Beautiful travel photo book spread of Lake Bled, Slovenia | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

How to create beautiful travel photo books

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Creating a beautiful travel photo book is the perfect way to document precious memories. My step-by-step guide shows you just how easy it is to make a magical record of your adventures at home and abroad.

Photo books are the perfect way to immortalise your travels.

Unlike the scrabble to jot down notes in a journal when you’re away, or sporadic instagram snaps, they’re a brilliant way to tell a tale of what you’ve been up to. They’re an engaging, tactile way to enjoy your photos and share them with others.

I’ll admit, if you’re not a professional photographer, they can look intimidating to make. But trust me. With a little time, organisation and enthusiasm anyone can create a beautiful volume that’ll bring memories flooding back.

In this guide I’ll walk you through the steps I take to print annual travel photo yearbooks. I’ll share some tips to make things easier and your book look as professional and polished (without need any of the tools the pro’s use). Shall we get started?

Want more inspiration for creatively documenting your travels? Check out my guide to how to keep a travel journal and 8 travel-themed things to do when you can’t travel

Travel photo book spread of Bachalpsee in the Swiss alps | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

1. Come up with a plan

This first step is easy to miss but key to creating a book you’ll love – and keeping this process as simple as possible.

Start by thinking about the story that you want to tell.

  • Will this be a yearbook that captures every adventure within a calendar year?
  • Do you want to record a particular journey or particular trip chronologically?
  • Is this a memento to capture highlights over a longer period of time?

Deciding on a ‘theme’ for your book before you begin will make everything simpler. It’ll reduce the number of choices you’ll need to make later on as you’ll be clear on your goal.

Personally, I like to create annual yearbooks with a ‘chapter’ for each event or trip (no matter how large or small). But I’ve also recieve really thoughtful books dedicated to certain trips as gifts, and they’re just as joyful. Decide what matters most to you – and remember that you can always create more!

Travel photo book spread of trip to Santiago de Compostela, Spain | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

2. Choose your travel photos

Once you’ve got a theme in mind, you can start to curate the images that you want to include.

Choosing the perfect photos to include can feel like hard work, especially in a world where we capture so many photos on our phones. So to make this task a little easier, here’s some ideas for selecting images to include in your travel photo book;

  • Pull together all your images from different devices and locations into one place. This could include photos from phones and cameras, photos share by friends and families or even instagram posts
  • Photograph or scan anything extra mementos you’d like to include and add these to the folder. Tickets, photo booth snaps and maps can make great additions
  • Divide your images into sub-folders based on the story you want to tell. Create a ‘chapter’ folder for each event, trip or day to begin to structure your book
  • Review the images in each of your sub-folders. You want to include your highlights in the book, so now is the time to delete duplicates and similar shots, blurry or out-of-focus images and those that don’t spark joy. Of course you can still keep a digital copy, but a refined selection of images will make creating your book quicker and easier

Top tip: Focus on selecting your favourite photos rather than eliminating those that don’t want to include. Trust me, it’s a much easier way to choose.

Creating folders of travel photos for printing | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog
This is not the most glamorous shot I’ve ever shared. But here’s how I organise my photos for printing

3. Edit your photos

This next step is optional. But for photo buffs it can be a satisfying and rewarding task that makes your photo book extra special.

Edit any photos that you would like to enhance, using your favourite editing tools.

This can be as simple as cropping extra detail out of shots, straightening horizons and rotating images to face the right way. These basic edits can easily done with iphoto or Photo apps on you PC, or free editing apps on your phone.

Keen beans can this a step further and enhancing lighting and colour or make further touch-ups using more sophisticated apps. I edit all my shots in Adobe Photoshop Elements and love the huge potential and range of tools that it offers. Adobe Lightroom is another popular choice with serious photographers, and allows you to create and purchase filter packs that make editing even easier. Or you prefer to work on your phone or a tablet, try the excellent A Color Story or VSCO apps. They’re very intuitive and a little less intimidating to learn that desktop options – and are a great option if photo editing is new to you.

4. Choose a travel photo book printer

With your images chosen and story loosely mapped out, your next step is to choose a printing service for your book.

There’s an enormous range to choose from online depending on your location. Most offer a wide variety of products and options to customise. Before you make your mind up, browse some of the sample books online. This will give you a feel for what you can achieve with their tools.

Now is a good time to price compare and look out for incentives. It’s worth noting that the price of books can vary enormously depending on the number of pages and printing options that you can go for. So look for a ballpark number at this point and any great deals or voucher codes.

