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The best photo books in 2021: create a personalized picture album online

The best photo books in 2020: create a personalized picture album online
(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

It's never too early to think about the festive season – and the best photo books are a great way to gift your loved ones something sentimental and personal (without breaking the bank!). Whether you want to create a wonderful round-up of your friend or family member's favorite memories or celebrate a specific event, the best photo books are the perfect gift. 

A photo book isn't just a great gift though – it's also a lovely way to celebrate your own memories and experiences. Plus, with all of the customizable features and stylish templates available, you can make your photo book truly unique. We particularly enjoy the ability to create your own custom front cover, which truly adds a little extra polish.

How to create a photo book

Many of the services available here give users the choice between autofilling the pages of their photo book, or manually arranging the images themselves. If you don't need your book in a specific order, being able to automatically fill the pages can be a fantastic time-saver. 

To help you find the best photo book service for you, we've reviewed and rated each of the products in this guide. We've tested each service based on the quality of their books, the speed of the shipping and how functional and user-friendly their photo book creator tools are. Discover our favorites below…

The best photo books

The best photo books in 2021

(Image credit: Adorama Pix)

1. Printique (previously AdoramaPix)

The best photo book for professionals

Specifications
Ships to: USA, Canada
Cover options: Hardcover, softcover, leather, die-cut, fabric
Paper options: Luster, glossy, silk, deep matte, linen and pebble
Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Reasons to buy
+Excellent print quality+Good value for money+Professional service
Reasons to avoid
-Can't be edited after adding to cart-More expensive than some

Printique is the online service of Adorama, the well-known photo store in New York. And the company's expertise in photo printing is obvious in the quality of its products and finish it delivers. If you're looking to create a professional photography portfolio, you'd be hard-pushed to find a better photo book service to do it.   

The best photo book options are available in square, portrait and landscape format, in 14 different sizes, plus there are six paper weights to choose from. All of the hardcover, fabric, and leather photo books options have pages that lay flat, which, unlike other companies on this list, Printique doesn't charge extra for. 

The Printique photo editor interface looks a little busy, but is fairly intuitive and easy to use, clearly highlighting book edges, where and how to upload images and add special features including stickers, shapes and frames. The only slight downside to this service is the lack of editing options after a product has been added to the cart, so make sure you're completely finished creating your book before doing so.

(Image credit: Future / Louise Carey)

2. MixBook

The best photo book for value, and with regular discounts

Specifications
Ships to: Worldwide
Cover options: Soft, glossy, matte, leather
Paper options: Semi-gloss, pearl finish, ultra-thick premium matte
Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Reasons to buy
+Simple-to-use software+Most affordable option
Reasons to avoid
-Quality could be better

When it comes to providing the best photo book service, Mixbook is certainly a tough one to beat. Not only are its products available to ship worldwide, Mixbook often runs sizable discounts, making its range of photo books (and other products such as photo calendars or photo prints) a veritable steal. 

The Mixbook software is incredibly easy to use – you don't have to download anything, as it's all done in your internet browser. There are nearly 400 fully customizable templates, backgrounds and stickers to choose from, which enables you to create a perfectly polished photo book that will impress anyone who sees it. 

Mixbook photo books come in three versatile paper types, semi-gloss, pearl finish and an ultra-thick premium matte paper for its lay flat photo book option.

We ordered a 8.5x8.5" Classic Square Glossy Hardcover Photo Book. We found the process of creating a Mixbook photo book simple and easy to navigate, with plenty of customization options available for each of the many templates Mixbook offers. Uploading images to the site was simple, and arranging them on the pages didn't take long at all.

However, when the photo book arrived we did have a few issues with the quality of the front cover of the book. There was some fringing on edges of the image and the logo. While it wasn't immediately obvious, it was definitely noticeable when inspecting at close quarters. In addition, the colors were inaccurate on the cover as well. While the original image used for the cover photo had been graded with warm oranges, the printed cover skewed more red. 

