The best photo books make for a beautiful gift. Capturing favourite memories, photo books are the perfect present for every occasion, particularly when most of us haven't been able to spend much time with our loved ones this year. Right now there are some amazing offers on the best photo books around. So, if you're looking for the perfect Christmas, birthday or anniversary present, look no further.
Creating a stunning photo book is as easy as a few clicks, with a range of quality outlets offering convenient, affordable ways to commit your pictures to print. The best ones offer a range of options to suit everyone from complete beginners to experienced designers – simply upload and arrange your pictures, create pages using quick templates, or import print-quality PDFs. And, if you need to crop or adjust your images first, our round up of the best photo apps and photo editing software can help.
When you're picking a photo book service, it's worth bearing in mind the size of the print run you need (many services offer a discount on bulk orders), the paper type (thickness, quality and finish), and the types of files supported. It's also worth noting that the coronavirus pandemic may well have affected shipping times in certain areas, so make sure you order ahead to ensure receiving an order on time. Some services offer expedited delivery for an extra fee, which might be necessary if you need your photo book in a hurry.
The best photo book services available now
Best photo books: US
You may not know that the mammoth retailer offers this service, but if you're looking to put together a quick, hassle-free photo book, this is a good option.
Amazon have clearly thought about what options to offer their customers here. Although you may not get the binding and cover options that other services provide, with Amazon Prints you still have a nice selection of paper stocks and sizes, not to mention it's easy to use and great value for money.
Although open to anyone, it's worth noting that if you have an Amazon Prime membership you will receive faster delivery times when using this service.
If time is of the essence, and you want to get a quality, fair-priced photo book delivered to your loved one ASAP, then this is a great option.
Quality photo books don't come much better than the ones from Mixbook. There are certainly cheaper options available but Mixbook products are certainly a case of you get what you pay for. High quality printing is teamed with easy-to-use editing software, almost 400 fully customisable templates and backgrounds and three luxury paper types to give your photo book the perfect finish.
There's a host of styles to choose from too, so no matter what the event – holiday, family, seasonal etc – Mixbook has you covered. Mixbooks photo books also come in a variety of different shapes – landscape, square and portrait – and sizes, ranging from 8.5 x 8.5-inch to 12 x 12-inch.
AdoramaPix is created with both amateurs and professionals in mind. Not only does it offer the standard template-based editing tools, it also supports Fundy Designer – a design and sales suite for pro photographers. It includes unlimited online design proofs with email reminders so you can ensure your clients are happy before committing work to print, a full professional design library, and one-click retouching. Finished photo books are excellent quality, printed on premium paper stock using a silver halide process, with secure binding. The only downside is that, in our experience, the beginner-friendly online editor doesn't always open first time.
Picaboo's print quality isn't the best, but it makes up for this with the options it gives you when you're putting your photo book together. Its software manages to be easy to use while giving you loads of options to play with, including searchable background and clip art to help you nail exactly the look you're after for your finished book, as well as the ability to polish your photos so that they match your backgrounds. Picaboo has recently added an updated version of its editing tool, which offers a cleaner, more intuitive interface but might have a few bugs. For time time being, it's probably safest to stick with the older designer.
For a great all-round photo book service it's hard to go wrong with Shutterfly. It provides simple and more involved tools to help you design your photo book, with loads of templates and backgrounds to choose from. But if you'd rather leave it to the experts, it also provides a Make My Book services. With this option, you choose a size and style and hand over up to 800 photos and any special instructions, and Shutterfly's designers will have your book ready for review in three days. Shutterfly is also one of the most affordable photo book services around, with prices starting at just $14.99 if you design the book yourself.
Snapfish won't design a book for you, but its process is almost as easy. It provides over 120 themes with a massive selection of backgrounds to work with, and once you've settled on your chosen style it'll guide you through the design process with a straightforward drag-and-drop interface. The end results aren't quite up to the quality of other services listed here and the templates tend to be aimed at home users rather than professionals, but you should be able to get a good deal on the price if you're willing to invest time customizing it.
If you need a photo book as quickly as possible, Walgreens Photo has the unique advantage of same-day pickup for its basic 8.5x11in books. All other sizes are available for delivery in three days. As you might expect, this convenience comes at a price, and the quality of Walgreens photo books lags behind its rivals. Print quality is reasonably, but the paper is rather thin (the site gives no indication of its weight) and colors can be a little dark and oversaturated. Some of the premade templates err on the amateurish side, but you can also create your own design from scratch and prices are very reasonable.
UK: best photo books
Snapfish offers an impressive variety of photo book sizes and binding types, and print quality is impressive for the price (if occasionally a little dark). However, not all binding types are available at every size, so double-check your preferred option before confirming an order for a client. The premade templates are tasteful, mostly lacking clipart, or you can create your own layout from scratch. Books are processed in two to three business days, so you can expect to receive them within a week. A dependable photo book service that represents good value for money.
Whereas most photo book services are limited to browser-based tools, Bonusprint also offers downloadable desktop software that allows you to work on your designs offline, and means you aren't left waiting for high-resolution photos to be uploaded. When you're dealing with dozens or even hundreds of images, that can be an enormous advantage. Delivery isn't the fastest (six to eight working days), but print quality is impressive and there are often discount codes available. If you're lucky, you might be able to score 50% off the regular price.
Like Bonusprint, Photobox is another site that's liberal with the discount offers, so you'd have to go out of your way to pay full whack for your photo book. Its online book creation software's pretty slick with lots of layout, background and cropping options, and will give you a 3D preview of your finished book so you can be sure of what you're getting. Photobox's standard 170gsm stock is a little thin; we'd recommend upgrading to its premium 230gsm paper for best results, and even with that you'll find the print quality lacking in sharpness.
Tips for using a photo book service
Stick with JPEGs
You don't need to convert RGB images to CMYK before uploading. Simply stick with high-resolution JPEGs and you can’t go far wrong.
Know your options
Most photo book services offer online browser-based book creators for speed and simplicity. However, if you want more customisation options, choose downloadable software.
Edge-to-edge vs borderless
Edge-to-edge printing maximises a photo’s impact, but the borderless look will also slightly crop your shot. This is more apparent on a hardback cover, because the edges wrap around the board.
A lay-ﬂat binding will prevent the issue of images disappearing where pages meet the spine. It’s a particularly good option if you have a photo spanning two pages, plus the binding ensures that your book will stay open by itself.
Pick the right finish
Glossy paper will help boost colour vibrancy and contrast, whereas a matte finish can be better at hiding fingerprints. Soft-sheen lustre pages strike a good compromise.