Category Archives: Full Articles

Interview With Yifat Oren: Tips For Everyone From Celebrity Wedding Planning, Part I

07 | 16 | 2010


Yifat Oren has spent the last dozen years planning weddings and parties for some of the most discerning folks in Hollywood. When asked about her work, Yifat says, “I love what I do because I love what goes into weddings:  design and décor, food and wine, fine papers, entertainment, and even the creativity that goes into executing it all flawlessly.   I think the best weddings I do are a great collaboration between the clients and myself—that kind of collaboration breeds the most creative, trend-setting results.”

Those clients are high-powered and high-profile, everyone from Mariska Hargitay & Peter Hermann and Christine & Kevin Costner, to a host of Hollywood producers and business moguls.  And while a lot of what these folks do for their weddings seems (or is!) totally unattainable for most of us, some of the most important and impactful aspects of planning a fantastic wedding translate perfectly to diy (or do-it-with-a-little-help) wedding planning.  You don’t necessarily need more money or a bigger wedding budget; you just need a little forethought.

Consider The Guest Experience:

“Be thoughtful and cover your bases. When I’m planning a wedding, I walk through the entire event ahead of time, as if I am a guest. I imagine, for instance, “I just got off the shuttle. I left my hotel room an hour ago.  I’m probably thirsty and I need shade because it’s hot.  So we would serve cold beverages as soon as people get off the shuttle to quench their thirst and either a canopy or some market umbrellas for shade.  The grass is tricky to walk on because ladies’ heels will sink. So we put out ‘heel savers’ … and so on, throughout the rest of the party, ending with a heater near the valet station, to be sure your guests aren’t freezing as they wait for their vehicles.”

centerpiece with peaches

Here are a few specific areas you can consider:

1.    Be thoughtful about parking.

If you’re not doing a valet, it’s okay—just make sure there’s plenty of parking so your guests don’t have to walk too far or fight for spots.”

2.    Consider the weather.

If there’s sun in everybody’s eyes during the ceremony, it’s awful.  So offer some parasols or change the direction of the ceremony if possible.  It’s nice to let people know, especially the ladies, what they can expect in terms of weather and terrain for the wedding day.  If they’ll need to wear wedges, let them know.  If it’s going to be cool during the evening but hot during the day, they might not think to bring wraps, so let them know ahead of time or provide them yourself.”

3.    Consider the general appeal of the food.

You can be a total foodie, but if you want to serve something that’s wild and out there, do it as one of six appetizers, not as the main entreé that comes out for dinner.”

4.    Consider your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Usually they have to be there hours ahead of time.  Make sure there are cold drinks for them, somewhere for them to hang their coats and stash their stuff, somewhere to sit down, and some shade, especially in the summer.”

5.    Consider the bathrooms.

Have someone checking the bathrooms throughout the night.  Make sure they are clean, well-stocked, and that the plumbing is working.  We like to set out nice hand-towels, not linen ones, but nice linen-like paper ones.  We also leave things your guests might need in the bathroom—a nail file, clear nail polish, extra deodorant, nice soap, lotion, safety pins, a mini sewing kit, and feminine hygiene products.”

I think that we (the wedding-ready universe) spend a lot of time thinking about who to invite and about hiring services, but not so much time about the experience of those services for ourselves and our invited guests. Hiring services is not the same thing as creating an experience. These tips are really helpful in taking diy wedding planning that one very important step further—having bathrooms at your venue, for instance, isn’t the same thing as having continually clean, well-stocked bathrooms for you and your guests all night long.  Small but important details can be not-thought-of at all.  Of course, in a world where we all had business-mogul-sized wedding budgets, we’d want to hire an experienced and expert wedding planner to think of all these things for us (because, believe me, Yifat thinks of everything).    Check back tomorrow for part two. Thanks, Yifat!

photo: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 109: Planning Picture Perfect Wedding Toasts

07 | 15 | 2010

wedding toast

We love wedding toasts!  For one thing, hearing how other folks love the bride and groom makes us—and everybody at a wedding, I think—adore the bride and groom even more.  And the photographs of the bride and groom and the guests reacting to toasts can be so fun (though, in fact, that could go either way if the toasts are deadly-long or if there are too many of them, come to think of it).

