(Vladimir Agafonkin)
List 20 August

Create your own photobook

Turn your travel shots into coffee-table treasures by making a photobook – we review the top nine options

Designing your own photobook is the perfect way to tell the story of your travels in pictures. And it takes the effort out of printing and showcasing your photos. All you have to do is upload your images to a computer, pick a provider and get started.

You’ll find a varying range of options: personalised front covers, themed templates, text addition, fully customisable layouts. You could spend hours perfecting your photobook, giving full rein to your creativity, or you could let the software do the hard work for you, and knock out a decent memento in five minutes. Whatever you’re after, there’s a photobook option for you...

1. Bob Books

Pros: Probably the best quality and most stylish option. Comes in three styles: Hardback, with a wrap-around laminate cover and semi-gloss paper; Photographic, with similar hard cover, pro-quality paper and lay-flat binding; and Paperback, for a more flexible, still high-spec product. All come in a variety of sizes (Hardback: up to 154 pages; Photographic: up to 82; Paperback: up to 130). The software is fairly advanced, allowing you to play with design.

Cons: Software can be a bit tricksy to get the hang of – not the easiest to use. Slightly more expensive. All styles don’t come in all sizes.

Price: For example: Large Hardback from £49.49; Large Photographic from £53.99; Small Paperback from £14.99.

Delivery time: 7-10 working days

So? High-quality books, designed to last – if fiddly to produce.

Bob Books are offering a special 10% discount to Wanderlust readers on their website. Just select "Your gift certificate" and enter the code 'WANDERLUST'. To download the free Bob Books software just log on to www.bobbooks.co.uk

2. Photo Creator

Pros: All products are made from eco-friendly sustainable paper. Paper is also high quality premium silk, and pages are hand-sewn in, making the book durable. Books come in a range of sizes, from large square to A5 portrait and landscape options, with a range of templates depending on the type of book you're putting together.

Cons: Quite expensive compared to other providers.

Price: For example: Large Square from £33; Small Square from £25. A5 from £17.

Delivery time: 6 days

So? Not the cheapest option, but the finished product looks smart and professional.


3. Blissetts

Pros: Granted a Royal Warrant by the Queen in 2010, this is clearly a quality product.  Software is easy to use and frequently updated; the website offers a tutorial. Includes the option of adding stories and blogs as well as photos. The binding options are numerous – from cloth-bound to 'funky' (65+ materials on 70 colours); real leather adds extra class to travel photography books.

Cons: The barcode cannot be removed; a removal option is currently in development.

Price: For example: Paperback from £16.99; Illustrated Hardcover from £22.99; Funky Range from £30.99; Real Leather from £150.

Delivery time: 4-6 working days; leather options may take longer.

So? Royally approved, creative options and the best cover options around.


4. Yophoto

Pros: State-of-the-art software helps you design your own glossy perfect-bound photobook, with an image of your choice wrapped around the hand-sewn hard cover. There is also a range of other cover choices, including leather, linen and mock-croc, in a variety of colours. A Probook option is available for higher-end results.

Cons: The hardback spine means the book won’t stay open when laid flat. The software won’t recognise images in TIFF format. Paper is 170gsm – thinner than some other photobooks (eg Bob Books Photographic books are printed on 300gsm paper). Maximum of 50 pages.

Price: For example: Hard Cover Image Wrap from £34.99; A5 Compact from £8.99 (more with leather/linen covers).

Delivery time: 4-6 working days

So? The wrap-around cover is impressive but, overall, the finished result looks a little low-tech.


5. Snapfish

Pros: Choose from 60-plus different page themes, including Travel (complete with passport stamp motifs) and Seaside. Personalise the cover, pick a colour and manually place pictures in the book. Photo-editing options include zoom, rotate, flip, red-eye removal and the ability to change the tint. Photos can be uploaded from Facebook. There’s an Express option, which will autofill the book with your photos in a matter of minutes, though later editing is still possible. Books can contain between 20 and 150 pages.

Cons: The finished product is fine but lacks style. The plain cover colours are a bit dull. The Express photobooks feel flimsy.