I’ve successfully used Photobox and Bonusprint and would happily recommend them.

5. Upload your photos

Not the most exciting task, but once you’ve chosen your book provider set yourself up with an account on their website and upload your photos.

Bear in mind that this can take a little time, especially if you have a large number of images or large file sizes.

6. Start to lay out your book

With your images uploaded, it’s time to begin.

From here on in, there are no hard and fast rules – just enjoy being creative and finding a way to create your book that works for you. With so many choices it can take a little time to settle into a rhythm but give it time and you’ll find you speed up as you progress through the book.

Experiment with different layouts, and don’t be afraid to try automated tools that suggest how to place your images on the page. You don’t have to take their advice but they can spark new ideas.

Once you’ve found some layouts that you like, consider limiting yourself to a relatively small number to use throughout your travel book. This will help to give it a more coherent look and feel.

At this point, you might also want to consider adding backgrounds or decals to your pages. I prefer to keep it simple with a white, grey or black background to let my travel photos do the talking. But whatever options you go for, as I mentioned with layout, it’s best to stick to a single theme or colour-scheme to make it feel more professional.

Here are a few ideas to help group images together to tell your story;

  • Create a chapter of the book for each trip or day during a trip. Introduce each with a larger image and an explanation of what you got up to
  • Choose one image per trip or day that you want to document. Keep the layout simple and elegant and let the picture do the talking
  • Group together similar images on a theme. This could be the best views from a trip, highlights from local architecture or things that you ate. Shots of street signs, doorways or even tickets from your travels can look great when placed together.
  • Download your instagram photos and arrange in a grid to bring the online experience offline, and document forever
Travel photo book page showing doors in Tallinn's old town | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog
I used a grid layout as a fun way to display these photos of colourful doors I captured in Tallinn’s old town

7. Add commentary to your travel photo book

Next, you’ll want to think about adding commentary or captions to go alongside your images.

How much or little you add is entirely up to you, but think of it as a way of adding more colour to the story.

If you’d rather keep things simple, stick to just dates and locations to give a little structure to the story. Consider adding a travel itinerary or even a list of highlights.

Or, you could add captions that explain what you are getting up to or who is in the shot. And if you’re feeling very creative, or have kept journal entries from a trip, considering dedicating some space to longer entries that tell a story.

I added a caption to the page explaining a little more about what we got up to on this day of our trip to Lake Bled in Slovenia

8. Add the finishing touches

With the main body of the book complete, it’s time to add the flourishes that’ll make your photo book extra special. Here’s a quick checklist of things to consider;

  • Add a front cover design. I like to choose an extra-special photo, but you might prefer a collage that sums up what’s inside. If there’s a theme to your book, add a title – I always write the year and ‘yearbook’
  • Add a back cover. Think of it as a happy ending!
  • Check if you can add text to the spine, and add a title if you can. It makes it much easier to find on your bookcase
  • Decide between a hard or soft cover. Soft covers are lightweight, more affordable and don’t take up so much space. Personally I love the feel of a hard cover (I hope that they’ll be more resilient in time)
  • Select any premium printing options, like heavyweight paper or flatlay pages
Travel photo books lined up on a bookcase | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

9. Complete some final checks

You’re very nearly done!

The last step before hitting that ‘checkout’ button is to thoroughly double-check your book before printing. This step is less about making creative changes and more about looking out for niggles that’ll make it feel less than perfect.

Check captions and test for typos and spelling errors (we all do it!). If you don’t already use it, I’d highly recommend installing Grammarly on your browser to do this for you.

Make sure there are no gaps where you don’t want them, blank pages that you don’t need (and won’t want to pay for) or alignment issues with images.

Have a breather before you do these last checks. It’s easy to miss things when you’ve been looking at something for a long time. I’d highly recommend taking a look using the preview feature on the biggest screen you can access. It can be easier to read that on a desktop.

And lastly, you might want to ask someone else to take a look through, in case they spot something that you haven’t.

Stack of travel photo books | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog

You’re done!

It’s a wrap. You’re done, and ready to hit that checkout button.

You’ll have to be patient for a week or two whilst it’s printed, but it’ll be worth the wait.

When it arrives, take the time to appreciate your masterpiece. Keep it on your coffee table or somewhere in view, and make a point of going back to it to revel in a little nostalgia. And share it with your loved ones.

I hope this helps to bring a little extra joy when you’re home from your travels. Enjoy the process, and enjoy your final travel photo book!

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How to create beautiful travel photo books | Girl with a saddle bag travel blog
  • Liliane
    Posted at 03:26h, 19 May Reply

    I was literally just telling my husband the other day that I wanted to start printing some pictures from our trips and create some albums but this may actually be an easier way to do it!

