Best for Wedding Albums
AdoramaPix blew us away with its beautiful print quality and luxuriously thick, textured paper. The base product is a fancy lay-flat photo book with luster paper, which is not only gorgeous but also the least expensive for an upscale photo book we've ever seen.
Typically, 8.5 x 11 lay-flat books cost upwards of $50, but when you take shipping into account, AdoramaPix sells them for slightly less than the hardbound photo books we’ve seen elsewhere. That is a seriously good deal. It’s worth noting that AdoramaPix’s book sizes are slightly unusual. For example, it sells an 8 x 12 and an 8 x 10 instead of the typical 8.5 x 11. AdoramaPix offers 15 photo book sizes, whether landscape, portrait, square or horizontal-spine. Some of the book sizes are a little unusual. For instance, it offers a 12 x 15 photo book but not an 11 x 14 option. There are more than 1,000 backgrounds and stickers to decorate your photo books. While we liked the predesigned photo layouts and design features, the interface for creating a book wasn't as easy to navigate as some other companies. You can create your books from scratch or you can use the autofill feature to quickly create your projects. This service lets you import images from Facebook, Google Photos, Flickr, Instagram, Dropbox and Amazon. You can interact with other AdoramaPix users on the user forum, which can answer your questions or offer ideas for your own books. AdoramaPix doesn't offer softbound books or in-store pickup. However, it does offer a money-back guarantee.
Why Trust Us?
We have worked extensively with these services. We've made 23 photo books within the last 12 months and ordered books from 12 services before determining which were the top 10 companies. A group of testers with backgrounds in photography and graphic design evaluated the photo books. They looked for color accuracy, print clarity, page thickness and book integrity. We wanted to make sure the evaluations would be fair, so we covered company logos so that testers wouldn't feel partial to a specific brand.
We also wanted to make sure to recommend the best photo book companies that have easy-to-use interfaces. While designing our books, we looked for features that gave us more creative freedom or made the designing process more convenient. All in all, we spent more than 160 hours testing and evaluating photo books this year. To get even further insights into photo book creation, we contacted Lisa Dixon, a professional photographer of four years. We also reached out to Shutterfly and Mixbook and asked them questions about their bookmaking process.
How We Tested
We used each photo book maker to create the same project, which let us compare them on an even playing field. Our print quality score reflects how accurately the colors printed and how clearly the images appeared on the pages. Template designs scored higher if there were plenty of options and if these options were modern and appealing. Templates that covered photos too much or displayed them in unflattering ways scored lower.
We evaluated each service’s ease of use by determining how much freedom each interface gave us. If services were clean and easy to navigate, and we could place photos wherever we wanted – including zooming and cropping images – then we scored them higher. We also looked for the ability to store photos online, import photos from social media, rearrange previously placed images and autofill. Services that limited user options or made the designing process less intuitive scored lower.
We didn't score services based on pricing, but we did note whether a company was on the expensive side. This included the cost of additional pages and standard shipping. We noted the shipping services offered by each company and awarded more points to companies that shipped internationally and offered express shipping.
What to Look For
Photobooks can quickly become expensive when you add in a book's base cost, extra pages, taxes and shipping. The best companies are reasonably priced and give discounts when you order large quantities. The best priced, 20-page, 8.5 x 11 photo books typically range from around $30 - $46. On average, photo book companies charge around $1.50 for additional pages and while the price of standard shipping varies from company to company, it isn't uncommon for it to cost $10 or more. To get specific pricing for large quantity discounts, you typically need to request a quote from the photo book service.
Quality & Services
The best photo books provide beautiful color accuracy and sharp print clarity, and make the designing process easy. They offer thousands of backgrounds, stickers and templates to help you personalize your books to fit any and every occasion. These styles should be both plentiful and modern, and should show off your photos to their best advantage. To help make sure your photos come out well, it’s a good idea to send these companies high-resolution images.
Dixon told us that if you edit your photos at 300 dots per inch (dpi), you can print them at just about any size. Shutterfly, Mixbook and other top-brand services will warn you during the creation process if your images will print blurry so you can replace them to keep your project looking good. Mixbook and Shutterfly both provide unlimited picture storage so you can quickly access your favorite pictures for any photo project.
The 8.5 x 11 landscape-oriented photo book is by far the most popular size ordered. If you are looking for something different, make sure that the service you choose offers it. Books should be sturdy and should have paper that isn't flimsy or easily creased.
The cover of a photo book can greatly change the feel of the book. If you are looking to purchase a book for a formal occasion – like a wedding – leather, fabric or lay-flat covers can help fit the scene. You also want to keep your audience in mind when choosing a cover. If you plan to make a book for a child, a softbound cover might not be a good option since it can get bent and damaged.
Aside from having good print and paper quality, the best photo book services simplify the designing process. Most will supply a library of graphics and designs for you to use but the quality and attractiveness of this art varies widely from company to company. Websites that make it difficult to find what you're looking for or that don't offer a wide selection of options can get frustrating very fast. When you're in a hurry, being able to autofill photos to your pages can be a lifesaver. Additionally, being able to store photos on the service's website as well as import photos from social media sites can make the designing process run more smoothly.
Shipping & Support
Dixon told us that in addition to giving you a design library, it would be better if these services also allowed you to create your own designs and place them in your books. We agree. Dixon also pointed out that when designing your book, you should be aware that many services do not allow you to add foreign characters or symbols to your text. This can be a problem if you are creating a travel photo book that features exotic locations.
Services that offer express delivery can really benefit you in a pinch. Similarly, being able to pick up your books from a local store can be really convenient. When looking into a company, make sure you understand what is covered by the refund policy. Some companies offer money-back guarantees and you can feel more confident when making purchases from them. The best companies also offer several assistance features such as live chat, email and FAQs pages to help you find answers quickly.