Archive of ‘Crafts’ category

Holiday Cards Review – Amazon Prints vs. Shutterfly vs. Tiny Prints!

I managed to be on top of getting a family photo this year for our Christmas card and I’ve already ordered our Christmas cards for this year.  Woohoo!  There are so many amazing new options this year I couldn’t pick just one… so I ordered a bunch of different ones!  So that means friends and family… you may get a different card from one another! Haha!

Given that I ordered a bunch of cards, I thought I’d write a review on the various cards. I previously wrote a review comparing Shutterfly vs Tiny Prints cards.

Photo Card Comparison - Shutterfly vs. Tiny Prints vs. Amazon

Photo Card Comparison – Shutterfly vs. Tiny Prints vs. Amazon

Amazon Prints

Amazon is a new entrant to the custom photo printing business. New as in… just started last month! In my opinion, the software is still a bit clunky and the experience is not as easy as it was with Shutterfly and Tiny Prints, which makes sense since those companies have been doing this forever.

It took me a few tries to figure out how to get my photos uploaded and then imported to my card project. It turns out, you need to first upload the photos to Amazon Cloud Drive. I couldn’t find a way to upload the photos from the card project page.

Amazon cards are a true 5×7 card. While all 3 of the card companies advertise the cards being 5×7, only Amazon’s measured 5×7. Shutterfly and Tiny Prints had the same size, coming in at 4.875 x 6.75″. It isn’t a huge deal, but I thought I’d mention it.

Photo Card Size Comparison

Tiny Prints card on top, Amazon card on bottom

 

I couldn’t find any promos when I ordered, so I paid full price for my set of cards.  However, there is currently an offer for 50% off cards when you use the code HOLIDAYCARDS50. Cards are sold in sets of 25 and are 75 cents each, making the pack $18.75. Shipping is free which is such a relief! I honestly hate paying the inflated Shutterfly/Tiny Prints charges, so this makes me very happy. I was quoted 8-12 business days for the free shipping options (there are also expedited options, 4-6 business days for $13 or 5-7 business days for $7). I ordered late on October 27th, I got confirmation the order shipped 3 days later and they arrived on my doorstep via UPS Ground exactly 1 week from my order date. So they completely exceeded my expectations on the arrival date!

Pros: no company mark on the card, can resize photo boxes on back (what about front?), very affordable 75 cents per card

Cons: software is clunky, limited options for designs & embellishments, only a single paper option, no trim options (e.g. square corners only), promised shipping option was slow (but they exceeded expectations!)

Quality: I am really happy with the quality of the cards. The paper had a slight pearlescent sheen and was a thick quality card stock.  The only knock is a I really like a more textured paper, and they use a smooth card stock with no other options to choose from. Color rendition was very good as well. I felt that out of the 3 companies, the color rendition was my favorite.

Shutterfly

Shutterfly has been my go to company for holiday cards for a few years. Shutterfly offers the most flexible software for card creation. You can pick from dozens of designs, which themselves have lots of options for # of photos, text boxes, etc.

This year they’ve added a few new premium options for cards, including glitter and pop out cards. I ordered 2 cards for my review, a glitter card and a standard card to compare with and I am really impressed with the glitter card!  The glitter DOES NOT come off the card, meaning it isn’t messy and your friends won’t hate you for sending them a glitter card :-)

Shutterfly Glitter Holiday Photo Card Detail

Shutterfly Glitter Holiday Photo Card Detail

Pros: Over 800+ designs which means you are bound to find something that works for your photo, # of pictures, etc. Lots of sub options within most designs allowing you to choose between 1-3+ photos depending on what would work for your family and pictures! I also love that for some of the card designs, you can choose exactly how many cards you need — you don’t need to order in multiples of 5. However, not all of the cards allow you to do this.

Cons: Shutterfly always imprints their mark on the back of each photo with no way to get rid of it. Shipping is always a complaint of mine: both the cost and the amount of time it takes. This year, I ordered early, and it took 8 days from order date to receiving the cards.

