Smartphones have revolutionised photography in so many ways. But one of the negatives of having all your photos in your pocket is that they become disposable. When was the last time you memorialised an important family event or vacation of a lifetime photo in an album? Creating a photo book makes all that so much easier.
The best photo books allow you to distil your myriad snaps down to just the best and have them immortalised in print, all laid out in a beautiful album for you to enjoy with your family and friends.
On many photo book sites you can even design the product yourself, and they're not only brilliant for immortalising your own memories but they make for fantastic gifts as well – poignant presents for Christmas, birthdays, christenings, Father's Day, Mother's Day and beyond. And the very best photo books are super simple to prepare, too.
Our favorite service in the US is Mixbook and we'll explain why below. Most of these sites are exceedingly easy use – allowing you to simply upload your favorite photos and lay them out in a way you feel matches the importance of your snaps, choose the size, shape, cover material and type of paper.
We've trawled photo book services across the US and the UK for important factors like price, speed, quality, range of options, software simplicity and more to give you our selection of the five best photo books on both sides of the Atlantic.
Best photo book sites at a glance: US and UK
Amazon Prints (US)
Bob Books (UK)
Our favorite of all the many photo book services out there. The key here is that the Mixbook software is easy to use which makes collating your photo book a pleasure rather than a chore. Also, the finish is so excellent that you feel like you've created a work of art rather than fuzzy printed images.
With over 374 themes on offer, this photo book provider has got you covered no matter what occasion you're looking for. Whether your theme is romance or seasonal, family or everyday, travel or kids, Mixbook has got you sorted!
Not to mention its high quality prints and wonderful selection of cover and paper options ensure that you get the very best collection of memories.
Mixbook's templates are simple yet fully editable so you can be as creative or as quick as you like. The addition of backgrounds makes for a great finish, which you can do in varying materials with stickers and more. And if you want to make it extra personal, Mixbook has a wide range of different stickers and materials to offer – making your photo book a one of a kind.
Snapfish not only offers plenty of simple-to-use templates but it actually guides you through the process, too. There are over 120 themes to pick from with a huge selection of backgrounds all of which are easy to pick and pair as the book editor guides you through each stage with drag and drop simplicity.
The wide range of template and theme options gives the customer plenty of option when creating their photo book. And if you're looking for an original, custom made photo book than Snapfish's binding, cover and paper options make it the ideal candidate. Plus it is super easy and fast to use, so if you're time pressured to put together your photo book – Snapfish could be perfect for you.
Snapfish also offers plenty of size options and book type options so you'll never have to compromise.
The only downside we've noticed is that the final physical book photo quality could have been better. But there are often deals to be had here that get you a good price for your next photo book.
Shutterfly offers another option for those looking to breeze through the software side of work while creating a great physical book. Content is plentiful with lots of backgrounds and theme variations that mean you can personalise your book as you want.
Shutterfly has a wide template selection so no matter what you're looking for – they'll have it. It's custom path photo book allows you to customise every aspect of the photo book – from moving and resizing images to text, so you'll truly have a one of a kind photo book.
Or, if you just don't have the time to curate every detail, Shutterfly offers the option for a designer to do this for you. The designer will do all the ground work – making the photo book for you, done in just three business days. Making it extra simple and speedy for you.
Either way, all options come with the possibility of adding up to 1000 photos and you can have up to 30 images per page.
Sometimes the odd photo in the print are reported to be less than perfectly even in terms of balance, but quality is still generally high.
Picaboo takes fourth place as, once again, it offers some great software that straddles the line between easy-to-use and rich with content for creative options. The ability to search through background and clip art is really useful. This falls down on print quality compared to the top two, but is still better than most others out there.
Picaboo has plenty of themes options, but if you're looking for children's gifts, the company has just added a fantastic personalised story book – so you could create a personal fairy tale for the little ones.
And if it's not children's gifts that you're looking for, the company does offer plenty of other options including Wedding, Travel, Baby and much more. The company also offers 100% satisfaction guarantee, so if you're not happy with your product – if you contact Picaboo within 30 days you're eligible for a refund. For more information on this, check out the Picaboo's Satisfaction Guarantee.
A straightforward and easy to use website, Picaboo is an ideal option if you want to start and finish your photo book as quickly as possible.
A nice option to polish photos and help them match backgrounds is a great touch here that makes a professional finish a possibility.
You buy everything else from the retail giant, so why not your photo book as well? With Amazon Prints you can put together your dream photo book with all those cherished memories before ordering with the rest of your shop. Although Amazon Prime members get preferential treatment in terms of delivery time, everyone (including Prime and non Prime customers) get to select from the dozens of customisable options and sizes.
Although Amazon Prints does not offer as many binding and cover options as some of its competitors, it makes up for this with its ace pricing and easy to use functions. Plus it still offers the option to make a custom photo book and you still get plenty of paper and size options, as well as a hefty amount of 100+ general theme options.
So if you don't need too many features or options, and just want a custom photo book at great pricing – Amazon Prints could be ideal for you.
You can get up to 150 pages of photos, text, and embellishments with an optional glossy hard cover. Well worth a look.
As in the UK as it is in the US – Mixbook gets our recommendation whichever side of the Atlantic you're on. As we've explained above, it's Mixbook's superb software that makes it stand out. Creating your own photo book album is easy. And we're not talking about just the basics, as going the extra mile and designing something truly attractive and original is straightforward, too.
There are all the themes and templates you can imagine to get you started and pricing is pretty decent for what it offers.
Not to mention its diverse 374 themes have got you covered, no matter what occasion you're looking for. Mixbook also offers a wider range of cover and paper options than the rest of its competitors, so if you need more options for your photo book, Mixbook could be the way to go.