Somehow, toasts are more-often-than-not overlooked in the orchestration and choreography of the wedding day—but they’re important because the toasts themselves can be very meaningful and the photos do actually sometimes make it into the finished wedding album. So, naturally, you want the toasting photos to be their best selves.  (And don’t think that this magically won’t happen to you on your wedding day … )


father of the bride toast bridesmaid toast

Here are a few easy tips for setting yourself up to have picture perfect toasts:

  1. Have the speaker stand somewhere with a nice background and nice light, even if that spot is right at his or her dinner table.  Ample ambient light is the best kind.
  2. Please don’t put your toaster in front of an EXIT sign. (This is just an expansion of point #1, I suppose).
  3. Make sure your photographer is present. If you have a planner, he or she can help with this.  If you are diy-planning, you’ll need to keep an eye on this yourself.  Although your photographer may stick close by your side the entire rest of the day, during dinner time, she could be off taking photographs in another part of the event, or trying to take a quick dinner break.  If unscheduled or unannounced toasts happen, she can miss them.
  4. Toasts REALLY TRULY need to be short and sweet.  Haute wedding planner, Yifat Oren, notes,”it’s a toast, not a roast.  Toasts should be short and sweet and moving and anecdotal. The longest amount of time for any one toast should be seven minutes, but preferably no longer than five.  You can say a lot in seven minutes.”  And, “if you’re planning to have 35 minutes of toasts, don’t do it all at once.”  It’s hard for the guests to sit through a bunch of long toasts (read: boring) and can bring the whole party to a halt. If someone really wants to give a long toast or say something much more expansive to or about you and your beloved, the rehearsal dinner might afford a better and more intimate opportunity for that kind of thing.

bride toasting

Check back tomorrow for an interview with Yifat, full of tips from celebrity weddings that are applicable to weddings on any budget.

photographs: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Photographer, 201: Conservation of Your Wedding Photographs

06 | 23 | 2010

antique wedding photos

I come from a family where photographs are prized possessions.  My grandmother was always afraid that someone would break into her house and steal her family photographs. Now there’s certainly a breakdown of reason (people steal things because they are valuable, not because they are valuable to you), but I think the sentiment is priceless. Her photographs of all of us were the one thing she didn’t want taken away from her.  Of course, she didn’t preserve them properly.  Many were in the magnetic photo albums from the 80s, and framed prints were stacked one behind another, ad infinitum, partly out of convenience and partly to hide them from would-be robbers.

My grandmother was right: photographs are great treasures, to us, to our families, to our histories, and to our cultures.  And so, the photographic prints themselves—and their conservation—are essential, but often overlooked, aspects of your investment in wedding photography and in any photography period.

I.  Keep Photographs Out of Direct Bright Light

Sunlight damages prints, even high-quality archival ones.  Don’t hang framed prints where they’ll get direct sunlight (or even really bright indirect light).  You don’t want to look like The Munsters in twenty years.

II. Keep Your Photographs Out of Extreme Conditions (No extreme heat, cold, high humidity, or dryness).

Humidity can cause mold; extreme dryness can make prints brittle.  Heat and cold are just as bad.  And alternating among any of those conditions is even worse.  Keep your prints, if at all possible, in stable room-temp normal humidity conditions.

III.  Use Archival Presentation and Preservation Materials

This is one area where your photographer probably can help you quite a bit, since many of us work with our clients to create archival presentations of the photographs.  Framed prints should be matted first, so that they don’t stick to the glass.  The matting should be archival quality, with acid free archival adhesives, corners, mat paper, etc.  UV-filtering glass can help framed prints, too.  Albums and other presentations should be completely archival.

IV.  Don’t Handle The Prints With Your Fingers.

If there was one thing Grammy was militant about with her photographs, it was this.  But it’s true: the oil from your fingers damages the print’s emulsion.

