Friday, April 1, 2016

Photo Books :: Print Shop Comparison

One of my big goals for the year is to get our favourite photos (six years worth) printed into these little seasonal photo books.  Four books times six years is... lots.  So I have my work cut out.  I've completed 1.5 years, plus a couple of additional books.  I'm also working on a baby album for Garland, and a couple of other special occasion albums.  In short, I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, I guess...

With so many books to compile, I've figured out a few tactics to speed things along, which I'll share in another post.  I've also trialled a couple of different print services - some thoughts below:

:: Mixbook ::

I used Mixbook for the original season photo book, and was super happy with them.  I chose them again this time round and they're still great!  The price can be a little daunting, but I generally wait until a decent coupon turns up in my email before purchasing a book.   They're slower to arrive than Snapfish, the other company I used, but I haven't waited longer than two weeks for a book.

Best things about Mixbook:

Cool themes.  You either love themes, or hate them.  I realise they can be pretty cheesy, but I love them all the same.  I want my books to have nice layouts and the odd cool overlay, and for each to feel different than the others.  Mixbook have a ton of themes and some of them are very pretty.

The themes themselves are super easy to modify.  Pare back for a simplified look, or mix backgrounds/layouts/overlays from other themes.  You can stick with their design, or co-create a design of your own, with little difficulty.

User-friendly tools: Ideally I'd love a combo of Mixbook and Snapfish tools.  Each programme has its pros and cons.  I found Mixbook the easier of the two.  Most helpful tool: photo editing (incl. transparency, contrast, saturation, b/w and more).  Most annoying aspect: no photo swapping (Snapfish does have this feature).  I tried, but couldn't find a way.  I did figure out how to rearrange pages, which was gratifying.

Quality:  These books arrived looking pretty much exactly as I hoped they would!  The photo reduction alert (for low res images) was accurate, pixelation averted!  The print and colour quality are lovely, a great match for my screen images.  My only (small) dissatisfaction was that some images were cropped by the centre crease more than I would've liked.  I've been more vigilant since, and it's no longer an issue.

:: Snapfish ::

Since Snapfish recently introduced themes (yeah, turns out I'm all about those), I decided to give them another go.  They definitely aren't as cute as the Mixbook themes, but Snapfish pricing is undeniably better.  And while it was a little annoying moving to a new programme, it was easy enough to put a cute book together.

However, there were a number of things I didn't love.

Book quality: The Snapfish books are cheaper, but smaller.  I think they have a similar quantity of pages (additional pages available with both sites) but the weight is thinner and they feel less substantial.  Also, the spine is super chunky and stiff, and doesn't feel as though it will last forever, which I want it too!  You know.  So I never have to repeat this chore again.  

Pixels - so many, so big:  I was suuuuuuper disappointed with how pixelated so many of my images were.  The resize alert works, in that it showed up for many of my images while I was designing the book.  However, even after resizing various images, they still turned out super pixelated :-(  On this basis alone, I complained, and was given the option of resizing and reordering*.  Which I did.  And still.  Pixelation.  In fact, several of the Snapfish backgrounds were a little pixelated.  Not sure what's up with that.

*There was no discernible difference between the initial and reprinted books, other than the resizing of images.

Colour quality:  Poor.  I've thrown some comparisons of similar pages up.  Above, beachy, summery scenes.  Snapfish (top) came out super grainy and grey hued (check out the Wild West pages - same issue).  The pixelation was annoying, but this was my biggest disappointment.  So not summer feels.

I know I'm being a Snapfish hater, but even though they're cheaper, they're still not cheap.  I expected great quality, and I'm left with two books I kinda want to recreate on Mixbook (I won't, don't worry).  These books were two for the price of one, and I think I paid like $60 bucks incl. postage.  Erm, if I'd paid full price I would be spewing!  

Mixbook cost more but I really have no complaints about the product.  These are still really lovely books, worth the time and money.

I've searched online for other companies, and have used Blurb in the past (I liked them - but not what I need for this project).  I'm trialling Photobox for Garland's baby book (cool Pantone covers!), and have had a little play on the Kikki.K site.  I love Mixbook, but I'll always try a new print shop, if you have a recommendation!


  1. Thanks for this. I have used snapfish and diamond photo in the past and I found the second a far better quality. I'm so far behind with photos it's killing me and urgh.... so many photos to organise. BUT.... must be done and the boys love photo books and so much simpler than printing photos and putting them in albums. x

  2. I usually use MyStory or Photobox as I have had a couple of bad experiences with Snapfish too!