Here’s something new for The Nerge: a product review. I figured that other people could benefit from my nerdy research.

I’ve been meaning for several years to produce an annual book of a dozen or so of my best photographs of the year. I had been meaning to do this through iPhoto, but dummy (me) waited so long that I would have to buy a new version of iLife to create the book, and I am too cheap for that. So I prowled around online until I found too comparable services: Shutterfly and Snapfish.

With both of these sites, you create an account, upload photos to virtual albums, and arrange them in the book. With both you get a variety of layouts, colors, fonts, etc. to work with. So, there was no way to know which was the better product unless I ordered comparable books from both companies. Yes, I made two books with the same photographs and similar layouts to that I could objectively and empirically observe which was the superior book. You’re welcome.

I used Shuttefly first. I was dismayed to find that the layout choices weren’t very robust. With both these companies, the photo books are geared to folks with no design sense who want something bright and cheesin’. You have to spend some time finding the layout that will best display artistic photographs. Eventually, I found two on Shuttefly that weren’t vomity: a plain white or a plain black one.

The next limitation is that color also determines that layout of the photos. You do have very little choice as to how the photo is placed on the page. The white book would run the photos into the gutter (literally, the page gutter, where the pages meet the binder), which kinda sucked. But the black one left considerable space around the photos, so that they were reduced by about 20%.

And THEN, it turned out that the font is also predetermined by picking the color of the album. What the…? The white album had a pleasant serif font, while the black album meagerly offered some variation of Arial (much like the font you’re reading now. Good for websites, bad for photo albums).

In the end, I went with the white because a)I want my photos as large as possible and b)nice fonts are pretty.

Next, Snapfish.

Snapfish is way, way more accommodating. I could have an album with BOTH black AND white pages. I could choose from multiple photos layouts. I could have one photo or up to four on a page. I could choose from half a dozen fonts. Yep, I could go nuts with the thing. I did determine that ALL of the fonts were ugly, and that was sad. But I gleefully made a very satisfying layout. To top it off, the Snapfish book cost almost half of the Shutterfly book, AND they threw in 4″ x 6″ prints of the photos for 19 cents. Nice. AND, the Snapfish book arrived five days before the Shuttefly one, although I ordered them on the same day.

Now, you’re going to think I’m going to recommend Snapfish, but you are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Because when the books arrived, and K & I compared the photos in each book side by side, it was very clear that the Shuttefly prints were far better. They were crisper, had more details, better contrast, and better color. Basically, everything that makes a photo worth looking at. The Snapfish pictures were noticeably duller and fuzzier. And this, to me, is the bottom line: how the damn photo looks.

If you’re look to just make a cutesy book of your kids or pets or something, I’d go with the cheapy version at Snapfish. But if you are an artiste, comme moi, you will choose the superior product: Shuttefly.

And now, one of the photos:
blossoms.jpg

Comments

27 Responses to “Shutterfly vs. Snapfish photo books”

  1. Sara on January 29th, 2010 12:24 pm

    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting. I work for Snapfish and would love to get some more details. Obviously, we want to produce the best product. To do that, we need to hear things like what you posted above. But the next step is to pull your order and see where the quality problem lies. I would love to be able to get your order information so that we can look into the quality of the book you received and see where the problem is.

    Would you mind emailing me?

    Thank you,

    Sara Hawley
    Snapfish Support
    sara.hawley@hp.com

  2. the nerger on January 29th, 2010 3:00 pm

    Hi Sara,

    Wow! You read that post way faster than either of my two readers did. Thanks!

    I prefer to refrain from telling you the details of order and account, because if I did, I’d have reveal my top-secret identity.

    I don’t think there was a problem with my order, and I don’t think there any way to see the difference unless you literally look at the two books at the same time as we did. As I said in my review, I think Snapfish has a great interface, but from the results it looks like Shutterfly has a better printing process. You probably know more about the difference between their process and yours than I would.

    Thanks again,
    The Nerge

  3. Jaclyn on November 3rd, 2010 1:45 pm

    Thank you for your input. I usually use snapfish for my photos but obviously want the absolute best for our wedding album. I am also an avid photographer, just learning of course and really want crisp, clear picture quality.
    Thanks again!

  4. the nerger on November 3rd, 2010 1:47 pm

    Thanks, Jaclyn, I’m glad it was helpful.

