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.
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
One that I love for gift giving, especially for the grandparents, is the mpix accordion minis. Great for me too, since I’m not good about carrying around recent photos of the elves and am always flipping through my phone for a recent one if someone asks.
Thanks for this great roundup–photo books are an absolute favorite gift of mine. I know it’s obvious, but I’m surprised you didn’t mention Apple photo books. Since I store all my photos in iPhoto, it’s always been the easiest way for me to make books and I think the layouts are easy to use, clean and elegant, with enough variety but not overwhelming options. They’re reliable and good quality. (and no, I don’t work for Apple!) I have used Blurb in the past for books where I needed more variety and options, and control, but Apple is easier I think. Just curious to know how these other options compare–if it’s worth getting myself out of my comfort zone!
I love these ideas! I’m always looking for more affordable photo books for everyday memories. 🙂 Which company produced the white books at the top of your post? I love the look of those!
Glad you like them Sarah! The top photo is from Artifact Uprising. Terrific company. -Eds
Love the comprehensive list. Lots of good ideas.
Also, I just read your review for Booksto.me. A friend already has his first book from them and is enjoying the heck out of it. (His gf and his hobbies fill the pages) Love this idea. So, I just subscribed to it and can’t wait to get a photo book every month from now on without me doing another thing. Thanks for pointing me to it.
This is great! I’ve only used MyPublisher and PhotoBook America and these look way better!
This is an amazing comprehensive list of photo book publishing sites. Thank you so much for sharing!
I have lots of mom-friends that have mentioned that they just don’t have the time to do through all their photos and make a book. It can become a full-time job which is hard when managing everything else. I have a 4 year old and 10 year old myself.
All those digital files with no where to go except the “cloud” made me want to start my biz, Pixobook, where I gather all the photos from any event (or non-event) and curate, retouch, and publish them for time-poor people.
I, of course, find myself making my families books at odd hours because I can’t stand the thought of losing an archive of some of my most memorable moments into a broken computer or a obsolete piece of digital media.
Really Great list but how do you choose? I need to start somewhere and I am not sure where to start. I have an art gallery and I want to publish book for my artists. Which one would you choose first to make and sell.
thanks for the reviews! have you noticed if Blurb offers lay flat pages yet? Or do you just go with the regular. It has been a few years since I ordered from them but was impressed back then!
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could you please let me know who made the books in the first photo of the post? (the one with iPhone) Thanks!
That’s Artifact Uprising, Joanna. Have fun with it! -Eds
I’m wondering where I can upload all my iPhone pictures from two phones (around 3500 photos) and have them printed into one book in exact order they were taken without a lot of editing on my part…nothing I’ve found does such a large amount of pictures.
Hi Alyson: Montage (max 180 photos) will upload them for you in order, but you’d need many books to accommodate the number you are talking about. My Publisher or Blurb would be the best suggestions to accommodate that many photos (although they’d be in huge collages on every page) and My Publisher will load your camera roll in order, but you’d need to do lots of prep work and maybe even move them each over yourself to ensure they will appear in the book in order.
I want to create a family memory book where I can put lots of text with photos. What would be the best website to go to for that? Are there any samples or templates that I can refer to in order to see if it fits my needs?
Hi Rick: I would suggest Blurb, because you can mix photo boxes and text boxes however you like. Their website has a bunch of different examples of the types of books you can create, so hopefully you can find something that meshes with your needs!
I’ve made several books and calendars with Mixbook, and have been very pleased. My only criticism is that I feel the photo quality could be better. I was surprised that Mixbook was not included on your list. What is your opinion of that company’s products?
I also was surprised Mixbook was not listed. My daughter has made some bueatiful books with them and I am working on a book right now. I love how customisable they are.
Thank you for this article! I haven’t put together a photo book and I wanted to do my homework before I selected a site. I too would like to know your thoughts on MPIX. Also, I use Lightroom. Do all these sites work well with that program?
Love all of these book ideas! If I am trying to create a book with all of my wedding photos in it, but want someone to actually do all the organizing/ arranging for me… Do you know of any sites that will do that? Thanks!!
