project life: where should you print your photo book?

I have been printing my family’s Project Life albums through Blurb for 6 years (I’ve printed 6 family yearbooks + 2 baby books with Blurb) and, through it all, I’ve never had an issue.  But when Becky Higgins launched the new photobook functionality within the app last year, I became curious.  I knew the ordering process would be easier, and the layflat would be a fun touch, but I wasn’t sure if it was worth the higher price tag.  I wanted to give it a spin and compare everything before making the switch.  Then, I figured, I might as well give allllll the photo book companies I’d seen recommended for Project Life albums a shot… to be really thorough (or maybe I’m just crazy).

I ordered seven copies of my 2017 Family Yearbook and was really surprised by what I found.  I realize everyone has their own personal priorities when it comes to their family’s album- some people prioritize price, others photo quality, others have strong opinions on book size or page count.  So I’m laying it ALL out in this post so that you can make the best decision for YOU!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Project Life: Photo Book Company Comparisons

Here are the books I ordered:  Adoramapix, Blurb, Blurb Layflat, Costco Premium Layflat, Mixbook, Project Life App Hardcover, and Shutterfly Deluxe Layflat.  Let’s break each one down (in alphabetical order):

Adoramapix

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

This was my first experience with Adoramapix and I was thoroughly impressed.  It’s a beautifully constructed book with excellent photo quality.  I was surprised that I could get this type of photo book for the same price I typically pay for my Blurb book each year.  It definitely has a more ‘specialty’ feel.  My only complaint is that I prefer a small border around my pages and this is difficult to add during the design process (I was able to do it quickly in Photoshop with a batch action though- took 30 seconds to do all the pages).  Also, the page count max of 100 was not an issue for me this year because my finished book was 74 pages, but in years past I’ve done weekly spreads which would end in a 104 page book.  If you have fewer than 100 pages, I absolutely recommend this book.  It’s beautiful!

Blurb Book with Upgraded Proline Pearl Photo Paper

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

The Blurb Book.  My tried-and-true friend.  This is the book I’ve ordered for years and I still love it oh-so-much.  This year I switched from the Proline Uncoated Paper (like a thick cardstock) to the Proline Pearl Photo Paper and I LOVE IT SO MUCH!  The print quality has been consistently strong each year too.  Blurb offers sales every month so if you wait for a 30-40% off sale, this book is an amazing value.  The only drawback would be there’s no 10×10 offering (I know many people prefer this size and I totally get it), plus it’s not layflat (more on Blurb’s layflat option coming next).

Blurb Layflat

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

I was really excited when Blurb announced a few months ago that they were offering a Layflat book that held up to 100 pages, but when I started designing my book and realized there is only one paper option (called “Layflat”), I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ll be honest- this book was a disappointment.  It’s very different than the Blurb book (with Proline paper) that I’ve ordered year-after-year and love dearly.  The photo quality was not great.  Side-by-side the Blurb Layflat album had the worst photo quality of the 7 books- it was washed out and grainy.  I do not think this book is worth the extra price.

Costco Premium Layflat

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

I’ll admit I had low expectations for this book, but after Costco pleasantly surprised me on my print quality test, I figured it was worth a shot!  The benefit of this book is definitely the price- it’s the least expensive option I found.  However, I really didn’t like the high-gloss pages (matte isn’t an option) because they’re really different than my other books and they show lots of fingerprints (you can see them on the cover above).  The print quality was better than I anticipated though so if you’re ok with glossy pages and on a tight budget, this is a great option for you.

Mixbook

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Let me say… Mixbook has been recommended by SO many people and I really wanted to love this book!  But, ultimately, it’s not my style.  It’s really bulky (like double or triple the thickness of the rest of the books) and through this process I’ve realized I appreciate a slim book that fits well with the others on my shelf.  More importantly, the photo quality was off.  My photos appeared overly sharpened so they looked grainy on every page.  Also, I didn’t like the texture of this particular matte cover.  I do love matte, but this one really shows scuffs and fingerprints (you can see them in the photo above even after I tried to wipe them away).  Finally, this is super minor, but there’s no option to move the text on the spine- it must be centered- so it won’t match my other books.  They offer 50% off your first order so you may want to try it and decide for yourself (I’ve heard the non-layflat books are better print quality!), but ultimately this is not my style.

