Saturday, December 4, 2010

Picaboo vs. Shutterfly Photobooks

I've waxed poetic before about my Shutterfly photo books. And anyone who hangs out with me in real life knows how much fun I have lining up the photo books on the shelf in my house - I love to make these little gems of family memory. My kids love to read them, to page through their history. We're currently obsessed with the ones that contain the pictures of their births...for some obvious reasons.

But recently, I bought a Groupon for Picaboo, another photo-book service. I figured it was a good deal and I'd try it out. Truthfully, I didn't read the small print, which said "not valid with other offers" and so I stayed up really late to get my book done in order to take advantage of a Cyber Monday 40% off coupon...and then couldn't use it. But the Groupon was quite a good deal, so it's all okay.

But here I am to write a completely unsolicited review comparing my experiences with the two products. Mostly because I can't quite decide which one I like better! Both really give me a wonderful finished piece.
Yael, enjoying a photobook
Shutterfly: I am very familiar with their software, which is all online. It's really an improvement over earlier iterations of the process, with their new Storyboard feature being one of the best parts. I've always been a tiny bit frustrated by some of the limitations of their layouts, but I always thought it was a small price to pay for the ease of use that their system offers. There are also limited backgrounds and font options, sizes, etc. Recently they introduced full-photo covers, which are gorgeous. Oddly enough, the backs of the books are less customizable than I'd like, but the fronts never seem to be a problem. The "title page" of each book is also set to a specific number of layouts, which seems a little strange to me. The spine of the book can now be printed with words, which is wonderful. Each book is now identified by its dates, and I love that. The paper weight is heavy, the print quality is great. Shutterfly allows for amazing stackable coupons, which is another benefit. I never pay for shipping, and I always wait until they are running some kind of sale. (Actually, I bought a Shutterfly Groupon once too!) Production and shipping usually seem to take quite some time - usually it's almost 2 weeks from the time I click "order" until I have the book in hand.

Picaboo: You have to use their downloadable software. This is good and bad - I can only work on my one computer, instead of wherever I have internet access (like my work computer, for example), but the stuff is locally saved, which is also nice. Their software took me a little while to get used to, but once I realized its potential, I was so excited for the unlimited customizable effects I could make. I could do almost anything I wanted with the photos. There's no formal way to "crop" a picture, but I figured out that I could zoom and move them to get what I wanted. Borders, no borders, shading, no shading, and more - there were seemingly unlimited options, as well as fonts and sizes of typeface. I could also rotate pictures and captions at any angle, which is really great. The covers, both front and back, were fully customizable as well, and so was the "title page." You can't add text to the spine of the book, which seemed like a huge negative to me, since I so recently acquired this feature in Shuttefly and I've become accustomed to it! I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to do it before realizing that it's just not possible. The most amazing thing? I ordered my book late Monday night and received it on Saturday. That was pretty remarkable. The book is really beautiful, even though I might have gone a little overboard in testing out all the backgrounds and fonts and things! I do think the paper weight from my Picaboo book is lighter than the Shutterfly book, even though my husband disagrees with me.

Bottom line? Both are great. Pricing is really similar, there are different options of book sizes and formats from one company to the other. It seems incredibly trivial, but the spine text is important to me and I can't quite decide if it outweighs the customizable layouts. I'll have to wait and see if I use one or the other more regularly, I have money left on my Groupon purchase on Picaboo, so my next book will probably come from them too.

Here's another comparison review of the two companies.

Do you make photobooks? Which service do you use? If not, how do you keep your family records? 

Full disclosure: I bought all my own photobooks, I didn't receive anything to write this review and I asn't asked to write it.


Dorothy said...

I've never used Picaboo, but I have used both Snapfish and Shutterfly for making photo books. I like them both well enough. I do wish they'd let you customize a bit more (both services have that problem). Snapfish only lets you use one coupon at a time which is a negative for me. So, overall, I think I like Shutterfly the best out of what I've used.

Dorothy said...

Oh and depending on what you're looking for, exactly, has neat photo books. You can include all the things you find on there as well and they offer quite a bit of customization and it's easy to use.

For my brother's 40th birthday, I made him a book documenting the family's history which included pictures of our grandparents, great uncles, parents, etc along with the census forms from both grandparents at different times, family trees, other documents and newspapers articles as well.

Granted, that's not the kind of thing you necessarily want for pictures of your kids plus it can get pricey, but it's another option if you're creating something for someone who might appreciate it. I didn't even know they did that until just before my brother's birthday, so the timing was perfect.

Batya said...

I've never done anything like it. It's tempting. How expensive is it?

Leora said...

I will probably continue to use Shutterfly. Batya, these books are well worth the approximate $30 one spends. There are often coupons and deals, if you watch your email from the companies.

Caroline said...

We're looking at the various options to make parent and grandparent albums after our wedding next year. Thanks for explaining these two options!

Amanda said...

Longtime reader, first time commenter :) I heard you speak at CBI last year.

I used to use Snapfish, but now I use Kodak Gallery for ALL my printing needs. When I was running a project at my non-profit Jewish agency, we used Kodak, Snapfish, and one other company that I can't remember to print the same prints and then compared them. Kodak won by a long shot although for single prints, it's only cheaper if you order more than a dozen or so. I like the books and somewhat flexible design interface which is all online (though it can be a bit wonky on slower computers/internet connects). I've not actually used the Shutterfly photobook tool, but I'm gonna look into it :)

Hasya Ya'ara said...

I just wanted to wish you a Happy Chanukah!

Hasya Ya'ara

Beth @ TheAngelForever said...

Hubby made my parents an amazing book using Winkflash from our Disney vacation. We loved it so much we got one for our house. We bought them when they were on sale and up to 100 pages for a set price. It was a very good deal. Hubby also did a Lulu photo book review. He liked the interface on that and more ability to play.

Yosefa said...

What is the average price of the two services you compared without a groupon? Where do you find coupons and groupons? I'm very behind in my scrapbooking. I really love it, but $30 for the whole think is much cheaper than photos and good quality scrapbooking suplies. They also look more durable than the scrapbooks I'm making. I think I will just do a scrapbook style baby book for my four year old son and then switch to photo books for my baby and the rest of our family albums. It just occured to me that I could always leave space in a photo book and use archival tape to add a lock of hair or ultrasound pictures.