However, most of our issues were with the cover of the book. The images printed on the inside were true-to-color and printed nicely. Plus, the design and layout of the book were genuinely beautiful and helped bring the photos to life. 

(Image credit: Picaboo)

3. Picaboo

Professional photo books with excellent customisation options

Specifications
Ships to: Worldwide
Cover options: Glossy, standard
Paper options: Standard, lay flat, Premium Lustre
Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Reasons to buy
+Excellent customisation+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Good print quality but not the best

Picaboo's print quality might not quite be on par with others, but what it lacks (only slightly) in finish, it makes up for in features and customization options. 

Its software is super-easy to use, with features such as backgrounds and clip art option easily located to help you achieve the desired look. The print quality is of a high standard, and the added option to polish photos to help them match backgrounds goes a long way to helping get that professional finish. 

(Image credit: Shutterfly)

4. Shutterfly

Quality printing and lots of add-ons for the perfect finish

Specifications
Ships to: Worldwide
Cover options: Hardcover (matt/glossy), die-cut in cloth, leather
Paper options: Standard matte, ultra-thick satin finish
Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Reasons to buy
+Simple to use+Lots of templates
Reasons to avoid
-Finish can be inconsistent

A brilliant all-rounder, Shutterfly is another of the best photo books services to offer really simple to use software to help create a great-looking book. There are loads of templates and backgrounds to choose from, as well as a Make My Book service, with which you provide Shutterfly designers with details of your requirements and they do all the hard work for you. 

Shutterfly also offers a number of great discounts throughout the year, so if your need for a photo book isn't immediate, a good offer is always just around the corner.

(Image credit: Future / Louise Carey)

5. Snapfish

A reliable, simple-to-use photo book service

Specifications
Ships to: Wordwide
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover, matte hardcover, hardcover (glossy), hardcover lay flat
Paper options: Standard, glossy, lay flat
Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Easy to use+Accurate colors
Reasons to avoid
-Quality could be better

Probably one of the best-known photo book services, Snapfish has been in the image business for the past two decades, so its staff know a thing or two about photography services. Evidence of which is clear in its simple drag-and-drop photo book editor, which guides you through every part of the creation process, including how to pick from over 120 themes. 

Snapfish is another company that offers money-saving deals all year round, so you're highly likely to get a good price on your next photo book. It's worth noting that these price reductions are an attractive opportunity, but if it's a real high-end professional finish that you're after, you might want to opt for one of the other services on this list. 

We were fairly pleased with the photo book we received from Snapfish. The color accuracy was good throughout the book - and even on the cover too. In other photo books that we reviewed we tended to have trouble with the cover printing the colors of our image accurately. Either the skin tones would end up as a muddy red tone, or they’d be so overly saturated with orange that it would look ridiculous. However, we also noticed that the cover of the Snapfish photo book was wonky, with the two pieces of cardboard slightly askew. 

It’s also worth noting that while Snapfish’s offering was probably the most accurate color reproduction for the cover out of all the photo books, it was still quite heavily saturated. To ensure you’re happy with your photo book front cover, we recommend avoiding images that are already highly saturated. 

In terms of the rest of the book, the printing quality inside the book is fairly good. The color accuracy is decent and, although the prints could be sharper, the image quality as a whole is fine. 

(Image credit: Walgreens Photo)

6. Walgreens Photo

Turn your memories in to a beautiful page-turner with ease

Specifications
Ships to: USA
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover, linen, leather, premium lay flat
Paper options: Standard, glossy, lay flat
Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Reasons to buy
+Fast service+Easy to use editor+Affordable 
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks quality comparatively 

Walgreens Photo is one of the best photo book sites to use to make a quick and simple custom photo book. And by quick we mean the same day if you're able to pick it up. Its easy-to-use editor means you can put your design together in no time, and with the company constantly running discount offers, it won't break the bank either.

If you want a photo book in a hurry, you always run the risk of sacrificing quality. And while other services on this list undoubtedly offer a superior finish, Walgreen's still offers a very decent service in terms of print production and value for money.  

