During the photo organization process, many of our clients ask us to create special albums of their precious memories. I love creating custom albums for my clients, and it’s one of my favorite parts of being a professional photo organizer.
When you create a photo albums, you get the opportunity to share photos in an accessible way, and showcase the stories those photos tell. Albums can be a personal way to honor a life or a milestone, reminisce about a memory, share mementoes (such as recipes or artwork) or favorite interests (like fishing, painting, photography, or nature).
It’s fun to laugh with my clients as they share funny personal stories or travel adventures (and misadventures!). The best part of creating these special keepsakes for my clients is seeing the joy on their faces as they pour over their published albums.
In one of our previous posts, we talked about how photo organizers typically work, and how much time you should allow for certain projects. Some of my clients asked why it takes so long to create a photo album – so I wanted to explain a little more about what the process looks like, what it typically costs, and why it’s important to plan ahead if you’d like to create an album to give as a gift for a special event (like a wedding, graduation, anniversary, or birthday).
Curious about how the album creation process works? Let’s dig in!
What Our Customized Photo Albums Look Like
First, let’s set the stage: What kind of albums do we create for our photo organizing clients?
These albums are personalized keepsakes that are often displayed prominently in the client’s home, and we customized each album based on the needs of that particular client. We don’t use templates, and these aren’t cookie-cutter projects for us. The album style, color, and quality are all carefully chosen to coordinate with the decor in the client’s home.
Our albums are luxury books that are published with premium vendors. They are published on high-quality paper, and include sturdy covers that can won’t get torn or destroyed when lots of people handle them. The albums lay flat when you open them, so you can view all the photos easily and comfortably.
What does it take to put one of these premium, personalized albums together for a client? First, we start with our prep work.
Our 5 Key Prep Steps for Creating a Client’s Photo Album
When we kick off a new album project, we always start with doing a some crucial prep work. These are the steps we need to take before we begin design the album:
1. Organize the photos.
Sometimes a client knows they want our help creating a special album, but their photos aren’t organized, or they’ve got digital photos spread haphazardly across multiple devices.
If this is the case, the first thing we need to do is organize the client’s photos, so we can choose the best images for the project.
We’ll search through the client’s photos to find the ones that fit the theme of the album, then resume organizing the rest of the collection after we’ve completed their album project.
2. Choose the theme of the album.
If you’ve never created an album before, it can help to have visual examples of what’s possible. We can show you samples of albums on each of these themes:
- Year in Review
- Life Story
- Milestone Moment (i.e. Birthday, Anniversary, Graduation, Wedding)
- Showcase Mementoes (ie. Artwork, Recipes, Memorabilia)
We’ll work together to choose the overall theme for your project.
3. Select the photos.
Once we’ve got your theme nailed down, we’ll select the photos for the album.
We are always careful to pick photos that are the best quality (meaning they are clear images, and the key elements of the photo are easily identifiable).
We’re also looking for photos that tell a story. We want to share the location, the details of the experience, and the main people and places behind the image. Sharing the moment as clearly as possible is always our main goal.
Ideally, we’ll select digital photos that are ready to be used right away. If you want to use print photos in your album, they will need to be digitized first. We can do that for you, if you need help with that step. As part of our premium scanning services, photos are named by the date and event.
Sometimes the color or lighting of a particular photo isn’t optimal, so a little editing might be needed. This is done post-digitizing, and part of our pre-album design services.
4. Plan out the album text.
We can use strategic sections of text in your album to:
- Explain the relationship between photos.
- Remind the reader of details (like people, places, or things) with a label or caption.
- Tell stories. Journals can be very helpful in telling stories, and we have clients who jot down funny stories, favorite foods, and people they meet in a travel journal when they’re on the road. These stories are incorporated throughout the travel album, giving the client a chance to revisit precious memories. Those stories are also preserved for future generations to enjoy.
- Share funny quotes or stories from the people who are part of the album’s story. When we created my father’s 80th birthday album, we asked his friends and family to share funny stories and photos of him. That text became a really important (and treasured) part of the album.
5. Choose the size of the album, and the publisher we’ll use to create the final product.
Our albums are designed according to who will be publishing it, so we need to choose that vendor in advance, so we can plan accordingly.
We also need to decide on the final size of the album, so we’ll know how large each page will be. We typically design 12×12, 10×10 or 11×8 albums for our clients.
How We Design Our Photo Albums
Once the prep work is completed, we’re ready to design the album pages.
Our albums are designed with a clean, classic, timeless look, and the photos are the primary focus of each album spread.
We don’t use embellishments or patterned backgrounds, like you would on scrapbook pages, as we feel that these are distracting and can make the album look dated. We want our clients to be able to enjoy their albums for years to come, without the albums looking old-fashioned after five, ten, or even twenty years have passed.
Because we’re all about creating albums that last, we use carefully selected premium publishers that create high quality products. We make sure that we create albums that stand the test of time, and we want our clients to feel proud to showcase their albums in their homes.
Initially, we work side-by-side with the client to select the best photos for the album. We’ll make note of any details about the theme, stories, location, or stories, so we can group photos together and create appropriate captions and text in the right places.
At this stage, we’ll also discuss design preferences like fonts, background colors, and so forth, so those details can all be incorporated into the design.
When we’ve got all the photos selected, we proceed with designing and planning the layout of each page of the album.
Publication Process – and Why We Need a Lot of Lead Time
Once we’re done designing, we’ll upload it to an album proofing site, so the client can review the entire project (on their own, or in-person, with me).
The client reviews the photos and text to check for accuracy, and provides input on any changes that need to be made. Since we’re always careful and accurate during the early planning and designing stages, there are typically few revisions at this point.
When the album is approved, we upload the final project to the album publisher, and place the order. Album publishing is a separate fee, and the cost varies depending upon the size of the album and the number of photo spreads.
Most album publishers have a 10-spread minimum and a 50-spread maximum. For larger travel experiences (for example, a 4-week trip to several countries), we can split an album project into multiple volumes. We can also order more than one copy of the album if you need extra copies.
Turnaround time varies by the publisher: Final publication and delivery can take one to two weeks, depending upon the publisher and time of year. The busiest season is during the winter holidays.
We typically design and submit albums for publishing BEFORE late November, or AFTER January 1st. Experience has taught us that placing orders for holiday gifts in December can be risky, and we can’t guarantee that you will receive your album in time for the holiday gift-giving season.
Occasionally a publisher will have some production issues, so we always allow extra time in case an order needs to be redone.
Publication schedules are one of many reasons that I advise my clients to give me plenty of notice for album projects.
How Much Time Does the Entire Album Creation Process Take?
By now you might be wondering: How long does creating an entire album usually take?
The answer is – it depends. How long your project will take depends on whether your photos need to be organized first, how many photos you have, and whether we’ll need to digitize or edit your photos before we can use them in your album.
Here are some approximate timelines for each stage. These as minimums, and these times can vary widely depending on your individual situation. I’ve estimated most of these tasks in “half days”, which is the typical unit of time I charge my clients for:
- Selecting photos – 1 to 2 half days
- Digitizing – 1 to 3 half days
- Album Design – 4 to 8 half days
- Album publishing – 1 to 2 weeks (depending on the publisher)
Talk to Us About Your Personalized Photo Album Project
We’d love to create a beautiful, keepsake photo album for your special event or travel experience! When you create a customized photo album, you’ll have a special keepsake that you can display on your home, share with your friends and family members, and appreciate for many years.
Get in touch with us today to discuss your project.