DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER but Christmas is right around the corner.
And since nothing makes me crankier than overspending on last-minute gifts from the seasonal aisle at Shoppers Drug Mart, I tend to start planning and shopping early.
Getting done on time can be even more difficult if you’re doing something personal or customized like photo books (which a lot of people on my list are getting this year … surprise Grandma!)
The great news is, there are photo book creation options for everyone, depending on your budget, how much time you want to spend on the project, how much customization you require and how polished you want the finished product to be.
The bad news is, not all sites work for Canadian shoppers, so we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite Canuck-friendly options to help you get started. We’ve also included a few US options at the bottom because they’re big-time fan favourites, but keep in mind that you might get dinged for shipping and custom/import duties upon delivery.
Blacks makes photo book creation pretty straightforward, simple and easy to use. This is a really good option for those intimidated by the book-making process or if you don’t want too many options. You can choose from a few different themes, colours and sizes and build your book from there. Nice and easy.
- Starting prices: $21.99 for 10×8 inch softcover, $44.99 for 10×10 inch hardcovers and $34.99 for 11×8 ½ classic cover (with or without picture window)
- Delivery within Ontario between five and nine days depending on shipping method
- Photo wallets, magnets, calendars and ornaments are also available
This site offers Canadian-made, affordable, traditional photo book looks. There’s nothing fancy here, but they have some nice, classic options and offer five different book size and cover design options.
- Uses Bookdesigner 7 software, available for free download from the website
- All books come in hard cover, no soft cover option
- Base prices for 20-page books range from $14.99-$44.99. Additional pages are $0.99 each
- 3-day manufacturing window and multiple shipping options allow you to receive your finished product quickly
This Canadian company designs and manufactures their photo books in Toronto and has quick production turnaround time (4 days). They also have a design service option available for an extra cost, which might be worth the extra money if you’d like a team of designers to create your look for you (with your input, of course!)
- Classic 20-page 6×8 in hard cover photobooks start at $40
- Eco-friendly option starting at $9.95 / book
- Volume discounts for multiple copies
Photo books are not Vistaprint’s core business, so the design options are minimal but the site is a good option for those who want a simple and informal-looking finished product. They offer good quality and value for the money, plus they’re easy to use, offer fast shipping and have tons of other custom photo gifts and ideas to choose from.
- Books are only available in soft cover with two size options (both smaller than traditional photo books)
- Minimal design and customization options compared to other site
- One-stop shop if you have multiple projects. Vistaprint does everything from invitations and stationary to promotional products and business cards
- Multiple products on sale at any time via the Specials tab on the home page
Henry’s is well-known in the Canadian photography industry and they have some good services for photo book creation. They also offer many other services, including prints, cards, calendars, canvas and more, if you’re looking for a one-stop shop for custom photo ideas.
- Books are available in ‘classic’, hardcover and softcover options in a variety of sizes
- They have a few templates/designs available, but are not overly sophisticated
- Softcover books start at $12
- If you want to avoid shipping altogether, you can have your photo book sent to a store to pick up
Photobook Canada has an extensive selection of photo book themes and designs for all different occasions and in various sizes and types (flush mount, soft cover, etc.). Plus, they also offer a great selection of cards, stationary, prints, canvas prints, photo gifts and home décor items as well.
- “Readybooks” start at $23.99 and can be done in portrait, landscape or square with different binding and cover options
- Some items are eligible for “Buy now create later” sales, which is a good way to take advantage of huge savings even if you’re not ready to start creating
- Free shipping on most items for orders over $75, however; some reviewers have noted that their order came from other countries such as Malaysia instead of within Canada
US Options That Offer Great Quality
We couldn’t pass up including a few of these fan-favourite sites. They offer great quality as well as more options and variety—but you’ll have to pay the shipping and might get charged with custom/import duties upon delivery.
Blurb is pretty well known in the photo book scene and has some really sleek, polished, high-quality books. The creation process is pretty user-friendly as well with Adobe plug-ins available. This is great for anyone who wants lots of options and some flexibility when it comes to creativity.
- In addition to photo books, Blurb offers templates for e-books, cookbooks, novels, children’s books, graphic novels and more
- Requires BookWright, free desktop software available for download right from blurb.ca
- More than 25 unique photobook layouts
- Mobile app available for iOS
- Adobe InDesign and LightRoom plug ins
- Price for 10×8 in 20-page book starts at $36.99 for 20 pages. Each additional page is $0.35
Chatbooks has gorgeous options for covers and are as stylish as they are unique. They also offer great prices and are easy to make. The Series option allows you to automatically add in photos from your phone, Facebook or Instagram, and print your series in beautiful, botanical-themed covers from Rifle Paper Co.
- For one-off books, choose your own cover category, write your own title or select a unique, artist-designed cover
- 6×6 in photo books start at $8 and custom 6×6 in and 8×8 in books begin at $12 (all prices in USD)
- Offers a fully functional app
- Editing and printing options are limited
- Chatbooks boasts the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval
Mixbook has plenty of beautiful options for customization including templates, fonts and budgets. Plus, users can choose from 359 photo book themes, 89 of which are dedicated to ‘Family’. That’s a lot of options!
- Rated #1 in 2014 by Top Consumer Reports in the U.S.
- New pearl finish options provides a little shimmer and soft, silky feel to each page
- “Project Inspiration” tab provides great ideas to get you started as well as tips and guides to help you make the most of your creation.
- Photo books starting at $21.99, calendars at $28.99.
5 Pro Tips for Creating Your Masterpiece:
- If you’re making multiple books for different people start by creating one master version that can be tweaked for others using dates and images that are meaningful to them.
- If you do photo books annually, create a file on your phone and/or computer every January that you can transfer your favourite photos into throughout the year. And if you’re including photos from other family members, be sure to give them plenty of time to share their favourite images with you.
- Consider attaching a theme to your creation, like “Our Summer Vacation,” “Favourite Family Moments” or “Being Silly in 2017.” This helps create a more structured and cohesive finished product, and you can change the theme year to year.
- Pay attention to how your photos are organized and ordered. A great photo book is like any story, so consider how you want yours to flow and unfold.
- Before you buy or decide on a service, search online for sales. It’s not uncommon to find a promo code for 40%, 50% event 60% off at this time of year.
*User-friendly process and/or limited design options (compared to other services) make these choices best for newbies or those who want a fast, easy process and a traditional-looking finished product.
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