Shutterfly, an online photo printing site that also offers photo gifts and photo books, usually finishes at or near the top when photo book sites are reviewed. How does it maintain its standing among the 20 or so companies that produce photo books? The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes.
Shutterfly offers an enormous range of options, making it easy to create a book that looks professionally done and that will be a great gift for grandchildren.
Just the Facts
Here's the Shutterfly blueprint:
- Online site so no download is necessary
- Several design methods, all allowing customization
- A wide variety of sizes, styles, templates and fonts
- Help available by chat, email or phone, or by consulting the Shutterfly Community
- Simple photo edits enabled.
Shutterfly originally offered online printing and photo storage. The company began offering photo books in 2001, but you can still use the site to store and print photos. Thus you can use a single site for all your photo needs, something that you don't get with companies that only produce photo books.
Here's what you'll love about Shutterfly:
- Versatile designware that's fairly easy to use
- Frequent discounts offered on prices that are already competitive
- Well-designed templates with lots of choices of embellishments
- Generously sized text boxes that allow you to say what you want to say
- The ability to make simple photo edits, such as eliminating red eyes, within the program
- High quality photo reproduction
- Little touches in the final product, like those waffle-textured end papers
Shutterfly now has three options for photo book makers.
Users who are fairly sophisticated will love the Custom Path, with options like "full-bleed" photos and photos used as backgrounds. They will like that they are not restricted to templates but can move and resize photos and text boxes. Newbies may find the number of choices mind-boggling. They can opt for the Simple Path option or use a simpler program. Users who don't want to get involved in the design process at all can opt for the newest option, called Make My Book. Design experts at Shutterfly create a book for you. You are billed the service fee, only about $10, when you order a book.
Opting for a photo book site that also offers photo storage and processing means that your images are easily accessible. Shutterfly also allows you to share your photo books online. Although you don't have the immediate option of emailing the book to others or posting it on your Facebook page, you can create your own personal website, put your photo book there and email invitations to others to view it. In the long run, that may be a better solution.
Here's what you may not like:
- Shipping charges that start at $11.99 for standard shipping
- Standard shipping that may require a week after production
- Some image detail lost in binding, although the company now offers lay-flat pages that minimize this problem.
Some customers have reported that their products did not arrive on time. I have not had this problem, but I would allow a few extra days if you are ordering for a special occasion.
The Bottom Line on Shutterfly
The bottom line is that Shutterfly has been doing photo books for a while now, and they do a lot of things right. Some sites may be better for the technologically challenged, and some may be better for people with lots of design experience. But for the vast majority of users, who fall somewhere in between, Shutterfly is just right. Most shutterbugs will be very happy with Shutterfly.