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Navigating Shutterfly

My family recently had a reunion, and wanted to make an album from all of the pictures from various cameras.  We decided to use one of these online album generators that prints your album in book form.  We settled on Shutterfly because I had read good reviews and because we used them once before to print thank you cards with a wedding photo.

Tip #1 THE MOST IMPORTANT:  Do not crop your photos before uploading.  Shutterfly forces your photos to fit predefined templates in some irregular sizes.  It is best if you do your cropping in Shutterfly.  As far as I know, there is no way to plunk down photos on a page, freeform – you must choose one of their templates.  If you crop out unwanted stuff first, you may find that the template forces you to a size that crops out something important.

Tip #2:  Do your color/light balancing beforehand.  Brian owns Lightroom, which we found very handy for lightening pictures and doing minor white balancing and things.

Tip #3:  Use the storyboard.  The storyboard is there to let you group your photos.  We had photos from numerous days showing numerous activities that we wanted grouped together:  4 with a rocking horse, 3 carving a watermelon basket, 2 riding a train in a park, etc.  Shutterfly has options to take your storyboard and automatically make an album for you, but you can also go back and tinker with the pages individually and choose other layouts.

Tip #4:  For the most photos for one price, choose a photo cover option which lets you put photos on the front and back covers.  You can also choose to add extra pages.  We found that about 60 photos fit well in the 20 page book.

What I didn’t like:

We wanted 2-4 photos per page mostly, with very little text.  Maybe a few minor captions and mostly just lists of who is who in the photos.  Most of the options for 3+ photos use about 2/3 of the page, with a lot of extra room in the borders.  In my opinion, for this album, all that does is waste space.  You want your photos as big as you can get them on the page, especially for group shots.  It would be nice (although probably complicated) if it would allow you to resize things on the page and drag/create text boxes that can be moved.  This could save a lot of space.  I did not like being forced to use their templates, but in the end it all looks pretty good.

I found it hard to get an idea of the details of the book from the preview and editing screens.  We chose a drop shadow for the photos, but on the screen it’s impossible to see it.  The font sizes are also sort of arbitrarily limited by the size of the text box on the template, and it does not give you any guidelines for size, it’s just trial and error to see when you’ll go over the edge and choose a font that is too big.  There is a lot of empty space that could be filled by text on the spine as well as the pages, but there does not seem to be any way to do that using their templates.

If you are into the more “scrap-booky” look, they have a lot of backgrounds, text styles, and colors to choose from.  We kept it pretty simple, with a front and back cover that have the same bright, floral background, the rest of the book is neutral, and the title page tries to tie it all together.

Overall, my family seems very pleased with the album.  I have not seen it in person yet, but they were the ones I was worried about pleasing.

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