This Mpix Review will tell you the story of a well-intentioned but busy mom (guess who that would be?), patient children who posed for many a photo, and photo book that saved me hours, even days, worth of time.

(Thank you to Mpix, a sponsor of this blog, for giving me this photo book to review for you.)

Like much of the world, my family and I have left home very little since March. Our new routines and constant togetherness provided plenty of opportunities for photos at home. You can only take a photo of a kid having an after school snack so many times in one year (unless, maybe, you take that photo each day – that would make a fun photo project). But with the whole family at home and bored children, I found lots of new routines to photograph.

Mpix Review: book creation interface

And given that we are living history right now, it seems only natural to make a scrapbook with all these photos.

Not to mention all the free time I have – tons of extra hours to spend in front of the computer scrapbooking. (That’s sarcasm. I spend less time in the car and out and about right now, but quarantining takes plenty of time in other areas: cooking, cleaning, entertaining bored kids…)

When I realized that I just couldn’t sit down and take the time to create a scrapbook like this, I decided to make a photo album that worked like a scrapbook, using text and embellishments.

And y’all, I timed it. It took me 1 hour and 37 minutes to create this book that I’m so happy with. Making a hybrid scrapbook like I’ve in the past would have taken me 20 hours or more.

Mpix Review: Premium Panoramic Page Spread

The page spread in the panoramic photo book is so big I had trouble fitting two pages into one photo!

Photo Preparation

At the beginning of our quarantine, I began taking photos and storing them in the same folder on my computer. Named, unsurprisingly, Quarantine. I used keywords to make the photos easy to locate down the road. And I marked my favorites with Pick flags and edited lightly as I uploaded the photos.

And that’s something that is consistent in every scrapbook/photo book I create – the editing is minimal. For me, it’s not about getting a hang-over-the-fireplace-quality photo on every page, but documenting life. I take some photos with my camera, others with my phone. The exposure is bad – and not improvable – on some photos. Others have soft focus, but they capture the moment. And I’m ok with that.

In terms of editing, I do clean edits with basic corrections: exposure, contrast, white balance, and maybe some vibrance and texture – all in Lightroom. And that’s it.

Choosing the best photos and editing them each time I uploaded a new batch is key to making this process go quickly. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes per upload, for me, and I’d do it anyway for posting on social media. In fact, I edit some of the photos on my phone (even my camera images) and upload them directly to Mpix using their app. By the time I was ready to create my photo book, I had a folder full of images waiting on their website.

Mpix Review: Photo Book Creation

The first step to creating a photo book at Mpix is selecting the type and size you’d like. I chose the 11 x 8.5-inch book from this page. Selecting your book opens up a photo book creation interface – here’s where the magic happens.

At this point, I upload any photos that I haven’t already added to Mpix using my mobile phone.

You begin by designing your cover, if you choose to add a dust jacket. I didn’t – I knew I’d be adding lots of pages and wanted to keep the price lower. The black linen cover is elegant and looks great on a coffee table or with a stack of leather-bound books.

Next – and this process is so fun for me –  add ALL OF YOUR PHOTOS at one time into your book. Access your gallery, select all, and click on OK. Mpix will ask you how many photos per page you’d like – you can always change this later on each individual page, so choose whichever configuration you think you’ll use the most.

As you add all the photos, Mpix will choose the best crop for each based on face detection. And you can always adjust the crop after the fact too.

Mpix Review: Auto Crop

The photo book creation interface is easy to use. I talked about it some in this video last year. And it’s even better since then. I’m not going to get into it too much – just know that you can rearrange photos, change page layouts, and add text to your heart’s content.

What I do want to talk about is making your book more like a scrapbook.

Mpix Review: Scrapbooking

How many digital scrapbook embellishments do you have? I love Ali Edwards and have bought tons of her products. Because they are digital, you can use them in place of photos, or (of course) on photos.

To use in place of photos, make sure your digital embellishments are saved as JPGs. And then upload and add to your photo album just like any other photo. This screenshot of a finished page is from the Mpix book creation interface.

Mpix Review: finished scrapbook page

Pro tip: if the digital art is getting cut off around the edges, take it back into Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and add blank space around the edges of the canvas. Shortcut alt/option + control/command + C brings up this window.

Simply type in 100% to both the Width and Height, make sure Relative is checked, and click OK. Save the file as a JPG and it should fit in your book with no cropping. If not, make the canvas even bigger than 100%.

You can use your embellishments on a photo if you put them together in Photoshop or PSE first.

You can even combine elements and put them together into a new graphic for your photo album. This would happen in Photoshop or PSE too.

The other feature about these photo books that makes them so great for scrapbooking is the way you can add text and captions. My favorite part is that you can experiment with text styles, colors, sizes, etc. And when you finally find the perfect combination, apply it to all your text boxes at one time!

Summary:

This MPIX review has been as much how-to as review. Once I got over thinking that a photo album was always formal and structured rather than creative and fun, all sorts of ideas came to me. (I’m slow on the uptake, I know!) I even slipped some letters and cards I received during the quarantine into this book so that we can have all our pandemic memories together.

So yes, I do encourage you to try an Mpix photo book if you haven’t already. But more important, keep in mind all the possibilities that their design interface offers. You’ll love the unique and personal keepsake you create!