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Guest post: Making your own wedding album

Every now and then I follow up with my clients to see what they have done with the disc of photos that I deliver at the end of the entire wedding photography process. Most of my clients either have a professional album made by me, or get some prints or canvases. Some clients have opted to receive just the disc. For Karen and Bryan (part 1 of their wedding, part 2 of their wedding), they made a gorgeous DIY album for themselves! As long as you are aware of the trade-offs between DIY and going through me, it is your choice to make in the end. I believe in laying out all the facts, but I do not want to be the one telling you what to do. This post will show you guys what goes into each process and what to expect from going with either me or doing your own route.


Hello everyone! Shang asked me to write a guest post about my experience designing our own wedding album, so here I am!  Bryan and I were wed on Sept. 25, 2010 and of course Shang was our photographer for our special day.  At the evening reception, I was amazed to see some of the wedding pictures taken earlier in the day already on display on her laptop!  A few weeks later, we received all the images Shang took, including the ones we chose to be retouched.  I was floored by the number of amazing shots that she captured on our wedding day and I knew that I had to have an album of the highlights.  Shang designs beautiful professional albums that are printed by KISS, but they were way out of our price range, so Bryan and I decided to make our own.  Plus, it would be a fun experience that we could share together while working on something that would mean a lot to both of us.

First, we chose Adorama as the printer because 1) Shang recommended them, and 2) it got great reviews from this guy who did a very thorough review of many of the photobook companies out there

Adorama appealed to me because it got great reviews for overall quality, they make lay-flat albums, and you can print images all the way to the edge of the page.  I wanted to have some panoramic pictures that spanned both pages and having lay-flat albums gave me more freedom to play with the formatting of each spread.  Adorama’s lay-flat albums come in either 14, 26, 38, 50, or 76 pages.  Other companies are different in terms of how many pages their albums can have.  I would recommend picking a printer before designing your album because various companies allow different pages you can have in your album.  Anyway, I wasn’t sure exactly how many pages I was going to have, but at least I had choices and I knew what to aim for.

[Shang’s note: Professional wedding albums through me come in your choice of any number of pages starting at 20 and above.]

Next, we chose all the pictures that we would potentially want in the album.  Since we had already chosen our favorite ones to be retouched, this process was much easier (choosing images to be retouched was so difficult for us because there were so many we liked!)  We tried choosing images that were different but also told a story.  We put all these images in a “favorites” folder.

[Shang’s note: This process is very similar with me. You would be picking your favorites using your online proofing gallery, or you can schedule a viewing session with me]

As for album design, we wanted something clean, simple, and timeless.  We wanted white backgrounds, no borders, no squigglies/flourishes, no odd-shaped oval/diamond images.  I had read some blog posts from Laurence Kim’s website about album design. I also looked at Shang’s 2010 sample wedding albums for inspiration and good layout examples. I started off sketching out some of the layouts that I envisioned.  In each spread, I tried to have one or two large images that unified the page.  Then I put together each spread using Adorama’s online software.  Because it’s an online software, all the images need to be uploaded first, which took about an hour for me.  The software itself took a little bit getting used to but I picked it up after 4-5 spreads.

The flow of our album is chronological.  It starts with “getting ready” photos (one spread for me and one spread for Bryan), then “first look” pictures, then wedding party pictures, ceremony, and reception pictures.  The software is very flexible where you can make your own spreads from scratch or use their templates where you can drag and drop images into.  One downside of using the software was that it didn’t have a large selection of fonts.  We only have text on the front cover with our names and date, but I wanted a font that fit with the overall tone of the album, and I felt like I had trouble at first finding something that I liked. Designing the album was really fun and Bryan’s a lot more creative than I gave him credit for. :)

[Shang’s note: This is where I take over the process and I would create a first draft using all your favorite images. Though layouts may be similar from one wedding to another, each album I design is unique – the images you pick and the story of your day will lend itself to slightly different layouts, and you can have any font you’d like. Once I finish the first draft, we will have another session where we finalize the design. Currently my KISS albums allow for leather cover hard pages, which I recommend for your primary book, and linen cover with flexible pages, which are great for parent albums.  Throughout this process I also provide guidance on what sizes and cover options I believe are best for you. The overall process here takes anywhere between 2 – 4 weeks depending on my queue as well as how quickly we communicate]

The three books arrived shrink-wrapped in a cardboard shipping box.  I was afraid that the shrink-wrapping would damage the corners of the albums, but Adorama had packed in cardboard sheets so that the corners were fine.  The rigid cover is printed on Fuji Crystal Archive album paper… it’s beautiful, glossy and durable and the photo wraps around the edges of the cover.


