A “free” photo book from Shutterfly

21Sep08

I didn’t take any photos this weekend at all. Instead, I spent many several hours working on my photos and grappling with the Shutterfly website to take advantage of a promotion they had where I can get a free 8″x8″ photo book with 20 pages for free. I’ve never done a photo book before so the “free” intrigued me.

First of, let me say that it’s a small book. 8×8 is pretty tiny. After all that, you essentially get a bunch of 4×6 prints binded together in a neat package. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice little neat package, but it’s small.

You’d think that finding 20 photos should be a breeze. It was. Picking only 20 photos was the hard part! In the end, I ended up with 27 photos, including two for the front and back covers. Here’s where they sting you. They know you can’t just pick 20, so they charge you US$1 for each additional page. Those schemers!

Beyond the photo selection, there are two other parts that consumes a lot of time. One is the layout. The darn thing is that they have specific photo formats, like 2×3, so if you have a panorama, or even the normal formatted photos from your run-of-the-mill dSLRs, you’ll invariably need to crop off part of the length! I spent considerable time experimenting with different layouts and reading the FAQs to find ways around it. After much wasted time, I spoke to one of their customer support people who confirmed it. Yes, I know what I did was bass-ackwards, but believe me that I don’t have a problem asking for directions, sometimes. The lady was gracious to a fault — “thank you for providing me with all the details”, “thank you for being so patient”, “thank you for an excellent idea to allow different formats”, “thank you for making the sun rise each morning”, but it drove me nuts. And I still needed to crop.

The other time sink is coming up with good captions. Man it’s not easy. I didn’t have to, but I wasn’t wasting my time and not getting it right, was I?

In the end, the “free” book cost me $5 for the extra pages, and $8 for shipping, for a total of about $13. There’s a 10-15% discount out there that reduced my expenses by a little, but it was still over $12. It’s not chump change, but I’m willing to indulge my curiosity to see how good it turns out.

The simulated book does look pretty cool though. Check these out:

Front cover of "free" photo book

Front cover of "free" photo book

Inside of photo book

Inside my photo book

I don’t know if it’ll work, but if you want to get your own free photo book, try this link. This was essentially what my email promotion finally linked me to on the Shutterfly site. Also, use the coupon codes “NMSA-SAVE” to save 10% or “VS09-VISA” to save 15% when paying with Visa at checkout.

I should get the book in a week or so; I’ll report back then on the quality and color accuracy.

Most other online photo printers also have photo books options, and some may even allow printing without cropping your images, so if my free book worked out nicely, I might check out one of the others in the future.

Cheers!

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4 Responses to “A “free” photo book from Shutterfly”

  1. Another website that offers services similar to http://www.shutterfly.com is http://www.gkvale.com .

  2. nice post, thanks

  3. I used blurb to publish my Bolivia book. Their proprietary software while constraining, can be worked around to come up with something pretty good.

    They offer sizes 7×7 8×10, 10×8 and 13×11. I was unhappy with the hardcover, it felt flimsy but i was thrilled with the soft cover whaich was great.

    Here’s a shamless plug to the book: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/346773/

    Ron

  4. Nice post – you’ve hit on several of the same challenges I’ve encountered when creating my own photo books. The other issue I was frustrated by was knowing which publisher to use. To help folks out, some buddies and I created a web site that allows you to compare publishers against each other and even estimate your final price based on page count. You can check it out at http://www.fotobookreview.com. We love feedback – please let us know if you find this tool useful!



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