FANCY TURNING YOUR FABULOUS PHOTOS INTO A BOOK? Or putting them on a calendar? Then this photobook review is for you. A photobook is a classy way to present photos of an occasion like a wedding or birthday in a glossy picture book. These books come in a variety of shapes, sizes, qualities and styles depending on where you purchase them. In most cases the more you pay for a album the better the quality. You basically get what you pay for. If you want a cheap photobook that is quick to create with limited layouts and won’t last long due to general wear and tear then you can spend around $25 to $40. However if you want an album you can show off time and time again to your friends and family, then it’s best to choose a software that flexible to your needs and prints a quality product, which can cost anywhere between $80 to $500.
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(also used by officeworks.com.au) According to the claims on their website, all products are printed on the latest in digital presses with the photobooks carefully hand sewn and then bound into fully lined photo cover, linen or faux leather finished albums. Softcover and hardcover photo books, calendars, photoflips and prints and posters available. Laser Engraving also available on the Faux Leather or Linen Covered Hard Cover photobooks. To begin creating your album, just download the software direct from their website, install and open the software. Then select one of the eight different photobook products you wish to create. Creating a product is as simple as dragging photos into one of the pre-set templates and then applying any of the visual effects. Coloured or transparent backgrounds, text, masks and borders are only a mouse click away. Payment is made via a secure SSL page via our payments provider, Bibit (they’re a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the world’s largest banks). Delivery of your album is in approximately 14 working days. Price: $19.95 (A5), $44.95, maximum 60 pages plus $1.00 per additional page, plus shipping fee. Review: Upon first use of this software we found it quite frustrating to use in comparison to many of the other software programs we have used for creating albums. Perhaps if we started with this program first we would have been able to put up with it for longer, but knowing what limitations it had, caused us to get frustated by its limation of layouts and flexibility. Payment may be made via a secure connection, however being processed via an international company may cause concern and doubt for Australian customers. —— —— —— —— ——
Momento: (available at DigiGifts and a variety of other suppliers in Australia) If your looking for an easy to use, very flexible photo book making application then you can’t look past Momento. The free software can be downloaded and installed on any windows based system. Once installed you have the option of downloading additional themes, embellishments, backgrounds and photo frames from within the software that install within minutes depending on your internet speed. Putting together page designs in your album is very easy with a series of templates and layouts available, or you can also arrange the photos however you like using resizing, tilting and various other settings to customise the design. Delivery of your album is in approximately 14 working days. Price: from approx $80 plus per page fee and shipping. Price disclaimer: Momento Resellers gain access to additional personalization with embossing on the cover, presentation boxes,additional paper stock and more. Each of these are additional cost at varied value. Momento Reseller options are only available to business with a valid ABN or not-for-profit organizations. If you don’t fit into those categories, check out DigiGifts.com.Su who are a reseller and can offer these additional features to you. Review: These albums are some of the best quality albums we have seen for a reasonable price. Anything else that offered this much variety and flexibility in it’s design software and final product cost more than double elsewhere. The only other software that comes very close is Apple’s iPhoto software. Price, quality and ease of use of the iPhoto software is very similar, but only available on a Macintosh system. Momento also offer larger A3 albums to resellers which are very popular for wedding which most other photobook suppliers don’t offer. Keep in mind that if you have a macintosh operating system this software isn’t available. They do recommend another application by a partner company called Photo Junction, but we didn’t get time to review it yet. —— —— —— —— ——
DigiGiftsDesigner.com (available viaDigiGifts) This website offers customers with advanced online design tools for creating photobooks as well as hundreds of other photo gifts. The easy to use interface with drag and drop images, themes, embellishments, backgrounds, and control over text placement makes editing layouts fun as you create your unique book. Apart from installing the SilverLight browser plugin, there is no other software to download and install on your computer and SilverLight is quite small and quick to install. Hard bound 8×8 inches and 12×12 inches photo books, scrapbook pages, calendars and a large variety of photo gifts available on this website. Many of the products available on this website are sourced from a large international supplier, this is primarily due to the fact that they are one of few companies that can supply such great quality products at such low prices. Prices on the website also seem to fluctuate from time to time due to increases and decreases of the Australian Dollar.
Price: from approx $35 plus $0.50 per additional page and shipping. Review: Users with slower internet connection speeds may loose patience with the online uploading of many images and using the online design tools. However those on quicker speeds will love how easy it is to create hundreds of layouts and designs. Since the printer of these products is located overseas, deliveries can take approximately 3-4 weeks and sometimes a little longer during peak periods. In most cases deliveries to Australia are within 2-3 weeks, but sometimes it has taken longer. —— —— —— —— ——
Whitech Solutions in conjunction with Photo Create: (used by: BigW, Target, K-Mart, Harvey Norman, SnapFish, DigitalPrintAustralia, DigiGifts and many more) Whitech Solutions offer many of the photo kioks and web-based photo gift systems through their software called Imagine. All of the products currently available on their system are provided by Photo Create which can only be purchased via retailer companies as they don’t sell direct to the public. With the aid of digital offset presses and custom-built equipment, Photo Create delivers an extensive range of print products, such as hard or soft cover books, photo greeting cards, calendars and assorted photo gift products. SnapFish now also offer many of these products on their website and in many department stores such as Big W, Target, Harvey Norman, etc.
Photo Create offer a collection of hardcover and softcover photo books as well as the original SnapFish photo books (which are mentioned in more detail below). When designing your book, there is a large selection of backgrounds and embellishments available to help customise your design even further. Uploading photos via the online software can be hit and miss depending on the speed of your internet connection. In some instances when we tried uploading a large number of photos at once the system failed. Most novice computer users would only try a few times and then give up. At present there is only 6 cover layout available and 8 page options (black border, white border,collage (no border) professional (full bleed) photo corner, single oval & sketchy). Delivery of your album is in approximately 14 working days. Price: $25.00 – $49.95 for up to 50 pages. $1.20 for each additional page, plus shipping. Prices vary depending on which reseller you purchase these through. Review: The 150 gsm paper is thickness than many of the cheaper photo books around, however not as thick as some of the more premium photo book providers. Limited layouts and customisation make this suitable for basic album creation, but not ideal for professionals. Those looking for a more eleborate wedding, birthday or anniversary book should consider looking at more superior suppliers which a much large range of designs, emblishments, layouts and customisation of the final product. —— —— —— —— ——
SnapFish: (also sold via Imagine online and kioks systems) Hewlett Packard’s curiously named its on-line photo printing service Snapfish. As previously mentioned above SnapFish, also offers many of the products which are produced by Photo Create, however they also have their own original photobooks. The photobooks they offer come in different sizes and with either hard or soft covers. Creating a book is done by logging in to the site and completing the sign-up procedure, then going to the gifts page and choosing photobook. You have to specify the size and number of pages and have photos ready for uploading. Photos should be in reasonably high resolution form – at least 240dpi – and they can be sized before uploading. There is a basic selection of different coloured backgrounds and layouts to choose from too. It’s all fairly easy to understand and master, even most computer novices can work it out. We suggest you think carefully about selecting the photo that goes on page one, because it also appears on the cover – well, not exactly on the cover. There is a square cut-out through which the first picture can be seen. When the layout is finished and the pictures uploaded the order is completed with credit card payment and delivery address. Delivery normally takes 10 days from placing the order, using standard Australia Post mailing. Price: $40 for 20 pages, with 10 pages printed both sides. $1.20 for each additional page, plus shipping fees. Review: The final product is of low quality. Pages are glued and hand sewn into linen book cover. You basically get what you pay for here. Low cost for low quality. The pages paper is not very thick, therefore tears easily. The cover is also very flimsy which means it will wear and tear easily too. You also can’t see the immediate results of reproduction, therefore layout issues of image distortion may not ve noticed until you received the final product in the mail. We also found that the pictures were slightly darker than we had intended, but there is no way of trying one and making an adjustment. May be useful for computer novices who just want a quick collection of photos in a book to show friends, but don’t expect it to last over a long period of time. —— —— —— —— ——
Mixbook: Mixbook is an album making website, similar to Heritage Maker that makes it simple to collaborate with friends and family to create your photobooks. They believe that a book is not something to be created by just one person (although they support that too), but rather to include many people’s voices and perspectives. During the setup process you can choose who is able to help you edit your book, open to everyone, open to friends or not open. The open to everyone option allows everyone on the Mixbook network to edit your book. We are still not quite sure why you would want the whole world to have access to edit your book, but please enlighten us if you can see positive uses for this feature. The second option, Open to Friends, allows all of your Mixbook friends to contribute to your book. This option is great for family to help with the collaboration of a new family history book or adding photos from around the world. The third option, allows you to invite who can edit your book. They have a reasonable collection of templates to choose from, which all look stunning on the setup your photo book pages. Editing of the layers within a template that you’ve