Musings on wedding albums. Part I

Yup - part one because if you're a regular blog reader (are you? say hello!) you know I'm not so good at keeping it concise and I have SO much to say about wedding albums :)

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...

"We're spending so much on the wedding, maybe we'll skip a wedding album?"...."My friend makes these great albums on shutterfly or blurb"..... "I'm really into scrapbooking"...."We really just need a disc"...

All things I often hear and I totally understand. When you're planning your wedding it can sometimes feel like your budget is spiraling out of control. You think well, maybe we can skip the wedding album for now, we can always do it later. Here's a little confession for you - I actually did the same thing myself. 4 years later we still don't have a professional wedding album. And it sucks. I need to stop procrastinating and just put it on my to-do list! Here's what I have when people ask to see our wedding pictures:

Let's be honest, if someone asks to see your wedding pictures they probably don't want to sit and wait whilst you find the discs, load them up and try to find some favorites in the thumbnails.

My other concern about just having your pictures on disc? Media storage can corrupt - who even knows if discs or USB memory sticks will exist in a thirty years? Remember the floppy disc? And the VHS video? I back up everything like a fiend on hard drives and with online storage but I wonder if there'll be a whole generation of couples who won't be able to share their wedding pictures with their grandchildren one day because they don't have a wedding album and they've lost their USB flash drive :(

After we got married in Las Vegas and had our reception party at Atkinson Country Club I was totally happy that I had the discs of pictures. I had major plans (after all, unlike most brides I have access to the most amazing albums only available to professional photographers) but album design takes time. A lot of time. I spend hours and hours each custom design and subtly retouching the images in the album until they're perfect and there was always a client album in front of mine in the line.

So here's another confession - we were going back to the UK for another post-wedding party and I wanted to be able to share my pictures - I went online and made two consumer photo books. I won't say which companies I used, there are a ton of them out there offering consumer albums - shutterfly, snapfish, blurb. You upload your pictures, hit autofill or use the templates they have and voila! Instant wedding album for less than $100.

I made those photo books in 2007. Let's take a look at them today in 2011:

Consumer photo books don't have lay-flat or hinged pages so you have to push down hard on the pages to try to see the part of the image in the gutter. The printer calibration can also lead to strange color casts on the page which isn't even a photograph. And some of the templates offered are so busy like this image-on-image:

Each time you open and close your album you put pressure on the spine - especially if you're pushing on the pages to hold the book flat. And eventually this tends to happen, which makes for sad panda face:

I love including black and white images in the wedding album - so elegant and timeless. I use a specific technique for black and white conversions to get flattering skin tones and keep the contrast of the image just right. The image below is beautiful in real life but came out really muddy-looking and dull in the consumer book.

And even worse than the orange/pink skin tones, the thin paper and the spine breaking is that the thin pages have started to stick together. I pulled them apart super carefully but you can see the damage :(

So that's my test experience with do-it-yourself consumer photo books for wedding albums. Not spectacular! You probably wouldn't think about designing and sewing your wedding dress yourself or contemplate baking all of the hors d'oeuvres for cocktail hour so why design your own wedding album...?

If you think about it, your album is kind of like the final piece of your wedding puzzle. It documents the details, records your friends and families and most important it holds your memories. It should be designed, printed and bound with this in mind so that it will last generations.

So now I've shared with you my experience of not really having a wedding album, let's take a look at one of the professional wedding albums I just made for one of my couples!

Here's a spectacular 12x12 leather bound flushmount panoramic professional wedding album upgraded with a crystal clear image cover. The cover photograph is bonded to a thick layer of acrylic which looks just like glass (but without the risk of shattering), it also makes for a very heavy album!

You can see how thick the acrylic is in the image below. The pages can also be gilded on the outside - for this album I went with a gorgeous silver gilding for a very subtle sparkle. Most couples choose 20 or 30 page albums with their initial collection but we inevitably have so many beautiful pictures to include that they'll end up adding pages. It's a great problem to have! This album ended up at around 40 pages:

Each page is an actual photograph. The photographic paper used is archival quality and lasts for hundreds of years if stored and treated correctly (albums don't belong in damp basements or humid attics!). Photographic pages gives you accurate colors, realistic saturation, excellent neutral skin tones and great intensity. Each print is then flush mounted (i.e. all the way to the edge) to a substrate for wonderfully thick pages of around 1.5mm.

In terms of design I love a clean and modern approach. I have another post coming up about the process of album design...

Wedding albums are "panoramic" which means photographs can spread right across two pages with no break at the spine, I love taking a beautiful couples portrait or a wide-angle shot in the church and running it right across two pages:

Here's another design from the album:

Here's cocktail hour, it's great to have a record of your guests and family (another good reason to not cram family pictures into cocktail hour):

One more design:

I love series of pictures, here we have some reception fun and then a sweet kiss on the dance floor:

There's a good chance your proud parents will want to share the day with their friends too so I offer exact duplicates of your wedding album in affordable press-print books. The pages are regular paper vs. super thick photographic pages and they're hinged to lie flat. The image below right shows the wedding album next to a hinged press-print parent album. These make wonderful thank you or holiday gifts for your parents.

Your wedding album will be opened and closed and opened and closed and opened and closed. And you don't want to be the sad panda with a broken album so the binding is super sturdy. Here are some shots of another album so you can see how the pages lie completely flat:

OK, you're probably all albumed out now! Too much info? Not enough? Useful? Do you want part two? Oh - and make sure you come by on Sunday as I'll be posting the info about my annual boudoir marathon which will take place on April 16/17 in Boston. Perfect groom's gift before the wedding, awesome idea for your first year "paper" anniversary or just to document how awesome you look right now!


  1. Love love love LOVE this blog post SO darn much!!!!

  2. This makes me extra-glad that we signed on for an album! Lovely, lovely. :)

  3. This is great info Leah! I would like to see part 2!