Quality: Shutterfly has been consistently meeting my expectations for years now, which is why I keep ordering from them year after year. I am LOVING the glitter cards. I am really happy with the paper quality — it is a nice, textured card stock. The color rendition skews a little red, and between the 2 cards I ordered, isn’t quite the same.

Tiny Prints

Tiny Prints and Shutterfly are both owned by the same company, but Tiny Prints is the higher end offering from the company. I noticed that Tiny Prints also has some new premium card offerings this year. They are offering glitter cards, laser cut and custom foil embossing.

I just ordered a standard card to review this year. Cards must be ordered in multiples of 5, with 10 being the minimum order. I wish they allowed any quantity to be specified. On the other hand, there are tons of different trim options and paper options, and you can even choose square or rectangular shaped for almost every design. I love that you can really customize the card to your preferences!

Pros: Lots of gorgeous designs, particularly in the premium options. I am really tempted to order some glitter cards to see how they compare to the Shutterfly ones. Tons of options for trim and paper.

Cons: Tiny Prints imprints their mark on the back of the card, just like Shutterfly. Also like Shutterfly, their shipping costs and lead time are terrible. Shipping starts at $4.95 for standard cards, but shipping for premium cards is $8.95. This year, from order date until shipment, it took 2 days. The cards arrived via USPS 4 days later.

Quality: The paper quality is great. It feels like the same textured card stock that Shutterfly has been using. I wasn’t happy with the color rendition though. I see a grey cast on the photo making us all look a little pallid. While I am sure nobody will look that carefully at the photo, it is still disappointing since Tiny Prints brands themselves as a premium card company.

Hopefully this review helps you with your holiday card shopping! What company will you be using this year? 

Shutterfly Photo Book Reviews and Tips

I wanted to shift gears a little bit and do a post on photo books, even though they are only tangentially related to shopping.

In the past few years, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to be able to take 1 big vacation each year… and sometimes more than 1.  Among other places, we have been to England, Italy, France, Peru and India together!  We love traveling together and we always take lots of pictures to remember the amazing things we’ve seen and experienced.

Once I come home, I try to assemble a photo book in order to tell the story of our trip.

Over the years, I’ve created 15+ photo books for vacations, our wedding and for our baby’s birth.  I still have to do one of her first year!  That is a big project that I haven’t had a chance to tackle yet :-)

My Photobook Library

My Photobook Library – All but 2 are Shutterfly books

The company that I used for most of my photo books, is Shutterfly.  I love the finished product and their software is top notch.  There are several choices of sizes and cover materials but I usually stick with either the 8×8 size or 8×11 and hardcover.  I’ve also ordered a softcover book before, and recently got a 12×12 book as well.

Cover Choices and Quality

Shutterfly offers several choices for hard covers: glossy, matte, padded, cloth, leather and premium.  I’ve only ever ordered the glossy hard cover and the cloth hard cover.  They also offer a softcover matte book which I’ve also ordered in the past.  Hardcover glossy is their standard finish–hardcover matte is an additional $5.00.

Shutterfly Hardcover Photobook Glossy Cover

Shutterfly Hardcover Photobook Glossy Cover

The glossy cover has a full bleed (meaning, the photo reaches the edges and wraps around so that there is no border).  You can also choose to write something on the spine of the book and place photos on the back.  There are many design choices for the covers and you can choose any number of photos in the various templates.

Shutterfly Cloth Hard Cover Photobook

Shutterfly Cloth Hard Cover Photobook

The cloth hardcover book has a die cut window where a photo is displayed.  Keep in mind this is not a die cut into the first page of your book.  The photo is actually mounted between the cover and the endsheet.  You can see in the below photo.

Cloth Hardcover Window Photobook Interior

Cloth Hardcover Window Photobook Interior

Both styles of covers have a nice textured endsheet pasted between the cover and the first page of your book which is a bit glossier than this endsheet.  The backcover also features the same endsheet material.