Naturally, if we wanted our photographs to last forever and ever, we’d leave them in airtight archival boxes at room temperature and never let them see the light of day.  But that would be absurd, as the joy of a photograph is, of course, taking it in.  So I’m offering some basic guidelines today.   Then we’ll discuss each of these aspects of conservation in more detail in the coming months because the burden and responsibility of conservation of prints ultimately falls on the clients.  In other words, no matter how careful your photographer is to create archival prints for you; if they are handled carelessly later, they’ll still be ruined.  If at any point you aren’t sure about how to preserve your photographs, just ask your photographer!

iPhone photo: Gia Canali

* The photographs in the picture above are from my tiny collection of vintage wedding photographs. I always feel sad that photos like this have been separated from their people …

Getting Inspired Performances from Your Wedding Photographer & All Your Wedding “Vendors” or Artists

06 | 07 | 2010
The Inspiration For This Post Is You.

I have had drafts of this post floating around my computer for nearly a year and floating around my brain for much longer than that.  One of the driving reasons for starting this blog is that I want to help or coach people into getting the best photography that they can possibly get, from me or from any other photographer.  I want folks to be educated consumers (hmm … let’s say “patrons” or “commissioners”) of photography.  The truth is that everybody wants to get the most out of their wedding photography, and out of their wedding.  And each and every couple deserves an inspired performance from all their wedding vendors, right?  But sometimes—surely unwittingly—brides and grooms can get in their own way of making that happen.  I want to be delicate about this, but also truthful.  Nearly all of my clients are so thoughtful and considerate of us that it hurts my heart (really!) … but small considerations (or—gasp!—mistakes) can really make an impact, whether or not the client is really aware of it in the end.

(Okay, let me back up and be clear on this: the term “vendor” does kind of make me gag.  I’m used to it, after eleven years, but not happy with it.  Meg over at A Practical Wedding has kindly suggested a reconsideration of the terminology, maybe wedding elves.  It’ll do.  It at least describes the work ethic and energy most of my colleagues and I put forth at weddings.  But you could just call us artists. If you want to.)

I. The most important thing is TRUST.  Hire artists you truly trust, and then trust them to do their jobs with excellence.

Hire artists you trust, and then trust them. Nothing is more morale-busting or inspiration-deflating than micromanagement.  You want artists who share your vision, obviously, but keep in mind that they’ll do their jobs how they do their jobs and not how you’d do their jobs.   Listen to your wedding elves; we promise to listen to you.  We want to get you what you want (and then some!)—whether or not you know exactly what that is and whether or not you can articulate it—and we know how to do that.  The adage “expectations are premeditated resentments” fully applies, though.  Allow yourself to be surprised and delighted with our interpretations of your secret hopes and wishes.  We work so hard and consider our efforts a labor of love.  We are soulful about what we do.  I think there are probably folks out there who aren’t, but you don’t need to hire them, right?

II.  Give them what they need to do their jobs with excellence (e.g., time, space, resources).

This is a huge and, unfortunately, very common mistake we see.  For instance, so many weddings run behind because of hair and makeup (despite our often-repeated and LOUDEST advice for folks to pad the hair and makeup schedule).  I’ve previously always held an ill-founded vendetta against stylists themselves, but now that I have produced a short film (since I don’t have enough to do during wedding season), I can see how the makeup artists might feel flustered or set up to fail.  That’s not a good way to go into a job.  I know I can get flustered when folks step in and try to tell me how and how fast to work.

And I can’t tell you how disappointing it is when I have clients claim that portraits are so very important to them, how they’re envisioning all these set ups, lots of variety, and then they schedule fifteen minutes or less for portraits of themselves. Photographs are actually moments in time.  So we need time to make them.  Other artists need other things to do their jobs well.  Producing a wedding and producing a film are probably not all that different in the end.  You might want to think of yourself as a “producer.” On a film set, the producers (who put out all that money) make certain that everybody there—all the artists, all the talent, and all the so-called help—has what they need to do the best work possible.

III. Keep your artists, vendors, wedding elves performance-ready: well-fed, well-hydrated, and as rested as possible.

These considerations are of course much-expanded with a destination wedding, but the same principles apply to one-day local weddings.  My suspicion is that people can sometimes forget how really human we are.  I have heard this complaint voiced most often by the wedding planners themselves. We need nourishment, water, and a little appreciation (see below).  Keep in mind that you want your planner and photographers and videographers to be working their best all day long and after dinner, too – if you give them a crummy meal, not only does it literally leave a bad taste in their mouths, they’ll be running on empty and their growling tummies will be begrudgingly ticking off time until they can leave and get some real food … if that’s even possible.

