Learning the Secrets of Wedding Album Design

Learning the Secrets of Wedding Album Design

In this post professional wedding photographer Chas Elliott shares some tips on creating Wedding Albums.

An introduction to wedding albums

If you have been to a recent bridal show, you have witnessed the impressive growth of an entire industry revolving around wedding albums. Some brides are even choosing their photographer based on the quality of their albums. For those photographers who have mastered the art, making albums has become a key revenue generator for their business. In fact, I have spoken to photographers who have lowered their coverage prices and put more energy into making high-end albums. Even with significant coverage price reductions, many photographers are generating higher profit margins due to increased album sales. The key is creating a custom one-of-a-kind album that your clients will love. This can be very intimidating and push you out of your comfort zone behind the camera. To take the edge off creating your first album, we will explore some techniques the professionals use.


What are the style options?

Most albums fall into two categories, flush-mount or matted styles. Both can be bound in beautiful leather and look very elegant, but there is a significant difference. Matted albums are ones you have probably seen from the days of yore. They consist of actual photo-prints that slide inside pre-cut matte layouts, typically 1-4 photos per page. There are several layout options available with this style, but your flexibility and creativity is limited because can’t deviate from the provided template. To me, that is a deal breaker and is the reason this style of album is becoming less popular.

Flush-mount albums, sometimes called “magazine style”, are much more versatile. You are only limited by your imagination and graphic design skills. Each page is digitally printed as a single image and is then hard mounted to give thickness and strength. You can drop in as many images as you would like, use background images and have images span the entire width of two pages. Some album companies use a technique of one seamless photo with no split, just a fold down the center.

So which style do you choose, flush or matte? In reality, it’s not your choice; it’s the bride’s. I recommend you have a sample album of both types to show perspective clients, but I generally steer them towards the flush-mount style because of the higher image count and the uniqueness of the book.

Which images should I use?

The most effective albums tell a story, and fortunately, with every wedding there is a special story to be told. I start by creating a time line for all of the wedding events and then pick my favorite images for each. A good photo workflow (ratings and keywords) is critical in speeding up this process. As you open an album, it’s nice to have the first few spreads be preparation shots, or images of the bride and groom getting ready in their respective rooms. In fact, during the event, I often shoot specific images with the album in mind, such as buttoning cuff links, putting on makeup, or preparing the gown. Turning the page takes you through the entire event, highlighting moments that were captured, often ending with the bride and groom exiting under a shower grain.

Tips: Don’t spend too much time worrying about the flow. You will find that once you begin planning, it’s the album images that will drive the design process. Also, don’t forget to take lots of “detail” shots throughout the day. Flowers, decorations, shoes, rings, candles etc. will make great subtle backgrounds and complimentary filler images for your page spreads.


Design Process

So how do successful photographers create their albums? There are basically three choices: 1) Outsource it, 2) Buy specialized album design software, or 3) Photoshop it.

Outsourcing: This is becoming a popular alternative to the time consuming process of album design. Companies like Pictage, which host images on their site for your client to preview and purchase, will also take the images you choose and create a full album design for free. It’s then available via their online web album designer, which is quite good. This allows you to modify your album after your clients have a chance to review it and provide input. Doing a simple Google search you can find other companies, such as Forbeyon (URL 9), that also do the album creation for you. Of course quality work comes with a significant fee so you may want to eventually learn the art yourself.

Software: There are some software companies coming on the scene that claim to make the process easy and efficient. They range from being very expensive to free. A good start for your research is to find your favorite album company and talk to their sales department to find out if they include design software or if they have recommendations. Some popular players are Art Leather, Leather Craftsmen, Zookbinders or PictoBooks.

Photoshop: Building an album from scratch in Photoshop is perhaps the most technical but also the most powerful way to create your albums. Many photographers prefer this method because they find limitations with other design packages. If you go this route, a valuable tip is to create templates as you go. After you have completed a few albums, you will have a huge timesaving collection of page spreads, which can be reused and modified for future projects. If you are just beginning, there is a decent video training DVD from SoftwareCinema on Photoshop album design that will get you started. For Photoshop training in general, you can’t beat the titles found at Lynda.com.

To give you an idea of the results possible with two of the above-mentioned methods, here are two examples I previously designed. The first one was done completely within the Pictage web-based album designer. The second one was created completely in Photoshop, my preferred method.

Final Thoughts

Look around on the web and take note of some of the stunning album work being done by industry leaders. After you have created your first album, purchase at least one sample album for use in your consultation visits or bridal shows. Having a sample on hand is the perfect way to showcase your work and book those clients. Most album vendors offer substantially discounted “studio samples” and the investment is well worth it.

Good luck and great designing.

Chas is a professional wedding photographer in the Washington D.C. area. You can see is work at www.chaselliott.com.

