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Best photo books 2019: Picture the possibilities

Family Photo book - Mixbook deals
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best photo book is so much more than a collection of pictures shoved in a photo album, it’s a moment, a memory or a message we want to share.

Editor's Choice: Mixbook

Top Ten Reviews Special: Enjoy up to 45% off everything site wide.
Mixbook offers a wide range of book sizes and creative options like cover materials, backgrounds and stickers. And it’s incredibly user-friendly. The end products have beautiful print and great paper quality. They are a fantastic photo book creator that will help you preserve and share those once in a lifetime events you will want to relive. VIEW DEAL ON Mixbook

Photo books are a great way to enjoy and remember those special one-off occasions like a wedding or baby's first year. They can also be a special way to frame a series of images, maybe from a vacation, in a personalized photo album. 

It goes without saying that the tactile feel of flicking through a photo book is a much more rewarding and satisfying viewing experience than simply looking at photos on a computer screen or smartphone. 

Whether you're looking to create a photo book for yourself or a loved one, there's no shortage of choice, with a wide range of photo books available to suit all budgets. 

To find the best photo book we've made 27 photo books in the last year and ordered from 13 companies. This has helped us decide which companies provide the easiest design experience, have the most amount of options and ultimately, who delivers the best printed photo book. 

We narrowed down our picks to the top 10 services, and of those 10, Mixbook was the best photo book creator overall due to its ease of use, creative freedom and wonderful print quality. The photo books are reasonably priced and come with thick pages that scream quality. You also have access to hundreds of templates, backgrounds, stickers and predesigned books to showcase your photos as you like.

1.  Mixbook: Best photo book overall 

Mixbook Photo Books

(Image credit: Mixbook)

Mixbook

The best photo book that has thick pages, vivid colors and a super easy creator

Print quality rating: 98% | Book quality rating: 95% | Available book sizes: 7 | Cover options: 5 | Money-back guarantee: Yes

Good print quality and strong book
Plenty of backgrounds, stickers, book sizes, paper options and templates
Orders come with a money-back guarantee
No in-store pickup option
Lacks window covers
No user forums

The books we ordered from Mixbook had really good print quality with sharp images and accurate colors.

The books were sturdy and the pages were made with quality paper. We ordered a matte cover, and in addition to displaying our photos beautifully, it was soft to the touch.

Mixbook's design process offers exceptional creative freedom. You can choose between thousands of backgrounds and stickers as well as hundreds of predesigned books to find the perfect style for your occasion. If you can't find a template that fits your needs, you can easily custom-add photos to a page. If you don't have time to meticulously craft your book, you can use the autofill feature on a predesigned photo book to automatically place photos and quickly create a complete project. 

There are seven book sizes and five cover materials to choose from. Mixbook's designer warns you if the photos you choose will be pixelated, so that you won’t be disappointed by the print quality of your projects. Mixbook offers a "100% Happiness Guarantee" on your purchases. If you plan on ordering a large number of books, the quantity discount will be especially helpful. This service can also get your photo books to you in a hurry by offering express shipping options.

Mixbook offers a "100% Happiness Guarantee" on your purchases. If you plan on ordering a large number of books, the quantity discount will be especially helpful. This service can also get your photo books to you in a hurry by offering express shipping options.

2. Shutterfly: Best value photo book

ShutterFly Photo Books

(Image credit: ShutterFly)

Shutterfly

A great photo book that offers excellent value for the service and quality offered

Print quality rating: 96% | Book quality rating: 96% | Available book sizes: 6 | Cover options: 9 | Money-back guarantee: Yes

Vast selection of templates and backgrounds
Excellent print quality 
Wide range of album covers and sizes
No shuffle function makes photo arrangement hard work
No 5 x 7 inch photo book
No same day pickup

Shutterfly is arguably the most well-known photo book service, and for good reason.

It scored just behind Mixbook due to its many customization options and quality product. There are hundreds of templates, graphics and backgrounds for you to use, including themes from favorite franchises like Sesame Street and Disney. The photo book we ordered had good color reproduction, and the images themselves printed crisp.

It's super easy to create a photo book since Shutterfly's interface is easy to navigate and the tools are laid out in a way that makes sense. You can choose between six different book sizes and 9 different cover options to truly create the book you envision. The uploader allows you to select images directly from Facebook, Instagram and other sources making it easier to find the photos you love.

Shutterfly promises that you will be satisfied with your order and offers to replace your photo books as long as the fault doesn’t lie in user error. Should you need help there are plenty of ways to reach customer representatives. You cannot order this book for same day pickup since it isn’t associated with a brick and mortar store. However, there are expedited shipping options should you need your photo book in a hurry.