  1. Maintain a human pace to the day.  Your vendors will have a good sense about what’s realistic.  You want your day to be humane for you, too.  Harried and joyful might actually be mutually exclusive.
  2. Keep water and other non-alcoholic beverages accessible throughout the day.  In California, with all our 100+ degree weddings, heat stroke is a real and serious concern.
  3. A good vendor meal is nourishing, timely, balanced, and absolutely necessary.  A few years ago, I kept hearing people say, “a vendor meal is a courtesy, not a requirement.” Seriously?  We know catered food is costly and we aren’t saying you have to give us the filet mignon unless you want to (!), but remember that we are human: we can’t run on empty and we can’t go anywhere else.  You don’t want us to. It’s one thing to be a band member  and come at five o’clock (hence the ubiquitous bandwich), but for those of us who have already been running around for eight or ten hours before dinnertime with twenty five pounds of gear swinging around our necks, it’s nonsensical.  On my contract, I say “feed us whenever you eat,¹ and feed us well.  Warm, nourishing food is a good idea. Wedding photography is a lot like marathon running.”  And so it is.  I have to prep for my job with running, hiking, and lots of pull-ups.
  4. Respect dietary restrictions.  There are a lot of reasons people eat the way they do, whether out of religious or ethical belief, allergy, or preference, but it is always personal.  I, for one, am allergic to the United States of America.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate sitting down to a meal I can actually digest.  It’s a matter of consideration and respect at the most basic level.
  5. Some things don’t count as real meals: pasta with no meat, salad with nothing in it, sandwiches with dried nasty chicken, just to name a few.  Think nourishing, timely, and balanced: protein, grain, and something that would feel good in your tummy.  Our favorite vendor meals are always from the folks at Lucques but we’ve had lots of good same-as-the-guests meals, too.  Lucques gives us a complete meal.  My last one was a beautiful, tasty, and nutrient-packed nicoise salad; my husband had a giant holy pilgrim sandwich with lovely thick slices of roasted turkey; we also both had an apple, a dessert (chocolate-covered honeycomb for me, chocolate chip cookie for him), and homemade sweet potato chips (still dreaming about those and Matt swears he’d give up Doritos if I could offer him a steady supply of them).  I know I’m going on and on about food.  But it’s important.  All of this is to say: be sure you know exactly what your caterer is feeding the vendors, whether it’s the same food as your guests are being served or not; don’t assume the caterer will just get it right.  You may be charged the full meal rate while your vendors are eating terrible cold sandwiches.  Not that good cold sandwiches don’t exist.  Your caterer might be trying to feed ham to folks who keep a kosher diet. Eeps! There are no hard and fast rules here, just a gentle call to attention to detail.  A good meal is a good meal.
IV. In the same way that actors perform better with a little applause, your vendors will perform better with a little appreciation.

I’m not talking about gratuity; I’m talking about gratitude.  We’ll do our jobs either way (with gratitude or without), but we’ll do it better if we know you’re thankful for our efforts and creativity.  We’re human.  We’ll work to our own high standards for anyone, but we can’t help but go that extra mile for the couples who love us.


That’s me! With my Leica! On a (rare) bathroom break!

¹ If you feed us when you eat, all that you’ll “miss out on” are photographs of folks eating.  Which you don’t want anyway.  Feed us later on, and we’ll be missing the real moments.  You might need to make this point to your caterers if they are providing the vendor meals.  Sometimes they won’t feed the vendor-folk until after the dinner service is completely completed.  This seems counter-productive because we’ll be eating when things are getting going again …

photos: Gia Canali


Skin Deep: Getting Your Skin Wedding-Ready, An Interview with Esthetician Jillian Wah

04 | 22 | 2010


Lovely skin makes for lovely photographs.  But knowing how to go about getting our skin and our faces camera-ready can be kind of daunting.  So, in the interest of pursuing the picture-perfect wedding, my friend (and esthetician!) Jillian has graciously offered to share some skincare information and beauty tips with all of us.  Above: Jillian on her wedding day!

How To Start: (asap!)

