Best photo books 2021: Make & print an album online

Best Photo Book Maker photo book assortment
Best Photo Book Maker photo book assortment (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / iMore)

The best photo books are a wonderful way to hang onto precious memories tangibly. It's pretty easy to create a photo book to organize, save, and display your favorite photos. When you make a photo book from one of the best online photo printing services, you'll have it to display on your coffee table or bookshelf for easy access anytime.

You won't have to dig through your phone to find your favorites. Online photo book creation platforms vary quite a bit in price, variety of options, ease of use, and quality. Some platforms are better for creating photo books on your mobile device, while others are better suited for computers. I've made photo books on numerous platforms myself and selected my favorites. Here are some of the best photo book printing companies you can trust with your beloved photos.

Best photo books in 2021 at a glance

For the most custom photo book, check out Mixbook. There are over 500 colorful themes. But if that's not enough, you can actually upload your own designs to embellish your photo books with a truly personal touch. The quality is excellent.

Overall, Shutterfly stands out as one of the best photo book websites for most people in 2021. With free unlimited online photo storage, an excellent iOS app, great prices, a huge variety of photo book options, and nice quality, Shutterfly is easy to recommend to anyone. Whether you create the book on your computer or right on your phone, you'll be able to create a fabulous book with ease.

Printique, formerly known as AdoramaPix, offers professional-quality photo books at reasonable prices. I was just blown away by the quality of even the most basic, inexpensive book. You won't find as wide a variety of options as some other platforms, but this is how to go if you want to make a wedding album or other upscale book.

If you're all iOS, all the time, and you have no interest in using your computer to make photo books, consider FreePrints Photobooks. Get a free photo book made from the photos on your phone every month; all you need to do is just pay for shipping. You can choose the photos or let the app choose for you.

Mixbook Best Photo Book

Source: Mixbook (Image credit: Source: Mixbook)

1. Mixbook: Best variety

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Website: Yes | iOS app: No | Selection: Excellent | Ease of creation: Decent | Quality: Great | Prices: Reasonable

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StyleSizeStarting price
Least expsensive Hardcover8x6From $30 at Mixbook
Premium Layflat Pages with Hardcover12x12From $190 at Mixbook
Leather Hardcover11x8.5From $60 at Mixbook

With over 500 customizable themes, if you can dream it, you can create it with Mixbook. Create a softcover book or a hardcover book with a glossy or matte finish. You can choose a leather-bound book if you want something really special. You're not limited to regular paper pages; you can also go for a pearl finish or thick, premium lay-flat pages in several finishes.

Choose a shape: square, landscape, or portrait. Then choose from dozens of sizes. Choose your cover and page materials. You'll pick a theme, but then you can still customize everything about each page, choosing from thousands of backgrounds and embellishments. You can even upload your own designs for a personal touch, a truly standout feature of Mixbook. As with most photo book sites, the starting price is for 20 pages; you can add more for an additional fee.

The photo book creation platform has been vastly improved since I wrote my review of Mixbook. You can upload photos from your phone using your phone's camera to scan a QR code from the Mixbook site on your computer. You can also use photos from Facebook, Instagram, Google Photos, Smug Mug, or your computer. I actually selected Mixbook when it came time to make myself a "parents album" from my daughter's wedding photos. I found that Mixbook's book creation platform offered me the most flexibility regarding the number and placement of photos on each page. I was able to create my own custom layouts, which is something I really wanted.

I do find it annoying that accessing the prices for each option takes a bit of clicking around to find. Only certain combinations of size, orientation, paper, and covers are available. But once you've picked the book style you want, uploading the photos and putting the book itself together is smooth and intuitive now. While this isn't a "ten offers going at once" kind of site, there is frequently a sale or promotion you can take advantage of.

