- Various editing methods
- Theme variety for custom creations
- Mobile-friendly site and iPad app
- Rare cover options
- Timely production and shipping
- Overcomplicated editor interface
- Few photo adjustment options
- Limited theme variety for basic editing methods
When it comes to selecting an online photo book editor, typically two names come to mind: Mixbook and Shutterfly. Since its early days in 1999, Shutterfly has developed an impressive product range that includes photo cards, stationery, prints, calendars, gifts and photo books that can be customized to your liking. When it comes to photo books, Shutterfly provides full creative control: there are preset themes to choose from, as well as an interesting option to have Shutterfly make a book for you with a selected theme and your photos. If you choose to craft the photo book yourself then it can be created either with the software-like editor or the innovative Photo Story iPad app.
Shutterfly has a choice of over 200 themes, three types of paper, six sizes and six covers with a variety of complementary options. There’s the option to quickly create limited-sized books in the mobile version of Shutterfly, too, and once you are done with any creation it can be ordered for a good value price – and actually there are even various offers that allow you to save on that initial cost. The fact that all orders are produced and shipped within 10 business days only makes the service even more tempting.
Shutterfly Photo Book Tutorial
After your photos have been uploaded from your computer, Shutterfly storage or from social media and file sharing sites, you may well find that the online editor seems a little complicated at first.
Despite this, the software includes everything you might need, with choices to be made from the available layouts, backgrounds and embellishments to help make your book more unique. There is even the so-called Ideal Pages tab, which is basically a list of preset layouts with backgrounds that match the theme you have chosen.
But there’s no expectation to stick to the preset themes, since they can be changed at any time during the editing process, as can the size of the book and its cover as well. The two creation methods available – the somewhat limited Simple Path and the more bespoke Custom Path – are not restricted by your initial choice, either, and can also be changed at any point. Keep in mind that only the latter allows you to make more advanced adjustments, such as resizing and rotating your photos, adding more photo holders and even text boxes.
Aside from the 10-minute auto-save – which is a bit slow compared to competing editors – the only inconvenient aspect of the suite is adjusting your photos. In order to be able to move, resize or delete them – or anything else for that matter – the “Advanced editing” button first needs to be selected. Photos can have various, extra effects applied to them – like black and white, sepia, vintage or fade – and they can be rotated as well. However, note that all of these effects are available in the regular editing mode and some of them may seem a bit off when printed.
As an extra treat, the software promises to remove red eyes from photos that might need it. Mercifully there is also the added benefit of a low resolution warning, which will appear once the image is applied to the book if the quality of the image resolution is not high enough for the printing process – giving you the necessary heads-up to make a change.
Quite unique is the fact that there are two options to create a photo book from mobile devices. The first is by accessing Shutterfly from a mobile browser, and in this way it’s possible to choose books in three different sizes with two types of cover. Here your photos are auto-arranged into preset layouts with one photo per page, and unfortunately only slight modifications can be made.
To fully unlock Shutterfly’s true potential, get an iPad and download the Shutterfly Photo Story app, which is a much more capable and logical version of the online editor. Although customization of the pages is limited in some ways, there are still options to adjust the photos, add funny doodles and stickers, and have the project auto-saved after each modification.
The variety of Shutterfly's designs depends on your chosen method of photo book editing. The best option is the Custom Path with 249 different styles across several categories. However, no matter which theme you choose, it can be modified later from within the editor.
The other selection is called Simple Path. Choosing this method offers just 40 themes in which it is only possible to rearrange the photos, make very slight adjustments to any images and use the preset text boxes. However, if you are in a hurry and don’t want to spend too much time on the admittedly long-winded editing of the customized route, then this method ideal for you.
With the Make My Book feature there are only 26 themes. However, with this way all that is asked of you is to upload your photos and choose a theme, at which point Shutterfly will take care of the rest. While this time-saving option is quite unique, it does cost an additional $9.99 when ordering the book.
But no matter which method you choose, be careful, as not all themes are for free. Some will cost you an extra $5.99.
Shutterfly offers its customers six sizes in either square or landscape shapes, covering the dimensions 7×9, 8×8, 8×11, 10×10, 12×12 and 11×14. Thankfully almost all sizes can be paired with all cover types, with the only exceptions being the limitation of using only soft covers for the 7×9 size and that the 12×12 and 11×14 books, on the other hand, can only be ordered with hard covers.
Speaking of which, Shutterfly has a range of covers available, from basic soft covers to glossy or matte hard covers that can come with or without a dust jacket. There are even more interesting options like cloth, leather effect (available in two colors) or genuine leather, white linen, and ivory crushed silk.
