Whether it's for you or as a gift, creating a photo book is a great way of getting your photos off your phone or camera and into the "real world". Flicking through a photo book is a much nicer way of showing off your latest holiday or maybe even your wedding to family and friends and these days they're affordable, easy to design and there are so many styles to choose from.
A photo book doesn't just make a great gift – they're also a fantastic way of celebrating your own memories and experiences. Perhaps you've just come back from your travels or you want to document your children's lives, photo books make perfect keepsakes that you can cherish and look back on in years to come.
There are lots of customizable features and stylish templates you can choose from when designing your photo book. If you're feeling extra creative you can choose a blank template and design everything including the front cover from scratch which adds another touch of personality.
If you're feeling a little lazy or perhaps you're just running out of time, lots of the services we've listed have an autofill option if you don't want to drag and drop photos manually. Of course, if you're trying to tell a story then you'll have to insert them yourself but if it doesn't need to be in a specific order, this can be a massive 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…
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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.
When it comes to the best photo book service Mixbook are hard to beat. Their products are available to ship worldwide, it regularly runs big discounts making it very good value. The Mixbook software is very easy to use and it can all be done on your web browser. Choose from over 400 fully customizable templates plus there are lots of backgrounds and stickers you can include to make it really unique.
There are three different paper finishes to choose from, semi-gloss, pearl and an ultra-thick premium matte paper if you want a lay-flat photo book. We ordered the 8.5 x 8.5-inch classic square glossy hardcover book and found the process very easy. Uploading images was quick and it didn't take long to arrange them.
When the photo book arrived we noticed there was some fringing on the edges of the cover image and the logo. We also spotted some color inaccuracies, especially on the cover which has a red tinge to it. 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.
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.
Shutterfly is a fantastic option for anyone who wants really simple-to-use software to create a professional-looking photo book. There are lots of templates and background to choose from plus a Many My Book service where you can supply your images and design ideas and Shutterfly designers will 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.
Snapfish has been in the personalized printing business for more than two decades and offer a range of products including photo books. The software is an easy drag-and-drop experience and you can pick from 120 themes.
The quality of the Snapfish photo book isn't quite as good as other on the list but it regularly offers pretty hefty discounts so if you don't need it straight away look out for these. We were pleased with the photobook we received although the colors seemed to be accurate they were a little more saturated so be careful if you're sending in images that are already highly saturated. We also noticed a couple of wonky prints and once you spotted them they were so hard to unsee.
If you're after a super high-quality finish, look elsewhere but if color accuracy and value for money is your game, Snapfish is a great option.
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.
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.
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.
Vistaprint is another experienced personalized photo printer with a lot of customizable options. For photo books, there are three different cover options to choose from including linen, leather and photo. You can also opt for either glossy r standard matte paper. There are two ways to design your book, either using the web-based builder or you can download the offline editor from the Vistaprint website.
Both are fairly intuitive to use, but Vistaprint's downside is there aren't as many options to choose from as other manufacturers. It does have several options for backgrounds, clip art and frames you can use but they're not the most 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, you might want to go for a different manufacturer, such as Mixbook.
Blurb might not have a web-based photo book builder but it does have a lot of other things going for it. For example, unlike any other service on the list, once you create your book with Blurb you can then sell it to other people. This is great if you're a photographer as you can easily self-publish your work and sell it through the Blurb bookstore. There's no need for a traditional publisher and you'll keep more of what you earn.
Blurb isn't the cheapest by any means but it's still pretty reasonable. Prices start at $21.99 for a 20-page book with each additional page costing $0.25. Blurb offers a range of finishing options including a softcover, hardcover or just jacket plus six different paper choices. If you're unsure what to pick, you can order a swatch kit to make sure you're happy with your choice.
There are a variety of ways you can create your photobook masterpiece including a plug-in for Adobe InDesign and BookWright, Blurb's unique desktop software. There isn't an online web-builder but Blurb does have an intuitive app for iPhone and iPad that works pretty well. The design templates seemed a little limited so if you wanted to create a super personalized book, one of the other services will probably suit your needs better.
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!
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