Shutterfly Photo Book Best Photo Book Maker

Source: Shutterfly (Image credit: Source: Shutterfly)

2. Shutterfly: Best photo books for most people

Website: Yes | iOS app: Yes | Selection: Huge | Ease of creation: Easy | Quality: Great | Prices: Reasonable (frequent sales and coupons)

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StyleSizeStarting price
Least expensive8x8From $20 at Shutterfly
Most popular size8x11From $25 at Shutterfly
Professional Flush Mount Album10x10From $450 at Shutterfly
Make My Book Serviceadd-on fee$10 at Shutterfly

Note that prices are virtually always less due to frequent sales and promo codes

I've actually been using Shutterfly in my personal life for over a decade. I trust Shutterfly with my family's precious memories — it offers free unlimited photo storage. Shutterfly is the keeper of my children's childhood. I've ordered hundreds of prints, books, and gifts from Shutterfly over the years. I've never been disappointed in the quality.

There are always deals and promo codes, and you can use up to three promo codes at a time. Using the iOS app entitles you to extra app-exclusive freebies. All of the prices you see on Shutterfly are "temporary" because there is a constant stream of sales and promo codes everywhere. For example, the 20-page, 8x11-inch hardcover photo book I ordered retails for $40, but you'll never pay that. I got this one for free with a promo code emailed to me (at my personal email address, nothing to do with iMore). I only had to pay the shipping, which was about $10.

Though there are tons of themes and embellishments that cost nothing extra, there are many, many upgrades that do.

Shutterfly offers a lot of options for creating the best photo book for your needs. You can have Shutterfly create a custom book for you; you can choose the "Simple Path" to make a book quickly or the "Custom Path" to personalize your book down to the smallest detail. You can also make your book easily within the iOS app.

Though there are tons of themes and embellishments that cost nothing extra, there are many, many upgrades that do. You can keep the photo books basic or make a wedding album with flush-mount, lay-flat, board-mounted pages. Heck, you can even make a school yearbook. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on the price as you create your photo books and order when you can get the best prices.

Frankly, I find the price games to be irritating. I'd prefer those websites; just pick a price and keep it. Do keep in mind that the regular photo book (not the Flush Mount) pages are paper, so you'll want to be careful not to rip them as you look through the book.

It's always a good idea to keep an eye on the price as you create your photo books and order when you can get the best prices.

What brought me to Shutterfly initially was the fact that it offers unlimited free storage. As my digital photo collection started to get large, the idea of storing them all on my computer's hard drive became untenable. Shutterfly has been a good place for my photos to "live." I make it a habit to upload my photos to Shutterfly regularly.

Whenever I want to create a photo book to commemorate some big event in our lives, Shutterfly already has my photos ready to go. However, you can also upload photos into your photo book directly from your phone, Facebook, Instagram, or Google Photos without having to store them in Shutterfly at all. As I detailed in my review of Shutterfly, I've been happy with the quality. The books are fun to make with loads of themes, backgrounds, stickers, and fonts. If you don't mind playing "the price game," waiting for sales, and stacking promo codes, you can get an excellent deal on your photo books.

Snapfish Best Photo Book

Source: Snapfish (Image credit: Source: Snapfish)

3. Snapfish: Another fantastic option

Website: Yes | iOS app: Yes | Selection: Huge | Ease of creation: Easy | Quality: Great | Prices: Reasonable (frequent sales and coupons)

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StyleSizeStarting price
Least expensive (Softcover)5x7From $13 at Snapfish
Least expensive Hardcover6x8From $15 at Snapfish
Premium Layflat Hardcoverfrom 8x8From $60 at Snapfish
Leather Hardcoverfrom 8x11From $40 at Snapfish

Note that prices are virtually always less due to frequent sales and promo codes

Snapfish's quality is great, while prices are very reasonable with frequent sales and promo codes. The website is easy to use. The selection that Snapfish offers is extensive. Its platform to make books is nicely done. The free, unlimited storage is a nice touch.

Snapfish has a colorful and easy-to-navigate website. You'll immediately see some of the many options for photo books you can create. You'll also see that there are plenty of sales and promo codes at any given time; you generally won't be able to use more than one.

Creating a photo book is easy and fun. There were so very many choices of sizes, themes, stickers, text, and other embellishments. I got the smallest, least expensive book, and it's adorable. Super thin with a soft cover, it's light and portable. Of course, you can also upgrade to a large coffee-table-sized book, a premium leather cover album, and lay-flat pages if you wish.

