If you’re interested in publishing a photo book, you’ve found the right place.
I’ve published a few over the years and want to give you the knowledge I’ve learned so you can have a beautiful self-published photo book of your own.
I divided this article into three sections—print-on-demand companies, high-quality printers, and independent publishers—to highlight a few different paths you might take.
The one you choose depends on several important factors, including your budget, goals, and time commitment.
If you’re not sure which path is right for your book project, keep reading because I break each one down in more detail.
How Do I Publish a Photo Book?
Before we look at publishing options, let’s define what publishing is.
Publishing is defined as the production of literature or other works of art for commercial purposes.
However, in casual, everyday usage, publishing includes print-on-demand (POD), which may or may not have commercial intent.
In other words, you can publish a volume of your family’s vacation, your wedding, or any other topic without any broad public appeal.
On the other hand, if you’re a photographer, you can publish for brand-building purposes or to sell on your website.
This is what I’ve been doing for years. I like to think of a book as a very elaborate business card.
The beautiful thing about publishing is that because of technological advances, anyone can bring a book project to life via POD, self-publishing, or going the indie route.
To start things off, the question you need to ask yourself is: Which suits my needs best?
Online Photo Book Companies
Print-on-demand is an excellent choice for personal projects and small press runs.
The design process is broken down into simple drag-and-drop features. This means you don’t need to be a book designer or have special skills to make a softcover book or a color hardcover.
Your trim size can be changed with a click of the button, the fonts and paper are determined in advance, and you don’t have to worry about arcane details like file type and color format.
Due to their affordable price and simple design process, print-on-demand services can be used for all types of projects. Commercial viability is not a concern.
This makes POD ideal for low budgets, non-commercial projects, or anytime you need to print something quickly and cheaply.
(It’s like the Uber of bookmaking, except you don’t have to leave your house.)
On a side note, the creative process should spark joy and happiness. It should not feel cumbersome, as if you are doing taxes.
I chose each of these companies based on this criteria.
Mixbook is my top pick for print-on-demand services based on my own positive experience with the company. Not to mention, the actual book I made with Mixbook is beautiful.
The user interface is highly intuitive and user-friendly. There were surprisingly few difficulties during the editing and design process. This is not always the case, as new software tends to have a learning curve.
Once you’re logged into the system, you’ll notice guidance boxes that offer helpful tips and tricks. This makes editing and building the layout a simple process.
As a professional designer, I am particular about fonts, layouts, and other design elements. Mixbook does well in this department.
Finding ZNO is like stumbling on a secret beach with the most perfect waves. You start to wonder why everyone else is up the coast where it’s more crowded and expensive!
Here’s why: ZNO doesn’t market itself as aggressively as other print-on-demand services. However, the company is very well-respected in Reddit forums and various other online photo communities.
Originally called Artisan Slate, ZNO prides itself on being the go-to starter book for professional photographers.
If you’re making a photo book of your kid’s graduation, choose Mixbook. If you want to be the next Ansel Adams, choose ZNO.
Another good online photo book service is Picaboo. I was surprised to hear that others had a poor experience with this company because I had zero issues.
The number one thing I look for in a print-on-demand service is quality. Picaboo is up there with Mixbook when it comes to printing and materials.
When that beautiful photo book sits on your coffee table, you won’t care that the images took a bit longer to upload.
You can start the creative process without signing up. So, if you don’t like the software or find the user interface clunky, you can always walk away with no strings attached.
Picaboo offers deals and discounts frequently, so if you’re not in a rush, it might be a good idea to put your project on hold until a good deal comes your way.
Do you ever struggle to decide which entree to order in a restaurant? If so, Contrado might just be the best online photo book service for you.
That’s because, with Contrado, your choices are extremely limited. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about too many different options.
Contrado offers three photo book sizes: square, landscape, and portrait. All the other details are decided in advance.
Contrado says they are traditionally hand-bound, so you know you’re getting a quality book.
One cool feature is that you can upload photos directly from Facebook or Instagram, so you can find your favorite images a lot faster.
