don't like it. The printing and binding quality weren't as good, and the software buggy and unintuitive. Admittedly that was a few years ago; it may be better now. But my experience with Apple has been uniformly superior so I haven't bothered to go back and check.
posted by Capri at 10:31 AM on January 4, 2018

I’ve used Shutterfly to make a number of hard backed photo albums for the last four years. I’ve been happy and enjoy the web experience (I push the customization features as far as I can). The books I’ve made have not be subject to frequent handling though, so your mileage may vary.
posted by cyphill at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2018

I've had great results with Costco's books although I am fairly sure that one of the big photobook companies is the real book maker. I've made a couple 70+ page 12x12 books and they looked good and have proven to be durable.

I started out by complicating everything by creating my own Photoshop templates for left and right pages so that I could sidestep their online layout system and do the page layout in Photoshop and then just add the resulting image as one big photo per-page set as the background so that it was full-bleed. It worked well but was a giant time-suck hassle so the next time I just used their layout system and the results were quite good.

I do wish they'd let you turn off their auto color correction and instead have the marvelous Dry Creek Photo provide printing profiles as Costco does with their photo printing services.
posted by bz at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2018

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