Looking for a new photo album? We researched over 30 of the best albums and picked the top eight to purchase and test side-by-side. We filled them with our own photos, keeping in mind what we expected out of a photo album and the things we found frustrating or bothersome. We looked at general construction, looked to see if plastic sleeves broke easily and if pages were bound securely. We tested versatility by taking into account size, ease of use, and accommodations for vertical and horizontal photos. We hope that our thorough analysis helps you find the right album to preserve your cherished memories.May 2021 update: We removed one discontinued product, added the Giftgarden Family Tree Album, and confirmed that the rest of our test lineup is still available.
Best Photo Album of 2021
This Ywlake 4X6 Album has a beautiful leather binding and front cover photo insert. The front cover photo insert is well designed and constructed, and there is minimal movement once you have chosen your album cover. The rest of the book fits five photos per page and conveniently offers both vertical and horizontal photo positions on each page. We loved that the plastic photo sleeves did not tear easily and that the photos, once inserted, were fairly secure.
Although the Ywlake 4X6 Album held the photos in place, for the most part, some photos did slip loose with some shaking, although most stayed in place when just flipping through the album. The biggest downside to this product is that it doesn't fit on a standard 12" tall bookshelf. It also lacked room for notes next to the photos. However, this gives the album a nice aesthetic while flipping through since it has a larger photo capacity and there is no unused space.
The Pioneer Fabric Frame Cover photo album is beautiful and simple. It has a photo pocket for one photo at the front cover of the album and has a nice fabric coating across the rest of the cover. You can fit two horizontal photos per page on the inside, and the photos are incredibly secure once placed in the slots. There is even space next to each photo insert to write notes about the accompanying photo.
One thing to watch out for when purchasing a book or album with a fabric cover is that the material can potentially stain. This is very much true for the Pioneer Fabric Frame Cover which arrived for us with a small stain on the back. That is probably why it comes with a protective plastic cover. Another thing to keep in mind with this particular product is that the photo sleeves are glued directly to the paper on each page and tear easily as a result.
The Totocan Self Adhesive comes in a fancy red box and has decorative leather binding. This album also has the added benefit of a scrapbook-style layout. This means that you can place the photos or other keepsakes any which way you want. You can even add little notes under the photos or paste in a greeting card. The versatility of this product impressed us. And the pages in this album are nice and big and can fit up to four photos each.
Unfortunately, the pages in the Totocan Self Adhesive are not removable, and more can't be added, which wouldn't be such a big deal if there were more pages, to begin with. There are only 28 pages in the model that we tested, and if you're not cramming four photos on every page, this doesn't leave space for a lot of photos. There are other options available with more pages, which would increase the size of the book but also increase your photo capacity. This album is already so large that it doesn't fit in on a standard one-foot tall shelf.
The Pioneer Leather BookBound has a sturdy build and a classic and sleek look that would fit in any home. This product fits three horizontal pictures per page and includes a memo section next to each photo slot. Once the photos are in place, they aren't going to be shaken out and won't come out unless you remove them.
Although the Pioneer Leather BookBound has a beautiful study exterior, the interior lacks the same quality build and sleek appearance. The sleeves tear easily, and it's not pretty when they do. There is also a sterile office material type of feel to the interior pages where we would have preferred something a little more simple or homey.
The Recutm 4X6 Album offers a beautiful format with which to store your memories. Each page offers five photo slots, three of which are horizontal and two which are vertical. We found this to be a useful feature because you can store both vertical and horizontal photos. This album also has room for 600 photos and window pockets on the front cover so you can personalize your album. Because there are so many photo slots, and this product has such an elegant exterior, this would make a great wedding album.
While flipping through the Recutm 4X6 Album, photos fell out of the vertical slots frequently, almost every time we turned a page. This could be because the photo slots are perhaps a little too roomy, making it very easy to insert the photos, but also making the photos less secure in their individual pouches. This also seems to be true of the front photo insert. We did note that the construction of this pouch is not optimal due to sticky latches and poorly fit photo slots.
The Giftgarden Family Tree Album has a unique and artistic feel to it with a wooden cover and backing and artful detailing on the front. This product has fantastic picture pages that are clean and simple. They are both durable and easy to use, not to mention removable. This album is a great gift option with its homey hand-made feel.
One thing worth mention about the Giftgarden Family Tree Album is that after only a couple of days the ever so beautiful tree detail on the cover started to fall off. It would be easy enough to fix with some gorilla glue, but as the cover detail is the main draw for this product, this was a huge disappointment for us. This album also lacks a spine, which makes it flimsy and needs to be handled with care.
The Pioneer Magnetic Self-Stick 3-Ring is a binder-style scrapbook photo album. It allows the user to use the whole page for photos and place them wherever they would like. There is a thin protective plastic that easily peels away from a sticky backing where the photos go, and then the plastic easily reapplies to protect your images. You can also make notes under the photos with a felt tip pen if you like to keep track of dates and events. We also liked that the pages in this scrapbook are removable, and you could add more if you needed.
Although we loved that the Pioneer Magnetic Self-Stick 3-Ring had a scrapbooking layout, we felt that the pages were not big enough to take advantage of the layout. The pages only fit 2 photos horizontally, without much room for variation. We were also disappointed with the construction of the product. The binder seems to be made of nothing more than cardboard and metal rings.
We were first drawn to the Pioneer 3-Ring 504 album because of the fun cover aesthetic and the large photo capacity this album offers. This product has lots of picture pages, but if you are in need of more, or less, the three-ring style allows the user to remove and add pages easily. Each page fits three horizontal photos, and it comes with plenty of pages to store your favorite collection of memories.
