Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Overview: Photobook Companies Roundup

It's been over 6 months since I began this photobook journey, and you would think that after creating 14 books, it would be clear which photo book company is the best. Surprisingly, it's not that simple. It really is true that most photobook companies have their own strengths and weaknesses. Which company you should choose depends highly on your preferences. I tried to summarize my experience with the following decision tree:

Click to enlarge

Companies I Tried

Here is a summary table with links to all my reviews:

CompanyProduct Tried
AdoramaPixHard Cover Photo Book, 8X12, Luster
Hard Cover Photo Book, 8X8, Fuji HD Glossy
Hard Cover Photo Book, 8X10, Fuji Deep Matte
Artisan State (ZNO)6x8 Layflat Book Hard Cover
Bay Photo8x8 Photo Hardcover with Lay-Flat Hinged pages
BlurbStandard Landscape 10x8 Imagewrap with Premium Lustre paper
MILK Books9.25x7.4 Medium Landscape Photo Books (Paper)
Mixbook11x8.5 Classic Landscape Premium Lay Flat Hardcover
MyPublisher11.25x8.75 Classic Hardcover with Photo Finish, Premium Paper, Lay Flat pages, Super Gloss printing
Photobook America8x8 Small Square Lay Flat Imagewrap Hardcover
11 x 8.5 Medium Landscape Imagewrap Hardcover
ProDPI10 x 8" horizontal Press Printed Book with Layflat Pages
Shutterfly8x8 Hard photo cover layflat pages, matte finish cover
Snapfish8x8 Premium Layflat Hardcover

Companies I Did Not Try

There are way more companies out there that I did not try. I thought it might be helpful to list out the other companies I researched, but ultimately did not try (with a short reason why I didn't try them).

  • Mpix (consumer arm of Millers/MPixpro): No imagewrap hardcover books available (image wrap only on softcovers and non-layflat books). No spine printing. Fixed layouts. 
  • Artifact Uprising: No imagewrap hardcover available. Spine printing is only available on the layflat book (with linen cover, max 70 pages/sides, and higher price). For regular non-layflat books, spine printing is only available on the dust jacket. If they were to produce image wrap covers, I would possibly try this company (although the online software is very limiting).  
  • Photobook Press: Online editor is same as Artifact Uprising, but with even more limited layout options (with no plans to add more). No reviews online, limited customization (paper types) and limited information about paper. Pricing is two tiered/confusing.
  • Black River Imaging: Editor software (Cascade) is not robust (no position coordinates or size dimensions). Flex-hinge book is more expensive than Bay Photo. 
  • MyPhotoCreations / BrideBox / DigiLabsPro: Flex-hinge (Ashbury) and seamless (Lake) options, as well as flush mount. Lake is only in square formats, but Ashbury is available in portrait and landscape formats. Free downloadable software is robust. Max pages for Ashbury is 60 pages/sides and for Lake 80 pages/sides. Not many choices provided in paper type, but Ashbury pages are coated (usually a surcharge at other companies). I may try this company in the future. 
  • Pinhole Press: Layflat pages only available in square format, and linen spine (not full image wrap cover, and no spine printing)
  • Picaboo: Poor online reviews for their flex-hinge layflat product. 
  • Artscow: Layflat books not available in larger landscape format.
  • RitzPix: Layflat books only available in landscape format (not square). Online only photo editor is not robust (no position coordinates or size dimensions, cannot copy paste objects). 
  • Costco: The only layflat option is 12x12. I believe Shutterfly produces these books. 
  • Presto Photo: Seamless layflat books are only available in 8x12 format; maximum page count of 30. 
  • HelloPics / Photo & Go: Layflat books only appear to be available in square formats. Only available in groups of 10's. Typos on website. Book editor does not appear to be robust. 
  • Photobucket Print Shop: Layflat books only available in square formats (no landscape format). Template layouts are fixed.
  • Winkflash: Layflat books are flex-hinged, not seamless. Only available in one landscape format (8.5x11).
  • MyPicTales: Few reviews and appears to use the same software as MyPhotoCreations. 
  • Smilebooks: Few reviews on this service since 2011. Some older reviews mention an unsightly barcode on back, and that pages must be added in groups of 8s. Real photo paper is used, so there is risk of photo paper sticking together. Not enough information provided on the website. 
  • HH Color Lab: Available to professional photographers only
  • WHCC: Pricing not available without account. Geared towards professionals, but I believe they are open to consumers. Does not appear to be a photo editor available. Studio sample is stamped into fly pages, 25% off, still more expensive than ProDPI. WHCC acquired ProDPI a few years ago.
  • Somerset: Offers both flex-hinge and flush mount, but only in squares. Higher base pricing (8x8 flex-hinge is $55 for 10 spreads, 8x8 album is $277). There appears to be a photo editor available. 
  • Asuka Book: Available to professional photographers only
  • Richard Photolab: Layflat books are flex-hinged, not seamless. Image wrap cover does not appear to be available. Ordering is through ROES.
  • Nations Photo Lab: Layflat books are flex-hinged, not seamless. Maximum page count in 30 (15 spreads). Software is not robust. 
  • Millers / MpixPro: Layflat books not available through Mpixpro anymore. Miller's Signature Books and Layflat Albums, but is only available to professional photographers. 
  • Clark Colorlabs: Layflat books do not appear to be available. 
  • Apple Photo Books: Layflat books do not appear to be available. 
  • Bookemon: Layflat books do not appear to be available. 
  • CVS: Layflat books do not appear to be available. 
  • Memento Press: Layflat books do not appear to be available. 
  • Chatbooks: Layflat books do not appear to be available. Layouts limited to 1 photo per page. 


