The two topics that I receive most questions about (via Instagram’s Direct Message or email) are printing photo books and managing photo storage. Alas, a post that covers both in great detail is very overdue, but actually very timely, given that most people start to think about printing photo books at the end of every year. Plus, most photo sites have great discounts right now (50% off everything at Mixbook until 1/1/18 at midnight, 50% off everything at Shutterfly until 12/28/17 at midnight, etc.).

If you’re new to Snapshots & My Thoughts, then you may not know about my love obsession with photo books. I started printing them in 2006, during my first year in college, and have printed many ever since. Beginning in 2010 (the year I graduated), I began to make an annual photo book in Shutterfly. I would pick a theme, but customize almost every page to my liking. Looking back at the early books, the designs are cringe-worthy but I absolutely love them. I would also print books for vacations and other special events. In 2013, I decided to do a photo-a-day book for Isla, which was quite the undertaking. I am so glad that I documented every day, because it’s amazing to watch her grow page by page, but with sweet Emilia, I am doing a photo-a-week, and you can see the transformation just the same (with much less work involved!). I will share these layouts below!

Every year, I would update the annual book at the end of every month, occasionally falling a month behind but always staying rather up-to-date. Well 2017 happened – a second baby, a busy work schedule and a husband who travels every week for week and alas, my fancy, customized-per-page Shutterfly book didn’t happen. Which I’m still coming to terms with, since I’m one for consistency and routine! I did, however, fall in love with another company in the transition.

I was introduced to Artifact Uprising a few years ago, as I used them to make our Christmas card in 2015. Last year, I decided to invest in one of their layflat books (which are pricier than Shutterfly, beginning at $179 for the 8.25×11 size that I love) for our family photos. Then in February, I chose to print Emi’s newborn photos in another layflat book and seeing the quality of these two ultra-thick, fabric bound books, I was hooked. I printed five layflat books total in 2017!

Fast forward to November 1st, I had this huge cloud hanging over my head: our annual photo book, which had two months of content in it, needed lots and lots of work (and time!). October through December are my busiest months, and I knew I couldn’t spend the time I needed to make the Shutterfly book I wanted. The obvious alternative was Artifact Uprising, as I knew if I couldn’t have ultra-designed, I wanted ultra-simple and white. I couldn’t wrap my head around spending $250+ on each book (I knew I’d need multiple books for how many photos I took this year). I decided to try their hardcover books, which begin at $79 for an 8.5×11 book. I chose the 50 page option, which allows you to fill 99 pages, and managed to get January through March photos included. Filling the pages went so quickly, and you can even chose auto-fill. I’ll go into detail on the uploading process below. I ended up having five books total, but could have done less if I had chosen to do the 150 page option for each instead (allowing you 199 pages) of 50 (allowing 99).

All in all, I am so in love with our 2017 annual photo books. It was not the cheapest option, but I used two Artifact Uprising coupons to bring down the cost (more on coupons in the FAQ section below!). I know that the interest in printing photo books is out there, as people always reply to my Instagram posts or stories saying that much. So, I pray that this post helps move you to action! Print those photos – whether that be prints or books. I love Artifact Uprising’s motto: Inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible. I stand behind that – if photos stay on digital devices, we are slowly losing the beauty of the tangible printed photos, which tell stories that generations beyond us can cherish.

There is a lot of content in this blog post. First, I’ll cover details on the books I’ve printed before: annual Shutterfly photo books, photo-a-day/week Shutterfly photo books,annual photo books using Artifact Uprising hardcover photo books and special occasion Artifact Uprising layflat photo books. This is probably my most personal post ever, as I’m actually sharing links to many of our family’s books. Let me tell you: when I made them, I had no intention of them ever being viewed by anyone outside of close family or friends, so they include very personal photos and details, but I really do want to help inspire people to make books, so I feel like it’s important to do this.

So, let’s begin!

