Do you remember as a kid going to your local drugstore to drop off a roll of film to be developed? You never knew how many of the twenty-four frames would be good. Did you had actually capture the moment on film that you had tried to on your little point and shoot camera? Those days are long gone and as a modern parent, one of the things I’ve had to grapple with, is the devastation that could ensue if I lost all those pictures I’ve snapped of my newborn babies, chronicled on my camera of choice – a smart phone.
I try to keep in mind that my kids (and I) do not need hundreds of photos documenting their every minute of existence. But I do want to have enough photos printed and in hand that I can begin to hold my kids in my lap and tell them about their baby years and remember family trips and normal everyday moments. Scrolling a phone is not nearly as satisfactory as the flip of pages and the tactile nature of a real-life photo album.
For a long time, I was paralyzed about how to handle all these photos that added up so quickly into the thousands. Before my second child was born, my nesting instinct demanded that I figure out what to do with all the photos we had taken of our firstborn. I had a couple years worth of photos hanging out on my phone, some completely junk and some priceless. So I began to print them into softcover photo albums. The same instinct kicked in when our boys were born, and we now have a collection of these books.
I’ve used two different companies to print our photo albums, Chatbooks and Artifact Uprising. Both have pros and cons, so today I’ll share how I streamlined our photo printing process to make it manageable instead of debilitating, and a review of the softcover albums you see below.
Chatbooks Album (on the left): A 60-page 6×6 softcover photo book for only $8. The cover feels like a combination of matte/glossy feel. While you can select your album cover and a title for the binding, there isn’t much else you can customize in this book. (Note: Chatbooks does offer a custom book option, but I like the simplicity of the series books.)
Artifact Uprising Album (on the right): A 40-page 5.5×5.5 softcover photo book for $18, with an option to add up to 120 pages for an extra $.25 per page. I always added more photos, so my AU books are thicker than the Chatbooks. They also ended up costing about $35 per book with a $6 shipping charge. The album has the feel of thick card stock paper. It is matte, with options for titles on the cover. You can still pick your album cover, and there isn’t anything printed on the binding. You can also crop and make images black and white in the Artifact Uprising app, so there’s a little more customization available.
For four years, I have created softcover albums using the AU app to document all our everyday moments since having kids. They are high quality, although for the price I do still worry a bit that they aren’t hardcover albums and could get destroyed. So we keep them up on a shelf and the kids only look at them with an adult holding it. I’ve also created one hardcover album with a gorgeous linen cover with all of our professionally taken photos printed inside. If I could afford it, I would use their linen hardcover albums for everything.
I’ve noticed a few things while using AU. To make albums, I generally have to do a lot of prep work. I edit my photos, and put them in an album on my iPhone by year. Then I upload them to the app, but I always have to remember to select the oldest photos first so the book will be chronological. Otherwise you will have to move each photo around by hand so that your book isn’t backwards chronologically. There’s also quite a bit of customization – cropping and page layout – that you can do in the app. I like how the square photos take up the entire page, which you can see above. In the books, my photos (even iPhone photos) have turned out so well, every time.
Chatbooks albums come with printing and branding on the binding. You cannot edit the dates or remove the type, although I choose not to create album titles, except for trips. While it’s not a deal breaker and having the dates on the side is ok, I wish it wasn’t there.
Artifact Uprising has no text on the binding. They also don’t put their branding on your book.
So, it’s been awhile since I first told you I was trying Chatbooks, because so many of my Instagram friends recommended it. The process of trying it out was painless – the app is easy to use, the entire book was free including shipping, so it was a very low risk trial. When my first book arrived, it was bent in the mailer. You can see that one on the left. Such a bummer. Thankfully, Chatbooks has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. So when I emailed their customer service, they were great and sent me a new book by express mail. The three books I’ve ordered since then have all been in perfect condition.
Artifact Uprising also has a quality guarantee, which is great. I’ve never had to return anything, and their packaging is really protective.
I’ve used Chatbooks for about four months now.
(In full disclosure, after I initially wrote a post about it, several people signed up using my referral link. Chatbooks has been running a promo to earn 5 years of free photobooks when 5 friends sign up. Thanks to that promo I can use Chatbooks to print our photos for free, which is a huge perk for a young family with a lot of iPhone photos. While this is a benefit of having a blog, if you wanted to try to get 5 years free too, I think it’s really doable – make an album for free, and then invite your friends, in-laws, siblings to do the free trial too.)
While the pages aren’t cardstock, they are a nice quality matte paper that prevents finger prints. Every page has a white border around the photo, even if it is a square image.
The magic of Chatbooks is how easy it is to create albums. (This video says it all.) You can sync it to your Instagram feed, and every 60 images will print into an album and automatically ship to your home. Chatbooks will send you an email to give you time to edit, remove photos, change captions, etc.. before the books ships. Alternatively, I use the “favorites” in my iPhone camera roll to make an album, since I don’t post photos of my kids on Instagram. I edit my photos, click the heart button at the bottom of the photo, and it automatically gets added to my next Chatbooks album. Then I can go into the app and rearrange or remove photos as needed. I don’t include dates or captions in my books. I end up with simple, beautiful, automatic books that don’t become a huge project at the end of the year.
I also just tried Chatbooks square prints. I LOVE them. They are 5x5in square and are printed on thick, luxury card stock paper. The pricing is really good – $8 for 24 prints. I made sure to crop each photo to a square shape in the app, so I didn’t have a big white border on the card.
Artifact Uprising sells 25 prints for $22. To me, the quality difference is negligible and I would pick the lower price.
If money and time are not an issue, I would recommend Artifact Uprising’s hardcover linen-bound photo books.
I highly, highly recommend Chatbooks square photos.
A Few Random Tips:
- I always pick a still-life photo as an album cover.
- Editing your photos – especially brightening, straightening, and cropping – can make a huge difference. I use the Afterlight app on my phone to quickly edit before “favoriting” a photo to go into an album.
- Use the Google Photos app to save all your photos onto your Google account. It is free for high quality resolution, or you can pay a monthly fee for the original resolution. Now I have all our videos and photos saved online, so I don’t need to freak out if my computer or phone crash. I can still access them on my phone using the app, so I can delete the photos from my camera roll to help free up phone space.
Well, that was one epic long post. How do you print, store, and save your photos?