Each Christmas I create a year-in-review photobook for my parents and my parents-in-law (and I keep one for myself too because I’m greedy). It serves as a sort of family yearbook, something we flip through and remember all the highlights and lovely little moments from the year before. Getting it in the mail is one of the best parts of my holiday season. Unfortunately, sitting down to create it is one of the most overwhelming parts of my holiday season. It’s not that I dislike choosing photos and arranging them into a cohesive story, it’s that I’m so set on making it look perfect that it takes for-freaking-ever to complete. Last year, Greg clocked the entire process at about 14 hours. No wonder I procrastinate like a high schooler with a wicked case of senioritis.
So when the folks at Shutterfly asked if I’d be interested in a free photo book in exchange for reviewing their new Make My Book service, I was like heck-to-the-yea! Make My Book allows you to submit a batch of photos, select a photobook style, and then let a Shutterfly designer take it from there. They arrange and curate your best shots to create a photo book that’s customized for your occasion. Basically, someone else does all the work. My dreams were coming true.
Here’s a look at the process (I took screen shots so you can see how simple it is):
- Start on the Shutterfly homepage. You’ll find the Make My Book option under the Photo Books tab.
- You’ll land here. This is a helpful overview of the process.
- First, choose your options.
- Second, select your photos.
- Third, finalize and submit any special requests or details. I made sure to tell them specific events that I wanted highlighted from our year. Franny’s baptism, Simeon’s birthday, our beach trips, etc.
- It takes about 3 business days to get the final proof of your book back. You can check the status while you wait (if you’re feeling antsy).
- You’ll receive an email confirmation when your Make My Book is complete. Here’s where to find it.
- Now it’s time to make any changes! Just like when you create your own photo book, you can edit by adding and removing photos or playing with embellishments and layouts. When I looked at my final book, there were some layouts I loved.
- And some layouts that didn’t flow so well and needed to be edited (like seriously why did they add a paw print and a lady bug to the baptism spread?).
- Finally, use the arrange tab change the page order according to your preferences or (as in my case) delete a bunch of pages because the book was super long.
- Click the order button, checkout, and you’re done!
Now for the nitty-gritty.
What I loved about Make My Book:
- It was SO easy! Seriously. It only took about 15 minutes to get my book request submitted.
- The design fee is $9.99 (worth it!) AND you only pay that fee when you order your book. Hate what the designer comes up with? You pay nothing. Risk free.
- Communication was helpful. I appreciated the emails letting me know the status and when the book was completed.
- Special requests were taken into consideration. I requested a baptism spread and a few other specifics. I also asked that the book be organized by seasons (and it was).
- Even though there were fewer choices than when you design your own book, the style options covered any occasion you might have.
- I can see this being great for specific occasions like a birthday memory book or baptism.
- The editing feature was really important. No designer can get your style just right so it’s great to be able to go in and tweak the final product.
What I didn’t quite love about Make My Book:
- I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to photo book design so there were a few creative choices that I didn’t like. Sometimes the embellishments didn’t seem to fit with the layout and theme. Other parts just weren’t to my taste. All these issues are things that you can fix during the editing process but that definitely creates more work on your end.
- My book was WAY too long and the “curate my photos” feature was only so so. A 75 page book is nuts so I had to do a lot of cutting to get it short enough to make sense. I think the issue is that I submitted too many photos. There is an 800 photo limit (I submitted 400) but I think this service works best if you keep the number of photos low (100 or less) and do the curating yourself. That way, your book doesn’t end up huge and ludicrously expensive.
- Without context, it’s hard for the designer to place photos in a way that makes sense every time. There were pictures from our January family photo shoot mixed in on the Christmas pages and photos of our Nashville trip mixed in with our Cleveland trip. There’s no way a designer could figure out what pic was take where so sometimes things got jumbled and that meant more editing time on my end. I really think this service works best for specific occasions (birthday parties, weddings, beach trips) rather than expecting a stranger to organize your entire year.
There were more loves than didn’t-quite-loves and I’m excited to get my final book in the mail. I’ve ordered Shutterfly photo books for many years (see the book I created to talk with Simeon about Spina Bifida HERE) so I trust the product and I know their customer service is phenomenal (tangent: a few years ago, my photo books never came in the mail– even though the tracking info said they had arrived. Shutterfly rushed me a whole new set of books, no questions asked and they arrived in time for Christmas!). I think I’ll use Make My Book in the future for specific occasions (although I’ll probably continue making Christmas year-in-review books myself, since obviously I’m a titch controlling). Franny’s first birthday is just around the corner (eek!) and Make My Book could really simplify my life in the creating-photo-memories department.
Only 15 days left til Christmas! Keep shopping, you merry little elves!
PS: Hardcover photo books are 50% off right now. Getcha some!
Anyone else do a year-in-review photo book at Christmas? Got any tips for simplifying the process? How do you keep your books from being 1,000 pages long because every photo taken of your children is precious moments perfect?