PhotoBook Canada Review

PhotoBookCanada Review

Since I moved back to Canada in 2019, I’ve wanted to find a good photo book company that was local.  (I previously used Saal Digital, which I reviewed here.)

I ordered 3 books:

One for myself, one for my mom and one for my sister. They have many of the same photos in them, but are all slightly different.  

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that one has a blank white cover. This was a mistake! There was no warning message  when I was checking out that my cover was blank (or if there was, it wasn’t noticeable) and I was disappointed when it arrived like this. But, since it was my fault for not double-checking everything, I let this slide for this review.

Paper Comparison

Each book has a different paper type. I went with the default, “silk” paper, upgraded to a heavier paper and in the third book went with the “photo” quality paper.

Besides being slightly thicker, the upgraded silk paper was no better image quality than the cheaper paper. 

The “photo” paper had better color rendition, but a slightly blurry look to it that I wasn’t expecting. It didn’t look as good as a plain 4×6 print from London Drugs, for example. See my print lab review here.

Color Comparison

Now comes the ultimate disappointment.

There has been a clear “auto correct” of my images, which resulted in drastic (and ugly) changes to my images. 

Ironically, the images which I cared most about and had done the most edits in Photoshop turned out the worst, while the quick cell phone snapshots looked fine.  I attribute this to the fact that their machine was probably looking for an average photo (like my cell phone shots) and when it came across something it thought was “too dark” it brightened it up for me. So, my carefully edited dark-ish photos ended up being overly washed out and lacking contrast.

A big disappointment. Especially since this was inconsistent between books!

Here’s a few comparisons side by side of some images which turned out terribly in one book but not in the other.

Above: Premium silk paper (left) and photo lustre paper (right)

Neither looked like the original image!  One was way too washed out and the other had blacks increased.

Above: On the left is a $0.39 print from London Drugs which I glued into a homemade book for my son. On the right is the way more expensive album from PhotobookCanada. (Super washed out!)

Above: Another $0.39 print from London Drugs vs the same photo in the printed album.  Of note: I always request “no adjustments” to all my print orders from London Drugs (or anywhere for that matter) so this is not a case of someone personally color correcting my images at LD. They are printed exactly as I send them in.

Ugliest Photo award goes to this page!

I don’t even know how they managed to get it so wrong! Below is the image I sent in…

As you can see, something has been changed because it’s way too bright and lacking contrast. Note that none of the images have been altered, and I am showing you the images exactly as I sent them in. Also, the images of the actual books are not edited in any way.

Above left: premium silk paper. Above right: photo lustre paper.  Both of these are “okay” but the photo on the left is lacking contrast and depth!

 

What worked?

Photos which had average scenes, like blue sky and obvious human figures (average color tones) turned out well. I guess their software could identify the subject of the image and did not “feel” the need to adjust it.  Black and white images turned out fairly well too.

Binding

I like both binding options. Perfect bind doesn’t lay flat and you lose some of your image in the “crack” but it allows for more pages, so that’s a bonus. 

 

Ordering Locally… or not?

I chose Photobook Canada because it appeared to me from their website that they were headquartered in Ontario and I wanted to support a Canadian company, as opposed to ordering from one of the many US companies and then paying import tax on top.

To my surprise, my books came from MALAYSIA and I had to pay import duties of $21.45!!!

When I wrote the company, about this, I got this response:
Photobook Canada is part of the Photobook Worldwide group, we strive to provide quality products and outstanding customer service. However, all orders will be produced in our printing and production facility which is located in Malaysia.

They did also explain they had no way of knowing if/when duties would be charged and that they’d give me store credit for the amount I had to pay in duties.

That would have been fine if I received awesome books. But, I am disappointed by my images being so drastically “auto corrected” that I had to write them back to ask about that issue. 

Summary

I spent MANY hours preparing these photo albums for my family and am disappointed that so many of the pages turned out poorly. (Mostly because I hate waste and I don’t want to have to reprint them.)

I didn’t expect perfection. If I wanted a perfect rendition of my images I would have gone to a professional album company like I do for my wedding albums and paid 5 times this amount. This is not that. I was just expecting a decent quality book for the price, and to have my images printed without anyone (or any machine) changing the way I created them.

I have written Photobook Canada and will update this page when I get a response.

 

**EDIT: I got a credit from them to reprint my book at no cost and was told there is an auto color correction on by default. I have to turn that off before ordering. I did that, and also ordered with more expensive paper option. The reprint looks really good! Now the only issue is the fact that it’s NOT Canadian and I was trying to find a local company.

Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you decide if these photo books are right for you!

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