The premium styles of the silk and genuine leather covers are the most luxurious options available for your book, which is further proven by the fact that these cover types are the only ones that can be ordered with the deluxe layflat pages.
Standard layflat pages can also be ordered with hard matte covers or the simple hard cover with dust jacket. Meanwhile all books can be purchased with standard or glossy pages, except for soft cover books, which can only be ordered with standard quality pages.
It’s hard not to notice the arrival of a Shutterfly photo book as the cardboard box bears the color and the logo of the company. After removing the clear wrapping that the photo book has for extra protection, you’ll immediately discover a top-quality product that appears exactly as you envisioned it in the photo book editor.
By default, both the cover and the pages are quite glossy, but interestingly fingerprints are less visible on the pages than they are on the cover. The pages themselves are quite rigid, which adds to the overall quality of the product but, at the same time, also makes it harder to keep the book open. As for the printing itself, there’s no denying Shutterfly’s quality on this front: beautiful, vibrant colors, flyleaves with a nice touch and no defects whatsoever.
There are two minor nuisances, though: for one, the barcode on the back cover is bigger than it appears in the editor, so that’s something to keep in mind when designing the book. The other problem is that the pages have a strong, unpleasant odor – probably due to the printing process or the glue – meaning that it’s recommended to leave the book open for a few days to make the smell disappear.
Shutterfly’s pricing policy doesn’t contain any big surprises. As expected, the smallest product is the cheapest at only $15.99, followed by the 8×8 soft cover book costing $19.99. The prices can range from anywhere between $20-$110, affected as much by the size of the book as the type of cover or paper quality used. For example, a hard cover 8×8 book is $29.99, while a 11×14 book with the same cover is $74.99.
When designed, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on complementary options. A matte hard cover is an extra $5, for example, while choosing linen or leather materials costs an additional $10. Even the style of the pages affects the cost, with layflat pages increasing the overall price by at least $35.
Adding extra pages on top of the default 20 – the minimum amount – adds between $0.65-$2.29 per page, up to 111 additional pages in total. Shipping prices start at $4.99, but choosing to buy two or more books entitles you to a discounted shipping price for each of the additional books after the initial one.
Like most photo editing companies, Shutterfly relies on temporary discounts and coupons and has few permanent promotions. However, the variety of offers is quite impressive: you can refer a friend, order free wedding invitation samples, claim Shutterfly’s gift for newcomers or even purchase gift cards.
Support & Shipping
The customer support of Shutterfly is versatile. The company’s personnel can be called or emailed, or alternatively answers to your questions can be found in the detailed knowledgebase where there is info on just about everything.
Tutorial videos help to explain the tools, searches can be applied to ensure only relevant products are shown, and Shutterfly’s community forums and its blog are on hand to provide further assistance if nothing else works.
When it comes to refunds you’ll be eligible if your book is damaged due to unforeseen circumstances, at which point a free replacement or refund can be issued. If, however, the mistake was your own, then you can claim back a refund of 50% of the original price as credit towards a replacement – which is quite a fair means of handling this.
Processing and shipping usually takes 3–10 business days, but the total time depends on the chosen shipping method. In that regard, customers can opt for the Economy, Standard, Expedited, and Rush shipping methods. There is also the Super Rush method, but certain products cannot be ordered with this shipping type. Thankfully international shipping is available, too; shipping to Canada costs between $6.99-$15.99, while the rest of the world must pay $13.99-$15.99.
Speaking of international shipping, we decided to put Shutterfly to the ultimate test and opted for delivering our test book to a European address. The production and delivery time for non-U.S. destinations is promised to be 9-17 business days (7-13 business days for Canada) – and, in that regard, Shutterfly didn’t disappoint us at all.
Our 8×8 book with a hard cover and standard pages was ready for shipping only three days after the order was placed, at which point it only took ten business days to arrive at the international destination. In simpler words, if the book is of a common format and type, the product should have no problems arriving within the promised period of time – if not earlier.
Even though Shutterfly has some impressive features, it is not picture-perfect. The online editor is a bit complicated, its auto-save is slow and it doesn’t provide too many adjustment options for your photos. The size/cover and the cover/paper pairings are not perfect, many themes can only be unlocked for an additional fee, and the pricing and shipping policy offers nothing to impress.
However, what makes Shutterfly so spectacular is its wide variety of photo book themes, advanced customization and quick photo book building as well. The fact that Shutterfly can create a photo book for you for free and your books can be covered in luxurious, rarer options like silk and cloth are much welcomed extra features. And thanks to the mobile-friendly site, the wonderful Photo Story iPad app, and the timely production and shipping time, creating a photo book with Shutterfly is bound to be a smooth and enjoyable experience.