Shutterfly vs. Professional Photo Albums

Question of the week: How are your albums different from Shutterfly®?

Christine Perry-burke, Managing Partner at Finao, took the time to answer this question for a professional photographer who was looking to incorporate albums into their business for the first time.

Thank you for asking a very important question; it’s one that I think many photographers struggle with.  Companies like Shutterfly® produce consumer-grade products, where Finao produces products for the professional photographer.  However, sometimes the lines are blurred and it makes it difficult for the pro to justify the price to their clients.  I’ll give you a few points that I think are important references for showing and selling your products.

Print quality:

This is an area the consumer may have difficulty seeing unless they can make a direct comparison, but it is also the most important area.  Finao prides itself on providing the best possible print quality which makes you look your very best.  Our printers are meticulously calibrated for both color and black & white images, with special attention paid to skin tones.  We monitor that calibration 5 times a day with test strips that are then read electronically so there can be no judgement-calls or misinterpretations.  We expect every test to be spot-on, but we still run them as extra insurance that our clients’ images will be consistent and true to the files they submitted.

Fuji Luster is not all the same:

They actually make two grades of paper: one referred to as album paper, and one considered portrait-grade paper.  Finao uses only portrait-grade paper which is a much heavier weight.  A page in your Finao playBOOK™ will be sturdier and more resilient to any cracking/tearing in the crease than other similar photo books.  This is an important consideration when selling something you expect your client to have forever.  It is also important to note that Silver Halide is the printing method used here, as opposed to press printing or inkjet printing.  It means we use an actual silver-based chemical process which is far superior to the press process which is standard in the industry at this price range.

Quality inspection:

Every page in every Finao album is looked at, cleaned and checked for minor imperfections by human hands and eyes.  Volume binders simply can not provide this level of attention to detail.

Handmade covers that actually fit:

Every Finao album cover is hand made and intended to fit your individual album perfectly.  We do not purchase pre-made covers, and we do not assume that one size fits many capacities.  At Shutterfly, even “custom” photo covers are made in a case-maker machine and come in a limited number of spine capacities.

Side-by-side comparison of spines on Finao playBOOk (L) and Shutterfly Premium Book (R) as featured on Finao features high-quality binding, block finishing and solid spines.
Side-by-side comparison of spines on Finao playBOOk (L) and Shutterfly Premium Book (R) as featured on
Finao features high-quality binding, block finishing and solid spines.

Quality material:

This is just another area where Finao shines.  We take care and pride in choosing materials that are both beautiful and durable.  We believe, as should you, that your client came to you for quality images and would expect them to be delivered in a quality album made with quality materials.  Finao offers the highest quality and most unique selection from linen to mohair to our finely finished leathers.  There IS a difference between “genuine” leather and real hides; when Finao offers leather, it comes shaped like a cow, not on a roll.

Photo wraps:

Although we do not think photo wrap covers are the best choice, when we do make them for customers, we add a 5 mil laminate to help with durability.  Since consumer-facing companies like Shutterfly sell mostly photo covers, we recommend professionals try to not look so much alike on the outside.  Choose a lovely fabric cover.  It’s more sophisticated, durable, and helps to set you apart

Last, but most important, is knowing just what you are selling:

It’s not the album, but the images in the album.  A painting is not judged by the frame, nor should you think of your art as the cost-of-goods-sold.  It’s a packaged deal.  You’ll do your part to create the best possible images, and we will do our part to make sure the outside lives up to the inside.

I hope this helps.  Confidence in sales is not always easy, but it is vital to your business.  Knowing your products can be as much a part of your success as knowing good lighting and proper exposure.  Your goal is to deliver something of lasting value to your clients, something that you are proud of, and something that speaks to the quality of your images and the hard work you put into creating them.

Please let us know when ever we can be of assistance.  Our team is always here to help.


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