(Image credit: Future / Louise Carey)

7. Mimeo Photos

Despite fiddly software, you can't beat Mimeo's quality

Specifications
Ships to: USA, UK
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover
Paper options: Standard
Reasons to buy
+Great quality+Inside photos true to color
Reasons to avoid
-Cover photo colors not quite accurate

Mimeo Photos offers both a third-party Photos app extension for MacOS, allowing you to create and edit an Apple Photo project to be printed, and a web-based builder. There are over 50 theme options, including well-known Apple favorites and you can customize layouts and backgrounds for your own personal touch. You can also apply edits, adjustments and filters to any photo directly within the app's design page. 

We created our photo book using the Mimeo Photos app. Once we'd downloaded the app extension, the software itself was relatively easy to use. However, where Mimeo Photos really shone was in the quality of the book we received. We ordered a hard cover book, which arrived with an attractive dust jacket (although the cover image was also printed on the actual cover of the book as well). 

The only gripe we have about this book was that the saturation seems to have been pushed up for the front cover image, as the skin tones on both the dust jacket and the hard cover itself became a luminescent orange. However, the photos inside the book were beautifully printed. They were nice and sharp, with none of the fuzziness experienced in cheaper options. Unlike the front cover, the colors also printed accurately. 

(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

8. My Social Book

Print a photo book direct from your Facebook or Instagram library

Specifications
Ships to: USA, UK, worldwide
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover
Paper options: Standard Paper (90gsm), Semi-Gloss Soft Paper 135gsm
Reasons to buy
+Great quality colors+Choice of paper quality and cover type+Well packaged
Reasons to avoid
-Website is slow to use

My Social Book offers something slightly different from the rest – allowing you to create books from your Instagram or Facebook pictures, providing you a hardcopy of your favorite social media memories. 

The software is easy to use – as you simply link your chosen social media source to  My Social Book, and then choose the time frame you want your book to cover. Fortunately you can exclude those embarrassing posts and out-of-focus images, so that you only print the images you want. And you can also choose the image you want on the cover. However, we found the whole compilation process is rather slow - and the printing and delivery takes its time too.

However, the quality of the printing is much better than an average photo book printer – and this is a great way of ensuring that you have your camera phone pictures backed up in a physical form.

(Image credit: Vistaprint)

9. Vistaprint

A great affordable option with a decent range of options

Specifications
Ships to: USA, UK, Worldwide
Cover options: Linen, leather, photo
Paper options: Glossy, Standard Matte
Reasons to buy
+Website builder is easy to use+Option to download photo book builder software
Reasons to avoid
-Not a wide range of designs

Vistaprint is another photo book option that you might want to consider, offering plenty of options for a fun photo book creation. There are three different cover options to choose from, including linen, leather and photo. Users can also select from two different paper options – Glossy and Standard Matte. 

Vistaprint offers two different ways to design your photo book. You can use the web-based builder, which is pretty similar to many of the web-based builders from other photo book manufacturers. Alternatively, if there's also an Offline Editor that you can download from the Vistaprint website. Vistaprint recommends this type of photo book builder if users are looking for "enhanced personalization options, like extra backgrounds and layouts".

The Vistaprint web-based builder was fairly intuitive to use, offering a decent selection of layouts to choose from. The one thing we would say is that Vistaprint don't offer the same selection of designs that manufacturers such as Mixbook or Snapfish do. However, there are some customization options for the backgrounds of the pages, clip art and frames that users can incorporate into their designs – just don't expect them to be overly stylish.

The web-based builder gives users the opportunity to design their own book from scratch, or have the builder fill in the pages for them. Most other manufacturers offer this service and Vistaprint's isn't much different than the rest – it's a little hit-and-miss. Some pages will look nicely put-together, while others might seem clunky. 

Overall, Vistaprint offers some affordable options for photo books, but if you're looking for more sophisticated design choices, then you might want to go for a different manufacturer, such as Mixbook, instead. 