Check out Artisanstate for lay-flat professional looking photo books… They are missing from your list and are really worth checking out 🙂
I have used Mypublisher before and been impressed by their quality of their books but when things go wrong it is bad news for the customer. After doing several previous books with them I decided make another book with my publisher, however this time it would not upload to the site, this lead me to five or 6 calls and a month with customer service before being able to upload the book to their website which then after 3 weeks the book was mailed to the wrong address to which Mypuvblisher refused to send a replacement copy of issue a refund stating their return policy below:
All items, materials or Services purchased through MyPublisher are made
pursuant to a shipment contract. This means that the risk of loss and
title for such items pass to you upon our delivery to our carrier.
This is absurd to spend hours creating a book spend $100+ dollars on it wait 3 months and then never receive it or be issued a refund.
I am wondering which of these options have the best picture quality. I have never made a photo book before and don’t want to be disappointed with the end result.
They’re all pretty outstanding Levi. We will say the higher the price, the higher the quality tends to be. For really professional quality, start with those options.
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Groovebook is the least expensive I’ve found and the books are small and great for little children.
thanks for sharing this!!! totally gonna use this for Christmas gifts for the kids!
[this comment was edited for length; please see response below – Eds]
WARNING TO ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS ABOUT ARTIFACT UPRISING!
I PREVIOUSLY ORDERED A BOOK FROM ARTIFACT UPRISING AND WAS PLANNING TO ORDER SOME PRINTS WHEN I READ THEIR TERMS AND CONDITIONS. DID YOU REALIZE THAT THEY MAKE CLAIM TO THE MATERIAL THIER CUSTOMERS HAVE PAID TO PRODUCE? YOU ARE GRANTING THEM WORLDWIDE, ROYALTY FREE IRREVOCABLE RIGHTS TO LICENSE YOUR IMAGES. I FIND THEIR ATTEMPT TO ABSCOND WITH MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IRRESPONSIBLE, UNETHICAL AND COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!
Terms of Service Link (for full license)
“For purposes of clarity, you retain ownership of your Submissions. For each Submission, you hereby grant to us a worldwide, royalty-free, fully paid-up, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, transferable and fully sublicensable (through multiple tiers) license…”
We reached out to the company, and the following is the response from Katie Thurmes, a photographer herself and one of the founders:
Thank you for your thoughtful questions regarding AU’s Terms of Service. We always welcome the opportunity to speak with our users and put their minds at ease when they have inquiries in this area.
AU was founded by two professional photographers, and that lineage has always defined how we treat our customers (and their content) in practice and how we conduct our business.
The license grant you mention is actually limited in scope to our provision of AU’s service and AU’s business, and the reasons for the license grant are really more technical than commercial. Rest assured, we do not take and sell our customers’ photos, and our entire brand and business is built on respect for the creator.
To explain further, when you upload your photos to our service to create a project, those photos will need to be modified (size, file format, etc.), stored on cloud servers by us (and sometimes, our suppliers), and printed (reproduced and distributed) by our print partners, which all occurs so we can deliver the highest quality printed goods back to you. Your photos can also include images of you and information about you. Without a license grant from you, technically all of these activities could infringe on your rights and copyrights, so this limited grant of rights to AU is necessary for us to be able to provide our print services to you under applicable legal frameworks.
Occasionally, we may feature a fantastic customer project in our marketing or social channels, but we only do this with the customer’s prior consent (or, if the customer has publicly shared a photo of their project via a social channel such as Twitter, via our terms, we may choose to feature their post).
The “Feedback” portion of our terms simply relates to the fact that sometimes our customers have insightful suggestions as to how they would like us to improve certain aspects of our products or services, and we would like to ensure we can implement these suggestions to benefit all of our customers and serve them better.
And finally, because our customers are storing photos with us and asking us to print them, due to copyright and other legal frameworks, we need to ensure that our customers have the rights to the photos they are uploading to and printing through AU (for example, AU’s services should not be used print photos that a customer does not own, or images of identifiable people that have not given the photographer permission to take their photographs).
I’ve had good luck with the Costco Photo Center. I do about 5 hard cover photo books a year using it, and it’s easy to add text and photo boxes to the pre-formatted pages. It’s very budget friendly and I receive the photo book in a week or so.