My Experience Creating a Photo Calendar

December 2, 2009

*tap tap tap* Is this thing on?

I apologize for the delay in posting here. I promised myself I wasn’t going to let silly things like long holiday weekends disrupt my already-lacking posting schedule around here… but what can I say? I failed.

I have a couple entries planned that are more like the tips and tutorials that I usually post, but this one is slightly different than the norm – I just wanted to recount an experience I’ve had over the past few days that maybe you’ll appreciate.

I had this great idea that I was going to take some of my best shots from 2009 and make myself a 2010 Calendar to hang in my office. I had ONE REQUIREMENT to said calendar. It HAD to have black backgrounds. I think pretty much all photos look best against a pure black background. I could only think of two places that did monthly calendars that I’d heard of people using before and therefore semi-trusted: Shutterfly and Snapfish.

I’ve had a previous experience with Snapfish and wasn’t entirely happy. I made a book through them last year, and I wasn’t completely unhappy with it, but I wasn’t thrilled either. I’ve had no personal experience with Shutterfly, though I have seen a book created through them before and loved it. So from the get-go I was leaning towards Shutterfly.

I was frustrated, though, when looking through their multiple options for backgrounds – I could not find plain, solid black. Who doesn’t have plain solid black??? So I gave up and went to Snapfish and created my whole calendar there. I got done, and it looked ok, but the most photos you can put on any given page was three, and there were a few pages I wanted to do four. Plus, I had this nagging feeling that I could just do better.

Creating a Calendar with Snapfish
Click to see full size

That’s when I decided to upload all my photos into Shutterfly, too, and see if I could make a calendar there that I would feel better about. First complaint about Shutterfly is that uploading the photos took a long time. Second complaint is that when building the calendar, as soon as you drag one photo onto the page, it automatically scrolls back to the first photo. I found this extremely annoying. But, I did eventually find the plain black background (it’s under Sports, if you wondered. Not under Solids and Textures like you might expect).

Creating a calendar with Shutterfly
Click to see Full Size

As I was building my calendar in Shutterfly, I also downloaded Mpix’s calendar creator software. Now, I LOVE Mpix for their prints. I’ve never had a SINGLE complaint about them. But I was already annoyed before I even started started the download. There was only ONE calendar example on the website, so I almost didn’t download it because why bother if I’m going to hate all the options? But I did. And then I installed it (which took rather long, I thought), and then I opened it. And goodness – it’s really confusing. Once I finally figured out where I could get the templates for each page, I realized it was actually pretty powerful as you could use the templates, but then you can also drag things around on the page – make certain photos bigger and other smaller. You can also add text or clip art anywhere on the page (with Shutterfly and Snapfish you could only add text in their “insert caption here” boxes).

Creating a calendar with mpix
Click to see Full Size

In the end I decided to stick with Shutterfly – it was fast, quick and easy and while I recognized the power of Mpix’s software, I was already pretty frazzled at this point, and could foresee some future frustrations if I continued down that path. As an added bonus, Shutterfly is running a deal right now where if you buy one calendar for full price, each additional calendar is 50% off! AND I had a coupon code (holiday50) for free shipping on orders of $50 or more from Shutterfly, and since I was ordering more than one calendar, I was able to put that to use.

Final Thoughts

I’m happy with my decision to go with Shutterfly (though I suppose I could change my mind when I see the calendar itself), because I wanted to create something fast and easy, but also good looking. If I wanted something GREAT looking and completely custom and was willing to spend the time, I would say Mpix was a better choice. I thought I’d sum everything up here with a final pro/con list of all three places I looked at.

Snapfish Pros: Fast upload of photos, easiest to use interface, the most options as far as size/print quality goes
Snapfish Cons: Only a max of 3 photos per page, the Preview was poor quality, I was under-impressed with a book I made through them last year

Mpix Pros: Great printer that I know and trust – with both quality and speed, you have a LOT of control over the layout, infinite number of photos per page
Mpix Cons: Have to download software to create calendar, software is clunky and not easy to use, existing templates only have a max of four photos (but you can add more), I never did figure out how to change the background color (or if it’s even possible)

Shutterfly Pros: max number of photos per page is nine, I like the quality of the books I’ve seen from them
Shutterfly Cons: Uploading photos took a long time, interface not quite as easy to use as Snapfish (but still much easier than Mpix), plain black background really hard to find – jeez!

I’ll be sure to report back if I get the calendar to let you know how it actually looks, but I wanted to post this experience and what I learned now, in case you were interested in making photo calendars for holiday gifts this year!

If you have your own experience to share, I’m really interested – let us know all about it in the comments!

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  • eli

    on snapfish how do i add birthdays

  • jfrench0817

    People -- you can fit up to 15 photos per page of the calendar! Just follow the directions on their website. I have used them several times and very satisfied. Good luck! Oh, here's a link...hope it works:

  • JackRuh

    More than 3 pictures!  Figured it out. This is the 3rd year using Snapfish for a family calendar.  Like the other comments I was frustrated in not being able to get more than 3 pictures on a page.  I read another fellow's post who said he could get four pictures and no more.  By dumb luck I landed on the solution: 1) From the 'layouts' window select Magic Layouts and drag it up to the calendar page. 2) This part is a bit tricky so don't get frustrated, once you get it, you've got it. Grab any picture from your collected photos column and drag it onto the calendar page....while holding the mouse button down, as you drag it into the calendar page, move the picture around the perimeter of the 3 blank photo spots or between the photos.  If you look closely while you are doing this you will see that anytime you have your 'dragged picture' outside of one of the 3 windows the 'shading' is different than when you are ''in' one of the blank photo spaces.  Release the mouse button when you are 'outside' of one of the blank windows and voila, you will now have 4 spots. You can do this multiple times and add more.  I have as many as 7 on one page...I'm not sure what the limit is as they get smaller. 
    What surprises me most is that Snapfish hasn't updated this calendar product in the last 3 years nor do they have anyone at the company that reads these posts and provides solutions. At the very least they could imbed a simple Youtube video on the page and 'teach us'.  It's anti-customer service actually. 
    This same method works with the 1 2 and 3 page pages with text. 
    As an aside, for anyone who has read the Steve Jobs biography you'll know that this user interface would be much easier if it were an Apple app.
    A much happier user.
    Jack Ruh
    Buffalo NY 

  • Lough

    I made all of my 8 grandchildren a pictorial book of their ancestry for 6 generations. I have been extremely happy with the quality and the speed with which they were completed and sent to me.
    However, my latest project is a 2012 calendar for each of my family members. I AM SO disappointed to have discovered that I can only fit THREE photos on a calendar month! In May I have FIVE birthdays and wanted each member to have their photo on that month's page.
    It looks as though I am going to have to return to Apple for my 2012 family calendar!!
    Snapfish, could you PLEASE look into this and change it for 2013. I for one would be grateful

  • Brandon

    I'm curious...a month later, did you get your calendars? And how did they turn out? We created photo calendars for the first time this year also. We used Costco's online calendar maker. It was simple to use, but it had it's frustrating quirks. We had a lot of fun finding pictures to insert in special dates as well (you can insert pictures and captions in the date boxes). For birthdays and anniversaries we just saved and used some pictures of people that we found on facebook (low quality, but they are printed pretty small). Final result...everyone thought they were wonderful, and we got a lot of ooooh's and aaaaah's.

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