Today’s guest post is by Kate Anderson of Plumeria Album Design. Kate works with professional photographers to design clean, classic albums that wow their clients while giving the photographer some much needed free time. She lives in Minneapolis, MN. Follow her on Twitter.
Imagine a scene with me for a moment. It’s 25 years or so in the future (cue the Back to the Future music now); a woman is looking through boxes in her closet. She’s a bit upset, her son’s new fiance is looking on. Finally, the woman finds what she’s looking for. It’s an old iPad, an antique from 2011. The woman looks at it with a loving smile.
“These are my wedding photos from when we were married. I haven’t looked at this in so many years.”
Then the smile fades. The woman realizes there is a problem. The battery is long drained from disuse, and the charging cable is no where to be found. They’ve moved several times since the wedding, and as usually happens, things got misplaced and lost. Amazingly, there is a dvd, with a beautiful photo of wedding rings on it. The backup copy of the photos. But with no dvd drive in her possession for a decade, the woman can’t even look at those. Her wedding photos are locked away in a digital purgatory. She can’t show her future daughter in law her own wedding.
If you don’t offer albums to your couples, this is a very likely scenario in the future. They probably have all the best intentions to print an album, probably at Blurb or Snapfish. But for many, it will get pushed to the back burner and neglected. So it’s up to you, their trusted wedding photographer, to make sure they get an album, before it’s too late. Printed books never become obselete, technology does. You don’t want your brides and grooms to live on their harddrive forever.
But many photographers don’t offer albums, for many of the same reasons that their clients won’t get around to printing one themselves after they receive their shoot and burn disk. Albums take time if they’re to be done well. They have to be put together with a storyteller’s eyes. The right photos have to be selected, from hundreds. However, album design doesn’t always have to be a panic inducing moment. Here’s a few design tips and my process, to help you out.
Don’t cram the album with photos
Less is more. Remember that. I like to have only a few photos per page for most spreads, usually around 2-3 per page. This lets each photo have it’s own voice. Too many photos crammed on one page gives you a sense of confusion. Your eye darts around the page quickly, rather than calmly resting on each photo for a moment and moving on to the next. Too many photos fighting for your attention all at the same time means none get the attention they deserve, and the message that the photos tell gets lost. Look at a National Geographic magazine, or fine art book; then look at a tabloid magazine. Which feels calmer to your eye? Ignore the content of the tabloid vs the National Geographic.
But with all guidelines, there are exceptions. Some spreads work better with a bit of a denser layout. Spreads of the family groupings and wedding party, or spreads of reception dancing are examples. With family groupings, having several photos per page gives the sense of family continuity. Everyone is together, and the photos are likely to be very similar in composition. That consistency is calming to the eye even when there’s many of them. Reception and dancing spreads a bit of the opposite to me. I usually want those to give a sense of energy and excitement. Using a denser layout gives that feeling.
Spreads meant to show action also may get a few more photos per page; the story of the first look can’t always be told in a few photos. Spreads that focus on a scene, such as the ceremony site, sometimes need a denser layout also, to show the whole scene in one spread, as if the viewer were there and could walk around to look at different things.
Don’t be afraid of the dark/white space
White space is a good thing. It focuses the eye on the photo and eliminates distractions. Think about iconic, high end brands, such as Chanel, Apple or Tiffany’s. Their websites and print materials have one thing in common. White space, or negative space. Then think about lower end brands. Their websites and print materials have lots of stuff, everywhere. It’s distracting and cheapens the feel.
Also, it’s a lot easier to design with white space than to try and fill the page with photos. It’s like putting together a puzzle. If you’re not afraid of the white space, you can use only the photos that are perfect for the spread, rather than having to add or subract photos to make everything fit. In this spread, having any other photos would have been distracting and taken away from the focus.
