There are dozens of websites, apps and companies that will turn your memories into printed books. But to make sure your snaps look spectacular, you’ll need to know your stuff when it comes to downloading and editing pictures.
Most photobook services have templates that make it easy to lay out pages. Some have ‘smart assistant’ software that will turn a folder of photos into a book in a few minutes, while others have smartphone apps that will import your photos from your Facebook and Instagram accounts.
To help you create a photobook that leaves a lasting impression, we’ve rounded up some top tips on choosing photos and picking a layout.
For expert reviews of online photo printing services, including Jessops, Photobox and Snapfish, see our guide to the best online photo printing services of 2020.
A great photobook puts your pictures in the best order with the aim of telling a story. And we all have stories to tell.
The classic photobook is a wedding album, while travel books are also a popular choice – they can be personalised with photos of tickets and maps. Alternatively, you might want to compile photobooks of your hobbies or your pets.
If you’ve never created a photobook before, start with a couple of simple projects, such as a birthday party, a special Christmas, a minibreak, or a beloved pet.
When you are comfortable with the process of creating photobooks, you can embark on an epic project, such as telling someone’s life story. This could involve having old photos scanned into digital form, for which you might need a scanner or to use a specialist company. Projects like this are a lot of work, but get it right and the results will be treasured for decades.
If you’re working on a computer, create a folder for each photobook you want to make, and copy the pictures you want to include to that folder. Exclude duplicates, blurred photos and badly framed images.
Photo editing apps for iOS and Android
You will probably need to edit your photos to get the best out of them. You have free editing software at your fingertips: laptops and mobile devices all come with apps such as iPhotos and Google Photos on mobile, and both Windows and Mac computers come with on-board software called Photos.
Editing photos can take a long time, although many photo-editing programs include automatic enhancement tools that will correct things like exposure errors and bad colour casts with a single click.
If you’re looking to edit photos on your iOS or Android smartphone, consider one of these free apps:
- Snapseed Built by Google, this photo editor (shown below) offers simple filters and professional tools that let you play around with exposure and colour. Your edits are tracked, so you can undo certain changes if you need to.
- Adobe Photoshop Express While the mobile version of Photoshop isn’t as powerful as the desktop alternative, it’s still packed with features. You can fix crooked images, smooth out graininess, apply artistic blur or add borders and text.
- Pixlr This is an easy-to-use editor with a ‘tap to fix’ colour corrector. You can create mini photo collages in minutes and save them onto your phone.
If you use a free web-based editor, make sure the final image (the download) is the same size as the original image (the upload), in pixels. And the bigger the image file, the bigger the print you can make from it.
Professional printers usually want about 300 pixels per inch (ppi) for high-quality results. You would therefore need an image that is 2,481 x 3,507 pixels or 8.7Mp image to fill an A4 page. Modern smartphones and cameras produce images that range from 10Mp to 24Mp, which is more than enough.
However, lens and sensor quality also make a difference: 6Mp images from a DSLR can give better printed results than 12Mp images from a cheap compact camera.
Try to avoid using photos from Facebook or Instagram, unless you’re using an app that works with these services, as Facebook compresses them to save space. For the best results, give the photobook printer the biggest images you can.
If you’re shopping for a smartphone with a top-notch camera, make sure you check our expert smartphone reviews.
Choosing your photobook
Photobooks come in landscape, portrait and square formats. Camera users tend to take horizontal pictures, which makes the landscape format the natural choice. The vertical format works well if you mostly shoot portraits and similar shots.
The standard paper is usually OK, unless you are keen to have a glossy finish. Thicker papers print better than thinner ones, but limit the maximum size of the book.
Lay-flat books are always printed on thicker paper, and are the best choice if you want to print a lot of photos across double-page spreads. However, the extra charges for glossy finishes, thicker papers and lay-flat pages add up.
Creating your photobook
Most photobook providers let you create books online in a web browser, while some have software that you can use offline, then upload the book when you’ve finished, and others also have smartphone apps.
It’s worth creating your book on a computer if you can: a bigger screen is easier to work on than a small smartphone touchscreen.
To create a page, you simply choose a layout – which can have one or several images per page, and different page styles with various colours, frames and caption styles. You then drag and drop your images into the frames, and the software does the rest.
Remember that you’re designing two-page spreads, not single pages. You can vary layouts by having one full-page photo balanced by four horizontal, or two or three vertical, images.
Which photobook supplier is the best?
A lot of companies sell photobooks. You could try a high street chain such as Aldi, Asda, Boots or Tesco. Specialist photography companies including Jessops, Maxphoto and Snappy Snaps also produce photobooks.
Companies that already have your photos online are another obvious source. You can order photobooks from Amazon, Google, Apple Photos and others. Or choose specialised suppliers such as Blurb, Bob Books, Bonusprint, CEWE, MyPhotobook, Optimalprint, Photobox, and more.
Printastic, MySocialBook and Chatbooks are among the suppliers with smartphone apps that can import photos from Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox and camera rolls.
Below, we’ve compared prices between several suppliers for 8×11-inch (A4) hardcover books – this is one of the most popular templates.
Some companies create prestige products such as professional portfolios and wedding albums. These use photographic (silver halide) processing rather than half-tone printing, where the image is made up of tiny dots of ink.
Look for companies that offer cheap starter books or introductory discounts. You can often find photobooks for half price in sales. If you create big books, look out for offers that give you free extra pages: adding pages can really ramp up the price.
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Additional content by Jack Schofield