What is the difference between a photo book and a photo album?

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Picking the right format is the first step in creating your precious keepsake. To help you find out what product is perfect for you – a photo book or a photo album – we’ve put together a helpful guide below.

Whether you’re a newlywed who wants to choose the right way to preserve your wedding memories or a photographer who wants to explain your product lines to a client, this guide can help you make the right choice between a Photo Album and a Photo Book.

Today’s technology offers a variety of options for preserving memories, from soft cover photobooks to hardcover lay-flat albums. These choices are not equal. Today we will give you a general overview of what the differences are between photo albums and photobooks.

This is a guest contribution by Georgia McCabe: Georgia spent 30 years as a Sr. Executive in the computer and photo industry at IBM, Eastman Kodak and Fujifilm. As a driving force in conceiving and executing breakthrough approaches to the photo printing, sharing and delivery marketplace, she literally “changed the rules” for a category undergoing massive technological change and re-invention. She is a certified social media strategist and is a market and branding consultant helping businesses utilize the tools and power of social networking. 

In recent years, it seems there has been a change in preference in regards to traditional wedding photo albums and custom photo books. This change has caused many photographers and companies who provide photo solutions to ask the question, “What has caused consumers to prefer photo books over traditional photo albums?” Let’s explore the elements of each and the differences between the two photo collection alternatives.

It seems in recent years with the availability of different technologies, and there are now many ways to preserve one’s precious memories. When it comes to having a tangible keepsake, photo albums and photo books are the most popular. But there are three major differences you need to know about when it comes to photo albums vs photo books. It’s important to know what you’re really paying for. So here’s a breakdown on Photo Albums vs Photo Books.

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Photographs capture the treasured moments of a wedding for generations to come. Traditionally, the wedding album has been one of the most cherished remembrances of that special day. Today, digital technology offers today’s bride and groom a variety of new options for recording wedding memories, from no-print digital files stored in the cloud and do-it-yourself (typically online) photo books to traditional albums prepared by professional photographers. Although most kinds of books offer ways to preserve and share wedding-day images, these choices are definitely not created equal.

The results of the survey were quite interesting. 29 of the 45 surveyed brides either weren’t too sure if they knew the difference between a wedding album and photo book or did not know the difference at all. Which makes perfect sense, being a bride, you are dropped into the world of everything wedding and is not expected to know all of these things.

Today, in the market, there are two main categories of wedding keepsakes. The main difference between them, yet not the only one, is the technology and paper used for printing them. While photo books (the type you buy from online suppliers) are printed by digital presses on regular (double-sided) paper, in a process very similar to the printing of a business brochure, wedding albums are printed using a different photographic process onto photo paper, similar to 8×10 photo prints.

Now even though this is the main difference between the two types of wedding books, there are also many other sub-differences. For example, you can use Pro photo paper or regular photo paper; you can use lay flat digital-printing paper or regular digital-printing paper. The type of binding and the process and the materials used are also significantly different. For example, albums are typically bound in a true leather cover in a precise manual process. While photo books use leatherette or low cost (leftover) leather, this type of binding will also impact the way the books lay and, more importantly, how long it will take for pages to fall out, if they do.

 As in everything in life, the differences in quality bring about differences in pricing, so price alone gives some basis for making an informed decision.

There are two questions or issues to consider:

  1. Comparing apples to apples – make sure you put side by side similar products from the perspective of delivering quality and capacity to preserve memories. 
  2. Having a clear goal in mind- it’s not only “can I afford” but also “can I afford not.” For example, if product A has 15 years durability and is half the price than a product that has 100 years durability, it’s probably a perfect choice for a Christmas card or a calendar. 

Still, I am a little more doubtful that it’s a better choice for your wedding memories. Before analyzing the alternatives, let’s take a quick look of the landscape:

Photo books: as mentioned, these are printed on double-sided paper by digital presses (similar to a printed business brochure), and the pages fold magazine-style.

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What is a Photo Album?

Photo albums have been used to vividly illustrate the stories of one’s past and protect an individual’s treasured memories. Traditionally, professional photographers would gather all the photos taken from an event and strategically organize them in a photo album of some type. The photos would be manually attached with various types of adhesive to pages that were supposed to protect and enhance the photos.

As mentioned, are printed on a single-sided photo paper via a photographic process (similar to an 8 x 10 print), typically on Pro paper (which handles the image better and has much better durability. Albums are generally made in these variations:

  1. Traditional albums — the pictures are printed separately (4×6, 5×7 8×10) and are slid into “frames” that are part of the album pages.
  2. Flush Mount Wedding Albums — each page is printed as one photo and then mounted on cardboard, one picture per side. Therefore the pages are thick and do not fold. Today this is the most common and popular wedding album.
  3. An album with Flexible Pages – this is a new product on the market, in which pages are photo printed but glued back to back in a unique technology that delivers a magazine-style yet with photographic pages.
  4. Covers – the above albums come typically with either a photo cover or a true leather cover. Because of the nature of the album binding, there is no “book block” that is tucked into the cover’s “gutter” and thus pages fully lay flat. These albums typically (if created by a professional, or when using BrideBox album design software) deliver full panoramic and lay flat pages.