Amazingly, they are ready the same day and usually arrive within a week.
Motif is one of the best online photo book platforms if you are an Apple iPhone or Mac user (all 100 million of you).
That’s because the app that integrates seamlessly with your iPhone, Mac, or iPad. Sorry, Windows users!
Once connected, an algorithm organizes your images chronologically so you can focus on the more creative parts.
The technology and pre-made book style options make it a simple process, while the paper and print quality is up there with the best of them.
It’s like finding a cheat code for beautiful photo books. I highly recommend it.
Blurb is the OG online photo book service like Friendster is for social media.
However, unlike the now-defunct social networking site, Blurb is still around (and thriving) to this day.
In addition to affordable product prices, Blurb offers a fantastic user experience.
Want to keep it simple with web-based software? Use Bookify. Want to flex your creative muscles with more customization? Try BookWright.
As if that weren’t enough, Blurb offers plugins for Adobe InDesign and Lightroom. So, if you’re a designer, you can use your favorite software to create a print PDF.
Formerly known as AdoramaPix, Printique has gained a cult following among photo enthusiasts.
This discerning crowd prioritizes quality above all else. If that doesn’t give you the green light to use Printique, I don’t know what will.
Like ZNO, Printique is less aggressive with its marketing tactics. This is why it isn’t as well known as some of its competitors.
I love that Printique offers fabric versions of its standard photo books. For many photographers, clothbound books are the holy grail, the kind you would proudly display on your coffee table.
Last but not least is Presto.
One thing I love about Presto is that you can upload a photo book PDF. You can design the book using your favorite software (mine is Adobe InDesign) and aren’t limited by its book printing templates.
Of course, you can use their templates and software if you want, but you have the option to create a completely customized book.
If this is for your photography portfolio, you probably don’t want a cookie-cutter design. This makes the PDF option a massive benefit.
I also liked the quality of Presto. The paper quality is better than most POD companies, with matte, silk, premium, and lustre options.
While print-on-demand has its advantages, you do give up some control over the finished product. On the other hand, working with a printer allows for complete customization and quality control.
These businesses usually require a minimum print run to place an order. If they are willing to print a small number of copies, it will cost a lot more money than print-on-demand.
In short, using one of these printers for anything less than a few hundred copies is not commercially viable. This makes it a financial commitment, as it will likely cost thousands of dollars.
Though your responsibility is much greater, working directly with one of these companies will result in an insanely beautiful photography book.
Therefore, this method of publishing a photo book is ideal for those with a large audience and the skills and resources necessary to make it a success.
Typecraft is a California-based printer that uses an HP Indigo 12000 digital press.
The Indigo is an industry-leading digital printer that can output premium color on par with a traditional offset press.
If you want to produce beautiful, self-published photo book in a run of 500 or less, a company like Typecraft will help keep costs down.
I used Typecraft to produce a limited edition poster, which turned out beautifully.
The customer service is fantastic; even if you are a beginner, they will walk you through the entire process.
Brown Printing is a family-owned company in Portland, Oregon, that has been in business for over 80 years.
With clients ranging from local businesses to billion-dollar brands such as Nike, Brown is a trusted resource for competitive pricing and high-quality results.
I used Brown to publish an art book in a limited edition of 250. Everything from the print quality to the binding was top-notch.
Printing domestically can be expensive, but Brown kept the price low enough to make the book profitable.
Brown can either print digital or offset. It can also accommodate specialty printing and finishes if you want to publish a premium coffee table book.
10. Book Art
Book Art is a Montreal-based company that works with artists, galleries, agencies, and brands to create high-quality, bespoke art photo books.
One of my favorite things about this company is how easy it is to get a quote, which I’ve personally done many times.
All you have to do is answer a few simple questions, and someone from their team will contact you to discuss further.
Book Art is for anyone who places a high level of importance on craftsmanship and details. From foil stamping to edge coloring, this company will help you publish a unique photo book.
