Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration

January 01

32 min. to read

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Flip through some of the best photo books for inspiration and decide which service is right for you.

Before the age of smartphones, photographs had to be taken on film. People used to keep their photographs in albums that could be flipped through for decades to come. These beautiful photo albums have been passed down through generations, allowing a glimpse into the past. Now that everything is digital, people have all but forgotten the photo album. “Albums” are now stored on phones, computers, and hard drives, and photographs are rarely printed. Instead, they’re posted on social media. 

While it may seem a bit old-fashioned to create a photo book, they make beautiful gifts. The best part is that you can easily make photo books online! You might make a photo book to preserve memories of a special day or just to compile a collection of your favorite snaps over the years. No matter which photos you include, the act of flipping through a custom photo book adds a new dimension to your images. 

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How can you take photographs from your phone or computer and turn them into a photo book? How can you create an aesthetically pleasing layout and design? Luckily, you don’t need to do every step yourself. There are plenty of online services that allow you to choose a layout and move photographs around until you’re happy with the result. The process has been refined throughout the years so that making a photo book is now easier than ever. 

This list will help you decide on the best photo book site for your needs. Each service allows you to choose the design, size, and type of paper. You can even choose to print your photographs in monochrome or full color. Once you’ve chosen a photo book printing service, our list of some of the best photo books will give you the inspiration you need to make your own book that will be cherished for years to come.

Best photo book makers: A photo book comparison

It can be difficult to know where to start when creating online photo books. While this list is not exhaustive, it contains some of the best photo book services out there. From cheap photo books to professional wedding photo albums, there is something here for everyone. 

Apple photo books

Apple photo books used to be one of the best photo book sites out there. This service was built into the Photos app, making it easy to find and sort all of your photographs. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in autumn 2018. That means you’ll have to use one of the following services to create photo books. 

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Google photo books

There’s a good chance that you already back up all of your smartphone images in Google Photos. Google photo books are easy to make and are not very expensive, especially for a small photo book. Prices start at only $9.99 for a 20-page softcover 7x7-inch book. To create a new album from your collection, you can search for a particular person, place, or thing. Hardcover Google photo books start at $19.99 for 20 pages.

You can easily change the photos, layout, and cover style. Because the Google Photos app is available on your smartphone, you can create a simple photo book in minutes without ever opening your computer. While Google doesn’t offer as many themes as some other companies – and there are fewer options for high-quality paper and bindings – they make the process of creating a book very easy.

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Shutterfly photo books

When you first sign up for Shutterfly, you get 101 free prints, five free magnets, one set of address labels, and one art print. They also frequently offer discounts and free shipping, so keep an eye out for the best deals! This printing service offers much more than custom photo books. You can create greeting cards, calendars, canvas prints, and even blankets. 

Shutterfly photo books offer a variety of options to meet your preferences and budget. They offer many layouts and designs, allowing you full control over the artistic process when choosing and placing your images. They also offer a Make My Book service, in which you provide images and instructions and their designers create the book for you. 

If you choose to design your own Shutterfly photo book, you can choose either the Custom Path or Simple Path. The Custom Path allows you to design each page down to the last detail, while the Simple Path allows you to simply place images in pre-arranged slots. Shutterfly photo books start at $15.99 for a small photo book measuring 7x9 inches.

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Snapfish photo books

When you join Snapfish, you get 100 free 4x6 prints. They also offer frequent discounts and freebies, so keep checking back! Snapfish allows you to turn your images into framed prints, canvas prints, mugs, stationery, pillows, blankets, and more. 

At the time of writing, Snapfish was offering 70% off all custom photo books! While this extreme discount may not be offered at all times, they frequently have offers that are worth waiting for. Softcover 5x7 photo books are currently on offer for only 99 cents each! Snapfish is one of the best sites to find cheap photo books. 

To create your own photo book, start by choosing the size, cover type, and paper. Without any discounts, mini photo books (5x7 inches) start at just $12.99. You can then choose the design, whether you want to keep it simple or you’d like some extra graphics depending on the occasion. Snapfish has a variety of categories to choose from such as Wedding, Baby, Simple, School Year, and Travel. 

For those who love to do everything from their smartphone, Snapfish offers a useful app that allows you to create a photo book online without ever opening a computer. 

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Picaboo photo books

Picaboo also offers frequent special offers. At the time of writing, they were offering 30% off everything plus free shipping, 60% off bulk orders, and 40% off certain prints. These offers are constantly changing, but you can always be sure you’ll save some money. 

