Collaborating With Your Photographer, 108: What You’re Really Paying For (And Waiting For!) With Your Wedding Album Purchase

12 | 14 | 2009

fine art book

{pictured: Leather Craftsmen Fine Art Book. click any image to enlarge}

Although I’m not surprised that folks balk at album prices—most people don’t know what goes into making them (!)—a wedding album is really essential, the finishing point of your investment in wedding photography.

I. The Labor

I like to think about the album making process as a labor of love.  It is certainly laborious—even a simple album can sometimes run upwards of thirty hours of labor.  Custom books can amount to much, much more work.  So what goes into making an album that can add up to so much time? Well, here goes:

  1. Design time.
    This is a big one.  Perhaps it’s the big one with custom albums.  Album design is a back and forth process—and sometimes a long one—a collaboration between a photographer and her clients.  Often, there are meetings.  There is always time laying the album out.  An opportunity for client feedback.  Changes to the design. Another opportunity for client feed back and/or a final approval.  Design time is all about decisions: decisions about which album(s) to use, which images will and won’t be included, how to tell the story of the wedding day and best flatter the bride and groom; decisions about making the best overall presentation, including choosing cover treatments (leather vs suede vs book cloth), cover photos, deciding on stamping or imprinting …
  2. Editing images.
    Once the images are chosen, and the client has “signed off” on the album design, we begin preparing images to print.  Final color corrections need to be made.  We always take a good second look at images that will be included in a client’s album.  Retouching issues need to be addressed.  The images need to be sized and cropped (if the album’s matted) or inserted into an overall layout (if the album is flush-mounted).
  3. Ordering prints from the lab.
    This seems pretty self-explanatory, but this often takes an hour or two depending on the album type.
  4. Checking quality.
    When the prints come back from the lab, we check every single print to make sure it’s up to snuff.  If we don’t like a print, we have to send it back to the lab.
  5. Assembling the prints & order forms.
    Not my favorite part, for sure.  I check everything about a zillion times.  Prints have to be put in numerical and size order and sometimes hand-trimmed.  I always reference emails and notes to make sure I get everything filled in properly on the order form.
  6. Shipping or dropping the order off at the album bindery.
  7. Checking quality again.
  8. Shipping or dropping the album off to the client.  (Phew!)

fine art book

II. The Prints

A gorgeous album requires gorgeous and expertly-made photographic prints.

III. The Binding (Album Assembly)

This is actually part materials cost and part labor cost.   The album cover and its pages are certainly a substantial cost in and of themselves, but binding is all about the artisan who actually makes the book.  Handmade albums are more laborious and therefore more costly.

fine art book fine art book fine art book

So why is it worth it?

So, although the price of making a wedding album seems high, there is very little markup in the end.  Not only are the materials quite costly, but album-making is also quite labor-intensive—for both the artisans involved and for the photographer.  Ultimately,  your wedding album becomes the official record of your wedding day.  We work tirelessly to ensure that our clients get albums that will become heirlooms.  That’s the goal.  Frankly, your grandkids aren’t going to be interested in a digital photo file.  And neither are your grandparents for that matter.  The albums available to consumers don’t even compare to those available to professional photographers.  And getting expert professional help with the design, printing, and binding is invaluable.  Not to mention that not doing it yourself is pretty grand.  I own my negatives from my wedding (which was back in the all-film days).  I am not sure when I’ll get around to making an album for us … and I think it’s the labor time that’s my hangup (that and the five hundred or so dollars I’d need to spend on prints).


Those of you who are working on albums might also want to check out these posts:

Collaborating With Your Photographer, 107: Choosing The Most Stellar Photographs For Your Wedding Album

Decoding Wedding Photography Lingo, IV: Wedding Albums

photos: Gia Canali


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