11. De Keure
Based in Bruges, De Keure is a master printer that is well-known and respected among those in the international book business.
De Keure works with art galleries and institutions such as the Rijksmuseum and Tate Modern, so you know the print quality and craftsmanship are second to none.
It also places a high degree of importance on sustainability, which is a plus. The company uses eco-friendly materials and reduces its waste output as much as possible.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a printer that is better than Trifolio.
This Italy-based company is trusted by some of the world’s most respected museums, brands, and traditional publishers. Clients include the Museum of Modern Art, Givenchy, and Aperture Foundation.
Trifolio’s offset printing process can reproduce up to 520,000 tones in four-color printing. This is 40 percent more than the ISO standard.
Trifolio prides itself on meticulous attention to detail and putting the art first. This attracts a prestigious customer base willing to pay a higher printing cost for superior quality.
13. Livonia Print
If Trifolio is the Ferarri of luxury printing, Livonia is like a classic Corvette. It’s still speedy and fun to drive but much easier on the pocketbook
Livonia prints offset using a sheet-fed Heidelberg. However, the company can also print digitally for smaller print runs. The facility offers prepress, binding, and finishing services, as well.
This well-respected printer is located in Latvia, which means you will get better prices than in countries like Italy or Switzerland.
This is why publishers from all over go to Livonia for high-quality photo book publishing.
It offers more affordable pricing than you typically find in Western Europe or the United States, even though they often use the same equipment.
14. Wilco Art Books
Wilco Art Books is another printing house to consider if you are interested in publishing a photo book with the highest possible quality.
Located in the Netherlands, it is owned and operated by passionate craftspeople who do everything in-house, from prepress to binding. The books benefit by keeping all phases of production under one roof.
I have not used Wilco yet, but some of my colleagues have. I am providing this recommendation based on their positive feedback.
Take a look at Wilco’s portfolio of past projects. The work speaks for itself.
Independent Publishing Companies
A third method of publishing a photo book is working with an independent publisher.
This is a viable option for photographers who want something more premium than POD yet don’t want to carry the financial burden entirely on their shoulders.
Each indie publisher has its own procedure for submitting a proposal. Some require a photo book PDF, while others may evolve out of personal relationships.
Please note that working with a publisher is a collaborative process. Therefore, you must be open to the possibility of working with an in-house book designer and remain flexible about the type of book you are making. (This is easier said than done.)
Once the book is finished, the distribution and promotion efforts will be a group effort. This takes away the pressure of selling it all yourself. However, it also means you’ll be splitting the proceeds.
Founded in Savannah, Georgia, Aint—Bad publishes contemporary art focusing on new photography.
In addition, Aint—Bad publishes a print magazine, posts content on its website, has an active social media presence, and is getting into NFTs.
All of this contributes to an active and passionate photo community.
This makes Aint—Bad a good indie publisher because it has a built-in audience of passionate photo enthusiasts.
If I were to submit a book proposal, I would start by applying for an online feature.
That way, you can find out if your work is a good fit and start to build a relationship that could lead to a monograph down the line.
Hoxton Mini Press is an independent publisher working out of East London. It has been publishing collectible photo books since 2013.
The company is run by a husband and wife team, Ann Waldvogel and Martin Usborne.
Initially, the indie publisher focused on projects centered around East London. This led to titles about the food, fashion, and people who make up their neighborhood.
Lately, HMP has broadened its scope with titles like Dog-Friendly New York and Urban Geometry, which feature beautiful photos of architecture from around the globe.
If you want to publish a photo book with Hoxton, there is a submission page on its website with detailed instructions on what to do.
17. Kerber Verlag
Berlin-based Kerber Verlag publishes books on art, culture, and photography. The photography titles include exhibition catalogs, surveys, and monographs.
Kerber is unique in that it offers editorial, design, production, and distribution services to photographers.
In other words, Kerber will help you publish your photo book, but you have to pay a portion of the costs.
Still, Kerber’s service-based model is an interesting hybrid between self-publishing and going the traditional route.