Check out our post on How much do wedding photo albums cost?

One of the most attractive aspects of a photo book, when compared to a traditional photo album, is the price. Photo books can be created and purchased at a far less high price than a traditional photo album. Select photo books can be created and purchased for as low as $15. The difference in price is even different when you have to purchase all the “scrapbooking” paraphernalia to customize the photo album.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would someone ever opt to go with a traditional leather photo album when a custom photo book presents all these benefits?” I have found there are a few features of traditional photo albums that some consumers will always desire.

Just as some love the compactness of the photo books, some consumers want the thick and heavy photo album. Photographers have mentioned that some of their clients feel that a heavy, leather-bound book makes their photos carry more significance. The consumer has said, “When you pick up a photo wedding album and set it on your lap because of the weight, you feel that you are about to embark on a viewing experience of a significant event.”

Clients of photographers have also mentioned that they prefer a traditional photo album because their photo albums from decades past still look as new as ever. Photo books have not been around long enough to know if they feature the longevity that photo albums do. Pictures tell stories and consumers want their stories to be told forever.

These are just some factors that may be the catalyst in regards to photo books becoming the new trend in the photography industry. Whether it’s a photo book or traditional photo album, be sure that your precious memories are well preserved for a long time to come.

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What is a PhotoBook?

Photo books, on the other hand, have made a statement in the world of photo solutions with their new sleek design and “trendiness” factor. To put it simply, a custom photo book is a printed, bound book, much like a children’s picture book, that combines photos and, most times, text. Individuals can create and customize their photo books, something they couldn’t do with traditional photo albums, with special photo effects, custom text and other aesthetically pleasing features.

  1. Softcover – cover printed on paper, book pages printed on regular paper and bound with staples. 
  2. Photo cover – hard photo cover, book pages printed on regular paper, typically bounded through perfect binging (a type of gluing) or sewn/stitched
  3. Leatherette cover— a type of artificial material, book pages printed on regular paper, typically either perfect binging (a type of gluing) or sewn/stitched
  4. Genuine Leather cover — There are many different types of leathers. You can see a long review on Wikipedia, in general terms Genuine Leather is “made from the remaining layers” – Click to View Different Types of Leather or Click here for the Difference Between Top Grain and Genuine Leather. “Not true” leathers, but materials containing some leather, may also be used. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may still be labelled as “Genuine Leather.” 
  5. Lay flat paper – wedding photo books are bound using a very different technology than regularly published books, in which the paper sticks out and doesn’t lay flat unless a special and more expensive lay flat paper is used.

For those really interested, when binding a photo book you take or group all the pages together – aka the book block — and place the book block within a pre-made cover. To hold this book block attached to the cover, ¼ inch of the cover is first wrapped around the book block, creating a tunnel in which the book block sits. When glued or sewn to, this “tunnel” doesn’t allow the pages to fold totally. Thus when the book is opened, it typically will not stay open if left alone on the table, and for sure its pages will not lay flat. But flat lay paper, which is more expensive and hard to print on, has a small “plastic” hinge which enables the paper to lay flat.

However, lay flat paper creates a huge challenge when you want to create and present a panoramic picture, place pictures across pages, or extend a background across two pages (lying flat). Very few companies allow this feature, which is beautiful and quite important when designing a professional wedding book.

Photo Albums vs. Photo Books: The Breakdown

Paper type

One of the most obvious differences between Albums and Books is the paper type. Photo Album photos are printed on Kodak Endura Professional Lustre photo paper, just like a traditional Photo Print. Lustre paper (the industry standard for photo printing) has a slight sheen and is protected by a UV coating.

Photo Book images are printed directly onto your choice of press paper (semi-gloss, linen, matte, or pearl). Although it differs from photographic paper, press paper is a much better option for printing photos than typical computer paper. Plus, since it’s easier to write on press paper, Photo Books are perfect for use as guest books and travel journals.


The pictures for Photo Albums are printed onto photographic paper. In contrast, the photographs for photo books are printed by digital presses onto regular double-sided paper with either a glossy or matte finish. The pages are thicker and more durable in a Photo Album and come with a limited number of page options.

The pictures for photo albums are printed onto special photographic paper using either advanced digital printing or traditional photo developing processes. The prints are then hand-mounted onto sturdy photo boards. This creates pages that lay completely flat and deliver full panoramic images and designs. Because of this process, the pages are thicker, more durable, and are resistant to wear and tear. This process also allows your pictures to display true-to-life colour vibrancy.

Digital presses print the photographs for photo books onto regular double-sided paper that has either a glossy or matte finish. This is a process that’s normally used for printing magazines or brochures. Most photo books also come with a limited number of page options.