“To get your skin wedding-ready, it’s good to start as soon as possible.  Start getting regular facials with exfoliation and extractions to purge impurities.  Working with a professional esthetician—someone who knows your skin and is sensitive to what your skin can tolerate is very helpful.  Not only will an esthetician be able to evaluate your skin and then provide you with the necessary personalized treatments, she can also direct your at-home skincare routine.”

About One Month Before The Wedding

“Go on a peel series with your esthetician. A peel series is typically once a week for 4 – 5 weeks. It’s good to ask your esthetician what kind of peels she offers.  Try to avoid glycolic acid if possible, as it is the among the most inflammatory of all the Alpha Hydroxy Acids. Stick with a good blended layer peel or lactic acid.

or if you don’t/can’t seek a professional’s help:

Start doing gentle (gentle!) at-home exfoliation.  Try three times a week for the first couple of weeks; then every other day the last week before your wedding.  The reason Pro-Activ works so well is that it gives you daily exfoliations.  The same principle applies here.  You can blend (dilute) a scrub with your cleanser or use a gentle 5% lactic acid.”

“The Key To Glowing Skin Is Hydration—Internally and Externally.”

“Hydrating and moisturizing sound like they mean the same thing, but—at least in the beauty industry—they don’t.  Moisture has to do with putting oil(s) into the skin; hydrating puts water into the skin.  Moisturizing isn’t good for all skin types or climates.

Hydration and exfoliation make for glowing, dewy skin.  So: drink lots of water and avoid dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol.  For external hydration, find a hydrating mask.  Your esthetician can prescribe one that’s right for your skin; she’ll also have access to the better ones.  If you are acne-prone, exfoliation and hydration are still good for you, but look for a hydrating mask that is non-comedogenic; it’ll be more jelly-like rather than creamy.

What Else Complements Your Newly-Radiant Skin

1. Well-shaped eyebrows

2. Teeth-whitening

Consider them little helpers.

If You Break Out More Than Five Days Before The Wedding …

“If it’s just one or two spots (not a big breakout): Clean your face then run a washcloth under the hottest tap water you can get, and put it on the affected spots for 5-10 minutes.  The hot compress will help bring it to the surface.  Then you can use two q-tips to extract it, or you can take tissue and wrap it around your fingers and gently try to extract it.  Follow this up with an antibacterial compress like your toner, benzoyl-peroxide, or other acne spot-treatments.

If You Break Out Less Than Five Days Before The Wedding, LEAVE IT ALONE!

“A scab looks worse under makeup than a zit does.”

Additional Tips For Men’s Skincare

“The same basic skincare information applies, but because men shave—and breakouts and rashes from shaving are especially unflattering in person and on-camera—there are some special notes just for guys.

  1. Only exfoliate at night, or as far away from shaving as possible.
  2. Use a tea tree oil hair conditioner as a shave medium or put a few drops of tea tree oil into a cup of aloe vera for an anti-bacterial (but still soothing!) aftershave.
  3. Men shouldn’t overlook their eyebrows either, just don’t overdo it!

Thanks, Jillian!!  Check back in a bit for a do-it-yourself lip scrub recipe.

photo: Gia Canali


WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get (or Getting What You Expect) – Some Thoughts On Selecting a Wedding Photographer.

01 | 27 | 2010


WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) is something we photographers talk about all the time when we’re printing our photographs.  We want our prints to precisely match what we see on our computer screens.  Obviously.  We want to get what we expect.  And with wedding photography, so do you.

So how does that work exactly, when you hire a photographer—or, now that I think about it, when you hire any vendor or artist?  Well … we do what we do: what you see is what you get.  So when you’re thinking about hiring someone, see enough of her work that you have a really good feel for what she does—a representative sample.  This could include images on a website or blog, some albums, and perhaps a client gallery or run of proofs.  By that point, you should feel like you “get” the scope and style of her work.  If you like what you see in that photographer’s portfolio, chances are that you’ll like what she can do for you.  But if you don’t, or if you yearn for something altogether different, no amount of direction, coaching, or unrealistic expectation is going to change how that photographer works or sees.  You aren’t going to get something different.

