Before the age of the internet you had to go to a photo printing store, give them your photos, and wait for your fully developed photo book. Despite going to such a local store still being the easier way to this day, wouldn’t it be better if you had complete control over creating your photo book and having great fun while doing so? Thankfully, this is already a reality with online photo book editors where the sky is the limit regarding customizations.
Still, many people are skeptical about online photo book services, their software and printing quality. If you think this way, read our detailed FAQ and find out more about photo book editors, the customization options you have, and what kind of prices and support you can expect.
What is a photo book editor?
What is a photo book editor?
A photo book editor is basically a less complicated version of the software professional photo developing companies use when you order a photo book from them. Most of the time these editors are available from any type of web browser on your computer and even your mobile devices, but in some cases you can download separate, more advanced software or a mobile application as well.
Why should I use such a program and not rely on professionals?
The answer is very simple: total creative control. When you commission a photographer or local photo printing company to create your photo books, quite often it is they who decide how the book should look inside and on the outside. With a photo book editor you can customize your photo book any way you want, provided that you choose from the covers, themes, sizes etc. available with the photo book editing company. In other words: the photo book will definitely appear in real life in accordance with your design.
By the way: nowadays many professionals use online photo book editors, so if they are doing it, why aren’t you?
Best Photo Books of 2020
What can I do in a photo book editor?
Once you have created an account, you just have to upload your photos into the editor then the software quite often auto-fills your future photo book for you. If you are not satisfied with the auto-filling, you can change the order of your photos or the complete layout of the pages. You also have the option to modify the background or the complete theme of your photo book, and it is also you who determines the size and the cover of the books. The process is completely foolproof as you get warnings if you did something wrong, preventing you from ordering a book you might not like.
Customization Examples in Shutterfly
Are these editors available in downloadable format?
According to our thorough research, most of the photo book editors are not available in downloadable format. However, some companies (like Photobook America) provide their services both online and via PC/Mac software. In fact, most of the time downloadable software can be considered professional editing tools as they are more advanced compared to the online versions. However, if you only need the most basic editing features, an online photo book editor is more than enough.
Can I edit my photo books from smartphones, tablets?
With some photo book services you can. Even though the main websites of photo book editing service providers can easily adapt to mobile screens, very few companies have developed mobile browser versions of their editors. Furthermore, most of the apps/mobile website versions these companies have only allow you to upload photos to your account and create/order simple prints. In our reviews of for example Shutterfly, Collage.com and MILK Books you can learn how the mobile apps for iPad of these companies let you build your photo book using the same online account you use for the website version of these services.
Are photo books branded by the company?
Yes, photo book companies usually “leave their marks” on the photo books. Before you think of anything bad, these logos are always placed on pages where they do not bother you – like the flyleaves or on the first/last page. However, if you still don’t want the photo book editing company to brand your creation, you can remove it for an additional price. Sometimes if you let the company put its logo on your book, you get a discount (see AdoramaPix), so it’s your choice.
Do I need to setup an account to create my photo book?
Sometimes you can create a photo book without registering to the chosen company’s services, but it is not recommended, because an account is the only way your work-in-progress photo book can be saved. Furthermore, having a free account has a huge advantage: you can subscribe to the newsletters of the photo book editor, therefore you will always get up-to-date coupons and discount offers.
Can I access my account from other devices?
Provided that the device is a PC/Mac and said device has an up-to-date web browser, you can access your account anytime from anywhere.
Do I need to have professional photographers’ knowledge to work with a photo book editor?
No, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to use the software as a photo book editor has a simple, self-explanatory, user-friendly interface. Although advanced editors have many photo enhancing tools that might discourage some users, their use can be learned within a short amount of time. If you need further assistance, companies have detailed FAQs and well-prepared customer assistants ready to answer your questions. Furthermore, these editors have built-in safety features making ensure that your photo book is pitch perfect before you click the order button.
How long does it take for me to create my photo book?
If you just upload your photos, accept the default settings and use the auto-fill option, a photo book can be created within minutes. But if you want to customize your book a bit more, you’ll definitely need some time. Do not worry, though, it won’t take a whole day to create the ideal photo book. Like we said, you can always save your work and pick it up at a later time, or share your photo book so other folks can contribute to your creation.
Can I upload an existing photo book in PDF?
Most of the time no, you have to use the software and design elements of the photo book editor and upload your photos to its servers. However, in quite rare cases you have the option to import PDF files as photo books and work thereon in the editor.
Do I have to choose the size, cover and theme of my book in advance?