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Chas Elliott is a freelance photographer in the Northern Virginia and DC area. See more of his work at www.chaselliott.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Jeffery Donaldson August 29, 2013 01:40 pm

    Many of the companies out there are now using designs that are created over seas. Indian designers are very cost effective, but they often do not have the artistic touch that brides are looking for. www.WeddingAlbumStudio.com has very talented designers. Another company, Modern Album Designs, has one guy that is very good. When you choose an album company just ask them if their designs are done in house. If they say yes, ask to speak to the designer that you will be working with.

  • Juergen January 7, 2013 06:45 am

    Hi, i know this post is a little older, but there are news in the segment of InDesign Plugins for AlbumDesign.


    A short video

    And a couple of featurevideos on YouTube.

  • brian November 4, 2011 08:16 pm

    May I refer to this blog for the school project?

  • Mark johnson September 11, 2011 09:56 pm

    i have got excellent wedding album design service from zentech digitals they just made my book awesome my wife really kissed me 5 times more because of nice designs and cheap less prices..you must try that company service..if you wanted to make wedding albums www.zentechdigitals.com

  • Green Screen Photography September 8, 2011 09:36 pm

    I appreciate you Chas for posting this blog about the albums. I always love to make flush-mount albums on Photoshop, as I can be very creative in making beautiful album. It also depends on the client on which type of album he or she prefers. Nowadays people prefer the flush-mount album as it makes the pictures look beautiful and fun to see. Chas keep posting some blogs like this in future and I really enjoyed this blog.

  • My Wedding Album Designer August 27, 2011 04:20 am

    Just to mirror what Chris said our many years in the album design business working with other professional photographers has allowed them to present quality designs at an affordable outsourcing price. I value the creative services that I offer and invite anyone realizing that the time they are devoting to designing their client albums truly can be relieved while not sacrificing style and quality. In fact, I can ensure that the quality I offer is above the quality most photographers end up offering their clients because they lack the time to truly commit to the craft. Let those of us who do this for a living have an opportunity to collaborate and create beautiful timeless heirloom albums.

  • Wedding Album Design August 26, 2011 09:49 am

    Their are so many options for designing a wedding album - Templates, Photoshop, Indesign and even automated software. So, the question is how much time are you spending on designing an album? 3 Hours? 5 Hours? I've had a few photographers say their spending 10 hours or more designing one album! How much is your time worth to you? If you spend 3 hours or more, could you make better use of your time by shooting more clients? Then maybe outsourcing is another option you can consider. Not only am I a professional wedding album designer, I'm a professional wedding photographer too! Allow me to design your album and you can take all the credit. Free yourself and have more time to do more sessions. In the end you'll make more money and have more time for yourself and family. How much is my service? Only $3 per side. Compare to the competition and you will not find a better rate. A lower rate doesn't mean lower quality or bad customer service either. Turn around time for your initial design is 3-5 business days. Full PSD and/or JPG files upon approval. Check out my website for info on a free trial.

  • keri August 5, 2011 07:05 am

    Where is a good place to purchase the album after it is designed? Millers Lab is who I use now. But I do not have an option to emboss the album cover with a company logo. Does anyone have any ideas?

  • garima June 10, 2011 10:27 pm

    AVCS MAXIMA/Album Designing Software/Wedding Album Design Software

    AVCS MAXIMA is a Unique Package consists of IMAGE SELECTION Software and
    Album Designing Software,Wedding album design software.This Wedding album designer
    software works with Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5 Versions provides psd wedding templates too. Features Like
    Auto-Retouching &auto masking,hair extraction ,auto framing,photo resizing,collage maker,photo organising,Auto ColorCorrection,Auto-Designing Helps you to do any image editing Work
    Faster then ever.

    album designing software,wedding album design software,photo resizing,photo locking,

  • Rob June 2, 2011 10:45 am

    Hey David!

    I've created an easy-to-follow screencast video tutorial called Awesome Album Design Skills. The tutorial goes step by step through the process of designing albums using InDesign.

    Once you use InDesign to create albums, you'll never look back.

    You can learn more about the tutorial here:



  • DAVID February 12, 2011 05:26 pm

    Id love to know if there was a book on album design. or can anyone recomend some resources besides Google.

  • Binh Nguyen January 18, 2011 09:46 am

    I have a sample of how I lay out my Wedding albums right. I believe i nthe story telling method and the little details are great support photos for the art pieces.

    Made Media Photography - Binh Nguyen: How to Design a Wedding Album - the Story Telling Process

  • mydesigner dawn August 2, 2010 03:36 am

    I am glad to see over the years more effort involved in educating photographers about album design and the seemingly endless and growing options. The competition has grown considerably from when I started designing albums in 2002. I like to think I am still one of the "pioneers" in what was once called magazine style coffee table books. The adjectives are plentiful.