Don’t fluff up the album
Remember that “less is more” bit? That applies to how long the album is. An album is perfect when nothing can be removed without losing part of the story, and nothing can be added without feeling repetitive. Each spread should have it’s own theme, or portray one event. While there may be dozens of great photos of the couple after the wedding in a field, the album doesn’t necessarily need all of those photos in several spreads. Pick the best 3 or 4 and create one spread that showcases the best parts of the session. This scene had lots of awesome shots, and I could have easily used several more, it was hard to choose only a few. But adding more would have taken away from the simplicity of the moment.
Do keep it timeless
Wedding albums should be timeless. Simple and clean design is the only “trend” that stands the test of time. Think of the simple black dress, or the basic charcoal gray suit. Those work now, they worked 50 years ago, and they’ll probably work 50 years from now. They are simple and clean clothing items. Your album should be the simple black dress. Extra graphics, photo layering, fading, and spot coloring may look cool now, but how are they going to look on the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary to their grandkids? Don’t give the kids anything more to snicker at besides the clothing and decor trends.
The 5-Step Design Process
Here’s what works for me.
1) The first step for me is to download the photos and set up the folders for each album in a client’s folder. Here’s what my layout looks like:
2) I sort through the photos and make copies of the album selections. Each spread gets it’s own folder with a theme/title, and the copied album selections are dropped in. I tag selections in red in Bridge so I don’t duplicate, and the main photos of each spread get a star rating.
3) I use InDesign with the AlbumFlow script to design albums. You can also use Photoshop, and I’ve heard only good things about Fundy’s Album Builder [aff] to speed things up. The debate of InDesign vs Photoshop is for another discussion. It’s similar to Ford vs Chevy, Canon vs Nikon; they all get the job done in the end, one way or another.
4) Now I go through the finished design to eliminate any problems. I make sure the bleeds and margins are correct, that full bleed photos will be just that, and that all other photos are within the safety zone. I make sure all the photos line up and spacing is consistent. I double check that no one’s head or an important detail is going to get trimmed off.
5) Last, the finished design is exported as a PDF using guidelines from AlbumFlow, to create the highest quality print. I then use Photoshop to create JPEGs from the PDF using ImageBrander from FundySOS [aff]. It’s a super helpful plugin for easily watermarking and creating multiple sizes and resolutions. I can make full size JPEGs for the album company and smaller ones for the blog, all in one shot.
This isn’t the first time we have addressed album design on Tiffinbox. Justine Ungaro talked about it in this post. My question for you is this – are you still stressing out about your album designs? Or, are you blissfully adding images to your pages willy-nilly and hoping that your clients don’t notice. Trust me, clients are getting savvier and do know good design from bad. So, what are you going to do? You can hone your skills (if you have time) or you can farm the task out. What would you do? Tell me/us down below. It’s not an easy decision. I do know that.
Dhiraj Kacker says
I really enjoyed your post especially the first part about the importance of print especially for important life events (and how well you made the point through the story). Full disclosure: my company Canvera prints books and albums. But one of the reasons I started the business is that I believe that no matter how much pictures go digital and how much pure electronic sharing is done, when it comes to important life events printed products are going to be critical. Do they have to be complemented with online sharing, Facebook, mobile-to-mobile sharing? Absolutely. The same technology that has created this explosion in imagery has also made it feasible to print one-off books – imagine that, a book of run-length ONE turned around in a week – virtually impossible to do in the analog world. This industry is in a state of flux and there is no question that digital decimated (but not obliterated) the 4×6 business. But in the process spawned the photobook/album business!
Thanks again for the great post.
Kate, you make an excellent point about the technology becoming obsolete and the memories basically get lost because of that. I see that within my own life, personal projects I intend to get to, but as time goes on, I start to forget about them, and it becomes more and more difficult to get to them.
In addition to wedding albums, I’m a big believer in wall prints. I think a 23×30 of a single image that you see every day can be incredibly powerful. There are always certain images that, to me, capture the essence of the entire day.
Rod Kaye says
Great Post. One question I had and based on some of your sample images above: do you find it necessary to include images of the bride with each bridesmaid (as well as the groom/groomsmen), or are group shots adequate? Obviously the Maid of Honor or Best Man may be different, but I’m just thinking as a whole…. Thank you!