It depends on the editor, but most editors require you to choose the cover type, the size of your book and the design you will be using before uploading your photos. Attention: sometimes your choice regarding the above features is permanent, therefore think twice before starting the editing process – unless you want to start your book all over again.
What kind of cover options do I have?
Photo books are usually available in soft, hard, leather, linen, fabric, metal and layflat covers. The cheapest option is always a soft cover book, while leather and linen covers make your books look more elegant.
Can I customize my covers?
Yes, you can – even the leather, linen, fabric and metal covers. In the case of the soft and hard cover books you can customize your book with a unique photo serving as its cover, while leather and linen covers can be ordered in different colors. Quite often you have the option to put photos onto the latter type of covers; either by ordering a simple dust jacket, cutting a hole on the cover or getting the photo printed thereon.
How many sizes can I order my books in?
It always depends on the photo book editing company. Usually books are available in two smaller and two larger sizes, but their total number rarely or never exceeds 15.
Which ones are the most popular sizes?
In our reviews we mostly focus on the 8×8 softcover books and quite often it is the most popular size. However, on certain sites we found that the 8.5×11 size books are more popular.
Can you tell me the ranges of photo books sizes?
It is a bit difficult to perfectly determine the smallest and the largest sizes photo books are available in due to the giant variety photo book editing companies provide. However, books are rarely smaller than 5×5 (the so-called pocket size) and they are not larger than 12×16. In fact, books that are larger than 12×12 are often called flush mount books which fall under a completely different category.
What is the most convenient size for a photo book?
It totally depends on you. We chose the 8×8 books as an example because it is not too small, but not too big at the same time. Plus, this is often not only the smallest size provided by the photo book editing companies, but it is also the cheapest product.
Can you tell me about the shapes of the books?
The best known, and probably the oldest shape available on the market, is the landscape, which is ideal for every kind of picture, especially panoramic pictures. Furthermore, all photos are usually taken in landscape, therefore it is convenient to put them into a book which is also landscape shaped.
Square books can range from pocket size to larger, 12×12 size and they are quite popular nowadays. It is very likely that square books are also the most cost-friendly products of the photo book company you have chosen.
And last, but not least, portrait shaped books. These are often not offered by the photo book editor, mostly because it is only ideal for portrait pictures or (seeing the trend of not rotating mobile phones to their sides) for photos taken with mobile devices.
Are leather covers made of real leather?
It depends on the photo book editing company, but most of the time, yes, leather covers are real. In fact, it is important for companies to provide the best services possible; therefore, creating an elegant photo book from real leather is a must. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the option to order your book with artificial leather or a material resembling leather.
What is a layflat cover?
A layflat cover is basically a simple photo book but with a binding that allows you to open your book 180°. However, this solution is rare as photo book editors prefer books with traditional binding but with layflat pages.
Speaking of which, what is a layflat page?
If you get your photos printed on these types of pages, they will lay flat once you open your book, allowing you to fully enjoy the photo in a way you never could with regular photo books. In other words, you can say goodbye to the annoying curl that is a feature of regular books. Layflat pages are mostly ideal for 2-page spread (panoramic) pictures.
Can I choose what kind of photo finish my book will be printed with?
Yes, you can. Although the default photo paper used for photo books is already of high quality, you have the option to choose an even better glossy or semi-glossy photo finish on which your photos will truly shine.
Are there flyleaves in my book?
It is trial and error: if a company offers flyleaves, they are automatically added to your book. This is especially crucial if the company brands books, as the logos are always printed on the flyleaves. If flyleaves are not added to your book, you don’t lose a thing.
What kinds of themes are available in photo book editors?
Usually there are two types of themes. The DIY styles, which are completely blank, are recommended for those who want complete freedom regarding the customization of their books. The preset styles can usually be found under big categories like family, wedding, travel, babies, children, vacation and such, but sometimes themes reappear in several categories at the same time.
Can I toy with sizes, shapes, covers and styles?
If you mean whether you can combine all sizes in all shapes with all covers and themes, we’re afraid you can’t do that. There are strict restrictions regarding which covers can be paired with which sizes, and which sizes can have all available themes. For instance, pocket sized books are often not available with certain covers, while the same could be true vice versa: bigger books cannot be ordered with “cheaper” covers.
Our only advice: before starting the editing process think about what you need, or, to be more precise, what you can/want to spend.
Which photo file formats are supported by the editors?
The most common file format photo book editors accept is JPG/JPEG. However, certain editors accept PNG or TIFF files as well.