Two stories to highlight this point:

Once I was at a meeting with a potential client.  She kept pulling photographs out of my portfolio, dropping them on the coffee table, and pounding her forefinger on the photos,¹ asking over and over again, “Can you do this? Can you take photos like this?”  I was boggled.  What a query!  I had, of course, taken all the photographs in question, and there were dozens of them.  She had a whole, ever-growing pile of photographs she wondered if I could take.  What she was really asking, of course, was whether I not I could take photos like that for her. But still.  It’s ridiculous.

In another meeting, a potential client asked me, no less than twice, if I could take photographs like the ones taken by another well-known local photography studio.  Um … why not just hire them? (I hope they did!  Otherwise, they were surely and sorely disappointed.)

Neither one of these potential clients understood the principle of WYSIWYG. And I’m sure it’ll be no surprise to know that neither one of them hired me.  Nor will it be much of a revelation to know that I’m relieved they didn’t.

So … hire a photographer whose work makes your heart go pitter-pat.  Someone whose eye you trust.  And then let her do her thing.  (Why in the world would you want to interfere with what you trust is going to be marvelous?)

photo: Gia Canali


¹ Yes, yes, she was smudging them to death.


Decoding Wedding Photography Lingo, Part V: Post-Processing :: Editing, Retouching, and Color-Correction

01 | 14 | 2010

bride-color bride-bw bride-toned

Nowadays, there’s so much being said about photography and digital photography and digital wedding photography, that it sometimes makes my head spin.  And I’m on the inside!  So I imagine it’s quite intimidating to feel like you have a handle on what you are actually getting when you invest in professional wedding photography.  The advent of digital photography has changed not only how we photograph weddings, but also how we talk about photographing weddings—and especially how we talk about “post-processing” them.  In the olden days, I’d photograph a wedding, then wait with breath held and fingers crossed for the film and proofs to come back, toss out the few proofs I didn’t really like, and give them to the client.  Now, it’s much, much more involved.  There’s a workflow.  And although I don’t want to get into the whole long-drawn-out process right now, I do want to highlight some of the lingo that goes along with it.

**Other photographers may use these same words differently, so if you’re unsure about what any one photographer means, just ask!!

I. Editing

Editing is probably the most-used and least-reliably-defined word to describe post-processing.  For one thing, “editing” can encompass the entire process of getting images ready for a client.  When photographers say they’re “editing” a wedding, they could mean that they’re cutting out all the crummy images, or they could mean that they are color-correcting individual images or they could mean they are retouching individual images.  Or they could mean some combination of all of the above.

Personally, I like to stick to using these words how we used them when we wrote essays in grade school.  Editing meant organizing the whole piece, keeping the good stuff and cutting what didn’t work.  (Retouching is more like revising, but we’ll get to that in a minute).   So when I say editing, I mean organizing the images into categories that make sense, keeping the good images, and ditching the ones that don’t work (like accidental shots or ones where your eyes are closed).

II. Retouching

Retouching is kind of like revising an image.  The photographer alters the image in the interest of improving it.  Usually, we think of cosmetic retouching, like removing blemishes or whitening teeth (no, I’m not kidding!), but clients sometimes request other sorts of retouching, like removing extraneous people or shadows … or “exit” signs from the background of photos.¹  We do not retouch images as a matter of course, only by client request.  We’re all for beauty, but we’re also all for reality, however “imperfect,” being the beautiful thing.

III. Color-correcting

The great thing about digital photography is its flexibility and creative freedom.  I love it just as much as the next girl.  However, I do wish all the livelong day that I could have the creative control I get from my digital cameras with the picture perfect color I get straight-from-the-camera with film.  It’s just not possible, at least not yet.  I find images that come straight from a digital camera to be a bit dull.  They need a little color-correcting, a little pizazz, some finessing.  Some photographers really style their images a lot, others hardly at all, according to their own personal aesthetics.  There are no strict rules about color-correcting.  But images that are called color-corrected should look good and be print-ready.   We color-correct every image we show and give our clients.  As much as you want to look good, we want you to look good!

photos: Gia Canali


¹ Better yet, don’t plan the events of your reception in front of an “exit” sign.  Toasts are usually the culprit and it’s so easy to avoid it’s almost laughable.  But lots and lots of folks have their toasts in front of an exit sign anyway.  It baffles me.


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.

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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