For more details, just send an inquiry to the program director, Birte Kreft.
The Monacelli Press was founded in 1994 by Gianfranco Monacelli and became an imprint of Phaidon in 2020.
Though it publishes titles on various topics, including architecture, art, and design, Monacelli maintains an active photo book program.
The photo books include vintage and contemporary topics. Recent titles include Beyond the Canyon: Epic California Homes, Edible Flowers, and Auto Focus.
Monacelli is actively seeking proposals. If you are a photographer who wants to publish a photo book, visit the website and carefully review the submission guidelines.
Rachel and Gregory Barker are the principles of the indie publisher Stanley/Barker.
Since 2014, the husband and wife duo have been publishing idiosyncratic photo books by some of today’s most exciting artists—all from their studio in the English countryside.
This includes names like Christopher Anderson, Mimi Plumb, and Jim Goldberg.
The latter’s book Fingerprints sold out in just five days, proving there is a thriving market for these types of publications.
Stanley/Barker puts the artist first and pays great attention to detail. This approach to book publishing has won a loyal following who anxiously await its forthcoming titles.
20. Thames & Hudson
In 1949, Thames & Hudson was founded with a mission to create a “museum without walls” to make art more accessible to an international audience.
Seventy(ish) years later, the family-owned, independent publisher is still going strong.
Its editorial program is sweeping in scope, covering many topics ranging from fashion and lifestyle to design and photography.
Thames & Hudson’s photo books feature the work of vintage and contemporary photographers. This includes up-and-comers like Liam Wong and Nick Brandt and established artists like Mona Kuhn.
Always on the lookout for new projects and ideas, Thames & Hudson welcomes submissions via its website.
21. Damiani Editore
Founded in 2004, Damiani Editore is an Italy-based indie publisher devoted to “exploring and understanding the forms of contemporary imagination.”
Damiani collaborates with contemporary photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz and Martin Parr while simultaneously publishing titles on vintage subjects such as The Coal People and Altamont 1969.
Since the company evolved out of the esteemed Bolognese lithographic company Grafiche Damiani, its surveys and monographs are of the highest printing quality.
There are several methods for publishing a photo book. To recap:
- Print-on-demand is fast and cheap, which makes it suitable for special occasions and one-offs. Vacations, weddings, and other special events are ideal for this kind of publishing. At the same time, businesses and personal brands can use POD for branding and promotional purposes.
- Another option to self-publish is by working with a high-quality printer. This gives maximum flexibility and control. You’re responsible for everything, from the final PDF files down to the paper choice. It requires a lot more time, skill, and money than POD, but the results can be far greater.
- You can also work with an independent publisher. This will result in a photo book that feels much more unique than print-on-demand. However, securing a publisher is elusive unless you have a large following or a personal relationship to get your foot in the door.
What is the cost of publishing a photo book?
The cost of publishing a photo book depends on which route you choose.
Print-on-demand services are by far the cheapest option. With companies like Motif and Presto, prices start around $13–14 per copy.
If you work with a high-quality printer, you can spend anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to tens of thousands. It all depends on the print run, materials, and geographic location of the printer.
What is the best photo book publisher?
The best photo book publisher is Steidl.
Founded by Gerhard Steidl, who began working as a printer in 1967, the German publishing house is unique in that all production and printing happens under one roof.
This is virtually unheard of in the industry.
By maintaining complete control over all aspects of the bookmaking process, Steidl can produce titles with the utmost attention to detail.
This has attracted some of the world’s finest artists and photographers, including names like Robert Frank, Karl Lagerfeld, Ed Ruscha, and Juergen Teller.
How much should I charge for my photo book?
The price of your photo book will depend on how much you spend to produce it. This includes soft costs, as well as contractors, printing, design, and shipping.
Once you have figured out your break-even point, you should research what similar titles are selling for. This will give you an idea of how much to charge.
Remember that if you sell books through a distributor or store, you must split the revenue with them.
With retail, sales are usually split 60/40, with 60 percent going to the author or publisher and 40 percent to the store.