*Insert groan here* That’s how many of us feel when it comes time to compile all our photographs and start making the family scrapbook. Of course, you want to be able to make an annual family yearbook, but it’s so overwhelming. It’s hard to find all your photos or narrow them down. And honestly who has the time?

We’ve compiled a selection of where and how to make a photo book online. Ideas for themes and moments to capture. And we would be remiss if we didn’t give you tips on how to manage the #FamilyPhotoAlbumChallenge. (Ok that’s not a real hashtag, but it should be!)

Let’s get started!

The Where

Alright we know there are a lot of options out there for creating photo albums. We mean a LOT. There’s always the DIY path, but unless you’re a crafting god or goddess that can be incredibly stressful. We’ve narrowed down a list of possibilities just for you.


four photo books lined up with different style coversTo begin, we’re obviously going to recommend our site, MyCanvas.com. MyCanvas photo books are high quality. Everything from the paper to the cover is made and held to a high standard. MyCanvas offers different styles and sizes of books. Covers can be customized to be photos, or they can be bound in leather.  And for simplicity’s sake there are a wide array of photo book layouts to get you started. Once the creation process is underway there are plenty of choices to change things up and add your own little flair. The platform is simple and easy to use. Just upload photos, then drag and drop into the chosen layout’s photo squares. Another awesome feature—you have the ability to hide already used photographs from your photo uploads. No more worrying about if you already put that picture of Aunt Ellen kissing Tommy’s cheek. Super simple!

See this guide if you have any questions about how to make one of our books. Or if you’re a creative soul and want to make your photo book completely your own, we have a guide on how to make one from scratch.

A quick little side note: You will need Adobe Flash Player on your browser. Internet explorer usually has it pre-installed. But if you are using a different browser it can easily be downloaded and activated. If you need a little help you can always go to Adobe’s website. They have step by step instructions.


Our next suggestion is for those who want it as simple and easy as possible. Chatbooks offers photo albums that can be made directly from your Instagram, Facebook, or smart phone photos. To make the deal even sweeter, Chatbooks offers a subscription with 60 pictures to a book. Of course, you can edit out any unwanted images and change things around before you give the go ahead. Because its a subscription basis, you can customize how often you want to receive your books. Once you get it set up, Chatbooks does the heavy lifting for you.

However, if a subscription isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry they also have lots of one-off options. For example, you can make a completely custom photo book, cards, or basic prints without having to buy every month. Test the waters, if you love the simplicity then you can always join later. Chatbooks also includes a ‘Love it Guarantee’ to keep customers satisfied.


Shutterfly at a glance is fairly similar to MyCanvas. What makes Shutterfly unique is their options. Follow the simple route of choosing your book size and layout that are ready for you to drop your photos in. Or you can blaze a trail and make a completely custom one, just like MyCanvas. What truly makes Shutterfly stand out is the third and final possibility; The Make My Book Service. Shutterfly has a staff of designers on hand ready to layout your book to perfection. Once it’s designed, you get to go in and add captions, final touches, or make adjustments. This really simplifies the process for you.

If you don’t love the book curated for you, you have no obligation to buy it. Of course, who wouldn’t love a book that was hand designed for them. If you purchase the book a $9.99 service fee will be added for the work of the designer. Totally worth it if you want to save time.


photo book laid out on couch

And last but not least, Etsy. Perfect if you want that hand crafted, made with time and love feeling. Not that the other choices aren’t, Etsy shop owners just create a more personalized experience that’s hard to find from traditional stores. There are a wide range of possibilities and styles available. Many of the creators can make completely customized books you won’t find anywhere else. Everything from wood burning, fold out boxes, and velvet covered books to traditional styles.

It is important to note most of the shops only create the album, meaning it’s still up to you to print and input pictures. They’ve just made the layout and cover. This option is a little more work, but also has the most customization opportunities. One of these books will undoubtedly be eye catching.

A little note: we only covered the surface. There are TONS of options out there. It never hurts to do your homework and figure out which one is the best for you.

The What

Ok this is where it’s starts to get overwhelming. You’ve picked out what site you’re going to order from and you’re ready to go. It’s time to upload all your pictures from the dawn of time until now, right?

… or maybe not.

Don’t get discouraged. It’s best to pick a theme. Whether you stick to a family yearbook, big milestones, vacations, birthdays or any other idea; pick it and stick with it. You can always make more books later. Having that basic theme to guide you will make it easier when deciding on what photos.