(Image credit: Blurb)

10. Blurb

No web-based builder, but app works very well

Specifications
Ships to: USA, UK, Worldwide
Cover options: Softcover, Hardcover, Dust jacket
Paper options: Standard 80#, Premium Lustre 100#, Premium Matte 100#, Proline Uncoated 100#, Proline Pearl Photo 140#, Standard Layflat 100#
Reasons to buy
+App-based builder is easy to use+You can sell your photo book creation
Reasons to avoid
-No web-based builder

Blurb is a unique photo book seller compared to the other companies on this list. Not only can you create a photo book with Blurb – you can also sell it on to other people. This means that if you're a professional photographer, you can easily self-publish and sell your work in a book via the Blurb bookstore without having to go through a traditional publisher.

Blurb begins at $21.99 for 20 pages (with each additional page after that costing $0.25), which is a reasonable price for a photo book manufacturer. Blurb offers a range of finishing options, including a softcover, hardcover or dust jacket and six different paper choices. In fact, you can even order a swatch kit to ensure you're happy with your design choices.

Blurb offers a multitude of ways to create your photo book masterpiece, including a plug-in for Adobe InDesign and BookWright, Blurb's own desktop software. There does seem to be a way to create some Blurb products on the website itself, but photo books aren't included in this unfortunately.

However, Blurb does offer an app for iPhone and iPad that works pretty well. The controls are intuitive and simple to use and the app responds quickly to your commands (with no lagging at all). The design options for the pages themselves seemed a little limited, so if you were looking for a super personalized book, then you may want to choose a different photo book manufacturer on this list.

Photo book creation advice

How to choose the best photo book service

If you've made it to the bottom of the list of best photo book services and you're still not sure which one to pick, don't worry! With so many different providers offering so many different book sizes, designs and paper options, it's natural to feel a bit overwhelmed at all of the choice. However, to figure out which service to go with, we'd recommend figuring out exactly what it is you want.

Are you after a super affordable service with speedy shipping? Then Mixbook might just be the provider for you. Alternatively, perhaps you just want the best quality possible? If so, Printique offers excellent print quality with a professional service. 

However, there are features beyond image quality and great shipping to be aware of. User functionality is a key part of creating a good photo book, as you need to be able to navigate the photo book creator tool with ease. Here are some tips to help you make the most of whichever service you end up using:

You don't need to prepare your pictures in any particular way. Regular JPEGs are fine.

Some photo book services offer book design tools in your own web browser, others offer free apps you download and run on your computer.

Your pictures may be cropped. This may apply if you're using multi-photo page templates or printing a picture right up to the edges of the page (borderless).

Some books come with a lay-flat binding, which makes them easier to leave open.

You will usually get a choice of paper finish. Glossy paper is good for contrast and color, matte paper is better at hiding fingerprints and reflections, soft-sheen lustre papers offer a good middle-ground compromise.

We have listed our choice of the best US photobook services – however many of these will ship worldwide.

How to create a good photo book

1. Select your photos 

To make the photo book design process as smooth as possible, we'd recommend selecting all of the images you want to include beforehand. If some of your desired photos are on your phone, it'll definitely make your life easier transferring them to your computer ahead of time!

2. Choose your design

The majority of the best photo book websites have hundreds of potential designs for you to choose from. This might seem overwhelming at first, but you can usually narrow the selection down into different sections, such as weddings, travel, family and more. When choosing your template, we would recommend thinking about what your own photos look like – if they're super busy and colorful, you might want to go for a simpler design to help your images pop.

3. Arrange your photos

What do your favorite books all have in common? They all have a narrative – and so should your photo book. While we're not asking you to construct Macbeth-level storylines, a beginning, middle and end will help your photo book feel coherent and more enjoyable. The simplest way to do this is often construct the photo book in a generally chronological order.

4. Make bold design choices

If you're a fan of scrapbooking, you'll love the stickers and text functionality that many photo book services provide. However, we would caution against overuse, as you don't want to overshadow your photos! 

Read more

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The best photo printing online
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Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine and  Digital Photographer. Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.