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Best photo book 2021: Hold on to your cherished memories with these DIY photo albums

Aleksha McLoughlin
25 Aug 2021
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Get your photos off your phone and into a custom-designed photo book you’ll want to look at and cherish for years to come

We're all obsessed with taking photos on our smartphones, but when it comes to showing them off, we're pretty clueless. The best photo books are a wonderful way to brush the digital dust off the cherished memories stored on your phone or social media account. There are dozens of affordable online services that can help you put your photos in an exquisitely crafted physical photo book, so you can enjoy your favourite snaps for years to come.

Maybe you want to have a record of your baby’s first year or a significant day, like your wedding day, a special birthday or an anniversary. Photo books also make brilliant gifts, because they remind the person on the receiving end of cherished memories – and in a format that they can keep on the shelf or coffee table to show others or simply reminiscence.

Photo books can be as basic or luxurious as you like, with themed options that can spice up otherwise dull albums, or classic designs that will compliment your photos without distracting you from them.

The best thing about creating a photo album these days is the simplicity that all the below services offer. Forget about being a tech wiz or having photo editing skills: some services will automatically select your best photos and put them in a customised album for you.

In most cases, you simply choose your template and layout, then insert the pictures you want in the order you want them. In short, if you can use Facebook, then you can create a photo album. Read on to find out how to move your pictures off your phone and out of your feeds and into the real world where they will be appreciated.

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Best photo book 2021: At a glance

  • Best for ease of use: BonusPrint | Buy now
  • Best budget option: Snapfish | Buy now
  • Best for variety of styles: Photobox | Buy now
  • Best high-end option: Milkbooks | Buy now

How to choose the best photo book service for you

How easy is the process?

Rewind about five years and you would have had to worry about taking your camera to the printers and waiting weeks to see how your pictures came out. But today's modern photo book services make the process super-easy by allowing you to upload pictures straight from your PC, phone and – in many cases – your social media feeds. This means you can manage, edit and order your album from just about any device.

What style options do I have?

The sky’s pretty much the limit when it comes to size and other options for your photo book. While a lot of services offer the aesthetically-pleasing option of one photo per page (or even a double-page spread), most also allow for a more traditional photo album or scrapbook designs that mimic old-fashioned ways of displaying photos. Apart from this, you can also add text, illustrations and other designs to make your photos pop.

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Do I need to have any prior photo editing knowledge?

While it always helps to know how to crop, resize and add effects to your photos, you'll be happy to know that you don't need any prior photo editing knowledge to create your photo book. All websites offer useful templates with customisable themes and options to zoom in or out of your photo to focus on what's important to you. Most services even let you add effects to add some glitz and glamour to your prints.

Do I need a laptop to create a photo book?

Most of the below photo book services have their own free apps that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet. However, some service only work via a web browser on your PC. In general, we always recommend a bigger screen for creating photo albums because this will give you a better idea of both the album size and how your colours will look.

Can I preview how my photo book will look?

Yes. Almost all the services mentioned below let you preview your final product before you order it. Ensure you take your time to go through the preview before confirming your purchase because this will give you a good estimate of how you can expect your photo book to look and feel when you receive it.

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The best photo books you can buy right now

1. BonusPrint: Best for ease of use

Price: From £7 | Buy now from BonusPrint

Available via an app for desktop, tablet and smartphones, BonusPrint's service is very versatile and dead easy to use. Standard options include landscape, portrait and square books, and you can choose whether you want a plain cover in leather or linen, or a photo cover that will make the finished album feel even more personal.

One of its best features is called Smart Assistant. Simply select the folder whose photos you want and the said assistant will 'smartly' pick out your best photos eliminating duplicates, blurry and out-of-focus photos. The service will even go so far as creating an album from the best photos. Of course, you can then edit the album as you please. This process can save you hours of hard work if you don't want to upload and customise the photos individually yourself.

Delivery time: 6-8 working days; Shipping cost: from £3; Mobile app: Yes; Social media import: Yes

Buy now from BonusPrint


2. Photobox: Best for variety of styles

Price: From £15 | Buy now from Photobox


Photobox is the clear and outright winner when it comes to sheer number of book styles on offer. The service provides so many different album styles that you’ll be hard-pressed not to find something you love. This also means that the options vary in price quite significantly, from the £10 ‘Little Moments Photo Book’ to the more extravagant £100 luxe ‘Premium Photo Book’ with padded hardcover and presentation box.

