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Fish Out Those Old Snaps!
Member Name: Machair1
Advantages: Good quality and a guided building process.
Disadvantages: There are better companies out there.
When I first suggested this review to Dooyoo, several months ago, quite a long time elapsed until last week when I was given the go ahead to write about Snapfish Photo Books. However, just as I was about to submit the review I realised that they had listed the website itself, and not the photo books which are available to purchase. On contacting them they explained that they are happy for me to write about the photo books within the heading- Snapfish.co.uk, as they do not wish to allow individual items to be singled out and put under separate categories. So what follows is a review of the photo books available from the website at www.snapfish.co.uk as well as a brief look at the website itself.
I would also like to explain a little about the website itself as it is something I think a potential purchaser would find important, especially if they were new to the company. Snapfish are an on-line digital photo printing company based in San Francisco, and are a division of Hewlett-Packard. They have a web presence in many countries worldwide, and this review concerns the UK division. They specialise in not only printing photographs, but also in making gifts and items using digital images. These include mugs, prints on canvas, collage gifts and posters. The site also allows you to share and store photos for free, edit and improve your images, and use them to create mementos and gifts. Basic photos start at 9p each, and other services are equally good value.
The website runs quickly and is easy to navigate. Every service you require is easy to access, and there is a step by step guide to using the tools they provide. There are incentives to entice you, including free introductory photographs. Postage is very good value, and thecustomer service I have found to be excellent. The website offers secure payment facilities, and delivery is quick, furthermore items are carefully wrapped to reflect their sentimental and treasured contents.
I was first introduced to the concept of photo books by a very good friend of mine, who is a rather successful photographer with published work and an excellent reputation. One night we sat over wine and nibbles admiring her latest photographic book, which she had made following a recent holiday to The Outer Hebrides. I couldn't help but think how lovely it would be to create a book each time we went away, or celebrated a special milestone, and how organised it would be compared to the box of photographs and negatives both my mother and my late mother-in-law used to have instead. These unorganised boxes of unlabelled photographs, and spoilt negatives, to me seemed a wasted opportunity to capture a moment in time. Sadly now my mum has suffered a stroke she has little recognition of the people or the places contained within the mountains of smiling faces and unfamiliar scenes which lie in her dusty boxes. Albums are an alternative, but these can be bulky and often lead to storage of mountains of photographs, and with the advent of digital photography have now become less popular, as many of us store images on the computer. So what I decided to do several years ago was to make special books to mark special events, and in particular I chose the occasion when my daughters celebrated their 21st birthdays.
I have used Snapfish twice and the difference in quality over the three years I have been using them is immense. It isn't only myself that has noticed this. My photographic friend indeed verified that the way these books have improved over time is incredible. It is now possible to create a book which would not look out of place on a library shelf. It makes a wonderful gift, and if you have digital images is surprisingly easy to do. What follows is an account of the service offered by Snapfish. There are many other competitors out there, and I have used some of these, and they actually exceed the standard offered by Snapfish. However the quality of the book is still good, and I have been delighted with the standard of the finished work, and it is easy to do!
How To Get Started
The first thing to do is to visit the website at www.snapfish.co.uk and click on the link to photo books. If you have never used the site before then I would recommend going to a cash back site such as my favourite at www.topcashback.co.uk where new customers are entitled to £3.50 for their first order.
There are also often offers on the photo books so it is worth waiting for these as they offer exceptional value for money. They are offered in all ranges of sizes and colours, and the price reflects the product you choose to make. As a guide I would have paid around £20 for a book which was 11" by 8" and contained 20 pages, but with the offer I made use of it was less than £15.
To make the books for my daughters' 21st birthdays involved more work than if you were utilising digital images recently taken and stored on your computer. I wanted to make the life story of their childhood to age 21 in photographs, many of course which were not digital, so I had not only to spend hours collecting and choosing them, but then had the arduous task of scanning them in. The ones which had been taken in their later years were a doddle, as they were ready and waiting in my files so took no time at all to upload. The others - well let's just say patience was required!
The website helps you with whatever layout you would like for the book, by offering a free software programme. You can choose to have the photos covering the entire page, or you can leave a border and add words to enhance the photographs. You can put several onto one page, choose matching or co-ordinating borders, and your choice of cover can be a photograph itself producing a custom made hard cover or a basic hard cover with dust jacket. Even if you are not computer savvy you soon get the hang of it and just one word of advice - make sure you check the spelling very carefully of any text you have written, or it will be printed and mistakes can be costly and disappointing.
The book arrives within a few days and the quality of the paper and the images are good. Even though the first book I made three years ago was a success, the images and the general impression of the latest book is much improved. The ability to have a custom built cover is such as asset, as I used a photograph of my daughter in the Maldives which covered the book with a hint of what was inside. You can make a title for your book and in my case I opted to put this on the back, as I wanted the custom photograph to cover the entire frontage.
An excellent aspect of the site is that as you upload images to fill the book they will tell you if the image quality is not good enough. This happened to me quite a lot, as I was using very old baby photographs, which of course were not taken on a digital camera. On the whole I had to put several of these on a page as their quality prevented me from using them as an entire stand alone entry. This was an asset in one way as it afforded me the opportunity of adding text and making little comments about family times, which made the book so much more personal. However the later images I had taken were so much better quality and these were stunning when allowed to stand alone covering the entire page.
My Overall Impressions
I can't begin to tell you how much joy these books brought to my daughters as they were so surprised to receive them, and they were a portrait of their lives from the day I gave birth to them right through to their 21st birthdays. I still have many many photographs covering almost 30 years of family life, but these two books I made condensed their childhood, depicting their special moments, and cementing their years together in a logical and organised pattern. One of my daughters is a real nature lover, and I was able to piece together old photos of her on our allotment when she was a child, together with photographs of her at university where outside her study time she is now an organiser for wildlife and nature conservation. My other daughter, now a vet, enjoyed her book as it was a catalogue of all the animals we have loved over the years, with a bit of Bon Jovi thrown in for good measure, as she has been at more than her fair share of concerts over the years. From birthday parties to sunny holidays, and from hobbies to achievements they were all part of the books and it was a pleasure to make them. It was easier than I thought it would be, but very time consuming to get the order right. If you were planning to make a book like this I would set aside a few hours to ensure you had ample time to prepare it properly, though they do offer an express service where there is a basic layout and simple colours if you are short of time.
Having made several of these books now I have been pleased with the quality, but have now discovered a much better place if you want to make books, especially if landscape photography is your interest, and that is at Blurb.com. The work I have seen from this company is superb, and I shall certainly be using them next time, and hope to report on that in the near future as I have a project in mind. There are others too who produce professional standard books for not a considerable amount more than Snapfish, and I would certainly look around, as although I am pleased with the books I have made I am convinced that even better quality exists. I have seen some of the most recent work done by my friend who used Blurb and the books she has made are superb.
A great asset for me though with Snapfish is that I have a son who lives in America and they have a US site. This allows me to make custom gifts on-line which are then printed and sent to him directly, thus saving international postage rates. I did this at Christmas making a calendar which was first class.
In conclusion I would say that this company will make you a perfectly acceptable memento which is a coffee table standard. It delighted yes - but it is only when you see the work of another company along side it that you see just how good a photo book can get, which Snapfish falls short of at present. I believe they have improved and they offer a good product, but having put my toe into the water I am now becoming even more discerning, and am looking at alternatives as these books are family treasures, and from what I have seen of my friend's latest work can be professional standard for a modest outlay.
I have posted this review on Ciao with photographs of the books I made under my user name Violet1278.
Summary: A good but not excellent place to build a photo book.