Our 2010-2016 Annual ShutterFly Photo Books
  • Book Details: Size: 8×11 Book, Style: With Merriment (varied by year but majority of pages are custom or idea pages), Cover: Leather Hardcover (also chose fabric some years!), Add-on: Clear Memorabilia Pocket (used for any fun mementos from the year!)
  • Examples: View a few of our past books for inspiration – 2016 (111 pages), 2015 Part I (108 pages), 2015 Part II (89 pages), and  2014 (111 pages)
  • Annual idea pages: ‘Favorite Memories by Month’ which is a two-page spread made up of two idea pages called ‘Favorite Memories 1’ and ‘Favorite Memories 2’ and are under the Year in Review collection almost at the very bottom (let them all load). You can see the positioning of the scrollbar in the screenshot below. Another page I’ve included every year is an ‘All in a Year’ page which is called ‘Year in Review 2’ and is also under the Year in Review collection, towards the top (screenshot also included below). In this post, I always give an update on where we’re working, what the kiddos are up to, where we’re living and any other big events going on that year in our lives. It’s also nice to include what you’re looking forward to in the following year!
  • Cost: $132.72 (2016), $226.38 (2015), $150.98 (2014)
  • Scroll to the very bottom of the post for screenshots of a few of my favorite pages!

More screenshots from past books at the bottom of the post!

Shutterfly Photo-a-Day/Week BOOKS (FOR ISLA AND EMI, respectively)
  • Book Details: Size: 8×11 Book, Style: Modern White, Cover: Cloth Hardcover
  • Example: View Isla’s photo-a-day book here
  • Idea page: ‘4up Round’ which is under the Wedding collection, 2/3rd of the way through (see screenshot below). If you wanted to save money, you can also choose a ‘6up Round’ version to get more photos on each page! I am using the same template for Emi, only doing a photo a week!
  • Cost: $91.22

Our 2017 Annual Photo Book(s) with Artifact Uprising

Book Details: Hardcover Book, Size: 8.5×11, Color: Gunmetal, Dust Jacket: Partial, Pages: 50 for each except Part III – key thing to note: once you select a set number of pages (50, 100, 150) you cannot change this after you begin the book! 50 will let you go up to 99, 100 will let you go up to 149 and 150 will take you to 199.

Examples: View the first four (of five) books for 2017 – Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Templates: There is limited customization in these books, although there are a lot of options for photo layouts (screenshot below). You can also add text (choosing between 8 fonts and all colors on a color wheel).

Cost: Average price per book is $145

Special Occasion Books with Artifact Uprising

Book Details: Layflat Book, Size: 8.5×11, Color: Variety, Foil Color: White, Paper: Superfine

Examples: View a few of these books – Destin, 2016 Family Photos, 2017 Family Photos, Emi’s Newborns

Templates: Same with the hardcover books (above), there is limited customization in these books, although there are a lot of options for photo layouts (screenshot below). You can also add text (choosing between 8 fonts and all colors on a color wheel).

Cost: Average price per book is $230


Photo storage: I import photos from my camera into a Lightroom catalog that is hosted on my 4TB WD My Book external hard drive. After I import all of the photos I’ve taken, I go through and hit ‘P’ to select my favorites (I’m surprisingly selective). Then, I filter photos by ‘Flagged’ and edit those. I will export all of the photos I’ve edited to a folder named ‘Everyday’ (a subfolder in 2016 Photos, 2017 Photos, etc.). The photos that go in this folder are basically the ones I think may end up in a photo book. Since I’m a photographer, I obviously have lots of client galleries, but try to be diligent in keeping all photo book worthy pictures here. I used to make so many subfolders, and that became a nightmare when I went to upload them for the books!

I upload all of my photos (personal) onto Shutterfly Photos. It is so easy to search through old photos given their filtering options. I love it. Beginning this year, I also made monthly galleries in Artifact Uprising to help manage the annual photo book.

I don’t use iPhone photos in my photo books because I rarely take them, and if I do, I probably wouldn’t print them. However, I know most people don’t carry their DLSRs around with them everywhere they go! My recommendation with iPhone storage is to import your favorite ones into a separate folder and try to do so semi-routinely, so that you don’t have to filter through thousands of photos at the end of the year. Treat your iPhone like I do my SD card and the ‘Everything’ folder!

Comparison between Shutterfly, Artifact Uprising, Blurb and Mixbook: People often ask why I like Shutterfly and AU more than Blurb and Mixbook (these are the other big two I hear about often). It’s a tough question, because I have only ever ordered from Shutterfly and AU, so I don’t know exactly! I did some research though, and I’ve found out the following.