selected can be fiddly on first attempt and may lose those who are not very computer literate. If you are on slower internet connection you may also find loading of themes, page designs and other elements a little frustrating, but this issue occurs with most online album creating systems. We loved the copy and pasting functionality. You didn’t have to worry about finding certain buttons on the screen or learning shortcut keys, you could use the standard copy and paste features built into the browser. Selecting single items however when they are overlapped can be tricky, with multiple items being selected at the same time. It would also be nice to see some rulers or snap to grid options available to help align photos on more corporate and contemporary designs. Mixbook, like many of the other popular photobook services now allow imports of photos from Facebook, Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa, Photobucket and Yahoo Search. Embedding a book onto your website or blog is also a nice addition MixBook enables, however it is not something new to photobook systems; Momento and Heritage Maker has similar options available. Mixbook enables this feature by providing you with simple code to copy and paste into your page. Available Products: 8.5 x8.5 inch softcover, 8.5 x 8.5 inch hardcover book, 12 x 12 inch hardcover book. More sizes coming soon. Price: starting from $12.99 USD for 20 pages. Additional pages are $0.50 USD per page, plus $14.99 USD shipping fee. Volume discounts also available for 10 or more books ordered at one time. Review: Overall a fairly simple online photobook system to use that produces good quality books for a reasonable price. The price is still a little high for international customers, however when the Aussie dollar is doing well, its a great site to check out and order some books from as they become quite competitive with Australian suppliers. If your looking for something more professional that allows precise positioning of elements and advanced functionality, this site probably isn’t for you. Computer novices may intially struggle with functionality, but once they play around long enough, with a little patience they may easily create albums. The shopping cart can be a little confusing but once you get your head around how to use the Mixbook credits, its fairly straight forward thereafter. The shopping cart requires a credit card even if you have Mixbook credit. Your card will not be charged when you have enough Mixbook credit to process your order. Their contact us page lacks detailed contact information making it frustrating if you need immediate assistance. It also gives the impression that they are trying to hide something by not including more detailed contact information. A telephone number and/or postal address so people can feel confident with contacting them would be ideal. Delivery timeframe for customers in Australia is a little slow with economy shipping from America usually arriving within 3-6 weeks, according to their website. However they also advise that it can take up to 8-12 weeks depending on any custom delays. If your not in a hurry for your book, then this is still a pretty good site to order from. They also offer a 100% money back gaurantee, but not sure if that covers for books that never arrive due to getting lost in transit.
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Macbooks: (available by Apple) iPhoto is a great software package featured on most macintosh computers these days. iPhoto lets you design your own professionally printed photo books. Create and order beautiful hardcover books — as well as softcover and wire-bound photo books — without leaving the iPhoto software. Delivery of your album is in approximately 14 working days. Choose from thirteen Apple-designed book themes featuring photo drop zones and multiple page-design options. iPhoto ’09 even automatically creates maps showing where you’ve traveled. Use the GPS data already in your pictures or type in the names of places you’ve visited, and iPhoto makes a custom map for your book. Very flexible and easy to use software, most computer novices can easily work out how to use it without much skill. Hundreds of layouts and design templates available with your own custom designs also allowed. Available Products: Softcover, hardcover and wire-bound photo books, calendars, cards, postcards and prints. Price: $3.99 USD for 3.5 x 2.6 inch book, 20 pages (10 sheets), plus postage. $19.99 USD for 11 x 8.5 inches, 20 pages (10 sheets), plus postage. Additional pages: from USD $0.29 each, 100 max. Review: These albums are some of the best quality albums we have seen for a reasonable price. Anything else that offered this much variety and flexibility in it’s design software and final product cost more than double elsewhere. The only other software that comes very close is Momento’s software. Unfortunately they don’t yet offer larger than 11×8.5 inch albums which are popular for weddings, anniversaries and professional photographer portfolios. Keep in mind that if you have a windows operating system this software isn’t available. —— —— —— —— —— Heritage Makers: (To connect with an inspired Heritage Makers consultant go to http://www.recallwhen.com for that extra special assistance. She can helps bring your stories to life). Heritage Makers online album making software stands out from many of the other photo book software programs because more than one person can work jointly on a single project. For example you have dad writing his family story and the children who live in other cities can be involved in making the story, adding photos, etc; similar to building an online quilt. You create all of your Heritage Makers projects in your own online, password-protected, personal publishing and creative center, Heritage Studio. Studio is easy to use and provides tremendous flexibility. There’s no special software to purchase . . . you can access Studio from any computer, anywhere with internet access. You can start with a blank page or choose one of our many free pre-designed community and professional templates to use in your projects. You’ll enjoy the benefits of having complete control over how your project turns out. Available Products: Photo books, Cards, Prints, Canvases, Calendars, Cookbooks