The clear winner, Blurb (from $10.95), offers the best-looking books, with different paper types and covers to choose from, as well as several layout options. One drawback: there isn’t much freedom to adjust the page layouts. Apple’s iPhoto (from $9.99) has the fastest interface of all the services, allowing you to seamlessly edit your pictures while placing them in a well-designed format. However, it’s only available for Mac users and has fewer layout options than other companies. The design elements of Mixbook (from $6.99) are more basic and the program is slower, but the service has maximum flexibility if you’re hoping to adjust text and photo placement. Shutterfly (from $10.39) is the least impressive of the services. Though it lets you completely customize your book, the themes on offer are less creative, and photos tend to get cropped in the editing process.
For a range of effects, extra storage, and organizational tools, it’s still worth investing in dedicated software; we like Adobe Photoshop Elements ($80). Mac users can count on user-friendly iPhoto (included on your computer), while Apple’s new iCloud service can automatically store up to 1,000 photos online. Meanwhile, free online programs such as Picasa and Pixlr can handle simple editing tasks. To add cool, retro-style lens effects to existing photos, try the CameraBag app.
When it comes to online photo-sharing, Flickr is great if you want to connect with a large community, while Picasa has easy integration with Android and Gmail. Photobucket can post to Twitter right from its smart-phone app. SmugMug, meanwhile, gives you unlimited storage of all your photos at full resolution. And they all make it easy to post to that favorite sharing site: Facebook.