Can’t decide on a theme? We’ll go through some of our favorite ideas.

Annual Family Yearbook

These are always fun to look back at your year and see everything you and your family have done. It also makes a great gift for grandparents. It’s like the family Christmas card that gets sent out each year, but with more pictures than the ugly Christmas sweaters cards. These books can be divided up by months, by events, by family members. There are tons of ways to go about putting one of these together. Find your favorite pictures from the last year and go.

Book of Firsts

Have a new baby? Or are you going back and putting together a child’s birth story. A book of firsts is an awesome way to capture your memories of that year. First time you caught their smile on camera. Or the first time trying new foods. Even the first time meeting their siblings. There are a lot of little milestones in that first year and a half. It’s hard to remember everything. Therefore, putting it all into a book is the perfect way to preserve them.

Or consider doing a birthday to birthday book each year. That way it’s not always at the end of the year, and you get to see everything from age 1 in one book, age 2 in its own book and so on. You’ll never need to question how old they were during specific events. It’s all documented.

Letters From Parents

If we are being honest this might be our favorite idea. Don’t feel like making a book full of a million pictures? Or do you want to include more than images. Pick out your very favorite photos for each person in your family. Consider uploading images of artwork, cards, stories they wrote; anything that you want to remember. Divide the book by sections for each family member. At either the beginning or end of each section include a letter to that person. Talk about their accomplishments. What they learned. Your favorite memory of them from that year. This gives an added touch of sentimentality. It will also be a great way for you to reflect on little moments you otherwise might have forgotten. As your kids get older not only will they appreciate the pictures of their childhood but cherish the letters as well.

grandpa holding baby


This one is a beautiful idea that extends out to grandparents and great-grandparents (Even further back if you want). Include snippets of their history and where they came from. Think of it as the prologue to the beginning of your story. They are, after all, how you got here. Don’t forget to put in favorite family traditions inherited from them, and family sayings. Bring it up to today with all your family. Put in pictures of those traditions that have been passed down. Photos that mix the older generation with the new. For example, have a picture of four generations—include it. That’s a precious fleeting moment. A photo book like this is educational, and sentimental. It’s a great way to help children build a connection with their grandparents and learn more about where they came from.

Even if none of these themes are what you are looking for there are so many more out there. Don’t feel limited by our suggestions.

Time to bring it all together…

The How

Now to get into the nitty-gritty. Photo choosing, uploading, and sorting. This could very well be considered the most daunting part. To keep the process smooth, and not a midnight mad dash at the end of the year, we have some suggestions.

Monthly Check-up

At the end or the very beginning of each month go through and upload all the photos from that month. Keep them in their own individual folder or saved spot. This makes it simple and easy to keep track, and it takes about 15 minutes a month. Easy Peasy.


Even better, once you upload them sort them. Seriously. Put the pictures you want to use in another folder. Use the month system and include sub-folders for the images you want to use (or don’t want to use). There is always the option to divide the pictures up by family member as well. Or events. However you choose to do it, make sure you keep up with it. This will save a lot of time and frustration down the road.

Be Aware

If you’ve looked through the aforementioned websites, hopefully you noticed that certain book types, and different sites have different requirements. Such as how many pictures can fit into one book. Or how much it might cost you per page if you go over the limit. Keep this in mind while choosing your photos. Was your baby’s first birthday the cutest thing ever? Probably. Do you need all 50 pictures of their cake smash? Most likely not; well unless it’s a book dedicated to their first birthday. If that’s the case carry on.

Also pay attention to file size requirements. Or if you upload a photo and it looks grainy or loses quality. Some sites have specifications for pictures like how many pixels a picture needs to be. Or the file size might need to be less than a specified megabyte.

Double Take

We already mentioned this before, but it’s still a good idea to go over. Take out ‘repeats’. We aren’t referring to the exact same picture. But we are hinting at multiple photos of the same subject/situation (i.e. the smash cake example from above). Consider how similar they are. Do you need both? Is one clearer than the other? Keep in mind, having ‘doubles’ of a specific moment is taking away spots for other photos. Would you rather have two almost identical cake covered baby photos, or do you want the cake covered baby being cleaned by the dog licking the frosting off?

With everything being said and done there are still thousands of ways to go about creating a photo book. What it comes down to is what you want it to be. Figure out where you want it from, how you want it to look, and start organizing your pictures now. Also, many of these photo book making sites let you store your images on their server for free. That means you can start building the book as you go.

Whatever you decide, it’s going to be amazing because it was made by you.