Printed vs Home-Made Photo Books - which should you choose?

 Printed vs Home-Made Photo Books - which should you choose?
(Image credit: Walmart)

Photo gifts are among the most personal and enjoyable presents you can give someone. Whether you’re celebrating memories with someone, or sharing the latest photos of a special someone or occasion, nothing quite matches the personal touch that these types of gift bring. And depending on the pictures you have, and the type of item you want to create, you have a couple of options: do you craft the scrapbook of images yourself, using printed pictures and a blank book, or do you use one of the best photo book websites to have something created for you, based on digital images?

Home-made photo gifts

For some, there’s no substitute for the personal touch that comes with a home-made photo album. If you’re taking the trouble to use your own pictures to create a gift for someone, then why not go all the way and actually build the book yourself? You can even write notes in it, add scrapbook-style elements like old letters, ticket-stubs, and other sentimental items. The end result can be extremely impressive.

Where to buy photo albums

(Image credit: Pioneer)

Choosing a photo album to contain all your images is half the fun. There are wide selections of these books, in all different sizes, at retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Many of these sites offer both photo printing abilities and the albums themselves.
Amazon Photo Albums
Walmart Photo Albums

The advantage of home-made is that - especially when it comes to celebrating memories - you’re more likely to have actual, physical photos of someone or something. Before pictures were digital, they were printed on glossy paper, and you’re likely to have boxes of them stored away at home. It’s far easier to stick these into a book yourself and gift it to someone rather than sending them away to a photo scanning service to get them digitized for you.

Another factor here is price: getting a good quality album from somewhere like Amazon is relatively inexpensive, and it’ll arrive in a couple of days if you have Prime. You can wait up to two weeks for some websites to organize your memories, so if you need a gift now, and you need to save money, home-made is the way to go.

The disadvantages here are that you are giving away physical copies of your photos, and many of us don’t own duplicate copies. So, if you mess up the book, or it gets lost, or you simply want to keep a copy of a photo yourself, you may have to back up that picture digitally anyway.

You’ll also need some kind of artistic flare or creativity to make an impressive home-made album, and while it’s largely common sense, some just won’t have an idea of layouts, color-schemes, or even what photos to include. This is something that websites are very good at.

Printed vs Home-Made Photo Books - which should you choose?

(Image credit: Mixbook)

Online photo gifting

This is your other option, and an increasingly attractive one. Using a photo book site like Mixbook can get all your images organized into a very professional, attractive gift in around 10-20 minutes, so it’s a quick way to create. Most of the top sites have a wide variety of templates for you to simply drag and drop your digital images into, and they have great tips and support services to make the whole process as easy as possible. So, if you’re worried about not being able to properly create a photo album online, we can assure you that it’s easier than you might think.

Go digital


(Image credit: Mixbook)

If you want to get your book printed digitally, we'd recommend any of the top services as detailed on our guide to the best photo books sites. Our top pick is Mixbook, and you can access their site right here.

Websites also handle all the problems of printing and image quality for you. With your old printed photos, quality can be mixed, and you’re having to physically stick or insert the pictures into a book. Getting it done online, the site will not only create the book for you from a variety of pre-set styles and options, but it’ll also help you pick images that are high enough quality to print, and will even enhance them in some cases. That’s a great service, and you can be reassured that the result you get will look professional and well put together.

The issue of price is less than you might assume, but photo sites can’t quite match the cheapness of home-made albums. If you’re getting new photos printed to then stick into a book yourself, however, you’ll find that specialized websites are the better option for creating a new album.

Looking at the negatives (pun intended)… well, one big barrier to creating some online photo gifts is actually getting your images online. It isn’t that easy, and photo scanning providers can be quite expensive. You can always get the kit to do it yourself, by picking up one of the best slide to digital image converters (most of them do printed photos), but this is a real hassle. You can simply snap a picture of your printed photo with a phone camera, but image quality isn’t the best, and it’s a time-consuming process.

Another slight issue is that printed books aren’t quite as charming as home-made. You can still write and stick extras into them, but for some the professional feel actually takes away a little of the personality of the gift. We don’t see this as a huge issue, but it’s one to consider.

Printed vs Home-Made Photo Books - which should you choose?

(Image credit: ShutterFly)

Which is right for you?

At the end of the day, it’s down to personal preference. Some will stick to home-made, some will try digital. We think home-made is great for a significant birthday, or an anniversary, where old images and memory items are the bulk of the gift, and you’re just looking for a way to bring them all together.

For occasions like Christenings, engagements, or anything that celebrates something new, then digital is a great way to go, because all the images you get from that will be snapped on a smartphone or digital camera anyway. You can still add loads of personality, even with this style of gifting.

Andy Hartup

Andy was the previous Editor-in-Chief of Top Ten Reviews. With over 18 years experience in both online and print journalism, Andy has worked for a host of world-leading tech and gaming brands, including PC Gamer and GamesRadar. He specializes in photography, technology and smart home, and has provided expert comment for sites like The Guardian. In his spare time Andy is an amateur photographer, and teaches at the National Film and TV School.