Project Life App Hardcover

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Full disclosure:  Becky was kind enough to let me test-drive this photo book functionality FOR FREE.  Here are my honest thoughts on the Project Life App Hardcover Book:  This book is LOVELY.  Excellent quality, a beautiful slim design, and paper very similar to the Proline Pearl Paper I loved from Blurb only it’s LAYFLAT!  Not to mention the ordering process was BY FAR the easiest of all seven books.  I know many people have been deterred by the price tag of this book, but if you look at the non-sale prices of all seven books I’ve shared- it’s pretty in-line with the competition.  In fact, it’s not even the most expensive! (Mixbook and Shutterfly Deluxe were more expensive.  Shutterfly’s price in particular SHOCKED me!)  I know the other companies all offer frequent discount codes or sales, which can make them more affordable, but consider the ease of ordering… putting a $$ value on your time saved will likely make up the difference in price.  The only drawback for me with this book is the 60 page maximum.  As I said my family yearbook was 74 pages and I don’t want to split into two books for each year.

Shutterfly Deluxe Layflat + Matte Cover Upgrade

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

Last (and also kind-of least), the Shutterfly Deluxe Layflat book.  I’ve never been a big fan of Shutterfly’s books (I really struggle with their design interface) but many Project Lifers asked me to throw this comparison into the mix and honestly I was curious about the Deluxe + Layflat offerings, as I’ve previously only ordered their Standard Photo Books.  I will say, I really liked the Matte Cover upgrade- totally worth the extra couple dollars.  I also think the quality of this book was great and the photo quality in particular really exceeded my expectations.  But for the price, there are absolutely better options.  Even with a 50% off coupon, this was going to be $180 for me to order my full 74 page album (I ordered a 20 page book instead for $80 just to test it out).  My frustration with the design process is evident in the fact that this book took me the longest to order and still the page borders didn’t match my design (that I manually applied to each page) AND I received a white spine even though I designed a black one.  Thankfully Shutterfly fully refunded my purchase.

side-by-side photo quality comparison

I know it’s so hard to compare the quality of a photo book without holding it IN your hands.  I did my best to try to compare the photo quality, specifically, across the seven books in these photos.  These were all taken with the same camera settings, in the same lighting.  If it matters, the photo of my daughter pouting was taken with my iPhone (I picked an iPhone photo versus a professional photo because most of the photos in my Project Life albums- and probably yours as well- are taken with my phone).

Here are my thoughts:  Adoramapix and Blurb are the most true to the photo.  Project Life Hardcover is also very sharp and vibrant, but a touch darker than the original.  I’d put Shutterfly and Costco in the middle of the pack (though Costco has good color, the photo seems a tad soft).  Mixbook and Blurb Layflat are at the bottom of the pack- Mixbook looks grainy and Blurb Layflat is washed out.

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

my final recommendations

I know each person has their own individual agenda when it comes to printing their photo books, so I don’t have a one-company-fits-all recommendation to share.  Instead, here are my favorites and how they correspond with various decision-making factors.

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

If PRICE is your priority: Blurb with Upgraded Proline Pearl Paper (but wait for a sale)!

If CONVENIENCE or EASE OF ORDERING is your priority:  Project Life Hardcover.  No question.

If QUALITY is your priority: Adoramapix (for more of a specialty album feel).

If PAGE COUNT is your priority:  Blurb with Upgraded Proline Pearl Paper.

BEST OVERALL VALUE:  Blurb with Upgraded Proline Pearl Paper.  Because I can’t fit my full year in the Project Life Hardcover, I will be continuing to use Blurb for my family albums (plus it’s hard to change your ways after 7 years).


Disclaimer:  If you decide to purchase your book from one of the companies I reviewed today, I’d love it if you would use the links within this blog post to visit their websites.  If you click one of my affiliate links, I will make a small commission from your purchase which will help cover my costs for all these sample albums.  I hope you found my reviews helpful and really appreciate your support!

Not sure where to print your finished Project Life book? Check out this photo book company comparison with thorough reviews of SEVEN different photo books to help make the best decision!

37 comments
  • Katie

    Great post! I usually order my PL album from blurb, and was planning to use their layflat option this year. Perfect timing for this post, based on your reviews I think I’m going to give Adoramapix a shot. I love the idea of supporting Becky Higgins (what a great company) but I need more pages. Bottom line, quality is the most important thing to me. Thank you for you effort, time, and $ to investigate all of these options.  ReplyCancel

    • Glad you saw this before you ordered the Blurb Layflat- I think you’d have been disappointed! I hope you’ll love Adoramapix (I think you will)!ReplyCancel

  • Amy

    Thanks for this extensive comparison!! I’ve been following along on IG too. Project Life looks good and I’d love to order from them, but their price is so over-the-top compared to others. I know you said it compares to others’ full prices, but it’s like Kohl’s or a hotel – no one pays full price! I know PL is offering a 15% off sale, but with their photos appearing darker (as noted above), it still may not be worth it. I recently ordered a large deluxe Snapfish book and was pleasantly surprised with the results. I may try the same book with Adorama or Blurb to compare though also.Any ideas on why PL offers such limited pages? Most scrapbookers doing a “year-in-review” style are going to have more than 60 pages. ReplyCancel

