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Custom Photo Storybooks

A host of Web sites will help you tell your child’s story in a beautiful, hardcover storybook. In this new column, we rate the top options.

Reviewer: Sara K. Parker, mother of Noah and Kai, adopted from Ethiopia
Software required: BookMaker, downloaded from site
Price of a 20-page, hardcover book: $29.80 for a linen cover; $39.80 for leather
Cover options: 14 color/material options
Reader review: Overall, I was pleased with the photo book I created, and I loved how simple BookMaker was to use. All I had to do was drag, click, and type in my captions. In fact, the hardest part of the project was writing the story itself! But the design options were a bit limited: All of the page layouts are quite boxy, white was the only background option, and there were only seven fonts available—and only black type.

Reviewer: Becki Uccello, mother of Jack, adopted from Russia
Software required: None
Price of a 20-page, hardcover book: $29.99 for a satin or suede cover; $39.99 for leather
Cover options: 12 color/material options
Reader review: Shutterfly was very quick and easy to use to make a storybook, and I was impressed with the variety of page layouts (including those that didn’t include captions). I would much rather spend two to three hours creating a book online with Shutterfly than four hours in a scrapbook store, trying to create monumental pages with little talent and at great expense!

Site: (formerly known as
Reviewer: Lisa Newcomb, mother of Ashlyn, adopted from the U.S.
Software required: None
Price of a 20-page, hardcover book: $29.99 for a linen or matte finish cover; $39.99 for leather
Cover options: 10 color/material options
Reader review: I liked the overall look of my final product, but it wasn’t extremely unique. I would have liked more cover choices, the ability to mix different page designs, and the ability to change and manipulate the fonts (there was only one font available, and you couldn’t bold or italicize anything).

Site: iPhoto/
Reviewer: Lisa Milbrand, mother of Katie, adopted from China
Software required: iPhoto (part of Apple’s iLife software package)
Price of a 20-page, hardcover book: $29.99
Cover options: Four color options
Reader review: Apple’s iPhoto software is great for organizing hundreds of digital photos, but its photo books are definitely more about the photos than text. There are several different “themes” to choose from, from cute baby books to travel journals, but most of the innovative options don’t allow captions on the same page as photos, which limits its usefulness for this type of project.

Reviewer: Cindy Swatek, mother of Jacob, adopted from Guatemala
Software required: None
Price of a 20-page, hardcover book: $19.79 for a fabric cover; $24.79 for leather
Cover options: 18 color/material options
Reader review: This was more like a regular photo album than a memory book. The only design options were the sizes of the photos and text boxes. There were no choices for the font, its size, or how the wording was spaced. That was a disappointment. And because it didn’t allow you to position the photo within the frame, I had to go back to Adobe several times to re-edit my picture, save it again, upload it again, and then see if the top of my husband’s head was still cut off—that was very time-consuming!

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I used Photomax at You sign up for a FREE account and get 24 free photos. Then the album was around $40 but you could choose any layout, page style, cover choice, etc. They save all your photos for you so even if your computer crashes or house burns down your photos are forever with Photomax. I kind of like that security net.

Posted by: Debbie Mumm at 10:23am Apr 11

I loved using and their free Storybook Creator program. I can download it on my laptop and don't have to be online to work on it. I think it is great that one of the founders is an adoptive mom as well. The program was very easy to use, had lots of options and saved my book in a free account at so I can order more copies if I wanted them.

Posted by: Ann Matuszak at 11:12am Apr 11

I used Creative Memories StoryBook Creator for my son's lifebook. They have a free versoin that you download to your computer from, plus 35 free templates you can choose from. In the free version you can change the font type to any that you have on your computer, but you can not move any of the other elements on the page. With the Plus verison, $60, you can move and rearainge anything on the page, text, photos, embellishments, even change templates within the book. The basic books come with 20 pages, but you can add pages up to 100 total. My book was 20 pages and cost $50 with a photo on the front cover. My older son wanted to know were his book was. I had done a traditional scrapbook for him, but it wasn't a REAL BOOK like his brother's. Oh well, now I'll have to redo a REAL BOOK for him too.

Posted by: Philip Griffith at 11:53am Apr 11

I used for video montages put on DVD's for my parents for Christmas and will use it to do their Me Stories later this spring. Love the tools, cover & page layouts and ease of use.

Posted by: Beth at 7:56pm Apr 12

Christine - did you go to the CM website ( or the CM Photo Center ( In any case, try this link and see: Then click on Storybook Creator and download it for free. The cover samples are inside Storybook Creator. You can see them then . . .

Posted by: Carol at 9:30pm Apr 16

Hi there, I am desperately trying to find the owner of, Sara Mayes. Her site it no longer up :( you have any informtion at all on her by chance? She was helping me create a lifebook for my son and I am lost without her. I so appreciate any information!! Best Regards, Samantha

Posted by: Samantha Moses at 5:18pm Jan 6

I am also looking for Sara Mayes. I loved her site and was hoping to have her help me write my daughter's lifebook for her "Gottcha Day"...any information would be great...Thank you, Karen

Posted by: Karen at 3:34pm Jan 11

Please check out my website at We create personalized adoption stories as well. Adoptive Families has written several positive reviews about our storybooks!

Posted by: Eve Wierzbicki at 6:48pm Mar 1

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