How to Make the Perfect Photo Book

You’ve captured the birthday parties, the family reunions, the vacations, and the weddings, and now it’s time to do something with all those photos. Sure, you could share your pics on Facebook and Instagram, or even stick them in an old-fashioned photo album, but those options are limited. With Shutterfly’s easy-to-use service and tools, the most convenient and elegant way to share your photos is to create photo books. Why? Photo books provide beautiful, true reproductions of your digital photos, make perfect gifts for any occasion, offer neat and tidy storage of your photos, and they preserve your memories exactly as you wish.

Need another reason? Our exclusive pro tips and tricks guide you through the steps to making the best photo books. And with Shutterfly’s brand new Photo Book Experience, it’s easy and fun to do. Our unparalleled collection of styles — from modern to rustic — plus design ideas for kids’ and baby books, travel photos, and of course wedding photo books results in personalized, professional photo books you’ll love to own or give. We’ve rounded up some photo book tips and tricks and offer an easy guide to learn more about the process.

Jump to:

How to Make the Perfect Photo Book: Tips and Tricks

Whether you choose a hard cover or soft cover — or go all out on a premium leather cover — our photo books have the look and feel of books you’d get at the bookstore. But they are actually very easy to create on your own for a personalized final product that’s truly impressive. Browse all of the photo book styles to get ideas for the overall design you want to go with.

Once you decide on a photo book style, there are additional choices to make about your photo book. You can choose from six different sizes and three page styles, including standard pages, standard layflat pages, or deluxe layflat.

After you have familiarized yourself with the different options and styles, it’s time to start uploading your photos. You can upload your photos from anywhere, including your desktop computer, mobile device, Shutterfly mobile app, Google photos, Instagram, Facebook, and the Shutterfly Art Library — or all of the above!

If you’re using the Shutterfly app to create your photo book, it automatically pulls in all the photos stored on your phone. You can switch back and forth between the app and the website while you’re creating your photo book, and easily upload photos from the app to the site.

While our photo book editor offers helpful tips throughout the design process, it’s a good idea to know a few things before you get started so you can truly unleash your creativity while you’re designing. First, you need to organize your photos. Next, you want to choose the right photos to display in your book. Once you’ve gone through those steps, you can pick a theme to use throughout your photo book. You can pick a theme such as “Year in Review,” “Family,” or go simple with an “Everyday” theme. Finally, writing some helpful text for your book will help you tell the story you want to tell with your photo book. This helps you develop a narrative that makes your book unique. Here are Shutterfly’s 7 steps to creating perfect photo books:

  1. Organize your photos
  2. Choose the right photos
  3. Highlight your favorites
  4. Create variety in spreads
  5. Pick a theme
  6. Include helpful text
  7. Tell a story

1. Organize Your PhotosUser organizing photos on a smartphone to make it easy to upload into a photo book.

The key to enjoying the photo book design process is to organize your photos beforehand. These days, many of us have digital photos scattered all over the place: Facebook, Instagram, our camera apps, email — the list goes on. Spending a few minutes collecting and organizing your photos will save a lot of time later on — plus you may find photos you forgot you had. Create a folder on your device and label it something easy to find like “photo book photos.” If you’ve already chosen the photo book style you’re going to use, go ahead and use that for inspiration on naming your photo collection folder to make it easy to find and remember.

Copy the photos you want to include in your book in one folder that you can upload all at once. You can categorize them by date, subject, people or whatever system will make it easy for you to keep them arranged in an orderly fashion.

2. Choose The Right Photos

A custom photo book spread showing different photo layouts of four photos on one page and a full-page photo

Once you’ve gathered your photos, it’s time to sift through the ones you want to display. Start by including all the photos you like, then narrow them down based on quality. Keep in mind that if a photo is out of focus, it will show up even more blurry when it’s enlarged and printed in a photo book. You may have lots of photos of the same subject matter, but each photo may have slightly better lighting and angles. Review them carefully and highlight your favorites.

Choosing the right photos for your photo book is a bit easier with Shutterfly’s photo editing features. To improve your pics, you can crop, resize, add backgrounds, and other embellishments in the Edit view. So, even if your photos aren’t perfect, you may be able to make them look better. When you’re selecting photos, do keep in mind how people will react to seeing their photos printed in a book — and make sure the pics are flattering.

3. Highlight Your Favorites

couple looking at their wedding photo book

It may be challenging to curate your photo collection. You may need to make some tough calls. If you’re having a challenge curating your photos for your book, you can always crowd-source the task. Post them on your social media and poll your friends as to which ones are best. On the other hand, if you want to keep your photo book a secret — for example if you’re making premium wedding photo books to give as gifts — just ask a close friend or family member for their opinion on the best photos to include. Getting a second opinion cuts down on stress — and will probably give you great new ideas!