3. AdoramaPix: Best wedding photo book

AdoramaPix photo books

(Image credit: AdoramaPix)

AdoramaPix

A brilliant photo book creator for weddings and special occassions

Print quality rating: 100% | Book quality rating: 99% | Available book sizes: 15 | Cover options: 11 | Money-back guarantee: Yes

Base product is an inexpensive lay-flat book with luster paper
The best print quality of any service
15 book sizes to choose from
Interface is somewhat tricky to learn
Doesn't offer softbound books
No 11 x 14 book size

AdoramaPix provides the best value for fancy photo books that you might use for weddings or other formal events.

The base product is a lay-flat photo book with luster paper, and we judged it to have the best photo clarity and color accuracy of the services we tested. 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.

4. Amazon Prints: Best budget photo book

Amazon Prints photo books

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Prints

A great photo book for people who are putting together a touching gift on a budget

Print quality rating: 85% | Book quality rating: 85% | Available book sizes: 4 | Cover options: 3 | Money-back guarantee: Yes

Much less expensive than other services
Has good print quality
Free standard shipping for orders over $15
No large-quantity discounts
Fewer design options than competitors
Offers just four book sizes and three cover options

The photo book we received from Amazon Prints was surprisingly well designed. It had a good print quality and the book was well built.

We also found the Amazon Prints interface easy to navigate and design with. Because Amazon Prints doesn't offer as many book sizes, backgrounds or cover options as Mixbook, it didn't rank as well against our top pick and other services that have more variety. Fortunately, what Amazon Prints does offer is stylish and inexpensive. Additionally, any purchases over $15 automatically receive free standard shipping. Standard shipping typically costs between $5 and $13 for most photo book services,. This price will change depending on your proximity to the printer and on how many books you purchase.

You can manually choose your backgrounds, stickers and photo placement. The interface gives you the freedom to create your own photo layouts and lets you crop and zoom into photos as you please. It also warns you if your photos will print blurry. If you need to make a book in a hurry, you can choose from among the 13 pre-designed photo books and use the autofill feature. This service allows you to share photos with other Amazon users to create collaborative photo projects.

Amazon Prints also offers a strong money-back guarantee. Unfortunately, the service doesn't offer large-quantity discounts. We recommend Amazon Prints if you just want an affordable photo book. If you want more choices for material and designs, then we recommend paying a bit more to get the look you want.

5. Walmart Photo: Quickest photo book creation

Walmart photo books

(Image credit: Walmart)

Walmart Photo

A photo book service that provides a decent quality print fast.

Print quality rating: 67% | Book quality rating: 57% | Available book sizes: 5 | Cover options: 7 | Money-back guarantee: Yes

In-store pick available
Create and print  in-store
Fast creation and collection
Lack of customization 
Low quality print 

Walmart Photo print quality isn't the best, but this services is perfect if you need a photo book in a hurry. This services will allow you to create a photo book either online or in the store and have it ready for pickup within the hour. They also happen to be some of the least expensive printing services on the internet. 

 They each offer express shipping if that works better for your timeline. Walmart Photo doesn’t give you as much control or creative freedom as the other photo book creators. This is mainly due to the design system that is overly simplistic when creating the pages in your photo book. The design system was also slightly hard to use, as it wouldn't let us fit the cover image to the design window.  This resulted in the photo book creator chopping out some of the people in the picture - and the photo becoming distorted. Walmart's photo album creation system does provide the cheapest pricing. 

This services doesn't provide a flyleaf for their books. Walmart doesn't print its logo in the book, so it won't distract your from your memories. 

How we found the best photo book

We have worked extensively with photo book services over the last decade, and for this test, 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 any 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. 

How we tested photo book creators

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.

(Image credit: AdoramaPix)

We evaluated each service’s ease of use by determining how much freedom each interface gave us. If services were clear 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.

How long does it take to design a photo book?

Making a photo book doesn’t take long. You can slap together some pictures and throw in some graphics within 30 minutes, but when the photo album arrives, it might be obvious that it was thrown together in a hurry.

We recommend giving yourself at least three to five hours of creative time when building your online photo album. In our testing it took us an average of three hours per book, sometimes longer. If you need to digitize any photos, plan on giving yourself at least an extra hour. This might seem a little excessive, but keep in mind what you have select the images you want to use, arrange them so images work well together, while also deciding on other elements like background and graphics you might want to incorporate. 

Even when you know exactly where you want your images, the photo book creation process takes time.

Designer-built books

For those who want a good-looking photo book but don’t have the time to create it, companies like Shutterfly offer professional designer services for an additional fee. 

This means that all you have to do is give the company the photos you want to use, specify any background themes you want to use and the size/dimension you want your book to be and one of their professional designers will build your book for you.