    • Haha, yes, I always wait for a sale or a coupon code for my photo books… no matter where I’m ordering. I know PL is limited on pages because that’s the max their printer (they use WHCC) can do in a lay flat style. I agree that I wish it held more!ReplyCancel

  • Katy

    Love this comparison! I’ve always liked my past Mixbook albums, but then again, they weren’t layflat and as you saw with blurb, apparently the difference between those two kinds of printing, even from the same company, makes a difference. I think I’ll love ordering Project Life softcover books for gifts and whatnot, but I so want to fit the whole year in one book. I’ve never purchased layflat for some reason and I find it super interesting that after all these tests you are still sticking with your standard, non-layflat book. That new paper must have been seriously impressive:) (but I need the 10×10, darn!) I think if Project Life offered standard pages (non-layflat) with the same quality paper in a hardcover so I could fit a year in one album, that would be my first choice. Thanks for the great homework you did! ReplyCancel

    • That’s so interesting! I wonder if the quality varies drastically between regular and layflat with Mixbook too. And yes, I am sticking with non-layflat because it’s fun, but not a must-have for me.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy

    Great post – thanks for sharing.  Regarding the comment on Adoramapix “I prefer a small border around my pages and this is difficult to add during the design process (I was able to do it quickly in Photoshop with a batch action though- took 30 seconds to do all the pages”  Is this batch process also possible in photoshop elements?  If so, would you share your workflow for that?  Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • I’m not sure if it’ll work in Elements or not- I have Photoshop CC- but I will pull together a tutorial and create a download for a free action! Hopefully it’ll be a blog post sometime next month.ReplyCancel

  • Amber Swift

    I’ve printed with Shutterfly before and vow to never go back. Their quality was always a disappointment, even if they do offer good sales. I printed through Stampin’ Up! for years when they had their MDS program, but when that went away I struggled with who to print with. Finally after reading many reviews I gave Adoramapix a try- wholly guacamole! ❤️❤️❤️! It is pricier than other options out there but I will never go back. Love the look and feel and quality of this book. And 10×10 was just the perfect size.
    Side note: the page count doesn’t bother me because I don’t do yearly photobooks- more of a trip or vacation album girl. For my yearly book I couldn’t decide what to do and the pages piled up unprinted until BH came out with her 10×10 binder and page protectors. Perfect! Now it is the size I like and I can add as the year progresses. ReplyCancel

    • Hah, I made that same vow awhile ago, but went back to Shutterfly for the purpose of this comparison… which only confirmed why I left. I’m so glad you love Adoramapix! And I didn’t mention it in the review, but their FREE shipping option came in 3 days (even though it estimated 2 weeks). It’s awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin

    So thankful you did this!! I’ve been so excited to see the final results. I typically order from Blueb with the Proline paper, but it’s nice to know the other great options for books with less pages. I’d love to try out PL and Adorama as well. Love the layflat option and the heft to those books. Thanks for taking the time to do this, and honestly for all your photo book posts… I love them!ReplyCancel

    • Yes, the layflat and more ‘hefty’ options are great for books with fewer pages!ReplyCancel

  • Holly

    Thanks for doing this!!! I have never order a photo book, but have always been curious. They are pricey! I had no clue. My Project Life books are all 12×12 made with physical products. I have always enjoyed the process, but I haven’t kept up with it and have been thinking of going digital. I will be keeping this review for when I finally figure it out. ReplyCancel

    • Yes, it’s funny… I handed one of these completed books to my sister (who is younger and has never ordered a photo book before) and asked how much she’d pay for it. She said ‘ummm, maybe $50?’ I wish!ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany

    Great post, I appreciate your research!  The one thing I would add to this information is which companies offer an e-book option as that is also something that has kept me with Blurb for years and years (going on 10 years now for our Family Yearbook).  I love having the printed version and for a decent price, an e-book that I can keep on my iPhone/iPad.ReplyCancel

    • That is a fun offering from Blurb. I didn’t notice it as an offering from other companies.ReplyCancel

  • Rona

    Thank you for your review! It was well thought out and gave me pretty much everything I needed to know before ordering! I didn’t realize it was that expensive to order from the app itself! Yikes! ReplyCancel

    • Yes, the app books are pretty expensive, but they did release a new Softcover option which I’m going to try out for my own family. It’s much more affordable!ReplyCancel

  • Denise Rath Brinkman

    This post is amazing! Thanks for putting your time (and money) into creating such an awesome resource!ReplyCancel