The binding is designed so that the pages lay flat:

Here are a few of the spreads where the seam runs through part of the image.  We tried to design the spreads so that the seam doesn’t run through anyone’s faces.

In this spread of our first look, you can hardly tell where the seam is (it’s strategically placed in the shadow of one of the columns):

[by the way, I love the fact that Bryan is holding the album in this photo]

This is the only image in our album where we used an entire image for the panoramic spread:

You can tell where the seam is but I don’t think it takes away from the overall look of the page:

Overall, given our budget, we are very satisfied with the look and feel and quality of the albums.  One word of caution: some of the pages were a little bit “sticky,” where the edges of the pages stuck together.  I would recommend taking a razor blade or Exacto knife and cutting any sticky pages apart instead of trying to tear them apart by hand.  I would do that with albums for other people as well so they can flip through the pages without any fear of minor tears.

[Shang’s note: Before delivering my client albums, I check all albums for manufacturing defects and if they are not 100% perfect, I get them reprinted. I have kept 3 sample albums for myself and have used and flipped and attempted to bend and abuse them during various client consults. So far, they continue to look like new – KISS wedding books are guaranteed for a lifetime]

Deciding on designing our own album versus having a professional design our album is a tradeoff between time, money, and quality.  We saved a lot of money by designing it ourselves, but we spent probably 15-20 hours to learn the software, ask people for advice/feedback, decide on images that went into the album, actually design our album, and get feedback on the final product from other people.  Our Adorama self-designed albums are decent in quality, but they’re probably nowhere near the quality of KISS albums.  In designing her albums, Shang would probably fix color balance and other artsy stuff like that, where we didn’t take those things into consideration at all. The albums cost $102 per 12×12 album (38 pages or 19 spreads) plus $9 of shipping and insurance.  We ordered three albums, one for each set of parents and one for us, so it came out to $315 total. One great thing about Adorama is that they give you a link so you can show your album off!  So here’s our final album if you want to see it :)


Thank you Karen so much for taking your time to write this! Your album is incredibly gorgeous and I’m so happy that you have something like that to show off!

The pros of having your album designed by me include: high album quality, all images are retouched, professional design, and last but not least, no worries and very little time investment on your end. As a review, here are some more examples of what albums from me would look like.

This is a black 12×12 leather cover album. All KISS albums come in these super modern cloth covers

There are currently 7 color options. This is a stack of green albums – a 4×4 linen on top, followed by two 10×10 linens, and one 10×10 leather

This is another stack in navy blue – a 4×4 on top of a linen 8×8, followed by two leather 8×8, and a leather 12×12

How the books are shipped to me – it’s a bit hard to tell, but the albums are shrink wrapped and the cardboard containing the wrap then bends to push against the side of the box, suspending the albums in the middle. The albums corners never hit the box during shipping

These photos show off the super thick pages that come with the leather albums as well as the leather album spine

The gutter is virtually unnoticeable and the pages lie flat. This is a 12×12 leather album

Up close detail of a leather 12×12 spread where the image overlaps the gutter

Hope this has been informative!

Shang Chen Photography has rebranded to Saavedra Photography
Based in NYC | Open for select photography commissions on Sundays only

April 6, 2011 - 8:47 am

Ted I love how the gutter isn’t really a gutter at all!

April 6, 2011 - 3:00 pm

Liza AdoramaPix recently raised their photobook prices significantly. I use them all the time for non-wedding photo books — vacations, professional photo shoots of our family (I hired a professional who sold me the digital files), gifts for bridal shower. So, they’re great even after wedding photos!

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