The 10 Best Photo Albums
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in January of 2016. Sure, most of your pictures are probably digital by now, but physical photo albums are still a delightful way to look back on important and memorable events. Use one as a keepsake gift for family members, a display for your precious wedding shots, or a coffee-table topper for guests to peruse. In fact, you’ll find that there’s one on this list to suit nearly every occasion or personality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 01, 2020:
Although we like the plain styling, we have opted to remove the Pioneer Bi-Directional due to occasional issues with the binding. And the Xtech Limited Creat-a-Memory has become tough to find, so we've removed it, as well. Not to worry, however, if you want something a little out of the ordinary. The Mumu Sugar Photo Clip String Lights will give you a great way to display plenty of pictures, opening the door to conversations about your trips, family members, and more.
As for top choices, the Pioneer Embroidered Live, Laugh, Love remains the choice to beat, with the Recutms Hardcover a strong alternative for those who do not want text on the album's cover. Both are on the larger side; if you need to save space, consider the Sprite Science Mini or CocoPolka Mini, instead. Note that these are lightweight and portable but not made for ultra-durability, so don't expect them to take a lot of abuse. For a rugged (if pricey) option, you might consider the Rogue Journals No. 96. It offers rustic charm and holds plenty of 4x6 photos, a popular size that many photo printers are capable of producing.
Eversnap Online Album If you want to create an album for an event and easily include photos from all of your guests, then the Eversnap Online Album is the way to go. After you sign up, you'll receive instruction cards that let attendees know how to upload photos and videos, which means you can aggregate tons of pictures without tons of hassles. geteversnap.com
Shortcake Albums Instead of putting together your own album, you can rely on the professionals at Shortcake Albums to design one for you. They'll use the best shots and a custom layout to create a high-quality, handsome finished product that you'll be proud to share for years to come, thanks to premium papers and archival-quality inks. shortcakeinc.com
Shutterfly Photo Book Every Shutterfly Photo Book is custom designed by you, with many styles and themes available, from weddings to vacations and beyond. Once you upload your photos and design the book just the way you want it, you can conveniently order copies to be delivered right to your front door. shutterfly.com
An Indelible Part Of Our Identities
But at the same time, it does feel like there’s something lost when we deny the importance of physical media.
It may be hard for many of us to imagine, but at a certain point in the future, the photo album will likely cease to exist. When I was growing up, there were dozens of these things in our home, some filled with people I never even knew: cousins of cousins at some distant relative’s wedding, long dead ancestors from the early decades of the 20th century, friends and neighbors of my parents before they were anybody’s parents.
Members of older generations like to rag on millennials and Gen Z’ers for documenting so much of their lives on social media, but they did the same thing with physical photographs, and the prevalence of photo albums from those years is a testament to that fact. It’s not an indictment of their behavior by any means; if anything, I mean it as a celebration of our shared interest in capturing moments and people that are important to us. In today’s parlance, sharing those images to social media is equivalent to pasting them in a photo album. We young people have a kind of blind faith that the servers on which our photos are stored will last at least as long as the average physical album would.
But at the same time, it does feel like there’s something lost when we deny the importance of physical media. After all, we’re a tactile species. Our evolution had a lot to do with our ability to use tools, and figuring out those tools required all five of our senses. Taking and storing photos in an exclusively digital way robs us of the tactile aspect of reviewing them, unless you count the swipe of a screen as a tactile interaction, and I do not.
I witnessed a strange convergence of these technologies when grandmother passed away in the late winter of 2017. She had lived a long life, and there were endless photographs for her large family to sift through (the woman had seven sons and a daughter!). She also spent the last decade of her life with grandchildren who were adept at using digital cameras, cell phones, and social media. So, at her service, there were both physical photo albums and a tablet with more recent pictures on it. All the crowds of people gravitated toward the physical albums, young and old alike, and the tablet went largely ignored.
While this may sound like the moaning of a man approaching the beginning of the end of his youth who’s just about to start turning on all things new and foreign, I prefer to think of myself as someone ready to accept change, but in no rush to do so. There’s something magical about gathering around a photo album with the people you love, sharing in the memories as you flip through the pages, and finally closing it. It’s in that last moment, the closing of the album after making your way through it cover-to-cover, that the real magic happens. Leaving the lucid, physical markers of the past behind, you feel for a moment the immediacy of the present moment, and how special and fleeting it all can be.
The Perfect Place For Your Memories
Choosing a photo album is a largely personal endeavor, as the style of a given album has to suit your personality and may suit a given event the photographs of which an album may be intended to hold. Still there are some practical considerations that can help you choose between one album and another if you find yourself stuck.
For example, one of the biggest differences among photo albums is in how they actually hold onto your pictures.
For example, one of the biggest differences among photo albums is in how they actually hold onto your pictures. Early photo albums employed adhesive corners that you would place around the edges of your picture and then stick against a page. These held your photos in place nicely, and they allowed for a certain degree of customization in the album’s layout. They’re still popular among some enthusiasts, particularly scrapbookers, but many people prefer the sticky page.
Sticky pages are just what they sound like, pieces of paper that have a mild adhesive coating on them that’s just strong enough to hold a picture in place without risking damage to it if you need to take it out or rearrange the album. There’s usually a clear sheet to lay on top of the photos for added protection. If you think you might have these photos stored in a sticky book for a long time, however, some adhesives may wear out, while others may degrade in a way that risks your photo paper some decades down the line.
Another option for organization is the sleeve album. These are generally less customizable than sticky pages or adhesive corners, but they also offer the best protection against wear and tear, and they make it easy to take photos out and rearrange them with no risk at all to their integrity. Once you’ve decided what kind of storage method you like best, the rest is up to your personal preference.
Upping Your Photo Game
If you really want to start taking pictures worthy of encapsulating in a photo album, you’re going to have to graduate from the cell phone and the digital point-and-shoot. Fortunately for consumers, entry-level DSLRs are less expensive and more feature rich than ever, offering large sensors and great lenses. Many also come with great automatic features that let the camera do all the thinking for you, as well as more advanced features you can activate if you want to learn the art.
You’re also going to want to make sure you have a way to get high-quality prints of your favorite pictures. There are excellent online services for this that do a much better job than your local pharmacy can, but you can also make an investment in a photo printer capable of producing images for a fraction of the cost of professional prints.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re at a wedding and the photographer looks like they have a free second, sidle up next to them and pick their brains. If there’s anything a shooter loves more than taking pictures, it’s talking about the gear and the craft of photography.