Can I upload photos from the cloud or my social media account?
Certainly! Facebook, Instagram or even Google Picasa photos are welcome in photo book editors, just like files uploaded from Dropbox, sometimes OneDrive and such.
Will my pictures be stored on my photo book account?
It depends on the editor, but most of the time yes, your photos will be stored on your account for an indefinite amount of time. This way you’ll be able to use the same photos for a later project without the hassle of uploading your pictures again.
Can I have one big picture on 2 pages?
Yes, 2-page spreads are available with almost every online photo book solution. If not, choose another size or another company – unless you are ok without 2-page spreads.
I got a warning regarding one of my pictures. What does that mean?
A warning can be triggered by low dpi, too dark/bright/blurry pictures and so on. The most radical solution to get rid of the warning is by getting rid of the picture as well.
However, if your editor is capable of enhancing the picture, just keep it and see what you can do; you can also delete your pictures later in the editing process.
I only have a few pictures. Can I order a book with less than the minimum amount of pages?
Again, it depends on the photo book editor. If you can remove pages beyond the minimum limit then yes, you can have photo books with very few pages; just be warned that you still have to pay the price of a book that has the minimum amount of pages recommended by the site. If that’s not the case, and usually it isn’t, you have to fill up at least 16–20 pages.
How many pages can a photo book have in total?
Usually around a 100–200 pages are available for photo book editor users. Thankfully, there are companies (Blurb, for instance) that allow you to go up to more than 400 pages.
Will I get to see the photos the way they are or do the company’s employees make slight adjustments nonetheless?
It depends on the company. Most of the time you get what you see on your computer screen without any adjustments whatsoever. However, decent photo book editing companies, or those which do not offer too many adjustment options in their editors, will do anything to make your photos look spectacular, therefore they might make some changes. But before you start fussing around, any changes in saturation, brightness and such are for the better and are almost unnoticeable.
Can I save my works while I’m in the editor?
Yes, and it is mandatory to do so. Thankfully most photo book editors auto-save all the modifications you make, but if they don’t have that feature, you can do it manually. Either way, your works will be stored on your account and you’ll be able to access them indefinitely and modify them till you place your order.
What can I do with my pictures once they are uploaded?
Whether you have chosen the auto-fill option or you have uploaded your photos to the book by yourself, you can usually change the order of the photos, zoom into them, rotate them and move them within their frames. You also have the option to add/delete pictures, thus personalizing the layout even more.
That’s not very much. What about more advanced adjustments?
Most photo book editors only allow you to do basic adjustments on pictures and that’s something you have to live with. However, certain editors are capable of enhancing your photos on an advanced level without the necessity to edit the photos in separate software before uploading.
I don’t like the layout the editor offered for me. Can I change it?
Unless it isn’t a feature of the book you have chosen, you can do whatever you want with the layout. Most photo book editors allow you to make all kinds of modifications to further customize your book, while other editors only allow you to choose from a list of preset layouts with or without the option to add/remove photo holders.
Can I do the same things with pictures dropped into new photo holders as with pictures in the preset photo holders?
Yes, adjustment features apply to all photo holders; whether they are part of the layout/theme or are placed into the photo book later.
What about texts?
Adding text to your photo book works the same way as adding photos. You can either choose from the preset layouts with photos and text sections or a page where only texts could be placed. Or you can simply add text boxes on your own.
Aside from the above, you have other customization options like changing the fonts and their colors, and moving them around on the pages.
Can the background of my pages be changed?
It depends on the photo book service of your choice, but usually you can change the background, or, to be more precise, its color. However, keep in mind that in some cases, if you change the color of the background, you might end up deleting the theme you have selected on the page you are editing. To avoid this, either choose a theme or a background and apply it to the whole book – unless you want to make things a bit more colorful on purpose.
Can I change the size/shape/cover/theme retroactively?
Like we mentioned before, most photo book editors make you decide the size, shape, cover and theme in advance and don’t let you change your mind. However, many photo book editors allow users to choose different sizes, shapes and covers retroactively. Or if not, you can at least always change the theme.
Are there any solutions preventing me from messing up my book?
Good photo book editors will not let you create a book that might look horrible once printed. One reason is that companies want you to be 100% satisfied with the final product. Another, less prosaic reason is that if you make a mistake you cannot claim remedies.
However, photo book editors have many safety features to prevent you from making mistakes. Such a feature is the built-in spell-checker with which you can see whether the texts you are writing into the book are grammatically correct. Another feature warns you if your photos are of low resolution, meaning they might look terrible once printed out. And before you click the order button, photo book editors often do another, last checking of your book, so you can make the necessary modifications.