Based on my personal preferences, the books I was most impressed with were:

  1. ProDPI: High quality cover and binding, flexible but sturdy pages, great quality press printed images, and excellent customer service. No free software, but sample pricing! 
  2. AdoramaPix: Fabulous print quality (though slightly darker than expected). Excellent build quality, although the double-thick pages are distractedly thick to me. Choice of photo paper finish and great customer service. Free software is more than adequate. 
  3. MILK Books: Love the quality of the book, layflat-ish binding (sewn signatures), paper quality, and colour reproduction. The free software is god awful. 

Out of these three, I will continue to order from ProDPI and AdoramaPix for different types of books. I plan to use ProDPI for my Year In Review and vacation photobooks, and AdoramaPix for gifts (on Fuji HD Glossy paper) or artsy projects (on Fuji Deep matte). While I liked my MILK book, the lack of spine labeling and full imagewrap cover (and terrible software experience) are enough to keep me away, but I do think they are really nice.

I hope my reviews have helped someone out there! I probably spent a lot more time and money on this hobby than I should have!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Photobook Review: ProDPI Press Printed Book with Layflat Pages

ProDPI Press Printed Book with Layflat Pages

Monday, April 18, 2016

Photobook Review: Bay Photo BayBooks

Bay Photo BayBooks 8x8

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Photobook Review: Photobook America (Non-Lay Flat)

Photobook America Medium Landscape, non-lay flat

Monday, March 28, 2016

Photobook Review: MILK Photo Book (Paper)

MILK Photo Book Paper - Medium Landscape

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Photobook Review: MyPublisher Lay-flat and Super Gloss Upgrades

MyPublisher Classic Hardcover with Layflat pages and Super Gloss printing

Monday, March 21, 2016

Photobook Review: Photobook America Lay Flat Photo Book

Photobook America Lay Flat Photo Book, 8x8

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Photobook Review: Shutterfly Premium (Layflat) Book

Shutterfly Premium Book, 8x8 hard photo cover matte finish

Friday, March 11, 2016

Photobook Review: AdoramaPix Fuji HD Glossy Paper

AdoramaPix 8x8, Fuji HD Glossy paper

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Photobook Review: AdoramaPix Fuji Deep Matte Paper

AdoramaPix 8x10 Landscape, Fuji Deep Matte paper

Monday, March 7, 2016

Photobook Review: AdoramaPix Lustre Paper

AdoramaPix 8x12 Landscape, Lustre paper

Monday, February 29, 2016

Photobook Review: AdoramaPix (Software and Paper Types)

AdoramaPix 8x12, 8x10 and 8x8 Photobooks

Background Information

I tried three different sizes and paper types from AdoramaPix, so will need to post my reviews separately (otherwise this post would be intolerably long).

For this first post, I will give my thoughts on AdoramaPix's online software for building photobooks, and some quick comparison pictures of my photobooks. I hope to post the individual photobook reviews soon.