Companies that offer this service will usually allow you to review and adjust the design before it is sent off to the printers. This allows you to remove any graphics you don’t like or rearrange the photos in the way you think works better. 

Designer-built services will cost a little more since additional labor is involved, but you’ll get a beautifully designed book in the end without having to spend a long time in the creation process.

When should I order my photo book?

While some services can turn round books pretty quickly, it's best to plan and give yourself plenty of time, especially if you're planning to get a photo book printed in time for the holidays. This sees demand increase heavily from the middle of November through to the end of the year. 

It takes time for the service to process and print your order, not to mention the time it takes to mail it out to you. Printing services are extremely busy during the holidays, so your orders might take longer than usual to process, especially as it gets closer to Christmas.

These companies are also busy around other holidays and seasons, for example Easter, Mother's Day and graduation. If you plan to order a book for any of these occasions, make sure you give the company plenty of time to print your project and mail it to you. 

We suggest ordering your book at least two weeks before it is needed. If it gets a little too close to the holiday or special occasion, your best bet is to place a pickup order with CVS Photo, Walmart Photo or Walgreens Photo. Each of these services offers one-hour pickup, so you can have the photo book in your hands shortly after ordering it.

Where can I print photo books? 

Most online companies where you can design a photo album will print a photo book for you, and post it to you or your intended recipient. If you are really creative, and know how to make a photo book without needing online software there are a lot of stores that have same day printing. To print out a photo book yourself the best places to visit are Walgreens, Walmart or CVS. For a higher quality print and design there will be specialist photo developers in your area that you can contact. 

How much does a photo book cost?

Photo books 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. 

Many companies also add an additional tax charge to your order, so be aware that the price can go up even more. The most we were taxed for any of our orders was about $8. The charge for shipping and tax will depend on your proximity to the printer, the number of books you order and the state you live in.

Holidays and promotions on photo books

Nearing any major holidays, especially Christmas and Mother’s Day, photo book companies tend to get very busy. Lucky for you, companies try very hard to convince you to take their business over using any other service. 

You’ll find plenty of holiday sales and discounts going on, so be sure to take advantage of the savings. We highly recommend checking Mixbook, Shutterfly and Adorama for promotions as you begin selecting the service you want to use as they run great discounts.

If you’re looking to make wedding, birthday, travel, or any other type of books that aren’t connected with a specific month or season, you can usually find promotions going all year long. 

Photo book quality and 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. 

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. 

If you've been using a smartphone to capture your snaps, then provided you're not intending to produce a large coffee-table photography book, images will show up just fine in your books. You'll also find that most services allow you to upload images from social media sites as well, but be aware that many of these images are reduced and compressed when you upload and post them, so if you have the originals, it's better to use these if you can. Mixbook and Shutterfly both provide unlimited picture storage so you can quickly access your favorite pictures for any photo project.

Photo book options

The 8.5 x 11-inch landscape-oriented photo book is by far the most popular size ordered across different services. 

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.

(Image credit: Mixbook)

Album creation

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.

Photo book shipping and support

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.

Subscription photo books

(Image credit: Chatbooks)

Don’t have much time to dedicate to creating a photo book? Some companies, like Chatbooks, have a monthly or yearly subscription and will automatically send you photo books using the pictures on your smartphone or camera photos, Instagram, Facebook and Google Photos.

Specifically with Chatbooks, every 60 photos you post become a new book, and if you subscribe you determine how often the books are sent. At the time we wrote this, softcovers cost $10 per book while hardcovers cost $15. The best part? Shipping is always free.

You can also order either a single 6 x 6 or 8 x 8-inch photo book with up to 366 pages of manually placed images. The cost for books with manually placed images will be determined by the number of pages you include and the cover type you choose. For the first 30 pages, 6 x 6 softcover books are $10 while 8 x 8 softcovers are $20. Hardcovers cost an additional $5 while additional pages are either $0.20 or $0.40 each, respectively. Not bad considering what you’re getting and the time you save.

Online photo albums and storage

Most photo book services offer free, unlimited storage space on their websites. This makes it easy to create multiple projects, whether they be photo books, photo calendars, canvas prints, photo paper prints, or photo gifts like mugs and iPhone cases, with the same pictures. Occasionally, you might find a printing service that deletes your images over time, but this is uncommon. 

Often, you can organize your entire photo library by date uploaded or by file name. These sites also tend to allow you to create albums to help keep your pictures organized. Some services, including Amazon Photo, which works with Amazon Prints, recognize faces from your photos and automatically create albums based on the people you take pictures of. Additionally, if you’re working on a project, most of these sites allow you to name and save your work so you can come back and finish it later.