Can I preview my photo book?
Yes, you can. In fact, this is another way to see whether your book will look ok in real life. All decent photo book editors must have a preview option; if not, leave that editor.
Is sharing my book an option?
Once you have saved your projects, you have the option to send the preview of your photo book to anyone via email. Sometimes you can put up the book in the online store of the photo book editor company and make it available for others; in fact, you can even earn some money if you do so. However, most of the time, sharing is not an option or if it is, you can only share the photos you are uploading to your account.
Can I ask someone to collaborate with me on my photo book account?
Unless it is allowed by the photo book company or you provide the username and password of your own account, this is not an option.
Pricing & Shipping
Is using a photo book editor free of charge?
Yes, it is. All you need to do is register an account and then it’s up to you whether you use the chosen company’s services or not.
What is the average price of a photo book?
The cheapest price at which you can get a photo book (the smallest) is around $3–$10. But if we take into consideration our preferred size (8×8), you cannot get your photo book cheaper than approximately $15. Furthermore, the various sizes, covers and complementary add-ons also change the final price tag, so basically the sky is the limit.
Yes, you can buy complementary accessories to make your books stand out even more. Such a complementary option can be a gift box, gift wrapping, engraving, a photo mounted onto the leather cover, cutting a hole into the cover and so on.
If we don’t take into consideration complementary add-ons, what do I get for the default price?
You get the size, the cover, the theme and the photo pair you have chosen and the photos you have placed within the book. The prices you usually see on the website of these photo book editing solution providers are base prices, meaning that if you do not respect the minimum amount of pages a book can contain (which you can do), you still have to pay the same price you’d have paid if you had ordered your book with the minimum amount of pages.
And what is the minimum amount of pages a photo book should have?
That number is around 16–20. However, like we said before, some companies allow you to disrespect the above minimum amounts and remove as many pages as you like – within reasonable limits, of course.
How many photos can I place into my photo book?
That is entirely up to you as most companies do not limit the number of photos you can put into your book, or, for that matter, on one page.
However, we suggest you don’t crumble many photos on a single page, as they might look bad once printed.
The best way to find out how many photos can be fitted onto one page without destroying the ideal photo book experience is by looking at all layout options and learning what the software suggests.
What if I need more than the minimum amount of pages?
You can buy extra pages for additional money and add as many of them as you like up to the maximum amount the company allows.
How much do extra pages cost?
It depends on the size and type of the book and the photo finish you are ordering your product with. However, the additional cost of extra pages is ridiculously low: they are around $1.00 per page for an 8×8 book. And to make things better, most companies provide extra pages in pairs.
Is there a way to get my books for free?
Photo books cannot be had for free – only cheaper if you use the many promotions photo book editing sites offer.
So at least I can save on the total of my order, right?
That’s right. Photo book editing companies have various coupons and discounts with which you can save a lot on the sum total of your orders. You can get bulk discounts if you order a certain amount of copies of the same product, buy coupons which you can use later to save on your next purchase, buy gift certificates which you can give to others, score discounts by recommending the photo book builder to others and so on.
There are certain things you should know, however. One thing is that most of the coupons and discount only remain on the company’s site temporarily. The other thing is that quite often these promotions are only advertised via email or the social media pages of the photo book editing company. Luckily we’re dedicated to collecting the latest coupon deals for the purchase of photo books so you can easily find an offer that fits your next purchase.
Can you tell me more about gift certificates?
Gift certificates are basically vouchers which you cannot keep.
Instead, the coupon can be sent to someone who, after signing up with the photo book editor, will receive your coupon as a gift. In other words, you are buying a voucher for someone else.
You mentioned that you can refer a friend. How does that work?
Don’t think of anything special here, refer a friend promotions are really simple. You can buy a coupon for your friend and if that person registers for the photo book editor, creates a first book and orders it (for a certain minimum price), you will get a discount. A similar, yet less “painful” way, is if you send an email to the friend, he goes through the registration and ordering process, and in the end both you and your friend will receive a coupon.
How much time do I have to use the coupons I buy?
See the terms and conditions of the chosen coupon/discount. Typically these vouchers will expire within a year, so don’t postpone the creation of your photo book too long.
How does a coupon/discount work?
When you purchase a coupon, you receive a promotional code that you have to enter in the right place during checkout. In the case of discounts; these are either automatically added to your sum total or you have to use a promo code again.
What payment methods do I have?