Software Review

Here are some screenshots from my 8x8 book:

Software showing the cover. Images are on the left, and spreads/pages along the bottom.
Proper sorting options for your photos
You can reorder spreads easily, but not individual pages
Decent selection of fonts. I'm a big fan of this Carolyna Pro font! Note the spine here is shown wider than IRL
You can add or remove spreads, but only in even numbers. If you delete a spread, it will delete the one currently selected.
Quite a lot of premade layouts, but not many that suit my aesthetic. 
Trim area/guideline is shown in light grey all around the spread
There's also a handy mirror feature (compare to above)
My obligatory ridiculous sticker collage. I didn't use any stickers in my actual books, but if you are so inclined, you have ... options. 
One of the best features here that I didn't see anywhere else: when you select multiple objects, you can then easily center the GROUP of objects. This saved me a ton of time. 
And each object has a Properties box, so you can adjust the position coordinates or dimensions EASILY. 
Double click an image to pan/shift the image around in its container. Much better than some software which opens a separate dialog to do this. 
Another great feature is that you can copy objects, groups of objects, and entire spreads. 
Also adjustable gridlines are available. I didn't use them, since I specified dimensions and coordinates by pixel. 
The Preview mode hides the trimlines, but a warning message on the left shows which pages have images within the trim area. 
End pages cost $2, but if you opt into the logo, they are free. I just paid the $2. End pages are the same photo paper as the rest of the book. 
You can also easily adjust image opacity, but again, I didn't make use of this feature. 
You can select all elements (Shift+A yay for keyboard shortcuts) and clear the images...
to make your own template. Not quite the same as saving custom layouts, but pretty darn close. 


  • Size dimensions and position coordinates
  • Can select multiple objects to re-position (but not re-scale)
  • Live font preview
  • Can copy paste objects and spreads
  • Keyboard shortcuts for most operations
  • Sort photo options available


  • Cannot rearrange separate pages (only spreads)
  • No pre-set spread layouts 
  • Cannot save custom layouts (you must copy-paste spreads and clear photos)
  • Spine width is not representative of real printed book width 

Overall, the software for AdoramaPix is one of the more robust software I have tried, and for online-only software, it's easily the most flexible I have tried. No major complaints from me (for once!!)

Photoshop Guides

AdoramaPix also provides some Photoshop templates if you prefer to create your layout in Photoshop here.


Here are the three sizes I tried. 

Top: 8x12, Left: 8x10, Right: 8x8

Stacked on top of one another
Personally, I felt the 8x12 size to be a bit too long (but it does fit 3:2 full bleed pictures wonderfully). I prefer the 8x10 size for travel photo books and the 8x8 square for more casual projects (like year in review books). 

Although my Blurb book was also an 8x10 size, the actual measurements are a little different. The Blurb is a little taller and a little shorter, which gives it a more squat appearance. 

Paper Comparison

I ended up trying three papers with my three books: 
  • Lustre: the standard paper. No complaints about the detail or colour reproduction, but I found I do not like the slight pebbly texture of Lustre paper (not just AdoramaPix, but all Lustre finish)
  • Fuji Deep Matte: the most expensive paper they offer (and not available in certain smaller sizes). This feels wonderfully luxe, but I found it works better for landscapes than pictures of people. It looks great for full bleed prints, but less impressive on smaller pictures. 
  • Fuji HD Glossy (High Gloss): I generally dislike glossy finishes, but this one is actually very nice. The colours are super vivid, and the paper does not retain fingerprints like most glossy paper. It gives a more casual vibe, though. I think this is great for vacation prints. 
I would recommend the Deep Matte paper for more art-sy projects, and the HD Glossy for more casual prints. Lustre is also good, if you don't have a strange aversion to the texture! Close-ups of the paper will be in each of the individual reviews. 

Fuji Deep Matte, then Lustre, and then Fuji HD Glossy (High Gloss) 

More info on the paper types here.

You can also request a sample of the paper here (down at "Let us send you a sample", although it took almost 2 months for me to get the sample book, haha)

Paper Thickness

I briefly considered getting a caliper so I could provide some numbers, but they are surprisingly expensive, so you will have to settle for a non-scientific comparison! 

From thinnest to thickest (of the three I tried): Lustre, Fuji HD Glossy, Fuji Deep Matte. 

Top to bottom: Lustre (36 pages), Fuji Deep Matte (14 pages), Fuji HD Glossy (40 pages)

Left to right: Fuji HD Glossy, Fuji Deep Matte, Lustre

More detailed individual review posts to come!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Photobook Review: Snapfish Premier Layflat Hardcover

Snapfish Premier Layflat Hardcover Book

Monday, February 15, 2016

Photobook Review: Artisan State (ZNO) Layflat

Artisan State (ZNO) 6x8" Layflat Hardcover ($5 Trial size)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Photobook Review: Blurb Hardcover ImageWrap

Blurb Hardcover ImageWrap Standard Landscape