However, we cannot in good conscience recommend the Pioneer 3-Ring 504 due to its disappointing build quality. The cover is made of cardboard and a thin paper coating, and the interior pages are loose, flimsy, and lost photos easily. There isn't any memo space, and the overall build of the album is not up to par with the rest of the contenders in our lineup.
Why You Should Trust Us
Although most of the testing team lives in a world of Instagram and digital photo libraries, each of us has a soft spot for scrapbooking and physical photo albums. Head tester Liv Mertens spent hours in her childhood flipping through photo albums that her mother put together to pass on to her, and she plans to do the same for her children. Although she has fully embraced the digital age of photos, she still prints out her favorites and does her best to recreate the keepsakes that her mother made. Liv believes photos are an important part of memorabilia, perhaps the most important part. She also recognizes the importance of a beautiful and worthy album to showcase and preserve your photos. Your most important memories can't be contained in just any old book.
The team knows the struggle of finding a high-quality photo album. We all want it to look good on the outside and have the layout and photo capacity that we desire on the inside. We thoroughly tested the ins and outs of each product in our lineup to expose each album's strengths and weaknesses and to help our readers make the right choice to preserve their memories.
Analysis and Test Results
The testing process was a fairly simple process of filling up the albums with photos and paying attention to certain key factors that we decided beforehand. There was also some pulling and prodding, but for the most part, we know that photo albums are generally treated with care and not thrown about like a football. We did discover that some of the albums were barely suited for a life on the bookshelf, while others you might be able to toss around and not lose any photos in the process.
We found a photo album's construction quality to be the most important part of its performance and of our testing process. This is because many otherwise nice-looking photo albums have such disappointing quality and durability. We have all dealt with photo sleeves that tear so easily that just inserting a photo the wrong way can undo them. We have seen albums warped and torn simply because they were handled with slight carelessness. And we think it is absurd that something that ideally would last generations can be made so poorly and priced so high. We were very stringent with our testing and ratings in this category, as we thoroughly examined sleeve durability and binding reliability and strength.
The products with the best overall construction are the Ywlake 4X6 Album and the Totocan Self Adhesive. Both of these albums had reliable bindings and sturdy pages to protect your photos. Although the Ywlake 4X6 Album has a very similar build to the Recutm 4X6 Album, the Ywlake is built more thoughtfully. The front photo insert is secure and easy to use, and the photos don't fall out while flipping through the pages.
When considering sleeve durability, we noticed several different ways in which the plastic sleeves were bound to the album. Some were sewed, and some were glued. The Pioneer Leather BookBound and the Pioneer Fabric Frame Cover both had plastic sleeves glued to the page. This did make it harder to tear the sleeve with the photo, but it was still fairly easy to do so with a slip of the hand, and once torn, it was very noticeable.
We were disappointed with the Recutm 4X6 Album, not only because the photos refused to stay in place but because the front cover photo insert is not built very well. The flap that folds down to hold the photos in place is poorly fit, and the latches are hard to move.
The detail on the Giftgarden Family Tree Album started to fall off just days after receiving it in the mail, showing us that it was cheaply made. We thought that although the concept of an album held together by rings is artsy and fun, in practice it is disappointing. The lack of support makes the adorable gift album feel flimsy.
Although we were focusing on a few specific construction factors, each album's general overall construction did not escape us. Particularly when it was as poor as the construction of the Pioneer Magnetic Self Stick 3-Ring and the Pioneer 3-Ring 504 albums. These albums have simple cardboard covers, obviously visible on the inside of the albums. They are both dented and soaked easily, with nothing more than paper to decorate and protect the flimsy cover. The Magnetic Self Stick 3-Ring also arrived with the cover folded back and glued together incorrectly, and the Pioneer 3-Ring 504 has terribly flimsy and cheap photo pages. Needless to say, we were disappointed with the construction of these albums.
While considering each album's size rating, we considered how many photos fit in it and if it could fit in a bookshelf with shelves spaced 12 inches apart. We found that generally, the larger the album, the less likely it is to fit on your shelf, but the more photos it fits. The Pioneer Magnetic Self Stick 3-Ring and the Pioneer Fabric Frame Cover albums have the best size to photo ratio. Both of them fit nicely on a bookshelf without being too obtrusive but offer ample space for plenty of photos.
The Totocan Self Adhesive has the worst size to photo ratio of all the products in our lineup. It is incredibly large for how much photo capacity it offers. It only fits about 112 photos and takes up a lot of space on your coffee table or bookshelf.
Ease of Use
When testing the ease of use, our main consideration was how easily photos went into the album and how well they stayed there. Sometimes these two factors were directly in contrast with each other since a bigger photo sleeve could translate to easier photo insertion and poor photo restraint. The Recutm 4X6 Album is an excellent example of this. The photo sleeves are large enough to make it super easy to slide a photo in but are also so big that the vertical photos slide out of their designated pockets while just casually slipping through. Not to mention that because the sleeves are bigger, the photos don't stay centered and can appear to be out of order while still in their sleeve.
The Ywlake 4X6 Album is the same style of album but has smaller sleeves, making it a little more difficult to insert the photos, but not by any considerable margin. The smaller sleeves help keep the photos in place more successfully.
The scrapbook style albums, such as the Pioneer Magnetic Self Stick 3-Ring and the Totocan Self Adhesive excelled in this category. Although inserting the photos or other keepsakes was not as straightforward as with an album with standard sleeves, once the photos are in, they aren't going to be shaken out. Not without your purposeful effort.
The right Photo Album can mean so many different things depending on the person, the situation, and the photos. Regardless of whether you need a wedding album, a casual album for yourself, or an album to pass down to grandkids, what you are looking for is specific to your taste and purpose. Our job for this review was to inform you of what each album is like on the inside and what it feels like in your hands. With this information, we hope that we've helped you identify which factors to look for in an album and to find the right product to protect your memories.
— Liv Mertens