Softcover books do not have any endsheet as they are bound a little differently.

Page and Photo Quality

Shutterfly only has 1 weight for pages, but they are nice and thick.  The pages are glossy and colors look vibrant on the page.  Photos have always printed out nice and clear in the book as long as the original image uploaded was of high enough quality.

Shutterfly Hardcover and Page weights

Photobook pages

Photobook Pages

Photobook Pages

A new offering is layflat pages.  I haven’t had the chance to order this type of book yet.  The photos above show the standard pages which do not layflat.  Layflat pages is available as a premium upsell when you order your book.  The additional cost for my book was $25.00.

Software and Design Choices

The design software is Shutterfly’s strongest suit.  There are 2 modes you can choose from: Custom Path and Simple Path.  I always choose custom since I want to be able to decide where my photos go and what the pages look like.  To be honest, I’ve never done Simple path — this is where Shutterfly lays out all your photos in the book for you.

In Custom Path, first choose a theme for your book such as “travel” or “baby” or “family fun”.  This will establish the look and feel for the design elements.  You can then storyboard your book, meaning decide how many & which photos you want on each page and the software will auto-layout the page.  There are many templates for each page, grouped by the # of photos each template supports.  For instance, if you wanted 2 photos on a page, there are templates for showing 1 dominant photo and 1 smaller one, or 2 square photos, or 1 horizontal and 1 vertical, etc.

At this point, I usually make sure I’m happy with the layout, background and any embellishments that Shutterfly has added for me such as borders, stickers and other design elements.

The software allows you complete control over the # of photos per page, where they are located, how big each photo is, where each text box is, how big the text is, etc.  It’s extremely flexible.

Shutterfly automatically inserts a logo on the last page of your book.  You don’t have any choice in the matter.  (It’s the same with all the Shutterfly cards as well).  It would be nice if you could opt out of the logo, but I think almost all photobook companies insert their logo somewhere in the book.

Shutterfly logo page

Shutterfly logo page

Shipping & Customer Service

The book comes packaged in a clear bag within a bright orange cardboard mailer which protects the book well.  I’ve never had any issues with dinged corners so far.  They typically include a coupon for your next order as well.

Shipping and customer service are probably where I’d like to see Shutterfly improve.  Shipping seems to be done through “UPS Mail Innovations” which is a UPS + USPS program.  UPS delivers to my local post office and USPS delivers “the last mile” to my house.  It is extremely, extremely slow.  Add to this that production of the book takes 2-3 days.  From time of order until time to receipt of the last book I made, it was 8 business days.  I’ve experienced up to 11 days in the past!  Yikes!

I sent mail to customer service a few years ago letting them know how I was dissatisfied with how slow the delivery was (and that it missed their promise date) and all I got was a form letter telling me where to find their shipping guidelines.  Nothing annoys me more than receiving a canned response that doesn’t even address my problem.  I hope that they have improved in this regard since that time, but I haven’t had any complaints since then.

Promotions and Pricing

Shutterfly always has a sale.  This both makes me very happy and infuriates me!  It seems like there are always promotions so you never should pay retail.  You can enter in all of the special codes to your heart’s content and it will apply the deals that work for the items in your cart.  You are generally able to stack 1 “dollar off code” (e.g. $10 off your purchase) with 1 “percent off” code (e.g. 30% off photo books).  The shipping coupon (usually free shipping with purchase of $30 or more) is calculated after all discounts have been taken.  There are often free items being offered, with just shipping being charged so when you’re making an order, it is worth checking to see what you can get for a nominal increase in shipping costs.

Conclusion

I’ve been a happy customer of Shutterfly for 5+ years now.  They have outlasted several competitors which they’ve acquired.  After trying other photobook companies, I think Shutterfly’s software makes it easy to create a book to your specifications while still keeping it easy to use.