You can make photo books in the iOS app, but I do not recommend it unless you cannot access a computer. You're limited to your phone photos, and I find the app a little bit fiddly to use. It's easier to make the best photo books using the website's platform on your computer, where you can choose photos from your computer, Snapfish, Google Photos, Facebook, Instagram, or Flickr.

As I mentioned above, you'll rarely pay the retail photo book prices. There are always promos going on, and frankly, I don't love having to play the sale game. I just want a real, consistent price! But if you don't mind playing the game and waiting for the right sale or coupon, you'll get a great deal on one of the best photo books out there, as I said in my review of Snapfish.

Printique Best Photo Book

Source: Printique (Image credit: Source: Printique)

4. Printique (formerly known as AdoramaPix): Best quality books

Website: Yes | iOS app: No | Selection: Huge | Ease of creation: Easy | Quality: Outstanding | Prices: Medium

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StyleSizeStarting price
Least expensive ("Softcover")from 4x4From $10 at Printique
Hardcoverfrom 6x4.5From $38 at Printique
Premium Lay-Flat, Flush Mount Leatherfrom 6x6From $138 at Printique
Metal Coverfrom 6x6From $199 at Printique

Ordering a photo book from Printique was pretty easy, and the variety of incredible photo books available is staggering. From the cheapest "softcover" books to high-end wedding albums with leather or metal or linen covers, you can truly customize your book the way you want it. I put softcover in quotes because when I've ordered softcover books from other sources, I've received a soft, flexible book, as expected.

But Printique's softcover book is actually a solid book -- not only the cover, but each page is actually what Printique calls "thick and durable archival paper." I would call it thin cardboard. It looks and feels incredible, and it has to be less susceptible to damage than normal paper books.

All of Printique's photo books, even the cheapest ones, have a lay-flat binding. That means you can open the book all the way; nothing sticks up as the book lies totally flat and open. Nothing gets lost in the seams, as can happen with regular books.

All of Printique's photo books, even the cheapest ones, have a lay-flat binding.

Printique's mid-range hardcover books are a cut above other photo book printing services. Most companies give you your choice of photo book pages on paper, or sometimes a thicker cardboard-like paper if you upgrade to a premium option. Printique offers many more options than that. You can choose Kodak Endura Luster, Kodak Endura Glossy, Kodak Endura Matte, Kodak Endura Silk, Kodak Endura Metallic, Fuji Deep Matte, Pebble, or Linen for your pages inside your book.

You can choose Softcover (which is cardboard, really), Hardcover, Leather Lux (vegan), Genuine Leather, Fabric, or Metal for your cover. You can also embellish premium albums with gold, silver, or black gilding and custom stamping.

If you prefer to make your photo books from your phone, you're out of luck. There is no app, so you'll have to get your photos onto your computer so you can upload them to Printique. You can definitely find cheaper photo books out there. While Printique offers sales and promotions from time to time, the site is not "always on sale" like some other companies.

Despite the minor downsides, Printique makes superb quality photo books. If you want to make the best photo book, hands down, this is the way to go. You can read more about Printique, formerly known as AdoramaPix, in my review.

Amazon Photos Best Photo Book

Source: Amazon (Image credit: Source: Amazon)

5. Amazon Photos: Best storage

Website: Yes | iOS app: Yes | Selection: Miniscule | Ease of creation: Extremely easy | Quality: Good | Prices: Reasonable

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StyleSizeStarting price
Hardcover Photo Book8x8From $17 at Amazon
Premium Photo Book8x8From $22 at Amazon

I'd recommend Amazon Photos to Amazon Prime members mostly looking for free and easy photo and video storage but may want to print up a quick photo book from time to time. The Amazon Photos app will automatically save all of your photos and videos (up to 5GB), even if you delete them from your phone. Now that Google Photos is going to start charging for storage, Amazon Photos is a better choice than ever with its unlimited photo storage.