    I also used to make what is now known as press books (blurb, mypublisher) before any of this was commercial. In the earlier years, this was all very labor intensive and now pro labs are doing the work making it much easier to focus on being a designer as opposed to being EVERYTHING. It really is a separate career to being a photographer and doing your own designing. Every studio operates differently, but some of the best albums I have seen are produced in partnership. I have made wonderful friends with wedding photographers who I design for. I enjoy the process and that is why I call myself mydesigner dawn...its how my photog clients think of me.

    Thank you for providing a resource article giving an overview on the topic. For those who do design themselves...call me mydesignerstudio.com and for those looking for a creative partner...call me myweddingalbumdesigner.com

    happy shooting and designing,

    dawn luniewski erney

  • Bhavesh patel April 24, 2010 06:14 am

    i lern is very good disin in photograps.

  • john givens January 28, 2010 03:22 am

    For brides with their digital images (and a release to use them), we offer complete custom-designed album services to include printing and binding by any of several leading album makers to include...
    - Leather Craftsmen
    - Vision Art Books
    - Asuka Book
    - Black Rive Imaging
    - Graphistudio
    - Zookbinders
    and others.

    We offer a free design trial using your images to sample our style. More info on the website: www.storybookpages.com


    john givens
    Storybook Pages

  • Shilpi Agarwal September 22, 2009 02:13 pm

    This is a great article specially highlighting what things must you consider while designing an album. Although we design all our Albums in Photoshop from scratch, some good album design softwares are Yervant Page Gallery, You Select IT, Fotofusion, Album DS.

  • SBL digital album designing February 9, 2009 05:28 pm

    Great stuff!

  • Jacky Keung January 27, 2009 03:31 pm

    This is a great tutorial!! As being a professional wedding photographer we are constantly being asked about our digital magazine albums. Our clients want to put as many photos on a single cross-page (2 sides), but from our experience the idea behide is to tell the story but not to overload the information. As a rule of thumb we would usually recommend 2-4(Max) per side or 7(max) for a cross-page. Having too many on a cross-page is not a good idea!

    Also capturing_psalm104 mentioned :".. Although it took two years to receive it…" I would like to know why it took so long??? It is beyond unacceptable!!

  • darrell sharpe December 1, 2008 11:29 pm

    I think another choice which is excellent is adobe indesign. I find it works much easier than photoshop and it's much faster as well.

  • Capturing_Psalm104 December 1, 2008 11:48 am

    This is a comment from a different perspective.

    I HAVE a flush mount album from my wedding two years ago. It is somewhere around an 11x14. Although it took two years to receive it...yes, I know...it is well worth the wait, and I wouldn't trade it for anything! We also chose the package with two parent books (8x10) and six grandparent "brag" books (paperback about 3x5). For some reason, the photographer I used made his own images and then had a company in Europe create and print the book.

    Here is an idea to work with. I was instructed to choose 40 pictures from our engagements, bridals, and actual wedding day that I wanted. The photographer then worked with what I wanted and added images as needed. I think I find a new picture every time I look!

  • themitfit November 30, 2008 03:12 am

    Thanks for the great tips on making albums, very helpful.

  • Diana Eugenia November 29, 2008 01:59 am

    Well, really good information, but i would like, once i have muy disign, who can print and mount the album, and why results for me expensive the mounting part.
    Could you give us some tips of print (what kind of paper to use and how to fill the book?)

  • pearlene November 28, 2008 09:16 pm

    thanks for doing a segment on this,We have purchased the printing machine and the binding machine to print the magazine books but we are having problems getting the right software.I am also looking for Borders, templates etc. any help would be appreciated. Also has anybody tried out the software called AlbumDs it works with photoshop?

  • Bill Kilgore November 28, 2008 05:30 am

    A friend recently recommended blurb.com saying they were very satisfied with the results. I haven't used it yet, but am impressed with the samples on the site. Looks like there is a lot room for creativity. Prices seem reasonable as well.

  • Martin Plant November 27, 2008 06:32 am

    Its incorrect to say that with matted albums you can't deviate from a fixed template. Jorgensen Albums, with their JAD software allows you to have custom mat cut. We design every page to be unique. Pretty sure Queensbury and others do similar.

  • Chris November 27, 2008 01:20 am

    Thanks for the great article. I was just researching some on Wedding Album design, and boom, here it shows up on a site I read routinely. Thanks for reading my mind!

  • Rosh November 27, 2008 01:20 am

    When I was more involved in shooting weddings we hand-made our books. The brides would pick the fabric and pages complete with a custom wood box. Today the technology has come so far that it really would be a waste of time to bind your own books.

    Do you agree?


  • Tyler November 27, 2008 12:31 am

    Oh some good pointers to look into if I ever have to design an album. Though depending on time and budget I might opt for the outsource.