Up until now I’ve never really invested in a solid printed portfolio. I’ve gotten by with my iPad app (in my opinion Portfolio for iPad is the best one out there), or the occasional $50 book printed with any number of online services just so I’d have something on paper. The $50 book served it’s purpose I guess, but it also looked like a $50 book, with mediocre paper quality and inconsistent color reproduction.
If I wasn’t taking my printed book seriously, how could I expect the ad agencies or magazines I’ve met with to take it seriously either? A high quality, beautifully assembled, printed portfolio was long overdue for me, and that’s when I took a closer look at Artifact Uprising’s Layflat Photo Album.
Why Artifact Uprising
Artifact Uprising has been a company I’ve used on a number of occasions, from promo piecesto Christmas cards. They always seem to have what I’m looking for with a really nice level of quality at a fair price.
They’re not the “get 100 for $9.99” kind of online printing service, and that’s the point.
With some meetings coming up in L.A. I knew I wanted to invest in something that would show my work in the best way possible. There’s no shortage of book printing options, but in my research I had trouble coming up with books that had noticeably thick pages, with lay flat pages that didn’t distort the images, and a binding process that wouldn’t give up after a few portfolio meetings, all within a reasonable price range. AU’s Layflat Photo Album checked all of these boxes on my list, and with a starting price of $139 I assumed the build quality would be adequate to say the least. So I hit the ‘Make Your Album’ button and began the process.
After deciding on the biggest size available (8.5” x 11” at the time, they now offer a 12” x 12” option) I chose the Lustre Photo Paper option, chose the color of my book and foil stamped text, and got to work on the sequence of my images.
From there I was led into AU’s online design software where I could upload images directly from my computer, the VSCO app (VSCO acquired AU a few years back), Instagram, a user gallery, or my Dropbox.
After uploading my images I was able to easily drag and drop different page layout templates depending on how I’d like to present my images. AU offers a ton of options in this area, so it’s hard not to find something that works perfectly for each image. After you’ve chosen the page layout, you can then drag and drop different images into each field in the template to see how they’ll look when printed, and you can resize / crop the image size from there as well. Here are some of my images in the various templates they offer.
AU’s design software works well for me 95% of the time, regardless if I’m using Safari or Chrome. It’s just that other 5% that every so often an image doesn’t ‘snap’ into the template like I expect it to, so I’m not sure if it’s actually saved on that page or not. This hasn’t happened to me often but when it does it can be annoying. Usually I save the project, exit out of it, go back into the project, and resume where I left off. If I could make one suggestion to AU it’s that they really make the design software as snappy and responsive as possible. It’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but just something I’ve noticed throughout my time using their service.
An hour or so later and I had everything laid out. I double checked the sequence of images and hit the Order button. With a 10 day production time plus shipping, I estimated I’d be getting the book just about two weeks after ordering.
As soon as I opened the shipping box I was really impressed with the presentation of the packaging; it felt like opening an Apple product, where the unboxing gave me the impression I was getting something of the highest quality. The design is clean and minimal, the box is heavy duty (great for traveling with as I just found out), and the book inside stays well protected. They even pack the inside of the carrying box so there’s no movement of your book inside of the carrying box whatsoever. Nice.
Even after five meetings, two plane rides, and a few sharp turns in the trunk of a rental car, the carrying box and book remain in excellent shape.
Just like with the packaging, I was really impressed with the build quality of the book. With 50 pages total, the book feels like a brick and measures just a hair under 1.25” thick. The foil stamped lettering is substantially pressed into the cover and spine, and the pages are so thick I think you’d have to go way out of your way to actually bend a page. Aside from their presentation quality, I’m guessing the weight of these pages means they’re going to hold up nicely even after many meetings.
Going with the layflat option was absolutely worth it as well. The pages truly lay flat, like 180 degrees completely flat. Again, the weight of the pages help every page just turn and fall naturally, and intentionally. The whole book just feels bomb proof.
Paper Choice + Color Reproduction
When I ordered the book I had two options for paper; lustre photo paper or a matte eggshell option. I went with the lustre photo paper and have no regrets about it at all. It has a minor amount of “shine”, but I mean very minor. If you’re worried about a hard glare when showing your work in a room with overhead lights, there is nothing to worry about. I wanted a tiny amount of shine on the images compared to a matte eggshell option, and in my opinion AU hit the nail on the head in this department once again.
Of course the most important thing is how the images actually look when they’re printed, and how well the color from our computers translates over to a printed book. I should preface this part with the fact that I edit my work on an 8 year old iMac with zero color calibration.. but my images printed EXACTLY as they look on my screen, and most importantly exactly how I wanted them to look. My color correction translated over to paper perfectly, and the blacks took on a nice weight they didn’t have on my screen. Nothing beyond reason, just a nice contrast that gives each image an extra pop.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m totally happy with the outcome of ordering my first Layflat Photo Album from Artifact Uprising. It’s a small investment in my business I’m happy to make when the quality of the book is this good. The only minor complaint I have is that the design software can sometimes be a little bit slow to respond, but that’s a very small percentage of the time and wouldn’t stop me from ordering another book whatsoever.
In short, Artifact Uprising has developed a series of great products with the Layflat Photo Album epitomizing their commitment to product quality over quantity.
Ready to try out Artifact Uprising for yourself? Use the discount code IMAGEAU10 for 10% off sitewide and on the mobile app. Expires May 2, 2016.