Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Last week I made a post with some suggestions for using your photographs as gifts. The reason that I was thinking about that particular topic was that I had ordered a couple of photobooks from Mpix.com as Christmas gifts for family members. I didn't want to say too much about the photobooks at the time because I knew that my family reads the blog from time-to-time and I didn't want to spoil the surprise. I had actually already received the books when I made the post and couldn't contain myself from talking about them. Thankfully, I managed not to spill the beans and now that the presents have been opened, I'm glad to say that both photobooks were hits.

More after the jump.

To order photobooks from any of the internet printing companies, you have to use their supplied software. The software is usually a small application that you download from the company, although in some instances it is a web application that you run while logged in to the company's website. Mpix.com's application is the download variety which makes it convenient to create books. You can work on them at your leisure and don't have to worry about loosing your internet connection.

Like most little applications of this sort, there was very little in the way of instructions. However, it is fairly easy to use once you start playing around with it. There are basically two ways to create a book in the software. You can have a fully automated layout where you tell the software what photographs you want to include and the software will create the book for you. Or, you can start with some rough templates, including a blank book, and create the layout yourself.

The software has pre-configured page layouts that you can drag-and-drop onto a blank page. Then you can drag your photographs to the picture frames. There is an undo feature if you make a mistake, and you can fine-tune the placement of your photographs after you have dropped them into the pre-set frames. If you want a photograph to fill an entire page then instead of using a page layout, you set the photograph as a background. You can even have the photograph span across two pages which is a great way of displaying panoramic photographs. Once you have a photograph set as a background, you can then apply one of the page layout pre-sets to the page to have a nested effect. For example, I had one page with a full-sized photograph where the subject was mainly on the left side of the page. I then placed two smaller frames on the right side of the frame. This gave me one full sized image who's blank area served as a nice background for two smaller photographs. The software includes background pre-sets as well should you want to use them, and also has a generous collection of frames that can be applied to the photographs.

While I did have a couple of issues throughout the process of creating the books, there really wasn't an issue that I could blame on the software itself. The issues were related to me playing with features that I didn't understand. In those instances I did use the help features and was able to correct the mistakes or learn the proper way to do want I had been trying to accomplish. Oddly enough, most of the issues I had involved creating and placing captions. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong though, I had little trouble with captions again.

Once you have finished the book, you then upload it to Mpix.com, create an account if you don't already have one, and complete the order. The books arrived just as quickly as the prints that I have ordered from them and are just as high quality. The books that I created had custom covers which means that I was able to place photographs and text on both the front and back covers. Mpix offers other covers such as cloth as well, but those do not allow the placement of photographs of them. One thing I do wish I could have done that wasn't allowed is that I would have liked to have placed a title block on the binding edge so that the book could be identified when it is sitting on a shelf. However, this doesn't seem to be a problem with just Mpix's software. I have not seen it available on any of the book printing services thus far. Perhaps I missed it if it was available.

If you want to give a unique gift or if you just want a quality reminder of an important event, then I do recommend Mpix.com's photobooks.

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