Photo Book Versus Photo Albums – Which Is Best?

The photo album was the staple presentation format for photographic prints since film cameras and popular photography took off in the early 1900s. The photographer would use manual light meters and their knowledge of camera settings to capture a moment on film, hoping for a high success rate when depositing their 24 or 36 frame film roll for development. The local photo lab,would take a few days to chemically-process the film, manually correct the colour, and providing photographic prints in specific sizes, generally 6 x 4″ or 8x 6″.

Once printed, it was the job of the photographer to insert the photos in to a photo album. If the pages were plain, photo corners or backing adhesives could be applied to the prints to hold them in place, or a full-page sticky sheet would secure them to the page. More recent album designs included plastic sleeves with 6-8 slots in to which you would slip 6×4′ print. This was always problematic for viewing portrait shots, as the inserts only catered for landscape snaps.

The discerning photographer or family memory keeper would ensure that the photo album included acid-free plastic, and could then spend hours handwriting in the details of each photo’s date, location and subjects. With endless photo album sizes, formats and cover designs available, the family photo collection was generally a motley crew of tattered spiral or clamp-bound folders reserved for the bottom shelf of the bookcase.

The longevity of the photos was questionable depending on where the prints were processed, the archival quality of the album and the way in which the album was handled and stored. For those that treasured photographic memories, photo albums were beautifully preserved in order to carry on the family history, and were often the first or last item grabbed in a fire, flood or natural disaster.

Photo albums were still the presentation format of choice when the digital camera emerged in the late 21st century, but within a few years there were plenty of competing ‘showcase’ options available including digital photo frames, online photo sharing sites and the photobook.

Just like the digital camera and its analogue ancestor, the photo book differed dramatically from the photo album as the photographer was now also the designer, responsible for laying out all elements of the book design. Accessible via kiosks at retail outlets or via download over the internet, free software allows us to layout digital photos with text, frames and embellishments on to a book page.

Easy design tools are available in the form of templates and auto-fill quick pages, along with the ability to adjust colour, cropping, rotation and image sharpness. Rather than having to wait days for photo processing, the photobook design can be previewed and adjusted at all times. The finished file can then be printed on the spot, in retail environments, or uploaded and printed a local print hub for delivery within 14 days. The physical production is still the domain of the expert photobook printer but the photographer plays a much larger role than simply snapping the shot.

In addition to design options, there are many photobook format options available including various archival, acid-free paper stocks, multiple book sizes, hard or soft covers, in designer linen, genuine leather or printed imagewrap covers. Previously unavailable finishing options are also possible including personalisation of the cover with emboss text and a dust-jacket for extra protection. The end result is generally a better looking, higher quality, lightweight and compact book that looks equally at home on the coffee table as it does on the bookshelf.

One of the biggest advantages of digital technology and the photobook format is the ease and cost-effectiveness of producing duplicate copies. Create once but print multiple times, even in different sizes if you like. Some services such as Momento Shop also allow you to sell your photobook to family and friends or the public. Whichever photo presentation format suits you most, remember that backing up and printing your photos is the best way to preserve your photos, guaranteeing you can share your special memories with future generations.