Friday, July 16, 2010

Photobook Printing

In starting to look at photobooks as a professional add-on, I'm diving into the options with my researcher's eye. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of photo book printers and photo hosting websites out there, where does one begin? I started with the reviews at the bottom, but shortly began to see that I already had my opinions...

AMS
If you're an amateur, there is a plethora of choices for family-grade materials. I say family, because with little hands all over photobooks, it's a waste of money to get the super-archival, plush leatherbound versions that are meant for the treasure locker.

To start, Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, and Snapfish are all in the same league, some with more options than others, some with better base designs and help, but all starting at a reasonable price. What you get with these types is photo sharing so families can contribute to the same album.

Shop them all to see which format you like the best, which is easiest for you to navigate, and which stands out the best to you and your style. Also test multiple sites if you're new to uploading, one might work better with your operating system or version of Java than the other. But they're all very similar, and you may already be using their photo storage and sharing, so stick with them for easy uploading- your photos are already there!

I've used all three of these sites, and personally I like Kodak Gallery the best for the quality and options for design, frequent sales and discounts, and ease of uploading. Plus, you know you're getting Kodak paper.

A lot of my friends who use Macs swear by iPhoto's versions of book printing, and as above, if you're already using iPhoto for storage and sharing, it makes no sense to switch.

For those who like the image-wrap style, stick with Smilebooks, who does this style to the hilt. Dozens of styles, but all with images on the entire cover (like a text book, to me). Great for class trips and family reunions or anything in bulk quantity. I've seen small 4x4 wedding books done this way as a guest gift, shipped with the thank you card. GREAT idea.


PROS
If you're a professional, or want professional grade results for a particular event or memory, you will pay a little more for paper quality, high-end wrapping, and layouts, but your clients will see the difference. Create a book that they can't create themselves!

Start with Picaboo, which has a library of options at your fingertips and prices that start LOW and go HIGH, ranging from $10 to $350. The platform is easy to use, like Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly, and the one-stop create-and-buy screens walk you through the process in a breeze. If you're only doing photobooks, this one's a great choice.

If you want to one-shop your photobooks and event photo sales, check out Printroom, with several easy to learn uploading and creating programs to choose from, as well as high end paper and binding, this site is great for new pros because there is a limited free option to test out, as well as a $10 or $20 per month membership option; the premium offering sales, products, galleries, and unlimited storage.

Take a step up to Pictage, which starts at $20 per month, but offers much more than other sites with marketing help, directory listings, album design services, and more, in addition to the products, sales, and galleries. Among my peers, Pictage is definitely the company-of-choice, and their customer service is impeccable!

Last worth note, Adoramapix seems to have some great reviews, great quality for printing, and super cheap prices. The site is easy to use, while offering additional perks to all mentioned above, such as custom hard covers and panoramic spreads. I also love this site because it's also a photographer's hub, with reviews of equipment, forums for sharing, and a full learning center. The only rub is they don't offer the for-sale pictures gallery that the Pictage and Printroom do.

Hosting only
One last note on photo hosting... When I first started reading into photo hosting for sale of individual photos to wedding attendees, I gathered a big list of names but for many, the names alone deterred me, just seeing my brides wincing at sending links to their guests such as "Smugmug," fearing what that implies to them! There are planty more that sound more professional- Zenfolio, Photoshelter, Pictage, but they only provide photo hosting and sale.

For me, having all this in one stop is just easier. Those companies that only offer photo hosting and sale and don't provide photographers with the creative keepsakes are missing out.



But don't take my word for it... see what other's have said
http://photo-book-review.toptenreviews.com/
http://www.digitalphotos101.com/photo-book-reviews.htm

The very best head-to-head review (but watch out, it's LONG):
http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/the-great-photo-book-round-up-review-who-makes-the-best-photo-books.html

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