Usually some or all of the following: credit/debit cards issued by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and PayPal.
Can I pay in installments?
Do you pay in installments for a loaf of bread at a grocery store? In all seriousness, no, you have to pay the sum total of your order in one lump sum upon. However, we know why you are asking about installments: you want to make sure that you can back out of the business if your ordered products turn out to be faulty. Luckily there are oftentimes guaranteed satisfaction and refund policies in place.
How long does it take to get my photo book printed and ready for shipping?
Simpler books with a soft or hard cover are usually printed and prepared for shipping within a week or less (1–5 business days).
Printing your books on higher quality paper and/or getting the books covered in leather/linen/metal takes more time, usually around two weeks. However, none of the companies sit on your book for more than 10 business days, so you don’t have to worry about waiting long.
That’s for the shipping…
How can I get my books?
Once your books are printed you have two options. The first is what most photo book editing companies offer: delivering your books to your doorstep. The other, less popular way, is getting your book shipped to a store where you can personally pick it up. The latter solution is free of charge, but regular shipping within the U.S. is usually not that expensive.
Ok, let’s say I choose shipping. What are my options?
Usually there are three options you can choose from. Standard shipping which is about two weeks; 2-day shipping with a guaranteed 2 business day shipping time; and the overnight (1 business day) shipping. Obviously the cheapest way of shipping is the standard one starting from around $5, but if you choose that, you might have to wait up to 10 days. The most expensive way of shipping is the overnight one and it might cost up to $30.
Do photo book editing companies deliver my orders to P.O. boxes, APOs, FPOs?
Yes, but only within the continental states of the U.S. And keep in mind that if you deliver your products to these types of addresses, you often have to choose the standard shipping method or even a slower, albeit cheaper one.
Can I get international shipping to Canada, South-America, Europe?
Unfortunately not all companies allow their customers to get their orders shipped to other countries or even overseas. If international shipping is available, you usually have to choose standard shipping for a rather big price and your waiting time could increase up to 14 business days. Some companies only ship to Canada outside the U.S. with the same conditions as in the case of international shipping.
What kind of support should I expect from a photo book editing company?
Aside from the features with which the editor makes sure that you won’t make a mistake, there are various options if you need further assistance. There are the regular support options like email, live chat or phone assistance, which are mostly available during business hours. But if you prefer other forms of help, you can go to the helpdesk where you can find FAQs, videos and tutorials about the editor you are using. And photo book editing companies often maintain blogs where you can find info about how to create the perfect photo book, examples made by others and, quite often, you can get notified of the latest coupon and discount offers.
And what about social media support?
Don’t expect customer support from the companies’ social media pages as they mostly use them to promote themselves, advertise their latest coupons and discounts and to share articles related to photo books and/or their other products.
The company whose services I am using has a similar service elsewhere and it looks like I can get my answers there faster. Is it a problem if I ask about the sister product on the other site of the company?
It is true that one company can provide more services spread across more brands – but they still treat each brand differently. So the answer is no: if you have question about a specific product or service, ask your questions where those products and services are provided.
Oops, I accidentally hit Order despite wanting to make modifications on my book. What should I do?
Again: always check, then double-check your books before moving on to the ordering process! Seriously, take our advice, because quite often if you hit the order button, you cannot make modifications on the ordered product. So if you want to see the required modifications, you have to reorder your book and bear all costs.
However, some companies provide customers the option to back out of the business within a rather short period of time, usually around 90 minutes. But after that time expires, your order will be processed and delivered as it is.
What if my book gets lost during the shipping process?
Photo book editing companies often let customers track their orders, so you will always know where your order is. And like the old saying goes: better safe than sorry, or in other words, do not risk ordering your product without tracking.
My photos look terrible! Can I get compensation for my damages?
Absolutely not. If you have proceeded to the ordering process by ignoring the warnings the software gave to you – checking the photo resolutions, the texts and such – then you have to swallow your pride and keep the book or order a corrected copy.
But I checked, double-checked and triple-checked everything, yet the book cannot be enjoyed! Now what?
Unfortunately accidents could happen: your book and/or photos may have been damaged during the printing or the shipping process.
In this case you are entitled for either a refund or a reshipping of the same, undamaged product free of charge. The only condition is that upon receiving the order you have to contact your photo book company within a certain period of time (5–30 days) and tell them about the damage with photos as proofs attached to your message. If the company agrees with you – and they usually do – you have to send the damaged book back to the company, either on your expense on theirs.
Once they receive the book, a new one is printed and sent to you as a replacement.