Photo Album images are printed on photographic paper that is reinforced by a premium substrate. This material makes the pages rigid, thus ensuring the finished product’s long-term durability. Once printed, all of the Album pages are expertly matched with a handcrafted cover to create an archival quality, heirloom Album.

Album pages are available in two styles: “thin” (approximately the width of a dime) and a “thick” (approximately the width of a penny). The pages in a Photo Book are printed directly onto press paper and then bound with inimitable precision using our proprietary construction technology. The final steps in construction differ based on the chosen page style (which is discussed below).

Covers and Binding

The covers of photo albums are handmade and can come in leather, linen or as a full photo cover whereas photo book covers come with a lay-flat hardcover, classic hardcover, and Flexi softcover. Photo albums covers are custom made according to the individual’s need; on the other side, most photobooks are bound together by stitching like magazines or books.

Photo album covers are handmade and can come in leather, leatherette, linen, or as a full photo cover. Albums have a very sophisticated and elegant look. A window cut-out on the cover is also an option offered by most album companies. These covers are also custom made to fit each individual album perfectly. In contrast, online photo book vendors may make their covers from a case-maker machine that only allows a limited number of spine capacities. Because every part of the photo album is put together by hand and the cover is custom-fitted, most albums can have as many pages as needed.

Photo books can come with a soft photo cover (printed on paper), a hard photo cover, or a leatherette cover. Depending on whom you work with, some might even offer the option of having a fabric cover and a die-cut window on the cover. Most photo books are assembled/bind together by gluing or stitching like most magazines or books.

Durability and Style

Photo albums are known to be extremely durable due to the material used, whereas photo books are printed on a thin paper. Photo albums have lay-flat or flush mount pages whereas photo books are available in a range of paper types; gloss, matte, textured, and velvet.

All Photo Albums have what is called “lay flat” or “flush-mount” pages, meaning there is no break or binding that disrupts the flow of a spread from page to page. This allows you to create striking panoramic spreads or to get creative with two-page layouts.

Photo albums are known to be extremely durable due to the material used, its construction process, and its heavier weight. You will find that albums will still look brand new even after many decades. That’s why photo albums are highly recommended for family and wedding albums so that they can be passed down to future generations.

Because photo books are printed rapidly using a digital press printer onto relatively thin paper, they aren’t intended to last for long periods. They are most susceptible to pages bending or falling out of the spine.

Photo Books are available in a classic style (with traditional bookbinding) or a lay-flat style. The lay-flat Photo Book style differs from an Album in that there is a small “gutter” between the two pages in each spread.


Hands make photo albums, thus, cost more than a photo book. Albums are normally larger than books. On the other side, Photo Books are lighter and smaller than Photo Albums.

Pages Availability

Album builders can include up to a hundred pages whereas a photo book can fit in more pages than an album. You can even include up to one hundred forty pages in a single classic style book.

Album builders can include up to 50 spreads/100 pages (after choosing thin pages) or 25 spreads/50 pages (after choosing thick pages).

Since Photo Book pages do not include a substrate, more pages can fit into a Photo Book than an Album. You can include up to 70 spreads (140 pages) in a single classic style book.

Price point

Besides the overall look and feel, the price point is one of the biggest differences between Albums and Books. Photo Albums in our Album99 collection begin at $79.00, while Photo Books start from $26.00.

The difference between one product and another really depends on your decision. It is the name that makes the difference, so plan your strategy around what to sell and what it will be named. When it comes to the editor as a software, it doesn’t matter if you offer photobooks or photo albums. The software can handle it either way with the editor looking exactly the same. You can change options such as paper thickness or types of book covers in the back-office. It is up to you to decide whether your products are high-end.

Looking at the example of companies that we work with, it is clear to see that there are many ways they are naming their products. In my opinion, the universal way is to use “Premium photo books” and “Photobooks” categories. The word “premium” gives certain importance to your final product.

Since photo albums are made with high-quality printing techniques, material, and mounting and construction methods, albums are more much expensive than photo books. With so many variables involved, that’s why photo albums range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The most attractive aspects of a photo album are its durability and its sophisticated style. If you want something that will last a lifetime, a handcrafted photo album is worth the investment.

Hope that now you know all the major differences between Photo Book and Photo Album and can decide which the right option for you is. If you want modern and professional-looking pages of photographs filled with all your special moments, then we would recommend a Photo Book as it provides you with varied options in cover, paper, and shapes and sizes. 

On the other side, one of the most attractive aspects of a photo book is the price. Photo books normally start at $25 and go up from there. Photo books are a good alternative to photo albums if durability isn’t a priority. They are also a great option when it comes to ordering gifts for friends and family, featuring graduation or birthday celebrations.

In the end, the photographer has to decide which factors are more important and go with the product that best fits his/her preferences and needs.

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