photo book printing types

Photo book printing types for family vacation book design

Who makes the best photo books for photographers? Are you confused by the photo book printing types for your family, wedding, or engagement book design and wondering what’s the difference between an Apple photo book and a professional photo lab book?

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. All recommendations and opinions are my own and I personally use each product.**

photo book printing types

Maybe you went on a family vacation and are ready to design a book from your trip. Or you recently hired a professional family photographer and wonder what to do with all of the photos.

There are several photo book manufacturers and the quality difference is all over the place.

Today I walk you through the difference between an Apple Photos book, a press-printed photo book, and a photographic paper book for baby photos, Fall family photos, and other family photography.

What's the difference between an Apple photo book and a professional photo lab book?

There are perfect book solutions for any occasion if you really know what to look for in the quality and presentation.

Recently, I’ve been using Blurb books for all of my vacation photos and those have been popular gifts for my parents of our trips together.  I’ll do another post just about Blurb books, since I’m now addicted! 

Who makes the best photo books?

If you watch the video all the way to the end, you’ll learn which book I use for every type of photography outside of weddings (oh, wait! it’s also my top parent album!).

how to Sell photo books for families and newborn photography
what are the different photo book printing types?

There are three main types of printing for photo books:

  • press-printed book vs. album (Apple, Blurb, Shutterfly, etc.)
  • photographic (traditional photo paper)
  • fine-art ink-jet

On top of that, there are a variety of ways that books are bound and constructed. The main thing to look for when buying a photo book is the structure of the spine.

  • is the book spine pulling on the pages?
  • is the book block glued or sewn?
  • do the pages lie flat when open?


Look for a photo book where the pages lie flat when open and there isn’t noticeable pulling on the pages when open.

My own photo book journey:

When I began looking into different printing types for photo books, I started with what was cheap. The problem with that plan, was that I couldn’t actually charge a lot for a cheap book. 

I photographed baby photos and put them in a simple book, mostly because I was afraid to charge more than $250 for a book. The thing is, my cost was still about $80, plus time, editing, etc. So, I wasn’t making any money at all.

It wasn’t until I really started to look at what was available from my photo labs that I realized that a press-printed album was just a bit more expensive, yet I could feel comfortable charging over $500 for it.

Therefore, upgrading to a little higher quality binding and printing allows me to charge what I really need to for high profit and the client also gets a much better quality album.

–>> So, as a professional photographer, who makes the best photo books? That’s the one that is cheap enough, but high enough quality, so I can charge what I know will sell AND be profitable. 

photo book types for photographers
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Apple photo books, Blurb Books, Shutterfly books:

As a consumer, press-printed books are a perfect and inexpensive option. The books are press-printed and thin. These companies also offer design software, though it is simple and a bit limited.

Blurb has the best book design software I’ve tried and actually allows for custom design. I’ve produced several vacation books with Blurb for my parents and the quality is really decent.

  • Apple Photo Books

Photo books by Apple are very easy to design using their software, but the layouts are limited. 

These books are very similar to Apple photo books, with glossy pages, cheap printing & binding, etc.

Press-Printed Books vs. Press-Printed Albums

Photo BOOKS are thin, lightweight, have a broken image in the ‘gutter’, and aren’t special enough for what I need to charge as a professional photographer. They are too expensive for what they are.

Photo ALBUMS on the other hand, are sturdy, have thicker pages, better cover options, a seamless gutter, and most importantly, they feel more luxurious and I can charge a decent amount for the photo albums.

–>> The price is not that different… usually only about $25 or so.

Therefore, the press-printed album is a no-brainer winner for my clients!

press-printed BOOK
who makes the best photo book printing types for family vacation book design
press-printed ALBUM

Who has photo paper for their photo books?

Sometimes you just want good, old-fashioned photo paper in your book. This type of printing is perfect for wedding albums or stunning vacation photography.

The printing is done with traditional chemistry and photo paper, as it has been for decades.

You get to choose between glossy and matte paper options, yet you’ll want to be aware of what goes into the ‘gutter’ of your design because the print is coated with plastic and therefore will crack in the center of the page.

–>> There are a few companies that offer these books for consumers, including and Nations Photo Lab. Both labs are inexpensive and the quality shows, with warped pages and other issues.

traditional photo paper album options for wedding photographers
traditional photo paper album options for wedding photographers

Who do you think makes the best photo books?

Have you decided which book is right for you? Which one do you love for your business? How about your vacation? Do you want something different for your family photos?

Let me know what you love about the books that you have made from these companies or if there is another company that I left off of the list…

1 thought on “Photo book printing types for family vacation book design”

  1. I really liked the idea of making a photo book which contains various images of the family. I would also like to get the photographs of my family events printed and preserved in a book. This way memories will remain forever. Thank you for sharing this article with us.

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