This is that time of year when I start thinking about putting together a photo book with all my pictures from the year, but I usually get hung up on wanting one that will actually last until my kids are adults, so they can enjoy them for years to come. There are so many options out there, I know! So to help you wade through them all, we’ve put together this round-up of 11 terrific options, and what makes each one so special.
UPDATE: Please see our 2021 updated comparison of our favorite custom photo book services because not all of these are around any longer, and some have changed their services significantly.
Blurb Photo Books
The photo books at Blurb are super popular and for great reason—the quality is just spectacular, with some of the most customizable I’ve seen anywhere on the web. In fact, this feels more like a self-publishing website than a quick-and-easy drop-and-go photo book generator. On Blurb, you can create books to sell through their site as well, and their ideas are endless—from cookbooks with old family recipes to these cute alphabet books starring your own kids. Prices start at $12.99.
Artifact Uprising makes some of the most beautiful photo books I have ever seen. (Including the photo at the very top.) In terms of artistry and archival quality, you can’t beat them. And they’ve recently launched an iOS app to make creating their books even easier. The hardcovers are bound in linen with a variety of dust jacket choices, and they also offer softcover books and an Instagram-friendly book. The downside? I don’t have a professional photographer following my family around all the time making us look as gorgeous as the featured photos here. Small sizes start at $69 for 50 pages, and larger books max out at $189 for 200 pages. Definitely an investment, but one worth making for a serious keepsake gift.
This site is known for really gorgeous formats and exquisite attention to detail like paper and printing. They have some unique formats for photo books, including a spiral-bound board book that would make an especially great gift for the toddler who loves to keep familiar faces nearby. They also have gorgeous lay-flat photo books, spiral bound photo books, and accordion-style brag books. Their modern, simple style and exquisite attention to detail doesn’t come cheap, though: their softcover books with 68 pictures (shown above) start at $45. There were some challenges with this site when they first launched in terms of shippping dates but that seems to be resolved. Still, confirm your delivery date to make your deadlines.
If you’re the type who’d rather make a new booklet of pictures more frequently rather than one huge one at the end of the year, check out this subscription service we recently discovered. What makes them different is their format (6″ x 6″ booklets only) and their pricing ($5/month subscription, plus $5 per book). These books are super-easy to make. In fact, I made one from start to finish while sitting in the carpool line. Don’t you love multi-tasking?
I have to admit, I’m impressed with this new-to-us service of the same name. You build these books using their iOS app, but the most unique feature here is the fact that you can add voice to your photo book (yes, the actual book), which sounds a little gimmicky but can make the book extra special, especially to preserve those sweet little baby and kid voices. Every physical book also comes with a QR code so you can view a digital copy on your tablets or phones, since you don’t always carry your photo book around with you but may still want to brag. A 6″ x 8″ hardcover starts around $29.
With a background in basic digital photo printing, sharing and storage, Shutterfly was one of the first services to offer custom photo books and is still a strong option. Especially for the price. And especially now that they’ve partnered with Tiny Prints to create some books with the more modern aesthetic Tiny Prints is known for. They’ve recently launched a new app called Photo Story that allows you to create photo books on your iPad (real ones you can hold), but you can also instantly share the digital version with audio voiceovers. Prices start at $14.99, but they frequently offer discounts.
If you’ve tried scrapbooking and it just isn’t for you, Snapfish (and Shutterfly, above) are probably your best alternatives. Their books are heavily designed, and Snapfish has recently introduced “embellishments,” which are fancy clip art designed by the likes of Martha Stewart and Sirron Norris, to give the books a more personal (and more scrapbook-y) feel. The quality isn’t quite what you’d get from Artifact Uprising, Blurb, or Pinhole Press, but you may not need that. Snapfish offers multiple sizes and starts around $12. Be sure to check for specials, which are frequent and can be quite attractive.
The Artkive App has become our go-to way to digital preserve your child’s artwork—our editor Liz swears up and down by them. The app allows you to take a picture of your child’s masterpiece, catalog it, and then you simply select the pictures you want to include in a custom photo book of art; Artkive does the work for you. They even personally review each order to make sure it looks perfect before printing. The books start at $25.
What I love about photo books from My Publisher is that the book is created via a software program you download for free onto your computer. Anytime I upload new pictures to my laptop, I quickly click on My Publisher (which imports my last upload), drop my favorites into the next few pages of my photo book, and save it until I’m ready to upload more pictures. Then, at the end of the year, my book is ready and I don’t have to sift through 3,578 pictures all at once. Books are nice, keepsake quality and start at $29.99. But you can add-on all kinds of customizations, like a leather cover, glossy interior, and more. And a tip—get on their mailing list, they send out discount codes all. the. time.
If you want to make a photo book from your Instagram photos, then the ones from Mosaic are a gorgeous option, with the cut-out front cover and packaging to match. These books are very archival and feel expensive, so they make great gifts. That said, your options here are limited. They come in one size—7 x 7 hardcover—and you can only add 20 pictures to the book, so make one of these when you’re feeling decisive. Still, the result is lovely for just $20 each. But you do need their iOS app [edited to add: or Android app] since it pulls pictures right from your Instagram account.
Minted Photo Books
While these photo books from Minted, a long-time favorite of ours (and recent advertiser), aren’t what you’d traditionally expect, I absolutely adore their blank journals with photo covers. I’m all for going digital, but I still use an old-fashioned blank journal whenever I take notes at school meetings, parenting lectures, you name it. Minted also has amazing 7-page Christmas card booklets that are basically mini photo-books to send to everyone you love at the holidays. They’re splurgy though, starting around $3.50 a card, with a minimum order of 15. Perfect for the more curated list of close friends and family; maybe not for your postal carrier.
UPDATE: Please see An updated comparison of our favorite custom photo book services