In this digital world, photos aren’t getting printed. And that’s a sad, sad thing. See, photos come to life in a completely new way when they’re printed out. They’re no longer just ones and zeros on a computer. They become tangible, physical objects.
And while it seems like a rather minor change, once you’ve seen your images mounted in a beautiful frame, or held them in your hands in an album, you’ll know that the experience is completely different.
And yet, so many of us neglect to print our photos as much as we should. Even professionals. I’ll be the first to admit that we are personally really bad at this—and we even have a great photo printer at home!
So when I come across a product and process that makes it really easy to get your images printed out and into your hands, I’m excited. Really excited. And the folks over at Blurb are doing amazing work to make it easier for you to get your photos off your computer, and into beautiful albums. Let’s take a peek at what they do!
(Note: This review is not affiliated with Blurb in any way. We’re just really big fans of what they’re doing!)
Blurb is company that lets you create your own photo books. There are a lot of companies in the self-publishing world these days, and the quality of the results varies wildly. So when we first came across Blurb a couple years ago we were unsure whether the product would live up to our rather high standards. We had been using Vision Art to print albums for our wedding and portrait clients for years, and had come to expect nothing less than perfection.
But we were making an album for a personal project, and it had to have 120 pages in one book. We needed to find another supplier, since VisionArt maxes out at 80 pages, because they use really thick fine art paper. Blurb fit the bill, and we had heard good things, so we tried them out. And we were impressed! The print quality was great, the paper was nice, and the price was awesome.
A few months later, Blurb announced that they would be offering professional-grade paper from Mohawk Fine Papers in their books. We were really intrigued, so we ordered their Swatch Kit to check it out. The papers were gorgeous, with a nice weight, and great print quality. We realized that Blurb had just gone from an option for personal projects, to a potential for client work as well.
Then, a couple months ago we did a portrait shoot that needed an album with a lot of pages in it, so it was time to try out Blurb ProLine! Here’s what we thought of it:
We chose the ProLine Pearl Photo Paper, which has a lustre finish. The book was going to be printed with both colour and black and white images, and the Pearl does a great job of rendering contrast for both. The ProLine Uncoated paper looks like a really nice matte option, and I’m excited to try it out, perhaps for some fine art images. But it has a lower-contrast look to it. The images I was printing were family photos, and I wanted them to be vibrant, so the Pearl was the perfect choice.
The paper has a really nice thickness as well. It’s certainly not nearly as thick as Vision Art, or other standard wedding albums. But it’s a lot like what you’d see in a good quality photo book in a bookstore. When you want a LOT of pages in one book, the thickness is perfect. It doesn’t make the album huge, and is easy to flip through.
I was really really pleased with the print quality of the book. The colour was really accurate, though you have to make sure your monitor is calibrated! (And using a colour accurate monitor will give you even more accurate results.) The sharpness was great too. I didn’t actually sharpen my images before print, and they were still super crisp. From a normal viewing distance (i.e. holding the book in your hands) the quality was fantastic. You could see lots of detail in the darks, and the brights were really nicely rendered.
Now, when you look really really close at the images in a Blurb book, you can see that they use a press printing process. That means that the images are made up of lots of little dots. This is different from companies like Vision Art, who use an inkjet process, which is becoming a pretty standard method of photo printing. Basically, with Blurb, you are getting the same kind of printing that a photo book in a store would have, not the kind of printing that you’d get when you have a print made from a photo lab.
So they aren’t “true” photographic prints. Is that an issue? I don’t think so. What matters to me is whether or not they look good. Simple. Sure, if I bring the book right up to my face I can see the dots. But when I’m looking at it like a normal person, it looks fantastic. And the press process is what makes it possible for Blurb to offer their albums at such a great price, so I am super happy about that!
One last note. The client that I printed this book for is a photographer herself, and she emailed me after receiving the book, saying that she was super impressed with the quality, and wanted to know where I got it printed. I think that right there speaks to how great the book looked!
The construction of Blurb books is really solid. They may be a more budget friendly option than a lot of the super high end albums out there, but they are still made with a lot of care and attention to detail.
The binding is straight and strong. The cover is perfectly wrapped. The pages are smooth, and don’t warp, even in our extremely dry northern climate. And longevity? Well, that first book that I made with Blurb was printed in 2010. It was a gift for friends, and I’m told that they look through it on a weekly basis. It’s not just careful adult hands turning the pages, but little kid hands that go through it too. And it’s still holding up! So the quality lasts, even under tough conditions :)
I’ve been saying quite a bit that I really like the prices of Blurb products. And it’s certainly true that what makes a price good is different for everyone. But no matter what your budget, you can certainly find a Blurb option that will make you happy.
See, there are a lot of levels possible with Blurb. Using the ProLine fancy schmancy papers is an upgrade. They have Premium papers that are also quite good, and cost less than the ProLine (that’s what I used for the first book I made, and I was still very pleased with the result!).
One option that could also save you some money is having a Blurb logo on the book. If you’re printing for yourself, you can leave it, and get a cheaper book. If you are printing for a client, you can pay extra to have that taken off. And if you’re printing for a client, it shouldn’t matter if the book is a bit pricier, since you should be factoring that cost into your markup!