  5. snaillady2 on December 6th, 2010 11:02 am

    Ironically, nearly 11 months later I had done a similar side by side comparison of Shutterfly and Snapfish for baby photo book. I much prefer Snapfish. The photos from Shutterfly were muddied in color, brights too bright (almost neon) and those with less contrast seem to run into each other. They also run into the gutter (as you noted) and the whole book just seems cheaper than Snapfish. I also HATE the fact that you cannot change the font size on books in Shutterfly–I have these wonderful captions but the fonts are in tiny 12-14 pt type in this huge space for text. I’ll continue to purchase through snapfish, even though I have far more coupons from Shutterfly.

  6. the nerger on December 6th, 2010 11:36 am

    That’s interesting that you had the completely opposite experience.

  7. Leah on December 19th, 2010 5:18 pm

    I was searching for reviews comparing Snapfish & Shutterfly, and came across your site. I already have made Shutterfly books, but not Snapfish.
    So, since you seem to like the quality of Shutterfly better I think I’ll stick with them.

    One thing though…
    I’m really curious about is your initial set-up of your Shutterfly book, I have different layouts, backgrounds, and fonts on almost every page of mine. There is a pane to the left with a multitude of choices for layouts, backgrounds and photo edges. For instance, if you want the photo to take up the whole page there are several options – one would be full-bleed, where it runs into the gutter, but they also have layouts with a margin on the right or left so that it would look full-bleed but not run into the gutter.
    Maybe you picked some ‘simple’ version? I use the ‘Custom Path’ and can completely customize everything.

  8. the nerger on December 22nd, 2010 9:39 am

    Hi Leah,

    I did choose one theme and one font and stuck with it. Since the book is about my photography, I prefer the book to be as inconspicuous as possible while still presenting the photos well. I know that when folks make books commemorating events and such, that like more font/bg choices. That being said, I did alternate between full bleeds and left and right margins, depending on what would work best for the layout. I did this book about a year ago, but I don’t remember it being too difficult to choose different margins. I hope that helps!

    The Nerger

  9. Chris on December 30th, 2010 7:59 pm

    We ordered a book from Snapfish last year and were pleased with the results. We ordered two more a few weeks ago and the photos were much duller and fuzzier than the originals, similar to what you experienced. Snapfish refunded our money, but didn’t have any explanation as to why the drop in picture quality. We’re hesitant to order from them again and were looking to see what other people’s experiences were, which is how I found this review.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Have you tried any other photo book publishers since then? Any recommendations?

  10. the nerger on December 31st, 2010 12:23 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing. I haven’t used anyone else since then since this review other than Shutterfly. However, it turns out my local independent photo shop (http://www.montclairphoto.com/photobooks.html)also makes books, so I’m planning on trying them next as I prefer to shop locally when possible.

    The Nerger

  11. Trisha on January 5th, 2011 7:46 pm

    My first photo book I put together in Lifepic. I used their ‘scrapbook’ theme. It took me a while…being my first book…and wasn’t totally pleased with the quality of the pics themselves but not totally disappointed either. Since I have done two plus a calendar in Shutterfly and was curious about Snapfish. Shutterfly was less expensive than Lifepic which is why I have stayed with them. But…I was shopping around this weekend and am going to try MPix but it looks as if they might be less expensive than Shutterfly but I don’t know what their layout/interface is like so we’ll see.

  12. the nerger on January 5th, 2011 8:01 pm

    Trish,

    Thanks for all that info! Write back after you try MPix and tell us what you think of it.

    The Nerger

  13. jane on January 9th, 2011 7:38 pm

    I use both sites a lot to order whatever is discounted. And I have to say that I prefer Shutterfly a tad more due to more choices and better quality for the low priced promotion. There are options for larger fonts, and custome layouts as well as simple pre-made layouts for quick projects.
    Snapfish does have video upload for sharing, and Shutterfly doesn’t yet. Shutterfly has way more choices in boarders and an easy to use photo studio for effects and collage making (must download)

    Jane
    1/2011

  14. the nerger on January 9th, 2011 9:08 pm

    Thanks, Jane, for weighing in with your experiences!

