The best photo books are a wonderful way to get some of the many photographs no doubt languishing on your hard drive the attention they deserve.
Digital photography has revolutionised the way we take pictures, however there's still something very special about the tactile experience of physically flicking through a photo album. But if printing photos for a photo album is too last-century for you, try a photo book instead.
What is a photo book?
The best photo books are fully customisable books that feature your photographs printed directly on the cover and inside the pages. They're easy to make and are the ideal memento or gift to celebrate or remember a special event.
There are many companies providing photo book services and deciding which one to use isn’t easy, with each offering numerous book sizes, designs, and paper options. First you need to work out what purpose your photo book will serve and then determine which service best suits your needs. For example, creating a professional photography portfolio will require high quality paper and printing services to ensure no image quality loss.
But even high print quality isn’t much good unless you’re able to nail the layout and design. That comes down to each manufacturer’s accompanying book creation software, and what tricks it will let you pull off. Here are five tips to help you get started:
• 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.
Best photo books in the US
1. Adorama Pix
A professional, high-quality photo book service
Cover options: Hardcover, softcover, leather, die-cut, fabric | Paper options: Luster, glossy, silk, deep matte, linen and pebble | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Adorama Pix is the online service of Adorama, a professional photography shop 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, Adorama Pix doesn't charge extra for.
The Adorama Pix 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.
2. MixBook US
Super-simple, high quality photo book service
Cover options: Soft, glossy, matte, leather | Paper options: Semi-gloss, pearl finish, ultra-thick premium matte | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
When it comes to the best photo book services, Mixbook is a tough one to beat. It might not be the cheapest, but when it comes to ease of use and quality of prints, it's up there with the best of them. Packed with wonderfully easy-to-use software, you can choose from nearly 400 fully customisable templates, backgrounds and stickers to give your photo book the professional look and finish it deserves.
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. If you want quality guaranteed, Mixbook is sure to deliver.
Professional photo books with excellent customisation options
Cover options: Glossy, standard | Paper options: Standard, lay flat, Premium Lustre | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Picaboo's print quality might not quite be on par with Mixbooks, but what it lacks (only slightly) in finish, it makes up for in features and customisation options.
It's 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.
Quality printing and lots of add-ons for the perfect finish
Cover options: Hardcover (matt/glossy), die-cut in cloth, leather | Paper options: Standard matte, ultra-thick satin finish | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
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.
A reliable, simple-to-use photo book service
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover, matte hardcover, hardcover (glossy), hardcover lay flat | Paper options: Standard, glossy, lay flat | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
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.
6. Walgreens Photo
Turn your memories in to a beautiful page-turner with ease
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover, linen, leather, premium lay flat | Paper options: Standard, glossy, lay flat | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
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.
Best photo books in the UK
1. Bob Books
Superior quality, service and finish
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover | Paper options: Classic, gloss, matte, lustre | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
When it comes to the quality photo books, Bob Books is one of the best service providers in the UK. In the business of photo printing since 2006, the company has over a decade of experience, offering digital photographers the ability to create personally-customised, high quality photo books for every occasion.
Experts in the trade, Bob Books' quality is second-to-none, and at a price that is accessible for everyone. Photo books printed on premium 300gsm paper start at £24.99.
There's a variety of free tools to help you to create and print your own photo books, including Bob Designer Desktop software, an iOS app for iPhone and iPad, or PDF-to-book for design professionals. Only slight quibble is all books feature a barcode on the back cover, which cannot be removed.
High quality at a price that won't break the bank
Cover options: Soft, glossy, matte, leather | Paper options: classic, high-gloss, true matte, classic photographic, gloss photographic and matte photographic | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
When it comes to the best photo book services in the UK, CEWE leads the way. Not only are the products affordable, the high-quality finish and range of options are second to none. A beautiful book starts with the right paper and CEWE has six luxury options to choose from, each of which has been selected for its quality and print suitability.
CEWE has it's own award-winning design software, for which you'll find a page dedicated to tutorials on how to create and make the most of your photo book design. There's also the ability, for an added cost, to get gold or silver highlights for any hardcover CEWE photo book.
All this plus a 24/7 UK-based customer service support team and a 14-day money-back guarantee makes CEWE a very attractive photo book option.
The best photo book service for beginners
Cover options: Softcover, hardcover, lay flat | Paper options: Standard (170 gsm), thicker paper (230 gsm) or high-gloss finish (on 204 gsm paper) | Sizes: Landscape, square, portrait
Photobox is an online printing giant that almost always has generous discount offers available, so there’s a good chance you won’t pay the full price we’ve quoted. It also offers well-polished online book creation software that’s easy to use with a helpful 3D book preview, plus plenty of layout, background and cropping choices.
This is great option if you're new to photo book creation, however more professional photographers will notice the slight lack in paper and print quality. Photobox also offers other photo services too, just incase anyone fancies a new mug or desk calendar?
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