This printing service offers more than just custom photo books, allowing you to turn your images into journals, mouse pads, phone cases, tote bags, and more. Picaboo doesn’t offer as many options as Snapfish or Shutterfly, but they still offer a wide range of photo book sizes and designs.

Small photo books, measuring 5x4 inches, start at $19.99. To build your book, simply start by choosing which type of book you want to create: Classic, Seamless Lay-Flat, Premium Mini, Madison, Flush Mount, or Die Cut. The most expensive option starts at $399.99 per book, but they offer premium materials. The more expensive options are great for creating professional photo books. 

The Picaboo website is easy to use, allowing you to choose a design or create your own. You can then simply upload your photographs and place them into a book. If you’d like to build a book on your phone, the Picaboo app makes it quick and easy to upload photos. 

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Mixbook photo books

When you sign up for Mixbook, you automatically get 50% off your first order. This company offers frequent discounts, often up to 50% off many of their popular items. Unlike some of the previous companies, Mixbook doesn’t offer unique items such as mugs, blankets, pillows, or journals. But they do offer custom photo books, cards, calendars, and a variety of prints. 

Mixbook allows you to choose from 374 themes when designing your photo book. You have the option of keeping it simple with a 6x6-inch mini photo book or creating a book for a special occasion with matte paper and lay-flat pages. Small, simple books start at $9.99. Mixbook is another great website for creating cheap photo books. 

When designing your book, you can choose a premade theme or start from a completely blank canvas. The software is easy to use and the quality of the final product is high. 

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Amazon photo books

It should come as no surprise that Amazon also offers prints and photo books. After all, they sell everything! Amazon Prints allows you to create your own custom photo books, canvas prints, cards, blankets, mugs, and more. While they offer free shipping to Prime members, they don’t run as many special offers as other services. If you aren’t a Prime member, you can get free shipping if your total is over $15. 

Amazon photo books start at $8.99 for a small photo book measuring 5x7 inches. This is one of the better options for creating cheap photo books. While Amazon doesn’t offer as many options as some of the other printers, you can still choose between different sizes, covers, paper types, and designs.

The process of creating an Amazon photo book is simple; you can easily drag and drop your images into pre-arranged layouts. You also have the option to add embellishments, backgrounds, borders, and more to each page. 

Artifact Uprising photo books

Artifact Uprising offers high-quality, classy photo books at a higher price than many of the other companies on this list. When you sign up, you get 15% off your first purchase. At the time of writing, Artifact Uprising was also offering 20% off photo books. Their mini photo book (5.5x5.5 inches) starts at $15. Although their books can be pricey, the quality of materials make these some of the best photo books out there. 

You also have the option to choose premium cloth covers, foil-embossed titles, and archival quality paper. These are truly books that can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the options are quite limited. Artifact Uprising is more for people who are looking for a simple, modern design. They’re a wonderful choice for those looking to create professional photo books. 

While they offer different photo layouts, you can’t choose to add any particular designs, borders, or backgrounds. All photographs are printed on a white background. Some photo book styles have even fewer layout options, with only one photograph on each page. While text can be added to the front cover, there’s only one font: Times New Roman. Some book styles allow text to be added within the book itself, others don’t. Uploading your photos is easy, with options to upload directly from Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, and other services. 

Artifact Uprising offers custom photo books, prints, framed prints, cards, calendars, and more. They don’t offer a wide variety of home decor and other unique items like other companies, though. While the options are limited and the prices are a bit high, Artifact Uprising offers high-quality books that are perfect long-lasting gifts. 

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AdoramaPix photo books

AdoramaPix offers easy-to-use software that’s perfect for both amateurs and professionals. You have the option to build your own custom photo book from scratch or use a template. Unlike some other printing companies, AdoramaPix also offers an Auto Builder, which automatically sorts your photographs into a book without any work on your part. 

You can order a simple softcover book starting at $19.99 – this will get you a small photo book measuring 8x8 inches – or you can choose higher-quality materials such as leather or fabric. You also have the option to choose a lay-flat binding, which allows photographs to span both pages without getting cut off. Every book is made with archival quality photo paper. AdoramaPix offers a great range of choices from cheap photo books to professional photo books to fit your budget. 

When building your book, you can either start from scratch or choose a template. Choose from different styles such as Wedding, Children, Family, Travel, or Holiday. Backgrounds, frames, shapes, stickers, and text can be added on every page. 

