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Sunday, October 18, 2009

iPhoto 09 Keepsakes: Photo Books & Calendars Review

In my continued "lovefest" with Apple's iPhoto 09 since Apple patched the initial release a few months. Now that I am relatively satisfied with the overall product with the exception of a couple of small issues -- I was ready to try out some new features, the Keepsakes.

Keepsakes are ways you can transform you pictures in iPhoto to a permanent memento or "keepsake" as Apple likes to call it. The main choices are a Photo Book, Calendar, or even a Card. Basically, what you do is compile all of your photos the way you want to in the keepsakes, then send it off to Apple. From there, Apple produces the "Keepsake" you choose -- either the book, calendar, or card -- and it arrives about 10 days later at your front door. You can even have it faster, if you want for an additional expedited shipping charge.

We decided to try it...truth be told, we had fallen way behind on our scrap booking and creating of photo albums from our past trips. In fact, our 2006 trip to Germany is still in mid-creation. The photobook capability seemed that if it worked out properly, it would be a great way to "catch up" and have a good way to create the permanent memories as a coffee table book.

In fact, in just a few hours, we were able to create the following book from our recent trip to Madrid and Barcelona Spain.
Apple iPhoto 09 Keepsake Photo Book created and published with the Apple iPhoto 09 software

When we first started the process; we first needed to choose the type of Photo book keepsake that we were going to create. Apple provides you with 3 options: Wire-Bound Books, Softcover Books, and Hardcover books. The wire-bound and softcover pricing are virtually identical where it becomes a matter of preference more than anything else. The hardcover book runs at a 50% premium, but is the only style that offers a "true" coffee table size, the 13" x 10" -- which runs $49.99 before all of the extra pages. Below is a snapshot from the Apple site on the current pricing and available options for iPhoto 09.

iPhoto 09 Keepsake photobook pricing for wire bound, softcover, and hardcover photo books from Apple

We choose the largest size, and created an initial album using all of our "favorite" photos that we flagged from our "Spain Trip" event. From there we choose one of the available styles, a world travel style that integrates maps and other layout and templates that go with a vacation and the initial book was setup.

There is a great little feature called "autoflow" that takes all of the pictures you have in the album and lays it out automatically. It was a great way for us to start the process; although it created a ton of pages...almost 100 or so. Then it was just a matter of time for use to change the layouts (in many cases increasing from 1-2 pictures to 5-6 pictures), and writing the copy for our adventures in the book.

Now was the moment of truth. The one area of nervousness I had was around the quality of the photo book that would be produced. When you take "great" pictures with a 12.1 megapixel DSLR camera, you do so because you care about the quality. And when investing $75 in a keepsake photo album in the full 13"x10" size, you want the quality to be clear and crisp as possible.

In reading some reviews on the web, I had found mixed reviews. It was clear from the reviews, that in past versions of iPhoto the quality of the photo books left a little to be desired. It had appeared to get better in iPhoto 08 and iPhoto 09, although there were some mixed reviews. After carefully considering, I figured it was worth the risk.

I went ahead and hit the submit button and watched iPhoto 09 go to work compiling and sending the information off to the publisher. Briefly, a red flag was raised when only 35MB worth of data was sent over the Internet. I was nervous of that because the raw sizes of the photos along in the album was likely 400MB.

Would I get the quality I wanted, or would I be disappointed? Only a couple of weeks would tell.

After about 10 days, the album showed up at our doorstep. I nervously opened up the album to see what we would get. Almost immediately, when I saw the dust jacket I knew I was going to be happy. The quality of the publishing was just as I had hoped for. The accuracy of the colors and the clarity of the printing met the expectations I had. I quickly flipped through the album and went to a couple of the full page pictures, where there was the most risk for quality and pixelation issues and they were just as expected.

In all, a very positive experience on our first keepsake photo album in iPhoto 09. No question that moving forward (and I should say backwards as well) we'll be using iPhoto 09 Keepsakes in order to put together our photo albums. It's too easy and the quality is great. If you were considering using it, I would highly recommend it.


vaxcel said...

Thats a great idea. I am going to check it out thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

I'm working with an older iPhoto version, but that shouldn't matter. What has happened is that several printing companies around the country are contracted by Apple to do the BOOKS -- and the quality can vary depending on which one gets your job when you submit it online. I've had great results and bad results (slivers of white paper showing at the top of pages meant to have a full-bleed image; cover photos not centered properly). It's a crap-shoot, because you can't tell who will be getting your job to print.

Customer service is great, and will always reprint the bad copies of BOOKS free (of course), but some of the replacement books also had problems. Unbelievable, since you'd think they would try extra hard to make the reprints look great. I guess their "quality control" department was done away with in some cases.

Ken Hanscom said...

Thanks for the hint there. We're about to submit our 2nd book for our trip to Italy in 2008 -- hoping we'll have the same results. Will update if it turns out any different than the first time.