|ProDPI Press Printed Book with Layflat Pages|
Basic InformationProDPI is another geared-to-professional photo lab (but they also accept orders from amateurs/non-professionals) that was on my radar for a while. They have great reviews online for their photo prints, but I couldn't find much about their photo books. They do not provide free software, which is why this has been the last company for me to try. I had hoped that in my search of photo book companies, that I would be able to make do with whatever was freely provided/available. As it turned out, most of the consumer level photo books were not to the quality I was hoping for, and once I received my Bay Photo BayBooks, I knew I had to go with a professional lab to get that quality. That said, my lackluster experience with Bay Photo had me coming back around to the idea of trying ProDPI, despite their lack of free software.
Around this time, I had been playing with a trial of Adobe Lightroom CC. Adobe offers a Photography Plan costing $10 per month (you can occasionally find subscriptions for $8 per month for the first year), which includes Lightroom and Photoshop. While I pretty much immediately fell in love with Lightroom (and was considering purchasing Lightroom 6, the latest/last? perpetual license version available), I hadn't found any need to use Photoshop. I decided to roll up my sleeves and try creating my photo book layouts from scratch in the Photoshop CC 30 day trial and submit the order to ProDPI for this review.
|Product||Press Printed Books|
|Size||10 x 8" horizontal|
|Actual Dimensions |
|27.1 x 21.0 cm|
(10 5/8 x 8 1/4 ")
|Actual Dimensions |
|25.3 x 20.3 cm|
|Cover Type||Pearl Photo Cover (upgrade)|
|Spine Printing?||Yes (text and image)|
|Type of Pages/Binding||Lay flat (flex-hinged)|
|Type of Paper||Layflat Semi-Gloss 110# cover weight (other paper options)|
|List Price |
|$157.80 (pricing info)|
|Shipping Cost||Free over $12 (shipping info)|
|Promotion Used||40% off Studio Sample (up to 3 per year, Jan through Oct only)|
|Total Price Paid |
|Cashback at time of order?||None|
|Date Shipped||3/11/2016 (FedEx Home Delivery)|
Software ReviewAs noted above, there is no free software. ProDPI recommends AlbumStomp and Fundy Designer for album creation, but those software programs cost ~$100-300. At this point, the $10/month annual subscription to Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop seemed doable, if I was going to get Lightroom anyways.
ProDPI provides the empty .PSD files with guidelines for press printed books here and tips on how to use them here. From there, you are on your own. Creating my own layouts in Photoshop was very time consuming, but once I got some templates done, it wasn't too horrible. To load pictures into a template, you generally use "clip to mask" in Photoshop (note: this setting does not exist in GIMP, a free Photoshop alternative). Once your page is done, you export to a jpg file, and then upload to ProDPI through their ROES ordering system.
One advantage of Photoshop is that you can do the layout and adjustments in one program (i.e., layout the photos and also erase blemishes without swapping between programs!) But make no mistake, DIYing your layouts is going to take a while. As an alternative, you can also purchase pre-made templates optimized for ProDPI (and other printers) on Etsy.
If I can find some online hosting, I will post my .psd templates here in the future.
Another note, I think if you had Adobe InDesign, it could be used as well as long as you exported the pages as JPG instead of PDF. I never considered this as an option, though, because the cost of an InDesign subscription is $20 a month.
|Very hefty cover (similar weight to Bay Photo), and I paid $5 upgrade for the metallic cover, which I love. If you read old reviews for AdoramaPix, you'll read that they used to print covers with a pearl/metallic paper as well - they no longer do.|
|The end sheets are a black paper, not unlike construction paper. This is not as nice as Bay Photo's end sheets.|
|When you submit your full page JPGs, the first page in the book is on the right side.|
|To do a two page spread like this, you need to design the layout in one file, and split the image into two (using the Half It Batch script provided by ProDPI; although I cannot find a live link to this anymore!)|
|I was nervous that I would screw up the full bleed pages, but they turned out perfectly!|
|The last printable page is on the left|
|End sheets and inside the back cover|
|View from bottom|
|Not sure if you can detect the metallic print quality of the cover. Suffice to say it is wonderful.|
|There is a ~5mm band of different texture on the pages near the center - same as the other flex hinge books I have. Only detectable at certain angles though.|
|The standard paper is a semi-gloss; here's a shot so you can see the sheen. I really like this paper.|
|And if you apply the Studio Sample 40% discount (up to 3 press printed books a year, ordered Jan to Oct only), you get this white sticker on the inside back cover. Well worth the 40% savings IMO!|
|You can kind of tell the metallic finish a bit on the back cover. Maybe not.|
Comparison to 4x6 PrintsI was so happy with this book, I did not bother printing 4x6s. I would hope that the ProDPI press printed book is close to their regular prints though!
MacrosHere is where you see that this is a press printed product after all. Half toning is visible in these macro shots, but overall, I think the print quality is very good for press print. I have no complaints about the print detail. I find it to look better than Blurb, Snapfish, and MyPublisher, but it looks about the same compared to Shutterfly, MILK, Photobook America or Bay Photo. Obviously not comparable to photo paper prints like AdoramaPix or ArtisanState/ZNO though!
|I did learn that my text subtitles were too small. I will try a larger font size next time.|
Binding ComparisonI thought I would compare the three flex-hinge books I have. This binding type is, as far as I can tell, proprietary to Flexbind, so there is not much variation there.
|You do see that the Bay Photo book has an extra paper wrapping around the spine with some extra glue|
Final ThoughtsI am really happy with my ProDPI photo book. The quality is fantastic, the customer service has been great (I had sent their customer service three separate questions, and I received prompt and polite responses from Vic on each question. The responses were also followed-up with customer service surveys to ensure that my request was properly addressed).
I am not completely satisfied with having to build my own layouts in Photoshop, as it's very time consuming compared to using the Taopix Designer software (used by Photobook America and Bay Photo) or AdoramaPix's online software, but I'm willing to spend more time to get these books the way I want them.
The base pricing is substantially higher than consumer level photo books, but the sample pricing (up to 3 per year, when ordered January through October) makes the price more palatable.
The standard layflat paper is a little thicker (110# cover) than Bay Photo's (80# cover), which is a downside for me personally. However, I asked Vic about the layflat lustre paper which is a more expensive paper, but even lighter than Bay Photo's at 70# cover. The texture is supposed to be smooth (i.e., not replicating a luster photo paper finish which I dislike), so I will be trying this paper the next time I create a photobook with ProDPI. I'll also probably try their non-layflat paper, as my 2015 was a pretty big year for photos, and it would exceed the 80 page maximum for layflat paper.
- Excellent build and print quality (colour and resolution)
- Sample pricing available with minimally intrusive "Sample" sticker
- Great customer service (prompt responses, free shipping over $12)
- Metallic cover option
- No free software to design photobook
- Black end sheets are not as nice as Bay Photo's
- Maximum page count is 80 pages for layflat, and 180 pages for non-layflat
I scoured the internet and found very few reviews on ProDPI's photobook products. Here's what I managed to find: