Shutterfly Photo Book Review: Creative Software, But Book Quality is Uneven

Shutterfly is often the first name people think of when ordering photo prints and other products.  In our tests, its photo book software isn't the smoothest or easiest to use, but it has great content and functionality. Unfortunately, this year, we were disappointed in the quality of the photo reproduction in our test photo book. So, Shutterfly slipped down in our rankings of favorite photo-book services.

Specs

Import photos from: Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, SmugMug, Google Photos and your device
Templates & layouts: Large and attractive library, fully editable. Some premium charges.
Backgrounds: Searchable, large and attractive library. Some premium charges

Clip art: Searchable, large and attractive library, fully editable. Some premium charges
Text: Customizable

MORE: Best Services for Creating and Printing Photo Books

Creating Your Book: Very nice content and flexibility, confusing interface

Shutterfly's software is flexible and creative, but it has a cumbersome workflow. Its large and varied libraries of templates, layouts, backgrounds and clip art are attractive and fully editable, giving you control over the placement, size and rotation of images and other page elements.

The convenient search engine made it easy to zero in on the clip art and background we wanted out of the many available. However, we had to be careful when choosing content, because many of the most appealing options entail extra fees.

The interface divided editing commands between two modes: the main window and the Advanced Editing window.  Dragging and dropping photos and clip art onto pages worked well in either window. But clicking on a photo in the main window immediately opened the effects options. We had to go into Advanced Editing to reshape, move and resize photos, clip art and text. This was confusing and involved too many mouse clicks. In addition, it wasn't always easy to select or edit overlapping elements.

Shutterfly has no drop shadows and limited photo effects. On the other hand, the Idea Pages tab offers a large selection of designed pages featuring very attractive layouts of backgrounds, clip art, decorative type, and placeholders for text and photos.

MORE: Best Photo Cards

The Printed Book: Lovely book, disappointing photos

We were quite disappointed with the photo reproduction in our Shutterfly photo book.The cover picture was appealing, with nice saturation and good, lively color. But the interior photos were uneven in quality.

Some were OK, and midtone details tended to be OK to good. But many of the photos were drab and poorly exposed. In several, shadows lost all detail.

On the other hand, the physical book was lovely. The fine, textured endpapers were the nicest among all the books we created, including the Apple Photo book. The Shutterfly result had a good, secure binding, and the book had an overall nice feel.

MORE: Best Photo Calendar Printing Services

Price and Options

An 8 x 8-inch, 20-page, hardbound Shutterfly book cost $29.99, which is only a few dollars more than Apple Photo's 8 x 8-inch book ($24.99) and less than Mixbook's 8.5 x 8.5-inch book ($36.29). Shutterfly has a good selection of other hardbound-book sizes, ranging from 8 x 11 inches ($39.99) to 11 x 14 inches ($74.99). Softcover books start at $15.99 for a 7 x 9-inch book and go up to $29.99 for a 10 x 10-inch book. Other book options include lay-flat books and books with cloth, linen or leather covers and die-cut windows.

Shutterfly has an extensive selection of other photo products available, including cards and stationery, calendars, playing cards, Christmas tree ornaments, coffee mugs, jewelry, pillows and blankets, and prints and posters of all sizes and types.

Bottom Line

In past years, we have been impressed with Shutterfly's photo books. However, this year, we found the photo reproduction to be unsatisfactory. So, despite its flexible and creative software and the attractiveness of the physical book Shutterfly produces, we suggest you instead choose Mixbook, for its comprehensive and intuitive software, or Apple Photo.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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