Costco (Printed by Fujifilm USA) 12×12″ Lay Flat Photo Book Review and Impressions
UPDATE: Good things don’t last. Costco and Fujifilm no longer offers this product and have shifted to Shutterfly for their photo products.
Hey everyone, happy new year! I attained a personal milestone about a year ago, which was I went back through my entire archive and re-edited and sorted all my photos from the last 13 years. That’s a lot of images. It took me over a year and a half to go through probably close to half a million just to end up with a few hundred thousand decent ones. While it is cool to have it all neatly organized into one iPhoto library on a laptop that fits into a manila envelope, I decided to really do something with my favorite images, adventures, and moments in my life–which is to turn them into nice photo books.
I’ve tried many printing services over the years. From Wolf Camera and Walmart 1 hr labs, to Shutterfly, to MyPublisher, to Mixbook, to AdoramaPix. I would have to say I’m happy settling on the 12×12″ lay flat books you can order/create through Costco. Yes, the same place I go to get my normal high quality prints, and my hot dog and drink combo for $1.59! 🙂
Here’s what I like about these books:
They start at $39.99 + Tax. The books have a minimum of 30 pages, and extra pages (which are considered a double page spread) is an extra $1.99 (Don’t confuse this 12×12″ book with the lower priced 11×14″ and 8×8″. Those are not good at all, and are printed with lower quality technology)
The books are not the top tier thick true layflats that you see in $150-$400 wedding books, but they are more than good enough.
The glossy prints look good to me. I’ve always edited/color graded my photos for print, and these images have the same richness of color and contrast of the ones I see on my screen. The chemical process really does something to the pictures.
Unlike other printing places there is no logo that you can’t remove (Mixbook I’m looking at you), and thankfully you don’t have to pay an extra fee to have a logo removed/replaced (AdoramaPix/Shutterfly I’m looking at you…). You can also put an image onto page 1 (right facing first page). (There is a barcode on the inside back cover though)
The interface to make the books is web based, and a lot simpler than AdoramaPix with its more fancy graphic designer features, but I actually like it. I always start off with a blank layout and just get to work. If I need fancier layouts or better typefaces I can always design in a separate software and upload that image. The Costco Photo Center website supports .jpg .tiff and .png. I’ve uploaded 30MB jpegs and it doesn’t reject it.
The books are printed at Fujifilm USA in nearby South Carolina! On Fuji Crystal archive paper back to back so the paper stock is pretty rigid. I can get the books in about 5 business days. Shipping is about $6, and each extra book on the same order is only $.50 more
You can skip the shipping charge and have it shipped to your local Costco warehouse with a photo lab. Where you can pick up the book and also get a $1.50 hotdog/drink combo and $2 slice of pizza! 😀
Here’s some things you might not like:
There’s only one size and paper option, Glossy
Sometimes the last page top section does not have enough adhesive, and if you or a child is rough with the handling of the books, it will come apart. (I’ve let the higher ups know about this)
The typeface options are not as robust as other sites, and some are too comical, but it’s workable. You can put text on the spine of the book, but the only typeface allowed is “Arvo.” It’s not too bad. (Correction, if you delete the text block and insert your own, you can have a pick of your typeface for the spine)
The last thing is, like me, you might need to design a few before you get the hang of it. Towards the end of this long post is an example of how to place the image bounding box if you want clean edge to edge layouts. (Costco also has downloadable color profiles if you want)
All in all, this solution works for me because I have a huge backlog of personal books that I want to create. All the silly and serious things that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in my life. There will always be a market for the high end boutique photo albums, but I’d rather get to work, and really do something with these images that get uploaded and no real response except for the handful of “likes” and slight dopamine hit we all get. I’ve said it before, the debate has never been about film vs digital, or now, certain digital sensors or another–it’s about the print. It’s about making the memory something tangible. We all have a mess of prints sitting in a shoebox or storage somewhere. You just can’t get rid of prints. Even the protagonist in a Hollywood futuristic film will still be clutching a real photographic print of a loved one. Take pictures of the people and things you care about and get off the social media popularity game! 😉
It’s obviously impossible to see the quality of the prints via pictures of the books, but here are some samples of the ones I’ve printed for myself over the last few months. I have about 30 sitting here at home, and have made many more for friends, family, and clients.
This is an example of the adhesive problem that I have in some books. When I get them I usually put some weight/force on the back cover, and sometimes with Loctite adhesive to make it more sturdy. I’ve found that you can’t make the books with too many pages either. The sheer weight of the pages and the stress of flipping them can sometimes make the pages split. I guess that’s one of the caveats of this $40+ photo book.
Below are examples of the online interface for working on the books. I edit on a 21:9 monitor, which is just great for everything. If you have never edited photos or done desktop publishing on this aspect ratio, I highly suggest it. You really can’t go back to 16:9.
Found this “review” helpful or interesting? Please buy me some (fuji)film! 🙂