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Costco photo books

Costco offers a quick and easy way to create photo books, yet they don’t offer as many options as some other companies. You can choose either a 12x12-inch layflat, an 11 3/4 x 8 3/4-inch hardcover, or an 8x8-inch softcover. Mini photo books start at $19.99 for a pack of two. Costco doesn’t offer any leather, fabric, or higher quality binding options. 

When creating your book, you can choose from a variety of themes and layouts. The software itself is easy to use, yet the final product isn’t as high-quality as some of the other options on this list. But if you’re looking for a simple, cheap photo book, Costco is a good option. 

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70 of the best photo books for inspiration

Artist books

If you’re interested in creating your own photo book, there’s no better place to get inspiration than from the professionals. Artists create beautiful, professional photo books that can help spark creativity and give you the inspiration you need to create your own. Photos in these books are arranged purposefully, placing images in the order they’re meant to be viewed in. The grouping and order of the images work together to tell a story or evoke a particular emotion. 

By looking to the professionals, you can gain inspiration for your own photo books. Whether you’re simply putting together a family album or are an artist yourself, flipping through some of the best photo books will help you design your own. 

1. In the National Parks by Ansel Adams

2. In the American West by Richard Avedon 

3. In China by Eve Arnold

4. Untitled by Diane Arbus

5. Centennial by Irving Penn

6. The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson

7. The Americans by Robert Frank

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image11Robert Frank. The Americans

8. William Eggleston, 2 1/4 by William Eggleston

9. Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light by Bill Brandt

10. Immediate Family by Sally Mann

11. Portraits by Helmut Newton

12. American Photographs by Walker Evans

13. The Complete Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image12Cindy Sherman. The Complete Untitled Film Stills

14. Sleeping by the Mississippi by Alec Soth

15.  Photographs from 1984 to the Present by Andreas Gursky

16. The Last Resort by Martin Parr

17. Perfect Places, Perfect Company by Robert Adams

18. The Keys to the House by Juergen Teller 

19. Portraits 2005–2016 by Annie Leibovitz 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image13Annie Leibovitz. Portraits 2005 - 2016

20. On Reading by André Kertész 

21. The Book of Everything by Mary Ellen Mark

22. Shadows on the Wall by Peter Lindbergh

23. Uncommon Places: The Complete Works by Stephen Shore

24. Polaroids by Robert Mapplethorpe

25. Figments from the Real World by Garry Winogrand 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image14Garry Winogrand. Figments from the Real World 

26. Cathedral of the Pines by Gregory Crewdson

27. House Hunting by Todd Hido

28. Modern Color by Fred Herzog

29. I Want to Take Picture by Bill Burke

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image15Bill Burke. I Want to Take Pictures

30. Pictures From Home by Larry Sultan

31. Taken From Memory by Sheron Rupp

32. A Peculiar Paradise: Florida Photographs by Nathan Benn

33. Shtetl in the Sun: Andy Sweet’s South Beach 1977–1980 by Andy Sweet

34. All the Days and Nights by Doug DuBois 

35. Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names by Alex Webb 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image16Alex Webb. Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names 

How-to guides 

After flipping through many of these art books, you may be inspired to whip out your camera and boost your photography skills. Luckily, there are plenty of books out there that teach you to do just that. Whether you’re a complete beginner or simply need a bit of a refresher, flip through these books to learn everything you need to know about the technical side of photography. These are some of the best photo books for teaching yourself the art of photography. This collection of books will teach you how to properly use both natural and artificial light, how to use your DSLR, how to properly compose images, and more.

36. DSLR Photography for Beginners by Brian Black 

37. Digital Photography Complete Course by David Taylor

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image17David Taylor. Digital Photography Complete Course

38. How to Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup

39. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

40. Bryan Peterson’s Exposure Solutions by Bryan Peterson 

41. The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman

42. Light Science & Magic by Fil Hunter 

43. Picture Perfect Lighting by Roberto Valenzuela 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image18Roberto ValenzuelaPicture Perfect Lighting

44. Light and Lens by Robert Hirsch 

45. Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long 

46. Mastering Composition by Richard Garvey-Williams

47. Mastering Landscape Photography by David Taylor 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image19David Taylor. Mastering Landscape Photography

48. The Art of the Photograph by Art Wolfe 

49. Photographs from the Edge by Art Wolfe 

50. The New Art of Photographing Nature by Art Wolfe 

51. John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography by John Shaw 

52. The Complete Guide to Nature Photography by Sean Arbabi 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image20Sean Arbabi. The Complete Guide to Nature Photography

