I Tried 4 Online Photo-Printing Services—Here’s the One I’d Trust With My Baby Book
Published Oct 30, 2021 1:24 AM
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I am 1,000 percent what one would call a photo hoarder. I document thoroughly, and I never delete. However, beyond the select few that make it onto Instagram, these images solely live on my phone (and in the cloud, I hope?). They appear in random pop-up alerts that remind me what I was doing four years ago, and nothing more.
I would have happily gone on functioning this way forever—until I had a kid. I so clearly remember digging through boxes of family photos as a child, poring over images of my parents as a young couple or my older brother as an infant. Two years into being a mama myself, it’s become urgent that I start building my stockpile of physical photo memories, so my daughter can have an experience similar to mine. But there are many, many options out there: subscription-based services, photo books/strips/magnets/calendars, and prints of all different sizes. In an effort to parse these vast and varied offerings, I placed orders from four online photo companies: Artifact Uprising, Chatbooks, Mootsh, and Social Print Studio. Here’s what I found—the good, the bad, the ones I’ll keep going back to.
What it offers: With standout details like linen-covered books and metallic foil stamping, Artifact Uprising is by far the most luxe and comprehensive option of the bunch—even the packaging of its products feels gift-worthy. The company’s range includes a little bit of everything: standard prints (available in 11 sizes and three paper types), large-format prints (up to 60-by-40 inches), books, calendars, and cards.
Good to know: While ordering prints is super-straightforward, making a book with them is a little more complicated—mostly due to the extensive level of customization that’s available (which could be a good thing, if that’s what you’re in the market for). If you have the time and want to control every little detail, it’s a great option. However, if minimal effort is more your speed, this might not be your ideal resource.
Best for: Prints of every size, gift giving, highly customizable options. I’ll be turning to AU for special projects like the wedding album I never made and our annual holiday card—and for highly giftable items such as The Story of You baby book.
Tip: If you’re ordering anything other than the standard prints, the website is easier to navigate than the app.
Prices: 10 prints (4-by-6 inches) for $14; 30-page hardcover book (7-by-7 inches) for $62.
What it offers: This brand is all about the photo book—from one-off, special-occasion versions to its monthly subscriptions—with an emphasis on chronology. Choose from small-scale books (5-by-7 inches, 30 pages), dedicated to each month, or bigger books (up to 10-by-10 inches, 30 to 366 pages), meant to document a full year. When your photos load on the Chatbook app, they’re ordered by date taken and separated by month (I found this super-helpful when pulling together an album based on my daughter’s first year). Another hallmark: Its fun array of cover options, including limited-edition collaborations with designers like Meera Lee Patel and Ampersand Design Studio. Additionally, it does stock a limited assortment of non–photo-book items—5-by-5-inch prints, canvas wall tiles, and holiday cards—but I wouldn’t say they’re the star of the show.
Good to know: I found the app super user-friendly, so I was able to make a book very quickly on my phone. The editing options are somewhat limited (and therefore not intimidating), which was a plus in my mind—less to hem and haw over. With minimal effort, I was able to create a collection of memories that I know my family will enjoy having around—and via a process that seems realistic to keep up with on a monthly basis. Is the finished product something that speaks to my design aficionado side? Not especially, but, for me, ease of use wins in this case.
Best for: Not-too-precious chronological photo books that can be made quickly—for when done is better than perfect. I’ll be keeping my Monthbook subscription for general family photos and adding a Monthly Mini subscription—a 5-by-5-inch, 30-page softcover that’s perfect for tiny hands (and only $5 per month)—so my little one can get in on the fun.
Prices: 10 prints (5-by-5 inches) for $5; 30-page hardcover book (8-by-8 inches) for $25, plus free standard shipping on all orders.
What it offers: A monthly photo-print subscription—plain and simple. For $16 per month, you get 10 prints (choose from five sizes, ranging from 3.75-by-5 inches to 5-by-7) plus a dated contact sheet. The whole set arrives housed in a sturdy patterned envelope that’s great for safekeeping and easy organization.
Good to know: I was skeptical about a subscription that requires me to put in any legwork. However, the process is so straightforward, I’ve found it to be more of a benefit than a hindrance—it keeps me accountable and on top of ordering, which is exactly what I need. While you can add extra prints to your monthly allotment for 85 cents each, I enjoy the exercise of choosing each month’s top 10 moments. I find the patterned envelopes that the photos arrive in to be charming, but I’m not sure that the designs have a wide-reaching appeal.
Best for: Standard prints delivered regularly. I’ll be renewing my subscription—for me this is the ideal way to keep up with regularly printing photos.
Price: 10 prints (4-by-6 inches) for $16, plus free shipping.
Social Print Studio
What it offers: Choose from an extensive range of products—everything from classic prints and photo books to novelty items like stickers and magnets. Standouts include its photo strips, a photo booth–style row of four images, and a daily calendar, a 3-inch-tall, tear-off block that you can customize with 365 photos.
Good to know: The print quality is excellent—it’s a smooth matte finish on thick, archival-quality card stock. Two thumbs-up on that front. And the studio makes some fun items that you won’t find anywhere else, as in, I’m a sucker for a photo booth, so this DIY version is a big draw for me. However, I ran into hiccups using both the website and the app—neither was a super-fluid experience. If that’s something you can look past (or just power through, like I did—because I need that daily calendar), then this might be the option for you.
Best for: Standard prints and fun specialty items. I’ll be reordering the photo strips any time I have a series of images that just beg to be grouped together.
Prices: 24 prints (4-by-6 inches) for $18; 38-page hardcover book (7-by-8.5 inches) for $33, plus free shipping on orders over $50.
What I Learned
Make folders on your phone for the services you use, and add your favorite images (or those that align with a specific project you’re working on) in real time or at the end of each day. If you’re able to edit them—making any necessary brightening/color-correcting changes—before adding them to those folders, even better! Then when it comes time to place an order or add the images for a monthly subscription, you’ll have your very best ready to use with minimal effort.