If you want to do something special with those hundreds of snapshots wasting away on your phone or digital camera, you need the best photo books for the job. Whether you want to create your own design, follow a pre-made template or have a professional design it for you, we have several options that should fulfill your needs. We suggest starting your search with Mixbook (opens in new tab) for its affordability and designer tools.
Best Overall: Mixbook
A pre-made design for everyone
Mixbook currently offers over 500 starting templates you can use to build your photo book, each of which can be followed for simplicity's sake or freely customized to your heart's content. From there, you can upload photos from popular sites like Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram, or directly from your PC or phone, and begin dragging and dropping them into the template. Once a photo or free sticker is inserted, a pop-up menu appears with Photoshop-esque editing tools that make any necessary tweaks fast and easy, such as zooming in on a particular person within a frame.
What we like about Mixbook is that you can upload your own backgrounds and PNG symbols to insert into your photo books, provided they're high-resolution enough to be printed. That means you can insert your favorite copyrighted content or artwork to go alongside your photos. We also appreciate that instead of surfing through tons of layout templates, you can narrow down your choices first based on how many photos you want to appear on a given page. Once you've plotted out your portrait, landscape, or square-shaped book, you can choose how large you want it, then select between four paper quality options and five cover options to nail down a price.
Other photo book sites have their comparative perks over Mixbook. For instance, it lacks Shutterfly's dedicated app, Printique's default lay-flat binding, and has a limited selection of products besides books, calendars, and cards. Yet Mixbook does provide affordable pricing, a straightforward editing interface, and a consistent level of printing quality, which is what will matter most to many shoppers.
Best Premium Photo Books: Printique
Laying flat its books and its competitors
We would choose Printique as our best photo book option in a second if price and lack of mobile app weren't an object. The online brand for acclaimed Brooklyn print shop Adorama, Printique sells leather and fabric cover books in addition to hardcovers (which are layflats by default) and softcovers, which are great for occasions like weddings.
Designed with photographers in mind, Printique's photo books come with more paper options than any competitor: luster, glossy, silk, matte, deep matte, metallic, linen, and pebble. The basic luster option looks beautiful compared to other standard photo book options. Slightly pricier paper quality like deep matte is a favorite of pro photoraphers, while silk is popular for wedding albums, and glossy is best for preventing fingerprints.
Creating a Printique photo book is also very easy thanks to its excellent browser software. Tools like sample backgrounds, stickers, frames, and layouts all appear in a simple sidebar on the left. Once you drop an object or text, an instant pop-up window gives you editing options like drop shadow, opacity, font size, and much more. Printique saves your previous text settings so you can use the same consistent text throughout the book, and saves any custom content like backgrounds you've used.
As we've said, the main negative with Printique is that it doesn't offer bargain-priced, lower-quality photo books, so its only "cheap" printings are small mini-books that are still premium lay-flats. For thick paper quality, color accuracy, and headache-free design software, however, Printique justifies the price. In fact, past the high upfront cost, Printique only charges $2 for every two extra pages, while many competitors charge closer to $1.50 for one, making it a good choice if you have a lot of photos to squeeze into one book.
Best for Free Design Help and Photo Storage: Shutterfly
Make someone else organize your memories
Making a stylish photo book is a serious time commitment, particularly with sites that offer more embellishments and customization features. Most people just want a professional-looking photo book without putting in the work. That's one reason Shutterfly will be appealing to many: you can upload your photos with time/date data, choose a design, and then let a Shutterfly designer lay out the photo book for you in just a few days. Then, you can make tweaks before buying it.
Shutterfly holds multiple sales throughout the year (at the time of this writing, to use the service is free). Whatever you need — and Shutterfly sells a ridiculous amount of merch plastered with your photos besides books, including wall and desk calendars, mugs, wedding invitations, and puzzles — Shutterfly is typically offering a "limited time only" discount for it.
Focusing specifically on photo books, Shutterfly varies its pricing based on whether you choose a standard or "designer" style template, one of seven sizing options, dozen cover variations, and whether or not you choose a layflat design. With all the trimmings, the "sale" pricing won't save you from a premium bill. You'll also add $1.59 for every extra page past the standard 20.