4. Create Variety In Spreads

a travel and vacation photo book sits on table

Variety is the spice of life, and our photo books deliver on this front. There are endless options when it comes to photo book styles and templates. Most styles offer a wide variety of page layouts to vary the presentation and add visual interest. With Shutterfly’s photo book maker, you can choose different layouts for every single page of your book, choosing from one-photo layouts all the way up to 5 or more photos on a page.

Creating variety in your photo book page layouts helps you tell your story because different page layouts can put emphasis on photos differently. You can place one photo on a full page, center a small photo in the middle of a page, or feature multiple photos on one page. Since photo books allow you to create two-page spreads, you’ll want to pick photos for these pages that relate to each other, or even a panoramic photo that can span the spread.

5. Pick A Theme

A travel photo book with the caption Beach Day and photos of a family at the beach.

A photo book theme gives the book a storyline. Fortunately, with our wide range of themes, styles, and customization options, you’re guaranteed to find a theme that perfectly matches your narrative. For example, a photo book from our Kids & Baby collection can be transformed from a regular baby book into an ABC book or a story about your baby’s first year. A travel photo book dedicated to your recent vacation is redefined when photos from a cross-country road trip are accompanied by an old western typeface. To commemorate your family trip to Disneyland you can choose a Classic Disney Photo Book from Shutterfly’s Designer Collection which includes vintage Disney characters appearing on the pages. For an even more distinctive look, check out Designer Collections from top designers such as With Merriment, Sarah Hawkins Designs, and Float Paperie. It’s completely free (and a fun creative outlet) to experiment with different ideas and themes to determine which style fits best for the story you wish to tell through photos.

6. Include Helpful Text

A family photo book with the caption We Are Family.

One way to capture time is through photos. Another way to secure a memory is through words. Our photo books offer plenty of space for your text and captions to describe the photos or to tell a story. You can write in dates, place names, anecdotes, quotes from an event, or colorful descriptions to help recreate your memories in the years to come. For a photo book about the year in review for example, you could write messages such as, “what a year!,” “family memories,” or simply “our family.”

7. Tell A Story

At the end of the day, your photo book is just one tiny slice of a story in your life. So, when you’re collecting and arranging your photos, organize them in your photo book in a way that tells a story. The easiest way to achieve this is to create the book in chronological order. The album story will be easiest to follow if you recreate the sequence of how the event occurred.

For example, photo books for weddings might start with a photo of your engagement rings and end with a photo of the happy couple driving off to their honeymoon. A photo book of your baby’s first year might start with your pregnancy and then progress to a photo of the baby at the hospital. Some photo books can tell a story that recreates significant phases of your life. A “love” book, for instance, could be modeled on a children’s story using our Everyday Fairytale by Jenny Romanski Photo Book style, full of unicorns, mermaids, and rainbows.

Making a Photo Book With Shutterfly

Shutterfly offers three ways to create photo books: using our website photo book service on your computer, allowing our designers to create it with our Make My Book® service, or using the Shutterfly app on your mobile device. Here’s how each photo book process works: 

Creating Your Book on a Computer

If you prefer to think big, using your computer to design photo books may be best for you. Once you decide on the basics using the tips above, you will be directed to the editing page that will display the outline of your book. Upload your photos and begin adding them to the empty pages. Play around with background colors and embellishments until the pages reflect what you envisioned. You are able to crop the photos to your liking and include captions to help tell the story. Design your own photo book cover page and add your desired title to add the finishing touches to your album.

Let Our Designers Create a Photo Book for You

No time? Not a DIYer? No problem! Use our Make My Book® service and our designers will create it for you. To get started, first choose the size and style you want. Next, you will be prompted to upload your photos from your desktop or select ones you’ve uploaded through the Shutterfly app.

You will then be prompted to answer questions that will help the designer, like your preference of order (chronological, self-sort or themes), layout density (number of photos you would like per page) and book design elements (how many stickers and embellishments you would prefer). Finally, you will choose a title and include any special instructions for the designer.

The designer will place your book in your account within 3 business days.  You can then edit the book, add finishing touches (such as captions) and place your order. You pay a small design fee only if you order the book. There is no charge if you don’t order the book.

Create a Photo Book on the Shutterfly App

For those who are on the go and want to use an iPhone or other smartphone, Shutterfly’s iOS and Android App is there to help. Easily upload your photos to the app, using its unlimited free storage to transfer your photos off your phone and clear up space on your device. Once your photos are uploaded, choose your desired book size and theme and start creating.

The app allows you to simply tap and drag your photos to where you want them positioned on the page layout for easy photo books. Once on the page, you can edit and adjust them to your liking. This allows you to create a personalized photo book in a matter of minutes from anywhere.

Wrapping Up

Photo books provide a fun way to organize all the photos you’ve taken. They are also an impressive way to relive memories with your friends and family. However you choose to make your photo books, make sure to add unique touches to make it extra personal.

More Resources:

Shop All of Our Photo Books

Browse the Best Photo Books

Learn More About Photo Books

Explore Make My Book®