Mailbag: Get Caught Up With a Photobook Site?

Get Caught Up With Scrapbooking Using Photobook Site

One of my Power Scrapbooking – Get Caught Up, No Matter Your Scrapbooking Style readers knows how much I love creating my own pages using digital scrapbooking supplies and the program Photoshop Elements. However, she has a room full of photo boxes, a change in her family dynamics, and wants to get caught up.

So since we last talked about digital scrapbooking I have found out about several websites that make it pretty easy. They have templates where you can drop photos into it to make it go fast. So I am wondering what your latest preferences would be if you were starting where I am and wanted to accomplish years worth of scrapbooks in a short period of time? I just want it done!

I do want to be able to print books (I mean order them to be printed) and I want to be able to journal on them. 

Almost all of my pictures are in a hard drive and are already organized by time period and kid. Chatbooks won’t really work for me. I used Winkflash in the past but haven’t even looked at their site in a few years. I have not tried Shutterfly. I thought Smilebox looked good until I couldn’t find an option for printing physical books, only keeping them digital. It seems like they only print cards.

Anyway, if you could point me in some direction that would be great! I have practically a whole room in my house dedicated to storing boxes of photos for my whole family.

This is a great set of questions. I can completely relate to wanting to get the ball rolling. Do you also want to Get. It. Done. ? Here’s my short Answer.

Yes. Use a Photobook site to Make a Dent and Feel Early Success

Definitely go with the drag and drop option! The photo book companies, for the most part, have a great set of templates, decorate papers, and coordinating elements. You really can whip through a number of projects with a shorter learning curve that Photoshop Elements (PSE).

Companies to Avoid

Now, I’m not saying these companies do not offer a tangible benefit. For the specific purposes listed above, there are a few companies that are not going to accomplish the goals.

1. Chatbooks

For the reason Chatbooks are an advantage to the photo sharing crowd on social media is the same reason you may want to avoid this site.

For story tellers, these books are too small, have only one photo per page, and do not really create a story. Now, I would much rather see people create these books than take photos and never do anything with them. Addtionaly, I’d rather see a Chatbook than a ‘fancy’ photo book that uses great decorative elements but has little to no journaling. At least the Chatbooks can have captions under each photo.

The other problem is that these books are one size fits all… always 60 photos. You can not customize it. Let’s say you have 100 photos… you have to split things up. If you have 50 photos, you’re going to have blank pages. At $6 a book, maybe this doesn’t matter, but for your purpose, this probably isn’t going to help her achieve her goals.

2. Smilebox

Smilebox is not focused on creating photo books. I really had to dig deep to determine if the company offers this service. The website wanted to force me to download it’s software before telling me the sizes the company offered, the types of books, and so on. I even read a few company FAQs that seemed to indicate that anything over the 8×8 format should be avoided. In short, this is not the right company for someone who wants to print bound digital scrapbooks.

Companies to Investigate

Though I have two companies to avoid, I don’t have any specific company to recommend that fits everyone’s needs. I use Mixbook and PrestoPhoto for my digital scrapbooking needs, but that’s not to say they are the only companies that meet your needs.

Click photo to go to photobook wizard

Thankfully someone has created a service that investigates all the photobook companies for you! Photo Book Girl has a great Wizard where you answer a series of questions regarding your preferences for the final product (book size, cover type (hard vs soft, image wrap vs no image) and then returns a list of companies that meets those specifications. She also write reviews of the various companies. Love it!

1. Select the Company Based on Project Size

As loyal readers know, I prefer the 8.5 x 11 vertical photo book size. I wrote all about this in “Have You Noticed the Page Size?” The industry standard is 12 x 12.

Among the many reasons I dislike 12×12 photobooks are these: the over-sized book is too awkward for my children to handle and it doesn’t fit on any bookshelves I have. On the flip side, the other popular photo book size is the 8×8. The problem with this size is that it is too small for easy reading and enjoyment. Honestly, the 8.5×11 book is a standard format for notebooks, textbooks, and other similar projects for a reason. It’s the right size!

Despite the vertical, rather than the horizontal, 8.5 x 11 being the better size, few photo book companies off it. Thus, my options are extremely limited. But if you have difference preferences, you may have more options.

1. Select the Company Based on Ease of Their Design Program

After using the Photo Book Girl Wizard to see which companies offer the book size and options you want, then go test drive each companies photo book creator. Which ones are the easiest for you to create in as you are the one creating your books?

Some companies require that you download a program onto your computer to utilize this photo book creating service. Others have a web browser based program. Personally, I like the web based programs best.

Power Scrapbooking with Mixbook Project Design Wizard

Test out not only how easy each service is to drag and drop photos, but to also customize layout templates.

  • Can you easily swap out a photo for journaling or are you forced to have a full photo page with out text?
  •  Can you easily rotate a photo spot to accommodate a different orientation? Let’s say have 3 vertical and 4 horizontal photos but the layout for 7 photos has all vertical photo boxes. Can you rotate the boxes to horizontal or are you going to be forced to chop off something in your photos?
  • Can you mix and match decorate themes for your books? Some companies make you select a scrapbook theme to pre-load a scrapbook for you. Are you forced to stick with that theme or can you mix and match backgrounds and decorations?

Try out several different companies by creating a few ‘test’ pages. You don’t have to order anything while you learn.

While doing this experiment, determine if the website lets you delete your creations easily. Some websites force you to leave your projects on their site for at least a year, ‘just in case.’ I’m not comfortable doing that. When my product arrives, I want to delete my project from the company’s site. If I need to reorder, I’ll upload my images again. It’s a security thing I’m concerned about, but it might not bother you.

Find the company that you are most comfortable using so that when you’re ready to whip through your books, you’re ready to roll.

After a while, you may find that this is your preferred method of memory keeping. If you make a dent in your projects and find these services to be limiting, then you’re ready to go the customized page creation method as discussed in my book Power Scrapbooking – Get Caught Up, No Matter Your Scrapbooking Style

Power Scrapbooking
Power Scrapbooking –
Get Caught Up, No Matter Your Scrapbooking Style

is available as an eBook from Amazon. 

What additional power scrapbooking tips do you have for my reader? Share them below in the comments section.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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