You can also make a smaller book, or choose a softcover to bring the price down. There are lots of ways to fit Blurb into your budget. However, even with all the upgrades, the prices are still fantastic.
To give you an idea of the pricing, here’s an example of a book with their high-end options:
- 12×12 inch book
- Imagewrap hard cover
- 80 pages
- ProLine Pearl paper
- ProLine endsheets
- No Blurb logo
Blurb has a LOT of options when it comes to their books. You can even make your own notebooks and paperback novels! But I’m mostly interested in their ProLine photo options, so that’s what I’ll chat about here.
At the moment, they have two Pro paper options (Pearl and Uncoated). Both of these are quite beautiful, and I was really happy with the Pearl. More paper options would be exciting, but what they have right now is great, and it certainly doesn’t feel like they need more.
They also have different endsheet options with the ProLine, and that’s really fun. The colours are black, white, and two different grey tones. I’m not one for flashy endpapers, since I want the focus to be on the images, so I found this to be a good amount of variety.
One nifty option that Blurb offers is linen covers for their hardcover books. I ordered an ImageWrap cover both times (which is a photo printed right onto the cover), so I haven’t had the chance to use these yet, but I’m excited to try them out! They are great colours, and the swatches we have feel really nice. It would be neat if Blurb could do foil stamping on the linen covers themselves though, instead of needing to take the book elsewhere to have that done.
When it comes to sizes, Blurb has standard square, landscape and portrait orientations, and both square and landscape also come in a large size. There certainly aren’t a TON of size options. For instance, they don’t have anything panoramic, and the portrait orientation is only available at 8×10 inches, and not any larger. So if you have a very specific size in mind, Blurb might not fit your needs. But for the majority of projects I imagine their sizes will work just fine. I’ve printed 12×12 square books both times, and certainly wouldn’t want to print larger than that.
Every book also has the option of softcover, hardcover with a dust jacket, or hardcover with an imagewrap, so there is variety there as well!
Overall, with Blurb you have tons of great options. It’s certainly not a situation where there are so many options you’ll hardly know where to begin, and that’s probably a good thing! Some album companies are just too overwhelming, with dozens of sizes and cover materials to choose from. In the end, the book is about the images that are inside, and Blurb offers just enough options to create something that works for you, but still keeps things simple so that you can get that album in your hands nice and quickly!
Now, you can tell that I’m pretty impressed with the product that Blurb offers. But it’s actually hard to tell whether I enjoy the product or the process more!
See, Blurb seems to be constantly hard at work to make it easier to order their products. And that’s something that is unbelievably important. Like we were talking about at the start of this review, people just aren’t printing their photos enough these days. So for Blurb to be really working to make things simple will hopefully encourage folks to get their images into print! My hat is off to them for that!
One thing that’s particularly awesome about designing a book with Blurb is that they have a great process for everyone, from an average Joe, to a professional photographer.
They have a bunch of online templates that make it super fast to design a book (and even have templates specifically for your Facebook and Instagram photos). They also have free software that you can use to create your own custom layouts. And Lightroom 4 even has a built-in Blurb book creator! Tons of possible ways to create your own album.
And then, the option that I really really love, is their InDesign plugin! If you’ve been around this site for a while you’ll know that we absolutely love Adobe InDesign, and believe it’s the absolute best software for creating albums. (If you wanna learn to use it, check out our tutorial, Awesome Album Design Skills!)
Well, Blurb has made sure that it’s SUPER easy to use InDesign to create their albums. This kick-ass plugin will create all the pages for you with one click. Making your pages is honestly the most difficult part of using InDesign for albums, and Blurb just took all that work off your hands! You can even upload the layout right from InDesign, so the whole process is super quick and easy.
Seriously, could that be more awesome? It was the discovery of this plugin, and actually using it and seeing how insanely easy it was to put together a design, that made me super motivated to use Blurb to print out more of our own photos!
Another aspect of the Blurb process that really impresses me is how many resources they have created for their clients. Whether you’re just making a quick book, or want to ensure your design process is totally colour accurate, they have TONS of really top notch information on their site to help you out. I’ve always been able to find the answers to any questions I’ve had, and it just makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable!
I’ve been really impressed with my entire experience using Blurb to create photo books. From a top quality product, to an easy-to-use process, they are great at what they do. I’m really looking forward to making a lot more books with them in the future!
But what I hope, most of all, is that this review has inspired you to make sure you’re printing your photos. Often what holds people back is the idea that it will take too much work, or will be too expensive. Blurb is working hard to get rid of those excuses. Heck, if you’re really lazy, their software can even automatically lay out a book from a folder of photos! And with enough options to satisfy any budget, they really make it possible for everyone to create a custom album.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of holding a book of your images in your hands, now is the time to change that. Head over to Blurb, make yourself an album, and see just how fantastic the experience is. That’s what makes photos so magical, after all. Looking at them, thinking about them, and enjoying the memories they stir up!