Our colleagues at iMore named Shutterfly their best photo book pick thanks to its free unlimited photo storage, convenient Shutterfly app, and quality of printings. While we agree with their positives, we'll note that Shutterfly's 40 photo book styles pale in comparison to Mixbook's 500+ templates, for example, and that Shutterfly gave us a bit more trouble with its online software tools for building a book than other sites.
Best for Google Photos Users: Google Photo Books
Google Photo Books
Keep things simple
The most inconvenient part of making an online photo book is transporting your photos to a website, then picking out the best photos amidst your entire library. Since most Android users keep their photos backed up on Google Photos, they have the option to rapidbly build a book with Google Photo Books. This service uses Google's AI and keywords to track down all of your wedding photos, photos of a particular person, or any other theme, easily.
Convenience, speed, and affordable pricing are the primary perks with Google Photo Books, which we must stress is an extremely barebones service compared to our other favorite services. You can buy a 9-by-9-inch hardcover or a 7-by-7-inch softcover and that's about it. Once you add a group of photos (you must have 20 pages' worth minimum), you can drag and drop to immediately change the order of the book. Photos default to one centered per page, but you can make them full-page, zoom in (assuming the photo quality is good enough), or add a collage of a few photos. Pricing varies by page count and will vary from $10 for a 20-page softcover to $98 for the maximum 140 pages of hardcover, which sounds expensive but is actually far cheaper than most competitors at that quantity.
However, it doesn't have any custom themes, you can't customize the cover or upgrade the semi-glossy paper, can't choose between portrait or landscape books, and there are no custom backgrounds. While you can add captions, you can't move the text around or even change the font typeface, weight, or size. Also, if you want to move beyond photo books to other gifts like calendars or cards, you'll need to look elsewhere.
Don't pick Google Photo Books if you want to get creative with the layout. But we appreciate that the software is so simple that you can build a book from your phone or PC quickly, and that it tells you immediately which photos are too low-resolution to print well. Plus, you can get same-day photos from Walgreens with the same service.
Best for Free Photo Books and Mobile Users: FreePrints Photobooks
Super simple for Android users
FreePrints Photobooks is the kind of service that sounds like a scam but is actually a good deal if you want to save money. The gist is that you download the Android or iOS app, upload your photos, design a photobook in-app, and then have it shipped to you. You pay $8 for shipping, but the actual 20-page softcover photobook is free every month. You only pay for the book itself if you decide to upgrade it to hardcover or lay-flat, or add more pages.
The company makes its money from upselling customers, but if you stick to the standard layout, you could receive 12 photo books in a year and only spend about $100 total — about what you might spend for one high-quality photo book from another service.
The editing software is basic but efficient. You select a group of photos and import them chronologically or by selection order. Each photo will take up a page, but you can add up to six photos to a page, letting you pick from different templates based on the number. You can also change the background, add captions with varied font types and sizes, crop your photos into specific shapes like hearts or circles, enlarge the photo to be full-page, and other standard options.
Why skip FreePrints? If you're looking to build photo books that are longer than 20 pages at a time, or want better design templates to drag and drop your photos into, then there are better choices out there. But we see very little harm in using the service at least once or twice to see how your amateur designs look in print for dirt cheap. Then, you can always progress to fancier photo book services down the road.
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Your first step for making a quality photo book is having quality photos worth printing. Even smartphones can take print-worthy photos, but Android users will want to use Google Photos' new editing features to optimize them first. The best photo book makers have great layout tools, but very rarely do anything transformative to the photos themselves except to zoom in.
Once your photos are ready, then you'll want to pick a theme — wedding, vacation, family, baby, vacation or last year's photos, to name a few — and then design a book that will make those photos pop. But if you don't have the time or inclination for that, Mixbook (opens in new tab) has the most pre-made, high-quality designs that will make your photo book look semi-professional even if you just drag and drop your photos. Yet it also gives you tools to adjust those designs freely and add your own personal touch to pages with custom art and backgrounds, so you can make it feel like a photo book just for you and your family or friends.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Michael Hicks got his tech start in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars before expanding to all things tech. When he's not gaming or reading SFF novels, he writes freelance for Android Central on everything from laptops to soundbars, home security to fitness watches.
Christine Persaud resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and was a shutterbug long before the days of digital. She still has a collection of physical photo albums in her home alongside her massive online digital library.