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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
Chas Elliott

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

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