Price: For example: Express from £19.99; Classic Hard Cover from £24.99; Personalised Cover from £24.99.

Delivery time: 4-8 working days

So? Pretty basic for the price, though the Express option is good if you don’t want to spend a long time on design.


6. Blurb

Pros: Offers three different software options: Bookify Online is simple web software (no download needed) for making quick, no-fuss photobooks; Blurb BookSmart is a more advanced downloadable package that allows users to add text as well as images, and customise the layout; PDF to Book is for creative professionals, with downloadable Indesign templates and full design control. You can upload images from photo-sharing websites such as Flickr and place them in the book – or allow the software to drop them into the pre-made templates, arranging them in chronological or alphabetical order. The programme guides you through the process, making it very easy to use. Books can have between 20 and 440 pages.

Cons: The online software is basic with only a few templates to choose from. Using the more sophisticated software, with all their creative options, means photobooks could take a while to create.

Price: For example: Square Softcover from £7.95; Standard Portrait Hardcover Imagewrap from £19.95; Large Landscape Hardcover from £31.95. NB: Same prices apply to all software options.

Delivery time: 7-10 working days

So? The only provider to offer different software options. Very affordable, great quality, perfect for creative types.


7. Photobox

Pros: Quick and easy to use – simply choose a theme and a template, and the software can arrange your photos in the book in a matter of minutes, with no downloads necessary. The software can arrange photos chronologically, recognises portrait and landscape shots, and respects photo ratios; you can tinker with the layout and add text if you like. The company’s fast-track service means you can have the finished product delivered within three days. There are four types of book on offer: large, A4, square, small or mini. The company offers a range of covers including a good quality A4 hard cushioned book with photo window and glossy pages.

Cons: There is an option to remove the Photobox logo from your book – but it
costs an extra £5.

Price: For example: A4 Personalised from £31.99; A5 Classic from £24.99; Minibook from £5.99.

Delivery time: 4-7 working days

So? Quick and easy-to-use online software takes the effort out of the process with fast, presentable results.


8. Apple iPhoto

Pros: Apple’s iPhoto software comes preloaded onto many Macs, and allows you to fix brightness, crop, straighten and airbrush your pictures – and even turn them into photobooks. The software has recently been updated (part of iLife ’11) with a new ‘theme browser’, allowing you see how your photos look in different styles. You can also create
a photo-wrapped cover with a matching dust jacket.

Cons: If you have an older version of iPhoto on your Mac, an iLife ’11 software upgrade will cost £46 from the Apple store (NB: iLife ’11 is only compatible with Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Intel).

Price: For example: XL Hardcover from £41.72; Small Softcover books from £2.99; Large Softcover from £14.39.

Delivery time: 2-5 working days

So? Worth the investment if you use other Apple products.


9. Bonus Print

Pros: No need to download any software. Books come in
a range of shapes and sizes, and are reasonably priced (from £9.99 for a small landscape or medium spiral-bound book). You can design your own book using the editing software, which includes red-eye reduction, and manually place your photos and text on the page. Or you can let the program do it for you. The books  are printed on eco-friendly heavyweight photographic paper.

Cons: The cheaper books look very basic and not as professional as the hardback versions. The pages are glued in and don’t stay open flat. Though the software is easy to use, it’s not as advanced as some other providers.

Price: For example: Speedy Hardcover from £13.99; Portrait Large Softcover from £14.99; Landscape XL Hardcover from £39.99. Glossy paper costs an extra 15p per page.

Delivery time: 7 days

So? A cheap, cheerful and quick option, that doesn’t involve waiting for software to download.


5 tips for creating a great photobook

1. Make sure all your photos are uploaded to your computer before you start.

2. Save all images as JPEGs  – some software won’t recognise other photo formats, such as TIFF files.

3.Prepare captions or text before you start using the software; check it for sense and errors to prevent any mistakes making it into your finished book.

4.Some books enable you to put a  photo on the front cover: think about the size/shape of your cover (landscape, wrap-around etc) and decide which image would work best.

5. Do think about how many photos you want to use and what kind of layout you want before you start making your book, but be flexible: the software will let you play around with themes and arrangement.

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