Calendars filled with personalized pictures make for great gifts that the recipient can cherish all through 2019. There are dozens of calendar-creation services, but not all of them are created equal when it comes to making a great looking calendar with a minimum of fuss.
Based on more than 40 hours of testing that included eight services, Shutterfly is our top pick for photo calendars, because its calendar had the best and most consistent photo reproduction of all the services we tested. Mixbook is also worth your consideration if you want the most flexibility and creative options.
Many of these services often offer promotions and deals for calendars and other photo products—as much as 50 percent off, in some cases—so be sure to compare their discounted rates before choosing one for your needs.
Apple Photo was our pick for the best value, because it produced a very attractive calendar for a reasonable price. However, Apple has discontinued its photo printing service; if you are using Apple Photos to put together photo calendars, Apple recommends downloading a third-party app that includes a Photos Projects extension; currently, of our favorite services, only Shutterfly has an extension for Photos.
Photo Calendar Services Ranked
1. Shutterfly (9/10 stars, Editors' Choice winner) - Shutterfly Review
2. Apple Photo (8/10 stars, Editors' Choice winner)
3. Mixbook(8/10 stars, Editors' Choice winner)
4. Picaboo (7/10 stars)
5. Snapfish (5/10 stars)
6. Costco Photo (5/10 stars)
7. Amazon Print (5/10 stars)
8. Walmart Photo (3/10 stars)
How We Test and Rate Photo Calendar Services
In rating the calendar-creation software, we used the following criteria:
- Ease of use
- User interface & workflow
- Creative flexibility
- Quality of templates, clip art, layouts and backgrounds
When we had all our printed calendars, we gathered a jury of print and photography experts to rate them, based on the following criteria:
- Overall appeal and quality of the physical calendar
- Photo quality
- Color and skin tones
- Dynamic range and exposure
- Focus and clarity
- Balancing of the diverse pictures
To keep the jury's judging blind, each calendar was identified by a number rather than the company's name. However, some calendars had the vendors' names printed on the last page. So we discouraged the jury from looking on the back of the calendars until after the judging.
Since the pictures are the whole point behind creating and sharing calendars, we gave the greatest weight to photo quality. We also took into consideration the quality of the paper stock and the cost of the calendars.
Shutterfly creates a calendar that has very good photo quality. The color, exposure, dynamic range and clarity is very good, and did the best job in balancing our diverse collection of photos,
The overall quality of Shutterfly's printed calendar was extremely appealing, with a good weight, vellum-like paper, and a very nice level of customization. Shutterfly's calendar software, however, was occasionally nonintuitive, and its content and functionality wasn't quite as comprehensive as Mixbook's.
The price for an Apple Photo calendar isn't the lowest, but it is the best price for a very good quality calendar that you would be proud to give as a gift. Just keep in mind that Apple's calendar software doesn't allow nearly as much creative control as Mixbook or Shutterfly.
Mixbook's calendar software is the best of any we've tested. Its great flexibility, creativity, functionality and content are bundled in an intelligent, easy-to-use interface. However, while the printed calendar is generally good, its photos weren't as well-balanced as Shutterfly's.
Other Photo Book Services Tested
Creating a calendar in Picaboo is just fun. The interface makes it easy to be creative, even though the software isn't as feature-rich as Mixbook's. Photo quality in our printed calendar, however, was uneven.
Snapfish's calendar software has a generous supply of content and is flexible when it came to design, but nothing about it is particularly great. Similarly, our Snapfish printed calendar was unimpressive, with jagged type and photos that weren't particularly well-balanced.
Costco tries to compromise between simplicity and customization for its calendar software, hoping to satisfy all users. Unfortunately, simplicity won out, resulting in inflexibility, limited functionality and sparse content. The photo quality of the resulting calendar ranges from nice to poor.
Amazon Print uses Snapfish's calendar software. However, Amazon has fewer templates, layouts, backgrounds and clip art. Like Snapfish, our Amazon printed calendar was unexceptional, and had poorly balanced photo quality and unappealing type.
Walmart doesn't appear to care much about the photo calendars it offers. The software is restrictive and severely limited, and the printed calendar was boring, with the least attractive photos among the services we tested.
How We Test Photo Calendar Services
When creating a photo calendar, most people assemble a diverse collection of photographs, taken at different times of the year under a variety of lighting conditions and with various devices. This can be challenging to calendar printing services, requiring them to balance the different exposures and color temperatures so all the pictures will look good together.
To emulate this typical scenario, we assembled a wide range of photos of people with their pets from our friends and fans. The photos we collected were taken mostly by amateurs, though some were serious hobbyists and one was a professional. The devices they used to capture the photos ranged from phones and tablets to point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs. We didn't edit any of the pictures other than to crop a few to fit.
We then designed a 12-month calendar with these photos. To test how flexible and creative each service is, we included angled text, overlapping elements, and rotated and resized photos and chip art. When creating the calendar, we sought out the best templates, layouts, clip art, text and backgrounds each service offered. However, some interfaces were more difficult to navigate and had libraries that weren't searchable, which made it problematic to find the content we sought for our design.
Credit: Tom's Guide