Preparing photos with photo editing software

Before placing your photos into a photo book, you’ll want to make them look their best. Most photo book services offer limited photo editing tools, like red-eye removal, cropping and basic filters, but more in-depth editing must be done with a dedicated photo editing program. Photo editing software is especially helpful for images that seem a bit off color or that have fisheye and need lens correction. The best photo editing software can even remove distractions from your images, like trash on a beach or electrical poles, by using healing brushes or content aware fill tools.

We recommend Corel PaintShop Pro as it is one of the least expensive options while still providing plenty of quick and easy tools like filters and color correction. To get more information on photo editing software that we’ve tested check out our best photo editing software buying guide round-up.

What’s the difference between paper types?

When you buy a photo book, you usually have several types of paper to choose from, though that depends on the company you use. Basic companies usually only offer glossy, matte or lustre paper. Just like paper used for photo prints, glossy paper helps bring out color and vibrance, but it is quite flimsy and easy to smudge.

"Matte" and "lustre" are sometimes used interchangeably, though some companies offer both options. Matte paper doesn’t show glare, but the colors in your photos might appear a bit duller. This type of paper also feels a bit more substantial than glossy paper. When it's offered in addition to glossy and matte, you can expect lustre paper to be somewhere between the two – not as shiny as glossy but not as dull as matte. It may be a good choice, depending on your style.

If you’re purchasing your photo book for a fancy or special occasion, consider springing for premium paper. High-end photo book companies, including AdoramaPix, have several premium paper options. Lay Flat is probably the most common high-end paper choice offered. It’s an extra thick cardstock paper that lays completely flat when the book is open. You’ll often find it in matte, lustre and glossy finishes.

Another high-end paper option is linen, a textured paper that looks a bit like canvas rather than paper. This texture adds an especially nice touch to projects that will be featured in formal or professional settings, like weddings, galleries, company parties, etc.

When deciding on a paper type, keep your audience in mind. If you’re making a book for a child, you might want to steer clear of flimsy pages to ensure the book lasts longer. If you’re looking to create a photography portfolio album, spring for nicer pages so your colors really pop. Regardless of which paper you choose, the most important thing is to choose the paper that correctly brings out the colors and details of your work.

Digital conversion services

If you’ve been in the photography scene for a while, chances are you have analog photos you’d like to feature in a photo book. But to do so, you need to digitize them. 

The easiest way to do this is with a scanner, often found on an all-in-one printer. However, if you don’t have a scanner, time or the inclination to digitize your photos yourself, we recommend using a photo scanning service.

If you have old slides you’d like to include in your photo books, you'll also need to convert them to digital media. As stated previously, you can always use a photo scanning service. But if you want to save some money and do the conversions yourself, we recommend investing in a slide to digital media converter. Keep in mind that this process, while not difficult, does take an investment of time if you have a lot of slides to get through, and it isn’t the most exciting work.

ProductPriceOverall RatingPricingQuality & ServicesBook OptionsAlbum CreationShipping & SupportPrice for 20-Page 8x8 HardcoverCost per Additional PagePrint QualityBook QualityTemplate QualityServices ScoreAvailable SizesCover OptionsEase of UseShipping & Support ScoreMoney-back Guarantee
Mixbook Photo BookView Deal4.5/57.89.89.3109.5$29.99$1.2998%95%100%100%75100%90%
Shutterfly Photo BookView Deal4.5/57.51099.810$29.99$1.3996%96%100%100%6995%100%
AdoramaPixView Deal4.5/57.39.51069$41.99$2.00 for two pages100%99%100%95%151185%90%
Walgreens PhotoView Deal4/58.88.58.569$19.99$1.99 for two pages82%82%100%80%6690%90%
Snapfish Photo BookView Deal4/589968.5$29.99$1.99 for two pages93%83%100%100%6690%80%
PicabooView Deal4/58.3985.58.5$36.24Up to $1.7579%78%100%100%7790%80%
Amazon PrintsView Deal4/59.87.85.88.58.5$17.99$1.00 for two pages85%85%100%80%4390%80%
Walmart PhotoView Deal4/51068.54.39$23.96Up to $2.49 for two pages67%57%50%80%5740%90%
Photobook AmericaView Deal4/56.39.59.54.54.8$46.99$0.7586%82%100%95%10560%50%-
CVS PhotoView Deal3.5/58.886.365.3$19.99$1.99 for two pages74%72%100%70%7690%60%-
Meijer PhotoView Deal3.5/56.59.34.52.58$49.99$0.3995%94%85%80%3340%80%
Google PhotoView Deal3.5/58.86.53.385.3$19.99$0.6591%91%50%50%2275%70%
BlurbView Deal2.5/57.84.55.31.84.8$30.39Up to $1.5087%90%50%80%6350%50%-