    • Alice
      Posted at 15:38h, 19 May Reply

      Yes Liliane! This is so much easier! I use to print my photos and then scrapbook them but it took a lot of time and made a lot of mess (well, I was having fun). Creating a photo book is simpler and you end up producing a item that is easy and enjoyable to pick up and flick through. Plus there’s no risk of loosing any loose photos. I hope you give it a go and have fun 🙂

  • Miriam Menkarius
    Posted at 12:37h, 18 May Reply

    I have never done one for my trips but I remember I enjoyed doing photo essays back at university! Your article got me excited to give this a try ASAP!

    • Alice
      Posted at 13:35h, 18 May Reply

      Go for it Miriam! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it – think of it like University but even more fun 😉

  • Katie Diederichs
    Posted at 02:00h, 18 May Reply

    I love the idea of making a “yearbook”! Honestly, I’ve been wanting to do something similar for a while but haven’t had the motivation to sort through all my thousands of photos! haha! But you may have just convinced me to make it a priority!

    • Alice
      Posted at 13:37h, 18 May Reply

      I hope this inspires you Katie! I find it helps to break these projects down into manageable chunks makes it easier to tackle. Maybe give a 2019 yearbook a go, it if you enjoy it go back further in time with the next one?

  • Marjut | The Smooth Escape
    Posted at 20:23h, 16 May Reply

    Such a cool idea! I feel like I have so many travel photos just lying around in my folders, so this would be such a great way to do something fun with them.

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:19h, 17 May Reply

      Go for it Marjut, you’ll have a lot of fun!

  • Julie
    Posted at 19:51h, 16 May Reply

    Ahh this is one of my favourite ways to store travel memories. I’ve only done it once though, and I have so many more travels I can use now so I gotta make another one! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:20h, 17 May Reply

      Good to know there is another photo book maker out there 🙂 Maybe try making a highlights book with your favourite couple of photos from your last few trips?

  • Amy Alton
    Posted at 19:34h, 16 May Reply

    This is such a great idea. I’ve been wanting to do something like this to memorialize our trip sailing around the world.

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:21h, 17 May Reply

      Thanks Amy! A photo book to remember your amazing journey by would be be a lovely thing to have 🙂

  • Ophelie
    Posted at 16:05h, 16 May Reply

    Photos books are so cool! A great way to remember your travels and share your memories with family and friends!

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:22h, 17 May Reply

      Yes! Completely agree Ophelie 🙂

  • Silly Little Kiwi Blog | Tara
    Posted at 13:50h, 16 May Reply

    I love this idea as a way to keep my travel memories safe and printed! Pinned this post for later– what a great project for lockdown.

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:23h, 17 May Reply

      Absolutely Tara, I’ve been spending some of my time at home recently catching up on travel photo books I’d been meaning to make. Hopefully I’ll have got up to date by the time I can next travel

  • Jiayi Wang
    Posted at 10:16h, 16 May Reply

    What a great idea to turn your adventures into yearbooks!! This definitely gave me some inspo on fun things to do at home 🙂

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:23h, 17 May Reply

      Thanks Jiayi, I’d definitely recommend as a fun thing to do if you’re spending more time at home at the moment 🙂

  • Cristina
    Posted at 08:34h, 16 May Reply

    I love this post! I have never considered creating a travel photo book, but yours look amazing. I may give it a go and create one 🙂 Thank you for the useful tips!

    • Alice
      Posted at 09:03h, 16 May Reply

      It’s such funCristina, I’d really recommend it. They also make great gifts if you’d like to surprise someone you’ve travelled with, or want to share your adventures with family. Hope you have a great time making your own 🙂

  • Hazel
    Posted at 08:30h, 16 May Reply

    What a great idea, Alice. I’ve never thought of producing a travel photo book. Quick question regarding photo editing: Which would you recommend for a beginner – Adobe Photoshop Elements or Lightroom? Thanks.

    • Alice
      Posted at 09:05h, 16 May Reply

      Thanks Hazel – and what a great question! Personally, I’d go for Photoshop Elements. In part, this is because the cost is lower making it an easier purchase if you’re new to photo editing. I find it’s quite intuitive to use, although very powerful if you use it to it’s full advantage. If you’d prefer a hands-off approach, the advantage of Lightroom is that you can download free preset filters which can take some of the legwork out of editing. Whichever tool you choose, I’m sure it’ll help you create a photo book you’re extremely proud of.

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