Many of us are now thinking about creating a calendar filled with the best pictures from this past year. It would certainly be a highly personal gift for friends and family, and one that they'll appreciate through all four seasons as they flip through the months and see new photos. But which service should you use to create and order your calendar?
Shutterfly calendarsBased on more than 40 hours of testing that included eight services, Shutterfly is our top pick for photo calendars this year, because its calendar had the best and most consistent photo reproduction of all the services we tested.
Apple Photo is our pick for the best value, because it produced a very attractive calendar for a reasonable price. Mixbook is also worth your consideration if you want the most flexibility and creative options.
Photo Calendar Services Ranked
1. Shutterfiy Review
2. (8/10 stars, Editors' Choice winner)
3. (9/10 stars, Editors' Choice winner) - (8/10 stars, Editors' Choice winner)
4. (7/10 stars)
5. (5/10 stars)
6. (5/10 stars)
7. (5/10 stars)
8. (3/10 stars)
How We Test and Rate Photo Calendar Services
In rating the calendar-creation software, we used the following criteria:
- Ease of use
- User interface & workflow
- Creative flexibility
- Quality of templates, clip art, layouts and backgrounds
When we had all our printed calendars, we gathered a jury of print and photography experts to rate them, based on the following criteria:
- Overall appeal and quality of the physical calendar
- Photo quality
- Color and skin tones
- Dynamic range and exposure
- Focus and clarity
- Balancing of the diverse pictures
To keep the jury's judging blind, each calendar was identified by a number rather than the company's name. However, some calendars had the vendors' names printed on the last page. So we discouraged the jury from looking on the back of the calendars until after the judging.
Since the pictures are the whole point behind creating and sharing calendars, we gave the greatest weight to photo quality. We also took into consideration the quality of the paper stock and the cost of the calendars.
Shutterfly creates a calendar that has very good photo quality. The color, exposure, dynamic range and clarity is very good, and did the best job in balancing our diverse collection of photos,
The overall quality of Shutterfly's printed calendar was extremely appealing, with a good weight, vellum-like paper, and a very nice level of customization. Shutterfly's calendar software, however, was occasionally nonintuitive, and its content and functionality wasn't quite as comprehensive as Mixbook's.
The price for an Apple Photo calendar isn't the lowest, but it is the best price for a very good quality calendar that you would be proud to give as a gift. Just keep in mind that Apple's calendar software doesn't allow nearly as much creative control as Mixbook or Shutterfly.
Mixbook's calendar software is the best of any we've tested. Its great flexibility, creativity, functionality and content are bundled in an intelligent, easy-to-use interface. However, while the printed calendar is generally good, its photos weren't as well-balanced as Shutterfly's.
Other Photo Book Services Tested
How We Test Photo Calendar Services
When creating a photo calendar, most people assemble a diverse collection of photographs, taken at different times of the year under a variety of lighting conditions and with various devices. This can be challenging to calendar printing services, requiring them to balance the different exposures and color temperatures so all the pictures will look good together.
To emulate this typical scenario, we assembled a wide range of photos of people with their pets from our friends and fans. The photos we collected were taken mostly by amateurs, though some were serious hobbyists and one was a professional. The devices they used to capture the photos ranged from phones and tablets to point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs. We didn't edit any of the pictures other than to crop a few to fit.
We then designed a 12-month calendar with these photos. To test how flexible and creative each service is, we included angled text, overlapping elements, and rotated and resized photos and chip art. When creating the calendar, we sought out the best templates, layouts, clip art, text and backgrounds each service offered. However, some interfaces were more difficult to navigate and had libraries that weren't searchable, which made it problematic to find the content we sought for our design.
Credit: Tom's Guide