There's just one thing that bothered us when we went to use Mixbook in the UK…the website definitely has a strong USA focus. So often you'll see $ signs on its promotions and all delivery and customer service information defaults to US first. Annoying, but not a disaster.
Snapfish is one of our favourite photo book providers in the UK, making it a great option on both sides of the Atlantic. You can be as hands-on or hands-off as you like – it's up to you whether you chose every last minute of detail, or let Snapfish's own set designs do the heavy lifting.
We definitely appreciate the plenty of stock art options along with the fully editable features as it means you can get the exact layout you want, without the compromise that some competitor photo books force you to make.
It also offers a simple way to create photo books with lots of personalised options. There are plenty of design choices in the software from clip art to templates. For all the features it offers, Snapfish has got pretty decent and affordable pricing. And as it is so simple to use – it allows you to speedily make the photo book.
The slight difficulties to search through content is a bit of a drawback however – so while you have lots of options, finding them can take time. But that shouldn't detract too much from this excellent provider.
For a photo book service in the UK which offers ease of use, wide options for things like templates and backgrounds, plus a quality finished product, Cewe is worth a look. For £20 you can get a quality printed photo book, which is easy to build using computer or mobile software and that is simple to install and use.
Varying paper options like gloss and matte, plus nice options for the covers like faux leather are great to see, too. It also offers you a large selection when it comes to photo book sizes, with 50+ themes to choose from. Cewe also offers you an array of options on how to create your photo book, be it mobile, online, desktop or even have the software create it.
The software option really facilitates the process for you as it allows you to easily import images from your social media as well as cloud storage, and it comes with a full suite of advanced editing features. It also has a Creator Assistant that ensures your photo book is created within minutes.
There's even a 24/7 UK-based customer service support team and a 14-day money-back guarantee to sweeten the deal.
Bonusprint is easy to use and delivers a good quality print result. But what's really nice to know is that the customer service is also excellent. So even if you do somehow find an issue, you'll be able to get it fixed right away. It also offers 100% satisfaction guarantee and has a very fast delivery, as Bonusprint aims to deliver your photo book in six to eight working days.
It also has the very handy feature of a smartphone app, so if you have a smartphone (which we're guessing you do), you could make the photo book in under 10 minutes straight on your phone. You could quite feasibly do it on your commute to or from work.
The company also offers 100% satisfaction guarantee and a downloadable editor – this gets you extensive design options, making your photo book look exactly how you'd imagine it. Another plus of the brand is that it's trustworthy – Bonusprint has been around since 1979. It knows how to run a photo book business with the customer at the forefront, and you feel that through the process.
Plenty of deals are also available if you keep your eye out, so this can be very affordable, too.
For sheer print quality Bob Books offers a really impressive offering with stunning photos. Despite the high quality, pricing is relatively low with £9 getting you a 26-page book at 300gsm premium paper quality. Images are sharp, colours are punchy, sharpness is spot on and dynamic range is realistically accurate.
Not only is it quite affordable but the company offers a very high quality book finish, so if you're looking for a more professional touch to your photo book, Bob Books could be ideal for you.
It also offers plenty of options when it comes to sizes, papers, covers and bindings – so you don't have to compromise any of your ideas, you can get it to look exactly as you want it to. It also offers a very speedy domestic delivery, from start to finish the photo book can be delivered to you between six to 10 working days.
The online creator software is easy to use although book designs are limited. There is an iPhone app and even a professional design service available if you need that as well.
Capture those memories with one of the world's best camera phones
If you've never made your own photo book album before then it can look like a daunting task. The best photo book sites give you myriad options and features to tailor-make your ideal book and that can be overwhelming at first. But it doesn't have to be…here are some things to keep in mind if you need a bit of direction:
Keep it simple: You could spend hours and hours creating your perfect photo book, with the trimming and bordering of every page and photo custom designed and a different font for every occasion. Could. If you're new to photo book creation, we'd suggest starting with one of the hundreds of themes that each service provides. That way, you still get a beautiful book, but need only think about what photos you want where without having to get hung up on every last detail. Themes usually range through every event you can think of: Christmas, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations, Bar Mitzvas…the list goes on!
Size matters: As with anything; the more you pay, the more expensive it becomes. And the price really can escalate, especially as your pages mount up. If you just want a keepsake of an event or holiday and are after something tangible rather than scrolling through your photos, then keeping it small can also keep the costs down. But if it's a special holiday you're commemorating, or perhaps a wedding or christening – a book that will live out on your coffee table – you may wish to crank up the size as a photo book can be a very special object to keep forever.
Matte, glossy or lustre: The finish of the pages are purely personal preference, but it can be tricky to decide. Glossy is usually the most affordable option and is most like a traditional photo album of old, so you can't really go wrong – it also makes your colorful snaps look even more vibrant. But going for Matte lends a certain air of luxury to the product and some services will make these pages thicker, too (which is reflected in the cost). If you need to hedge your bets, a few photo book sites will give an option somewhere in between called something like Lustre or Semi-Gloss.
Pimp your photo book: If you're a bit of a photo book pro (or have the time to be a bit more daring), then the likes of Mixbook and Snapfish have some frankly awesome customisation options. Every single detail is at your disposal, from the positions of the snaps, background detailing, front and back cover design and personalised text to accompany each and every photo.
Be careful of timings: In the age of Amazon Prime, we've got all too used to ordering something one day and it arriving the next. Not so with photo books. OK, so you can pay extra for expedited delivery, but generally you're looking at at least a week before your handsome photo book drops on to your door mat. So we seriously advise planning ahead, especially around peak times like Thanksgiving and Christmas.