We like that the website has clear terms with examples for the different options available when it comes to binding, covers and paper used. While this can be fairly straightforward, the last thing you want is to expect one thing and receive something different altogether with all your precious effort gone down the drain. Photobox also scores high if you’re customising a photo book as a gift because you can have years, names or special shapes (such as a heart) included on the cover.

Delivery time: 4-12 working days; Shipping cost: from £4; Mobile app: Yes; Social media import: Yes

Buy now from Photobox


3. Mixbook: Best for variety of themes

Price: From £16 | Buy now from Mixbook

Mixbook has a variety of themes readily available for almost any occasion - including weddings, birthdays and travel. The service offers quick preview after you select your theme and style. This gives you a good idea of how you can expect your photo book to look even before your start uploading your photos. Every style has a different book shape, so you can be sure your photos will look great and pop out of the page regardless of whether they're in portrait or landscape mode.

Mixbook is a great service for those who want a fun, customised photo book but don’t know where to start because you can simply choose a theme, choose a style and start uploading and customising your photo book. When you’re designing your book, you can choose various backgrounds and stickers to augment the pages, as well as add effects to your images.

Delivery time: 3-11 working days; Shipping cost: from £4.51; Mobile app: No; Social media import: No

Buy now from Mixbook


4. Snapfish: Best budget option

Price: From £8 | Buy now from Snapfish

A budget alternative that doesn’t sacrifice quality or variety, Snapfish offers a choice of seven different sizes and covers, along with more than 100 templates that can be used in the design process. It’s easy to design something special on your PC or mobile device and the results won’t cost the earth. The only downside is that existing projects can’t be shared between the Snapfish desktop site and app, so you need to decide which platform you would like to build your photo book on before you start.

Creating a photo book can be quite daunting, so we're glad that Snapfish has useful guides at the bottom of the website that gently hold your hand through the entire process - should you need the extra support or get stuck mid-way through the process. Among other articles, there are ideas on how to create the perfect recipe book and even how to document your entire family history via a photo book.

Delivery time: 3-6 working days; Shipping cost: from £2; Mobile app: Yes; Social media import: Yes

Buy now from Snapfish


5. Cewe: Best desktop creation software

Price: From £6 | Buy now from Cewe


Almost all the above services let you create photo books across a range of devices, but Cewe's desktop software was the easiest to use. Even though it's very easy to create photo books on your mobile device, we always recommend a PC or laptop because it gives you a more realistic idea of how your photo book will eventually look. One of the best features of the software is the option to design your photo book offline and create it at your own pace before you're ready to print it. Of course, Cewe also has mobile apps and even an online creation tool, if that's what you prefer.

There are eight photo book sizes to choose from – from Small to XXL Landscape – so you're sure to find something you want depending on the occasion you're creating for. The UK-based service has a range of covers, paper types, highlights and binding styles to suit your style. It also has a useful daytime chat support option to help you create your book or answer any queries if you get stuck during any point in the process.

Delivery time: 5-7 working days; Shipping cost: from £4; Mobile app: Yes; Social media import: Yes

Buy now from Cewe


6. Milkbooks: Best high-end option

Price: From £23 | Buy now from Milkbooks

If you’re really looking for something that's extra special and extravagant, then you should consider Milkbooks. The company provides premium handcrafted photo books that really bring out the best in your images, with everything from classic photo books to gorgeous Moleskine-style albums and more.

The drawbacks of the service include long delivery times, presumably because of the care with which your items are created, but the quality and price easily justify the wait.

Delivery time: 17-26 days; Shipping cost: from £10; Mobile app: No; Social media import: No

Buy now from Milkbooks


7. Bob Books: Best for versatility

Price: From £15 | Buy now from Bob Books

Priced somewhere near the middle of the options in this roundup, Bob Books offers plenty of variety when it comes to design and layout. Indeed, there are seven different sizes and three orientations to choose from; portrait, square and landscape. A key feature that makes these books stand out from the competition is the fact that each one, whether hardback or paperback, also comes bound in a wrap-around encompassing cover, with various finishes available.

Bob Books offers a multitude of ways in which you can create your photobook, no matter what device you have to hand. There’s a dedicated software app for PC and Mac, a web-based photobook editor, an iOS app for iPhones, and a PDF-to-book program for those who’d like to use Adobe InDesign. Depending on your technical knowledge, the process can be as carefree or complex as you want.

Delivery time: 6 - 10 working days; Shipping cost: £4.99; Mobile app: Yes; Social media import: No

Buy now from Bob Books


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