  • Kayla Davies

    Shutterfly’s interface frustrates me too and no matter how many times I save changes, they never save. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost lost it just trying to do something simple on their website like add photos to my cart 😂. Anyway this review was very helpful! Thanks for doing this! I’m sure it was very time intensive!ReplyCancel

  • Debbie

    I really appreciate that you took the time and effort to make this comparison…  Man, I don’t feel like any one completely fits my needs.  I’d love to do the Blurb, and I think I could force myself to fit within the max page parameters, BUT, I want to go with 10×10 for my yearbook collection. And I’d like them to be hardcover.  Again, thank you for this.  It really helps!ReplyCancel

    • Debbie

      Also, as a photographer yourself you may understand where I’m coming from on the topic of sharpening for print.  So I always sharpen my photos for print. It’s the final step in my process.  Do you sharpen your pages for print or do you let the book company do their thing?  (I have a hard time letting people do their thing, lol.  I’m a control freak that way.) Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • I know what you mean… I couldn’t just recommend ONE company because everyone has such specific desires. I, too, prefer the 10×10 size, but have gotten used to Blurb’s 12×12 over the years. Now I just have to keep them consistent!

      And, no I did not sharpen any of these pages. I exported from the app as 12×12 jpg and did no further editing. I did adjust the borders when I was designing my Blurb Book in order to fit within their safe guidelines though. I have a blog tutorial for that here: https://missfreddy.com/personal/how-to-print-a-project-life-book/.ReplyCancel

  • Rosina

    Thank you! This post was clearly a ton of work to put together, and the info is so helpful. When you finalized your adoramapix order did you choose “don’t touch my photos ” or “color correction?” I’m torn about turning over the final edit to someone else… but I have two books where I didn’t and there are obvious problem spots an expert could have fixed up quite quickly during printing ( like what I suspect was out of gamut red tones ).ReplyCancel

    • Yes, I always turn off any ‘auto color correction’ because I want my pages to look like they do when I designed them! Also, for my professional photos, I spend a lot of time on color correction so I don’t want anyone to change it! I don’t think their ‘auto’ color correction would individually target one photo on your page- I think it’s a global color adjustment which would then change your filler and journaling cards. No thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Valerie

    I have a question…Is a page a front and back (so 2 layouts), or is it one layout?  I’ve saved all my PL pages to print a book this year rather than the physical binder books I’ve been doing for years, and now am paralyzed about getting the printing done.  I have 140 layouts, which in my understanding is 70 pages, but I may be thinking incorrectly.  I couldn’t even fit my year into two Project Life App hardcover books!
    Thank you for this comparison and your answer!ReplyCancel

    • Yes, a page is one half of a spread. So a page is one layout. So your 140 layouts would be 140 pages- 70 spreads. You’d need to use Blurb to fit that many pages.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole

    This is an amazing post! I think you touched on every aspect of what I would look for when looking at photobooks. Can’t thank you enough! And how fun was it getting these deliveries each day?!ReplyCancel

  • Alicia Johnson

    So, if you’ve already answered this I’m sorry…I was in the process of setting up a blurb book and realized that one of the things I love dearly about the pocket pages is the spots are all set up for me. I print a 4×6 and it fits nicely in the pocket. I write out my 3×4 journal cards and in the pocket they go. Have you found a way to do the simple Project Life Pocket Page A (I think?) in your blurb book?ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne

    Wow Thanks!!  you have done great research.  I’m getting ready to order my first family printed yearbook for 2017.  I was torn between PL, Blurb or Shutterfly.  Now I know I’m going to go with Blurb all the way.  Thank you for all you did on this project – probably took you hours 🙂  I’ll probably try PL soft cover, for vacations, recipe books, or other fun things though. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Kristi

    Do you use the Project Life App and then send it all to Blurb? ReplyCancel

  • LC

    Have you ever used Picaboo? It seems to have competitive pricing, but that makes me worry about the quality…ReplyCancel

    • I have not used them but have seen them recommended by others- I think their quality isn’t comparable to the higher end options I reviewed in this post, but would be better than your basic Shutterfly or snapfish album.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly T.

    Thank you so much! I’ve used Shutterfly for years, mostly because of cost, but this last book, the quality of the pictures was terrible. I was thinking I’d have to venture out and find a new company. So I really appreciate all your work and cost to figure it out for me. I think Blurb will be a perfect fit. Now to hurry and get my next book done.ReplyCancel

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Miss Freddy is a modern photographer for fun-loving families based in Colorado while also serving clients in the Midwest & Pacific Northwest.  To learn more about my style, check out some of my work or contact me to book a session!

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