53. Wildlife Photography by Richard Bernabe 

54. Capture the Magic by Jack Dykinga 

55. Wide-Angle Photography by Chris Marquardt 

56. The Photographer’s Eye: A Graphic Guide by Michael Freeman 

57. Expressive Nature Photography by Brenda Tharp 

58. Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image21Expressive Nature Photography and Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp

59. The Art of Landscape Photography by Ross Hoddinott 

60. The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography by Glenn Randall 

61. Digital Landscape Photography by Michael Frye 

62. Rick Sammon’s Creative Visualization for Photographers by Rick Sammon 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image22Rick Sammon. Rick Sammon’s Creative Visualization for Photographers

63. The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum 

64. Understanding Color in Photography by Bryan Peterson 

65. Digital SLR Photography All-in-One for Dummies by Robert Correll 

66. Advancing Your Photography by Marc Silber 

Best Photo Books 2021: Photo Book Makers and Books for Inspiration Image23Marc Silber. Advancing Your Photography

67. BetterPhoto Basics by Jim Miotke 

68. Photography Demystified by David McKay 

69. Exposure Mastery by Brian Black 

70. The Beginner’s Photography Guide by Chris Gatcum 

Whether you’re interested in portrait photography, landscape photography, macro photography, or simply the technical aspects of your camera, there’s a book for you. If you’re interested in creating a photo book full of landscapes, try reading a how-to book on landscape photography and then flipping through photo books of Ansel Adams. If you’re interested in a photo book of portraits, brush up on your posing and composition skills and then flip through an Annie Leibovitz book. The combination of instruction and artistic inspiration will help you create beautiful photo books of your own. 

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How to make the best photo book

Once you’ve taken your photographs and chosen which printing company you’ll use to make your photo book, you’ll need to actually put all of the images in a certain order. How do you decide which images to place next to each other? How do you decide which image should get a two-page spread and which should take up only part of one page? While the process may seem daunting, it can be fun and easy after you’ve mastered a few tricks. By following these steps, you’ll be able to make some of the best photo books with little effort. 

Choose your theme

First things first: determine what you want your photo book to showcase. Are you interested in creating a wedding photo album with photographs from your special day? Or are you more interested in creating a travel photo book, with photographs of your adventures around the world? Perhaps you simply want to create a compilation of images of your children or snapshots you’ve taken over the past year. Whatever it is, decide on a theme. This can be broad, such as pictures of your family throughout the years, or specific, such as pictures from a special event. 

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Sort through your photographs

When you start to build a photo book, you’ll need to upload pictures into the book-making program. You don’t want to upload every photograph you’ve ever taken, so it’s best to sort through your photographs beforehand. With your theme in mind, start looking through your photos to cull your images. It’s okay if you have more photographs than will end up in the actual book, but try not to have too many (100 to 200 is a good starting point). Try to have a variety of images, such as portraits, landscapes, and detail shots. Make sure that all of your images are high-resolution before uploading. 

Decide on the size and design of your book

Are you interested in an archival quality coffee table book? Or would you rather a small softcover that’s easy to carry with you? Photo books that display images from a very important event, such as wedding photo books, are best printed on high-quality paper with a hard cover. Some companies offer leather, metal, or fabric covers for an even better presentation. Softcover albums are often pocket-sized and are great inexpensive gifts. You can keep it modern and classy by choosing a simple white background without any text or borders. Or you can choose a theme that goes along with your images, such as one with graphics and text related to travel or family. 

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Arrange your images

The best photo book layouts offer variety, with some images spanning two pages, followed by a single, smaller image on one page. Try not to clutter the book by placing too many images on one page – two, sometimes three images are enough. If you have three images on one page, the facing page should only have one. This keeps the book from becoming too busy. Don’t worry too much about keeping your images in chronological order. Instead, focus on what images work well together. Texture, color, and tone can be used to pair images. Try placing a portrait next to a landscape or a landscape next to a detail shot for balance. 

Come up with a title

You don’t need to stress too much about the title of your photo book. You can choose a simple title, such as Our Trip to Italy, or the date of a special event, such as January 1, 2010. A collection of travel images could be called On the Road, or an anniversary book could be called Five Years. Keep it simple and related to your topic. 

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Editing your photographs

Before your photographs are ready to be printed in a photo book, you’ll want to make sure they look their best. By using photo editing software such as Luminar, you can control the tone and style of your photographs. Perhaps you want to create a book full of monochrome images, or images with a vintage feel, or images with pops of color. Luminar Looks can help you with all of these styles and more. If you’re ready to make the best photo book, download a free trial of Luminar now! Once your photographs are edited to perfection, you can choose from the list of best photo book makers to turn your vision into reality. 

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