  • Artifact Uprising Pros: Offers various sized book layouts, amazing quality products (they feel very professional and high-end!), very responsive customer service via email, can upload photos via iPhone app, Instagram or your computer, made from 100% post consumer recycled paper (but remember, high quality!), 8 days for production + shipping
  • Artifact Uprising Cons: Less customizable options for books than the other photo book companies, uploading to galleries is slow (I tried to upload no more than 100 at a time), priciest option
  • Shutterfly Pros: Multiple customer service (phone, email or live chat), free unlimited photo storage, high level of customization for books (including cover options) with gorgeous idea pages – making it much easier to design, reasonable price with great coupons/sales, 100% money back guarantee, new feature of “Make My Book” where you can pay $10 to have a designer make your book! (more below)
  • Shutterfly Cons: People complain about delivery guarantees being missed, can be a lengthy process to custom design each page on your own
  • Blurb Pros: Offers Blurb BookWright and Blurb BookSmart software that you download to your computer to create books from your desktop without the internet, integrates with Lightroom to easily upload your photos (unique in this offering!), affordable pricing, mobile app available to create books, self-publishing options (to sell your book to others), helpful inspiration center
  • Blurb Cons: More advanced software requires slightly more technology experience than some of the other sites, photo storage/access is not as seamless as Shutterfly’s is
  • Mixbook Pros: Wide range of attractive pre-designed books, various sizes availble with different cover types (hardcover, leather, softcover), offers same day delivery option, able to edit photos (minor alteration only) for photos, collaboration amongst multiple creators is available (this is so cool!), affordable pricing options
  • Mixbook Cons: 3-4 business days is the fastest shipping option available (not many other cons that I could see!)

How do you find the time to do this? Ask Sasha – I never sleep! Ha. Unfortunately, these are typically a late night project for me, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone. I chose Artifact Uprising this year because I didn’t have time to customize each page. But you don’t have to do that! You can do autofill options for Artifact Uprising and Shutterfly! Pick a template you like, let them autofill, review/tweak and order. Don’t overcomplicate it if you don’t have time.

I just saw that Shutterfly has a new feature (which seems amazing!) called “Make My Book.” For $9.99, a designer will take the photos you upload and design a book. Ummm, that seems worthwhile! Something to look into, for sure! Details below.

Photo Printing: I use for prints and love their quality. As with all photo printing sites, make sure to select ‘Do not color correct’ though if you have edited the photos to your liking.

iPhone quality in books: As I mentioned above, I don’t have any iPhone photos in my books; however, I have read lots of blog post reviews that say it’s okay to use them. I would probably err on the side of a layout with smaller photo sizes vs. one where it’s a full-page spread.

Suggestions on how to stay ‘on top of it’: Calendar alerts! I have a reminder every single Sunday to update Emi’s photo-a-week post, and it’s the only way I remember to open up the book, drop in a photo from the week and hit ‘Save.’ It takes no time at all. But getting behind makes figuring out which week was ‘Week 31’ complicated! In years past, I would have a reminder/alert on the last day of the month to update the book! Give yourself rewards for doing it . I don’t know if self-bribery works for you, but it certainly does for me!

Finding coupons/best time to purchase: I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a photo book full priced! Shutterfly almost always has great deals (like 50% off photo books at the beginning of the year and also at random points through the year). Make sure to sign up for email notifications for whichever company you choose! By doing so, you’ll likely get 10+% off and then can stay in the loop for further discounts. I also recommend following the company on Instagram, to make sure you really don’t miss any sales!

Some of the favorite pages from our 2016 Shutterfly book (also included in links above)

Ha – information overload? I hope this was helpful for you! If  you still have questions, please email me at and I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly!


  1. Wowzers, my holiday insomnia is paying off tonight! Loved this post, Ailee!! Haven’t had time to look at all your examples but am so inspired (& motivated!) to get my tush in gear… considering I haven’t started Jones’ baby book and he’s almost 16 months! Thanks for sharing so many great tips!

  2. Emily Alexander Reply

    Ailee THIS is why I love your blog! This is seriously SO helpful and has me inspired! Xoxo

  3. Awesome post! Will re-read again tomorrow when I’m a little sharper! Love all the details!!! You’re a wealth of information! Happy new year to your precious family!!! Mel

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