Many people have hundreds, if not thousands, of personal digital photos stored on their hard drives — where, unfortunately, most of these images will likely remain untouched. You could always do things the old-fashioned way, printing the photos out and pasting them into your own books. But since you have these images stored digitally, you can do so much more using an online photo book service. With photo books, you can pull these keepsakes out of digital storage and make the most out of your photographs, adding professional-quality editing and artistic touches. Photo books can also help you make unique, personalized gifts.
The best photo book sites charge about the same amount, with our top three choices each asking roughly $30 for a comparable photo book (the category average is $30.15). Keep in mind, too, that regular customers of the major sites, like Shutterfly and Snapfish, may get coupons for free or reduced-price photo books. Given the fairly uniform prices, we think you should consider other factors when choosing the best site to create photo books.
Even if artistic, creative design isn't your forte, creating custom photo books is simple and straightforward. Services that help you make photo books online provide web-based or downloadable software packed with editing tools and publishing options that make it easy to create a custom book. Since the images are digital, you have a lot of flexibility; with easy-to-use photo editing software, you can add effects, customize your layouts and do things that only an artist could accomplish with traditional print photos.
We've thoroughly rated the leading online photo books services in order to help you choose your best option. In addition to our side-by-side comparisons, you can learn more about photo-booking techniques and individual software choices in our articles on photo books. Be sure to also check out our reviews of the best photo books sites – Mixbook, Shutterfly and MyCanvas.
Design and quality are paramount when deciding where to publish your photo books, but these aren't the only important factors. You should also consider service features, usability and publishing options, as these aspects can greatly affect how good your finished photo book looks. Here are the five key elements to evaluate in a photo book publishing service.
The features your photo book software provides can make the difference between a serviceable album and a well-organized, beautifully displayed photo book. Look for a service that allows high-resolution photo uploads — we only reviewed services that do this. Additionally, choose a service that intuitively organizes your photos. The best websites for online photo books also offer additional convenience features, such as an online book editor, gift services and free album sharing.
If you don't have the time or skill to create your book from scratch, many services also provide themed templates for quick, hassle-free publishing. You can simply select a template, upload your photos and have your photo book printed. The sites vary widely in the number of templates they provide; if you want a lot of choices, consider Mixbook, which offers 150 templates. If you just want a simpler selection, check out Kolo, which gives you six basic but beautiful templates.
When you use an online photo book publisher, you should receive finished works of professional caliber. The company should remedy any printing defects, missing pages or other publication errors quickly and without additional cost to you. The printed photos featured in these books should be clean and sharp, with proper contrast and color balance.
Since all of the photo books we created were roughly the same price, we expected the same overall quality. The very best of our sample books incorporated high-quality paper, print and cover materials for the price. Some books were made with staples or weak glue, which caused the binding to lose its structure after paging through each book a couple of times. There was a range in the quality of paper as well. Some had pages that we can see lasting for a long time, while others were fine but not as durable.
The different services also offer you a range of cover and sizing options for photo books — and the more options they provide, the better. The best photo book is the one that fits your needs, whether you want a wallet-sized brag book to take in your purse or a large coffee-table book to display in your home. You should also be able to choose from an array of cover types – hardcover or soft, leather or fabric and many more.
Ease of Use
Creating photo books should be enjoyable, not burdensome. Whether a photo book service provides web-based or downloadable publishing tools, it should be intuitive and user friendly. The service should offer a comprehensible and easy-to-navigate website, so that choosing the exact product you want is simple. We looked at how well the services met each of these standards when determining our ease-of-use score. The best services take you through the process step-by-step so you can log in and start creating in minutes.
Help & Support
The best photo book publishing websites we reviewed provide comprehensive help and support in the form of FAQs. Some of the services further set themselves apart with user forums and customer service via email and telephone.
In our reviews, the best online photo book services achieved high ratings in all five of these areas. To ensure that you can create high-quality photo books, look for a service with plenty of useful features, professional-caliber production, easy-to-use publishing tools and helpful support options.
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