How to Make Awesome, Affordable Photo Books for the Holidays

One of my favorite holiday gifts to put together each year is a photo book that includes a selection of my favorite family images from the year. I give one to both sets of grandparents, we keep one for ourselves, and it always ends up being an amazing keepsake.

Unfortunately, it always ends up being an amazing expense, too. I can never force myself to limit the number of photos I include, so each book is a sprawling, gorgeous expanse of multiple glossy full-page color pages that are priceless in the long term—but budget-busting in the short term.

Still, an annual photo book is such a wonderful memento, it's worth figuring out some options for making it happen. Here are a few tips for putting together your own book without spending your last dime in the process:


Check for deals.

is the service I always use, because I'm a big fan of their online layout tools and easy photo import. I can personally attest to the quality of their books and the timeliness with which they deliver, but they aren't exactly the cheapest option on the web. The good news is that they often run sales—for instance, right now you can get up to 50 percent off a custom photo book, and they're offering free shipping on any order over $50. Whatever online service you used, if you don't see a discount on their official website, take a look at More than once I've found codes there that weren't advertised elsewhere.

Give iPhoto a try.

For pure ease of use, you can't beat iPhoto's built-in print option. You select your images directly from your iPhoto library, choose one of the built-in themes, and you're done. Plus, a medium softcover book is only $10. Win!

Print your Instagrams.

I'm a huge
Instagram addict and I recently discovered, which lets you make a book from your images. There are a bunch of services that let you print your Instagram photos, but I can tell you firsthand that Keepsy's quality and customer service is absolutely amazing. Keepsy starts at $30 for 30 color pages, which is cheaper than their competition, and you can fit as many images per page as you like. Such an awesome way to create a permanent record of all those little cameraphone moments—I seem to take at least one photo of my kids every day, and otherwise those great little snapshots would just be lost to the Instagram ether. (Also, don't forget to check for coupons beforehand!)

Make your own.

A more affordable option is to go old school with your book: print hard copies of the photos you want to include, and
slip them into a nice album. I know this sounds like a suggestion from the No-Shit Gazette, but I often get so caught up with all the fancy digital scrapbooking options I forget how awesome a basic album can be. Most craft stores have piles of amazing hardcover albums for under $20, and you can order prints online for around $0.10-$0.15 each (or use your own printer, if yours isn't an ink-devouring piece of crap like mine). Another idea: glue prints to cheap board books, and coat with Mod Podge.

Have you ever created a photo book from your family pictures? Any tips to share for keeping down the cost?

Images via Shutterfly,, Linda Sharps

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