It's not the best photo book printing option out there, as you only get white and no other color and style options. All photo books are 8x8, and you get two choices. The regular Hardcover Photo Book has glossy paper pages and a laminated hardcover. The Premium Photo Book adds double-thick interior pages and professional lay-flat binding. There is one photo on each page, and the base price includes 20 pages. You can upgrade to up to 74 pages. The only upcharges you will find are extra pages in your photo book.

Amazon creates "memories" for you from trips or years in review and gives you the option to print it up as a photo book with a couple of taps on your phone. Amazon Prime members get fast, free shipping. This is the option for someone who really doesn't want to be bothered with themes, colorful pages, embellishments, and captions. Just a straight-up photo book, no fussing around, in your mailbox fast. The photo book options have slimmed down quite a bit since I first wrote my review of Amazon Photos.

Walgreens Best Photo Book Lifestyle

Source: Walgreens (Image credit: Source: Walgreens)

6. Walgreens: Fastest option

Website: Yes | iOS app: No | Selection: Huge | Ease of creation: Easy | Quality: Great | Prices: Reasonable

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StyleSizeStarting price
Least expensive (Softcover)from 4x6From $10 at Walgreens
Lay-flat Window Cover Photo Book8.5x11From $30 at Walgreens
Leather Hardcover12x12From $80 at Walgreens

Note that prices are virtually always less due to frequent sales and promo codes

Walgreens' website and photo book creation platform are well-done. You'll find a huge variety of photobooks in terms of both size and style. Same-day pickup at your local Walgreens is available for certain photo books, and you can even have your book gift packaged for a small fee. You can have the other photo books shipped to the store for free.

Since shipping tends to be pricey for photo books, you can save quite a bit if you live near enough to a Walgreens store. If you do have it shipped to you, shipping is pretty fast. Photobook prices are reasonable to start, plus sales and promo codes are plentiful.

Creating and ordering the photobook is easy from your computer, but you can't make a photo book from your phone. Walgreens offers photo books from little softcover cheapies all the way up to premium leather-bound lay-flat albums. There are tons of sizes, covers, themes, backgrounds, stickers, and other embellishments so you can personalize your book to your heart's content. Because Walgreens is a full-service drugstore, it's a great all-around one-stop-shop for many things, as I mentioned in my review of Walgreens.

FreePrints Photobooks Best Photo Book

Source: FreePrints (Image credit: Source: FreePrints)

7. FreePrints Photobooks: Made for mobile

Website: No | iOS app: Yes | Selection: Decent | Ease of creation: Very easy | Quality: Nice | Prices: Reasonable

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StyleSizeStarting price
Standard softcover book5x7$10 at FreePrints Photobooks (one free per month)
Premium hardcover6x8$15 at FreePrints Photobooks
Premium hardcover8.5x11.5$30 at FreePrints Photobooks

FreePrints Photobook has an interesting sales model. You get one free 5x7 softcover 20-page photo book per month. You just pay shipping, which is about $8. Want more pages, a hardcover book, a larger book, or more books? You can certainly have those upgrades; you just have to pay for them. There are frequent sales and promo codes offering free and discounted upgrades. You do not have to subscribe, and there is no commitment.

Making your photo book is fast and easy. Just open the app, choose your photos, colors, patterns, themes, layout, captions, and then place the order. FreePrints does offer its own cloud storage, but you can also pull photos from your phone itself and from so many other popular sites, it hardly seems necessary: Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Files. The result is a nice quality photo book you could easily make while you're standing in line at the grocery store.

One example I could see being the target demographic is a busy parent. You could start a monthly collection and document your baby's first year or other milestones in your child's life. As I said in my FreePrints Photobooks review, it is made for mobile — you couldn't order from a computer if you tried. For anyone who needs to take care of their photo book needs on the go, FreePrints Photobooks presents a convenient and purely mobile option.

How to make the best photo books for you

Not everyone has the same photo book needs. Some people want something simple and streamlined, while others want to embellish every detail. Some people prefer to use a computer with its full-sized screen, while others need an app's mobile convenience. One person may be looking for the best price while another person values quality above all. You might be looking for a little cutie to stick in your bag, while someone else might be looking for a coffee table or mantel showpiece.