and more. Price / Account: A free basic account gives you the ability to upload hundreds of photos and create meaningful projects. Or you can choose to upgrade to a Premier membership and enjoy even more with thousands of pieces of digital art, unlimited photo storage, hundreds of free templates, free online classes, and so much more! Over 36,000 individual pieces of art and more added each and every month. These are all tagged and available by collection as well as by the search function. Every project that is created then becomes its own template for future sharing or editing. Unfortunately not currently available in Australia. You can definately check out their online software, however we found Australia’s slow internet speeds making load time of this website poor. Review: Though we weren’t able to create and print our own album from their software, we saw alot of potential for when this become available in Australia. Many of the other photo book suppliers need to keep an eye out for this one as its very, very popular overseas with hundreds of happy customers and distributors. The ease of use and almost unlimited number of emblishments and templates make this software so much fun to use. Interaction with multiple people on any one project also make this a terrific online concept. —— —— —— —— ——
Albums Australia / TDA: TDA studio software combines extensive workflow & production capabilities with the most dynamic album designing facilities of many programs available on the market. It is provided free of charge to active Albums Australia customers, however on last check becoming a member is limited to businesses with an ABN. TDA studio software is designed for professional studio use, with high end workflow systems, image management, sales presentations, album ordering, album assembly and lab ordering. TDA offers compresensive designing tools that let you customise every part of your album. All tools are fairly quick and easily to learn how to use. Click & Drag to create mat apertures or composite layered designs of any size or shape. Type in your preferred image size or your preferred mat aperture size & spacing. Snap To’ Aperture and Composite Layer Alignment Tools also included in this advanced software package. Available products: Magazine and Studio Magazine Albums and DIY “Slip In” Style Albums. Album stands and various other professional display products also available. 43 different cover materials including Metals, Acrylic, Timbers, Leathers, Micro fibres (Super Suede), Vinyl (Leather Like), Photographic prints and Metal Photographs. 150 different cameo sizes in 12 different cover locations. Price: Unconfirmed. On last check, the prices they had available were only suitable to high-end photography studios and not the general public. Review: The quality of their albums are superb, however you pay the price for such high quality. There albums are well above any other album supplier that we reviewed to date. They are aimed at the high end professional print studios, not the general public with their high end prices. Their prices aren’t even advertised on their website. The software is very flexible to use, but lacked easy to use layouts, templates and embellishments. The purpose of their software is to create quick and easily professional album layouts with minimal skills, however with advanced skills you can do so much more. —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
Creating Novels & Storybooks: Photobook software may be a great spot for new writers to consider publishing a book due to the assorted page layouts and cover designs, however we recommend they consider software designed more closely for novel, textbooks, storybooks, etc to be published. Many of these type of publishing companies hacve packages specifically setup for producing multiple copies. Usually the more you get printed at one time, the cheaper each copy works out. Some photobook suppliers do offer this too, but not normally in volumes of ten or more at one time. Blurb: Blurb is a company and a community that believes passionately in the joy of books – reading them, making them, sharing them, and selling them. Blurb let you self publish your own photo book, cookbook, portfolio and much more with their free software. They believe that every blogger, cook, photographer, parent, traveller, poet, pet owner, marketer, etc should find creating books easy. They supposedly use a HP Indigo 50000 printer, which according to HP achieves a quality of “812×1624 dpi when printing in high resolution mode. Available Products: Square 8x8inch 4 colour books, black and white 5x8inch books, standard 8x10inch books and larger 11x13inch books. Price: starting from $12.95 USD for 8x8inch books, 0-40 pages. Excluding shipping. Volume discounts also available for 10 or more books. Review: Overall, we found the quality and durability of the Blurb product quite impressive, and that is why they have so many repeat customer. You can feel comfortable that you’ll get a quality product that showcases your photos. Blurry photos, out of focus images, scans of ink-jet-printer prints, overly-compressed jpgs, etc will all show less detail than a sharp-direct from digital images. Bear this in mind when you create your book with Blurb, but you are likely to find this problem with other photo book printers too. Inside, the photos are printed on heavy, glossy paper. The pages feel thicker and glossier than in most books, but certainly not as heavy as actual photo paper. The page weight is consistent with other art / coffee table books I own.
More reviews coming soon for the following companies:
If you would like us to review your software, please don’t hesitate to contact us to be placed in the que. Footnote: Please notes that the above review could have gone on and on explaining précis details about each software available, but we thought it was best to provide and overview and then let you judge for yourself. There are many other photobook companies not mentioned in this review. There are far too many to mention. This review has stuck to some of the most popular photobook providers for Australian consumers. Some popular overseas suppliers were also mentioned due to their enormous overseas following as a comparison only.