Costco Photo Calendar Review: Inexpensive But Cheap

While Costco Photo was least expensive among the calendar-creation services we tested, its software was limited and the quality of the photos was uneven.

Our Verdict

While Costco Photo was least expensive among the calendar-creation services we tested, its software was limited and the quality of the photos was uneven.

For

  • Choice of Simple or Custom interfaces
  • Intelligent floating, tabbed Custom interface
  • Robust date editor for adding photos and text to calendar

Against

  • Small selection of uneditable templates and layouts
  • Few backgrounds for each template
  • No clip art, drop shadow or photo borders
  • Photo reproduction merely decent to unsatisfactory

Costco Photo's calendar software was unlike any of the others we reviewed. Its two interfaces — Simple Builder and Custom Builder — gave us the choice of how much (or how little) we wanted to be involved in personalizing our calendar. However, the Custom mode didn't have enough flexibility or functionality. In addition, the quality of our printed calendar was unsatisfactory.

Creating Your Calendar

Costco has a small selection of calendar templates, with a very limited selection of backgrounds and layouts associated with each. (The Custom Builder has a few more layouts than the Simple Builder, including ones with text blocks.)

We were unable zoom, resize, reshape, move or rotate any photo, or delete the placeholders. Nor could we drag and drop photos to add them to a page without using a layout's placeholder. In addition, Costco's calendar software had no clip art, drop shadows or photo borders.

Using the Simple Builder

The Simple Builder is even more limited than Walmart's software. After we chose our template and uploaded our photos, the Simple Builder auto-filled the calendar with our pictures, which we could easily replace with simple drag and drop. Though a photo-editing sidebar (with tools such as tints, flip, zoom and rotate) popped up whenever we clicked to select a placed photo, none of the tools were active or accessible. In addition, the Simple Builder had no text or photo tools.

The Custom Builder

The Custom Builder used a very different floating interface from the other photo sites we tested. Each month page and cover had its own tab, each of which featured a sidebar containing layouts, backgrounds and our photos. Each tab opened with basic instructions, but they were unnecessary, because everything was intelligently organized and easy to understand. Unfortunately, Custom Builder is a bit of a misnomer, because its functionality is limited. To a large extent, that was due to the templates and layouts being uneditable.

The only text tool was the one associated with text blocks that were integral to some of the layouts. Clicking on a text block opened a basic type-edit box, with options for font, size, color, alignment and spell check. Until we clicked on Apply, we had no way to judge if the size, color and font worked on the page. We also couldn't move or delete a text block.

MORE: Best Photo Calendar Printing Services

Unlike with the Simple Builder, when we clicked to select a placed photo in the Custom Builder, a Photo Tools bar popped up. With single clicks, we were able to rotate the picture within its placeholder, zoom in or out, flip it horizontally or vertically, or apply sepia or black-and-white filters.

Costco's Date Editor was the most robust interface for adding text and photos to the calendar grid, because it included not only a nice-size preview window but also a full Photo Tools bar and text editor.

The Printed Calendar

Our Costco calendar used a nice, smooth paper stock with a good weight. It was a bit heavier than Snapfish's stock, though not as heavy as what you get with Shutterfly, Apple and Mixbook.

Costco's photo reproduction was uneven and not well-balanced. Though brighter than Walmart's, the cover image was dark and dull, with jaundiced skin tones and no detail in the shadows. Some of the inside photos had decent to nice color, and most were very sharp without being oversharpened. But a number were dark, dull and unappealing. Some had blocky blacks with no detail; some had muddy colors, and a few were distorted as though they were stretched to fit non-original proportions.

Price & Options

Costco had the least expensive calendars among all that we tested. Our 11 x 8.5-inch Costco calendar cost $8.99. For that price, we could have picked it up at a Costco warehouse or paid shipping to have the calendar delivered to our home. (That's unlike Walmart, which charged us extra for the calendar — beyond the shipping charges — to have it sent to us).

MORE: Best Photo-Editing Software From Beginner to Pro

A 14 x 11.5-inch calendar cost $19.99, and a desktop calendar cost $18.99. We had the option to select the starting date from within a 12-month period starting with the current month.

Costco had a wide range of photo products, including books, postcards, mugs, throws, business cards, flyers, prints and posters.

Bottom Line

If cost is your primary concern, the Costco calendar would meet your needs, as it was the least expensive — half the price of our Apple calendar. However, you get what you pay for: The calendar was dull and uneven. For simplicity with quality, spend a little more for a larger, more attractive calendar from Apple. For full customization and a top-notch calendar of about the same size as the Costco product, use Shutterfly or Mixbook, both of which cost $24.99.

Specs

Import photos from: Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Google Photos, OneDrive, Gdrive, Dropbox and your device
Templates & layouts: Uneditable
Backgrounds: Very limited
Clip art: None
Text: Available in only some layouts and the date grid

Credit: Tom's Guide