I often get asked the same questions about albums, from both photographers and clients, and that is why I put this post together. Like so many wedding things it is something we never shop for and know nothing about until the time comes. The album is even more bewildering for being nothing like what we are used to owning or buying, what in your life do you think you will have when you pass from old age? I just paused writing this to give strong consideration to the question, it’s almost sad to think most of what we own will be gone. Wedding albums are the ultimate preservation and display of our history.
The wedding album is uniquely designed by creative people in order to reflect your taste, one off and handmade to order. Made from leather, cotton, paper and photos. Wedding albums often weigh several kilos and span up to seventeen inches square.
Photo Book or Wedding Album?
I recently received some photo books to illustrate the remaining artwork of my grandfather, one hundred and forty eight oil paintings. I had bought them from Blurb online and the process was quick ,easy, and good value. Receiving these books clearly showed no comparison between an album and a photo book, this will be easiest to describe with the shortcomings of a photo book .
A photo book does not have photos, they are prints. A traditional photographic print is made with a light sensitive paper where the photo is projected onto it causing the emulsion to react to the light causing colour and tone. Darkroom chemicals are then used to stabilize and preserve those colours and tones. Machines that automate the process are likely to be a Fuji frontier, Pegasus or a Lambda.
The die used to print on photo books will not sustain exposure to ultraviolet light at all and can fade quickly.
The paper used in photo books is not archival because there are optical brightener chemicals used to achieve the whiter white, the trained eye can see this by recognizing the slightly cool look.
The physical form of the paper used in the photo books I just bought were compromised by a change in weather. After a couple of days sitting on my desk the books took on a corrugated look, the paper was probably adjusting to changes in temperature or humidity.
Album Page Styles
Pages in albums get spoken of quite differently than regular books, mainly because we are building the album and not referring someone to a page for reading. In a novel one leaf of paper has each side named with a page number, this is not practical for albums because if we add a new page you will have to get both sides, this is why most photographers refer to them a an album leaf. I still call them pages but every time I mention a page I describe the sides like “my display album has nineteen pages equaling thirty eight sides.”
There are two main page styles used in albums, I’m sorry there are 78 different names photographers use to sell you something brand new and different. It’s really quite simple you can have your photos displayed in a window mount much like what’s used in picture framing. A look of authority and importance is given to the print by the mount, it also prevents the opposing page from ever touching the print. I call these pages window mount or matted album pages.
The other option is flush mount or dry mount, this is where the print is bonded to the page before the page is trimmed, the result is a print that goes all the way to a sharp clean edge. The prints will rest against each other when the book is closed which is of no concern when using high quality pro lab prints like I do. This style of page enables photographers to use a panoramic image over the two pages.
Where are Wedding Albums Made?
It is of great importance and pride to me that my albums are handmade in Melbourne. This creates an accountability for quality and I enjoy the face to face contact with the people who cut the leather and bind the pages. I consider it an advantage to pick up the prints myself and check over them personally before I drop them off for assembly.
How Many Photos in a Wedding Album
A minimal number of thirty images can make an elegant timeless album, where all photos are full page window mount. This style of album would not date and invites you to only use your hero photos. Since the pages are only hosting one photo the album doesn’t need to be so large to have visual impact. That is why an album like this is a good choice for a parent album.
Flush mount pages with collages bring the photo count much higher, a large album could have a hundred photos in it. A collage or series of images on an album page is a good way to describe an action sequence or include lots of guests and family. My current display album actually has ninety photos in it, because there is lot’s of action sequences in it including five flower girls walking down the aisle and all the reception events.
When choosing photos for the album people take on the pressure of worrying about who they have included in the album, it’s just like worrying about the guest list all over again. An out for this is using a full group photo in the album of the entire wedding party, you can now say everyone is in the album. You have to fill the album with photos you want to look at and show off, and that’s it. The same applies to events and parts of the day, the tradition was to describe all the events of the day chronologically, so it’s a good thing were not bound by tradition.
Still Life Photos in Albums
My use of still life photos in albums is minimal, taking the photos comes second to documenting the human element of the wedding. When I first started working as second shooter I would see the lead photographer fussing over the dress laid on the bed photo. I photographed the chaos of family bursting in through the front door, the greetings, the banter and the panic to prepare things like the cousin struggling with the white ribbon on the car. I think you can guess which photos made the album. I also feel the best photo of the dress is on the bride, the best photo of the bouquet is in her hands and the best photo of the rings in on fingers.
A practical description of how I use still life images is to use them to complement the more important people photos without letting them dominate album space.
How Long Does a Wedding Album Last?
The high end handmade albums that I produce are a long term investment and a family heirloom. Many of the papers used are made from cotton fiber instead of wood pulp, which results in a more stable and durable album. Materials are carefully selected to ensure they are ph neutral, this is chemically stable and gives the photos a safe home. Archival materials are often referred to as acid free, this means there is nothing used which might attack the prints over time.