Get creative with your layouts

I like to get creative when making photo books. I will spend hours laying out each page, placing every photo, and writing careful captions (in just the right font) so that my photo book tells a story. I'll pick a theme and then select colorful backgrounds for each page. I'll even add stickers for a bit of extra panache. But not everyone cares about those details or wants to get bogged down in them. Some people just want a simple white background and don't want to make dozens of decisions about how the book will look.

What's nice about Shutterfly is that you can go either way. I've definitely made multi-hour photo books; some have even taken me days to create. But Shutterfly also offers a "Simple Path" to speed up the process (with less flexibility), or you can even let the Shutterfly team design your album for you.

Consider your size and customization options

Before making a photo book, you'll want to think about the size you want. For example, a 6x6 photo book could easily be popped into a bag and makes a great "brag book," a perfect gift for a parent or grandparent. However, if you want something to place on your mantel or a coffee table, you'll want something bigger and grander. You also want to decide what kinds of materials you'd like your photo book to be made of.

Are you going to want custom layouts, themes, and stickers? Do you want to upload your own artwork and designs as embellishments in your photo book, as you can do with Mixbook? Be sure the service you pick has the options you want.

How easy is it to make a photo book?

Whether you like a simple or elaborate book, you want a photo book platform that is intuitive and easy to use. All of the picks in this article fit that description. I tried out several photo book creation platforms that were frustrating to use, websites that lost my photos, and photo books that arrived with errors I could not see on the website. Choose a website that lets you use photos directly from where your photos "live," so you don't have to go through a laborious photo uploading process.

You can make photo books faster if you skip the creative details and go with more of a pre-made book. As far as shipping, note that the turnaround time is usually a week or two, at least, for photo books. If you need the photo book today, I suggest choosing one of the "same-day pickup" style options from Walgreens. Yes, your selection will be limited, but your book will go from your computer screen to your hands the same day. You can even have Walgreens gift-package it if you're making a gift for someone.

Can you design and print a photo book from your phone?

Depending on what I'm doing, sometimes I work faster on a computer screen, and sometimes I find my iPhone to be quicker. The same goes for making photo books. A photo book platform with a well-laid-out app is great; you can easily make books while sitting in the car (NOT driving), chilling on the couch, or standing in line somewhere. I particularly like the user interface of the FreePrints Photobooks and the Shutterfly apps. Plus, both apps offer free monthly photo books or other deals that you can only get within the app.

What about photo book quality?

Most of the photo books in this article are standard books with hard or soft covers and paper pages. But some photo books go way beyond that. Some have lay-flat binding, so nothing gets "lost" in the seams of the book. Some have thicker, more durable paper. All of Printique's books have thick, sturdy archival paper and lay-flat binding.

Some photobooks have fabric, leather, or metal covers. Some of the photo books and albums are archival qualities that can be passed down through the generations. Before ordering a photo book, be sure to read the description carefully to know what you're getting.

Cheap photo books verse discounted ones: which to buy?

Keep an eye out for sales and promo codes. Once you create an account with one of these services, you'll be on their mailing list and will be alerted of promotions. It's easy to get carried away with upgrades; just be conscious of what you're upgrading. A big trap people fall into is adding a lot of pages to their photo books. For almost every service, the standard photo book is 20 pages; you'll usually pay about a buck per page to add more. Most services let you put multiple photos on a single page; if you do that, then you'll need to add fewer pages.

Tips for making the perfect photo book

Whichever photo bookmaker you choose, take your time creating your book. Even though some options can be breezed through with a few taps, check and double-check (and triple-check) to be sure everything is exactly how you want it. Be sure you've selected the precise photos you want and cropped them properly. Don't ignore any warnings or alerts that might warn of low resolution, as photos that look fine on your screen may not look great in a book.

Read over your captions to check for spelling and correctness. Be sure the pages are in the right order so that your story flows. Creating a keepsake memory book can take hours, so don't rush it. If you're using a website with a manual "Save" button, be sure to use it frequently! Most of all, enjoy the process. Making the best photo book is rewarding, and the result will be something you and your loved ones will treasure.

Karen S Freeman

Karen is a contributor to as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at CNET. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, AppAdvice, WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.