  15. John on March 7th, 2011 9:34 pm

    Shutterfly has much better prints as well as customer service

  16. Ellie on June 21st, 2011 10:13 am

    I have used Shutterfly for years. I recently ordered some prints from Snapfish. The quality was very good. One small disappointment…Shutterfly offers the ability to “caption” each print during the ordering process. I can list who is in the photo/when it was taken. This appears on the back of each print when I receive my order. I just slip them into albums. Done! I contacted Snapfish’s LiveChat,. The rep told me that they do not offer anything like this. They put just the order number/date on every print.

  17. the nerger on June 22nd, 2011 6:51 am

    Ellie,

    Thanks for your input!

    The Nerge

  18. Dude on July 6th, 2011 10:23 pm

    This is great info, I want to make sure I use a good service and not have to make two accounts and compare for myself. If you ever write another article, please consider comparing the online photo storage capabilities (pros and cons) of Snapfish and Shutterfly. I read that Snapfish requires at least an annual purchase to keep the account active, and I wonder if Shutterfly has a similar requirement. That would stink to lose all you uploaded photos if you forgot to buy something!

  19. Heidi on December 22nd, 2011 10:16 pm

    I suppose I’m a bit late on this, but just wanted to give you some info after the Horrible experience that I had with Snapfish a few hours ago.. Shutterfly has an all new custom photo book maker. There are literally hundreds of layouts and fonts and embellishments, yet it’s still very simple. You should do another comparison on their new interface for sure!

  20. the nerger on December 26th, 2011 6:39 pm

    Hi Heidi,

    Thanks for pitching in on the ongoing debate. One of these days (soon I hope) I’d like to do another comparison, as well as offering my local photo shop’s services into the mix.

    The Nerge

  21. T on February 15th, 2012 11:17 am

    I had the same experience with books I created with scanned Christmas pictures. The first books I printed from Shutterfly and the next year I printed a couple more albums using Snapfish. They were all older pictures that I had scanned, but Snapfish came out very fuzzy and undefined in quality. That is why I was researching this some more before I print any more books.

  22. the nerger on February 15th, 2012 12:58 pm

    hey T, thanks for your input.

    The Nerge

  23. Rachel on August 17th, 2012 2:37 pm

    I have to admit, I appreciate this compare and contrast. I’ve only ever used snapfish and just thought I should add in my experience to take into consideration. I recently made a purchase of over 400 photos. I noticed.. different photos had different quality. It seemed strange to me until I looked at the back and noticed they were all on different photo paper. Most of the time, I NEVER have a problem with their quality.. but on certain papers the colors went muddy and clarity suffered greatly. I bought these photos on a sale so I figured they used all discounted papers to make the sales. I’ve since made other purchases that are the good quality I’m used to seeing.

  24. Romina on September 18th, 2012 9:42 pm

    Hi, I want to know your opinion about Mixbook???

    Thanks,
    Romina

  25. rb on January 23rd, 2013 5:57 am

    I have used shutterfly, snapfish, my publisher and picaboo. Picaboo is by far the best. They have hundreds of backgrounds that can be mixed, many fonts and sizes, layouts, etc-real creative ability if you choose. They also have pre-designed pages if you want a quick book. The quality of the pages were excellent-almost as good as the real pic! I love the lay-flat pages. Once you order one, you won’t want to try anything else. The problem-they are more expensive. I make a book and wait for a BIGIF book offer which usually does come every few months. Then I use one as a gift. They also have decent sales.

    My publisher had good quality pictures and lots of options as well. They were cheaper. The pages were just simpler and they didn’t have as much creative ability as picaboo.

    I’m currently looking to make a disney photobook with some cute disney pages that are not all one theme. Any ideas. Someone stated to use creative memories digital software and then to download the book. The problem-I have a mac and they don’t seem compatible. Any more ideas, Thanks.

  26. the nerger on January 23rd, 2013 8:23 am

    Thanks for all that info, that’s really helpful. I did try making a book recently through iPhoto and was happy with the results. You mentioned that Picabo has lay-flat pages — that sounds like something I’d like to check out, as my biggest complaint with all these books is a portion of the photo ends up in the gutter.

  27. Teresa on November 9th, 2014 8:34 am

    I am thoroughly disgusted with snapfish. I was purchasing a flat book and a pop up informed me it was not available in that form. I go back to my project page and the book is gone. Snapfish live chat says ‘sorry, do the book again” I go to do a book again and they are offering flat book, which I was advised was not available. This gets better. I was advised by ‘live chat’ to call the 800 number which says is available on the weekend. I called and the recording says they are closed.

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