It’s that time of year when couples, busily thinking about their Christmas presents for one another and contemplating the year gone by start thinking back about their weddings and more specifically about their wedding albums. But in this digital age do you really need a wedding album? And how come they cost so much when you can buy an album and some prints for less than £30 in Boots? Well, way back in our photographer’s thoughts series we investigated just that…
Today we’re going to talk in more detail about an area we touched briefly upon in our post about pricing last week: photo albums. As we stated last week, sometimes albums are included in the price of your photography package but often they’re not and can be a huge additional cost. So why are they so expensive, and in a digital age is an album really necessary?
Well strictly speaking, in the vast majority of cases no they’re not. Nearly all wedding photographers will these days provide your images on DVD or USB stick and/or via an online portfolio. Some will even include a print license entitling you to print the images yourself and, if you so wish, make up your own album at a fraction of the cost of what your photographer is offering you. So really what’s the point in spending all that extra money?
For some of you reading this the chances are there really is no point. Albums aren’t for everyone and it’s genuinely something to take into account when considering your wedding photography package. Don’t pay for an album if you’re genuinely unlikely to ever look at it. If you’re the sort of person who downloads all their movies and music and only ever looks at old pictures when someone tags them on Facebook then you’re probably not going to benefit from one. If however you’re the sort of person who still buys CD’s and DVD’s because you like to collect them, would still prefer to read a tatty old book than get it on your Kindle and who likes the touch, feel and smell of having a real photograph in your hands then the album is definitely for you. It’s not the same for everyone, but for me I simply feel more of a connection with a printed image than one on a screen. But what about the price? Well…
The thing about professionally made albums is that you really are paying for quality. Yes you can use your print license and print your images at home, you might even have a flashy printer that’s designed specifically for printing photos. What you need to bear in mind though is that however good your printer professes to be, unless it’s a professional model costing thousands of pounds the quality, resolution and longevity of the print will be incomparable with that which you can expect from a professional album maker. It’s the equivalent of comparing an old analogue VGA computer monitor display with that of an apple HD digital retina screen. Both will show you the same image but one will be crisper, cleaner and more closely resemble the quality of the original picture.
It’s not just the ink quality that makes a difference though. There is something magical about sticking your individually printed photos in your album yourself by hand, indeed for our own wedding we took some polaroids specifically so we could do this, but when you pay for a quality album from a photographer the pictures aren’t simply being printed out and stuck in, they’re being printed onto the pages of the album itself, and done so to a custom layout specifically designed to tell the story and display the images in the way that’s going to create the biggest visual impact. They’re being printed onto thick leaves of only the highest grades of paper and bound in a beautiful book made of sumptuous materials and luxurious quality finishes. Each album is being lovingly individually designed and individually hand-crafted by skilled professionals. After investing all that money in getting a great photographer it’s a shame not to present the photographs the way they were meant to be seen. You’ve hired a professional to capture the image in the best possible way, now you need to invest that same level of care in making sure you can see them in that same level of quality. There’s no point in spending £2000 on an uber high resolution vivid colour 3D TV and only using it to watch old VHS video tapes of black and white movies from the 40’s. But it’s more than that, it’s also about presentation. The Mona Lisa is the same outstanding work of art wherever you put it, but you’re more likely to stop and take notice of it hanging in the grandeur of the Louvre than if the same painting had just been produced by an artist off the street.
One thing to remember is that depending on what your photographer is offering and whether the album is included in the package price you don’t necessarily have to get your album immediately. Most photographers keep hold of your images indefinitely anyway, and certainly will if specifically asked, so you can initially enjoy your images in digital form and then have your album made at a later date. Personally I’m hoping to get our album as our first wedding anniversary present to one another. That way you can save up after the incredible expense of your wedding and buy the album when you have the funds to do so. Professional albums are certainly far from cheap, expect to pay anywhere from £100 to £2000 depending on the album and photographer so it often is difficult to pay for at the same time as everything else! If anything the anticipation only adds to the excitement of receiving your beautiful album and prolongs that newly-wed feeling just a little bit longer.
Of course even at a professional level prices of albums will vary hugely depending on the manufacturer, the materials used, the process involved in producing each album and the size and quantity of the prints. There are a whole host of different styles designed to fit different tastes whilst remaining timeless against the ever-changing trends of fashion, from seamless lay-flat albums to press books to classic overlay and page-mount albums, there’s something for everyone at an array of prices. Albums are rarely a big money-maker for the photographer themselves as the cost of producing an album tends to be very high and the process extremely time-consuming. Great photographers really care about the way they present your images and look all over the world to find the best album makers. Your album should be delivered to you absolutely pristine and perfect, and there’s a whole lot of time, effort and a meticulous attention to detail that goes into that from both the photographer who took the images and the manufacturer that produces it.
Most importantly though an album is a treasure-trove of memories, a timeless heirloom that will be passed down through your family to your children and your children’s children. An album should be something precious, something to be cherished and loved. Printed photographs are real, not just a series of digits translated on a screen, they’re a piece of history: YOUR history. In the future technology will change and your digital images may not be able to keep up with the pace, but your album will still be there; timeless, incorruptible and irreplaceable.
And when in 40 years time your grandkids sit down on your knee and ask you to tell them a story you’ll know just which leather-bound volume to go to. A story of a day long ago whose memory lives on forever in one very special book.
If you’d like to know a little more about what goes into putting a quality photo album together take a look at this video from New Zealand based album makers (and widely considered one of the finest in the world) Queensberry.