Kind of on the fence about getting a wedding album? The Knot’s “How to Make a Wedding Photo Album” article (link) lays out the best reasons NOT to make your own, and it doesn't even know it.
For example when The Knot talks about selecting types of albums, it suggest checking with your photographer. Wait, I thought this was DIY. :-o Involving the photographer defeats the purpose, especially if you were adamant in the beginning that you didn't think the help was worth it.
Then TK suggests maybe a magazine style coffee table book would be good. Those are softcover books with thick textbook-like pages at best, which means they're prone to bends and rips and not an ideal choice for a family heirloom that will stand up to real life.
Some press-style books use a cheap printing process that leaves you see the dots in the image if you look closely enough. You want a true photographic print album. Don’t know how to tell? Don’t worry, all my albums are true photographic albums.
According to the Knot itself, it takes an average of 6 hours just to give the proofs an initial pass and select 20-30 favorites. I thought you were busy. Now you’re ready to lay 6 hours of your life to waste?
Also, only 20-30 images? My clients get albums upward of 80-100 on average. So instead of one Saturday that you can't go out and have fun, might as well make it three or four weekends shot picking out pictures.
"Not interested in an album?" The Knot recommends paying for a bunch of services to design slideshows, collages and albums from your digital files later. Hmmm... further investment. DIYdn't you want to avoid that?
I guess The Knot's advice doesn't save you much anyway. It'll just defer the work and dollars to third-party machines and strangers who had no vested interest in your wedding to begin with and weren’t there to know your story.
"Now the fun part: putting it in order." I’m sure album layout ranks right up there with girls night out. Difficulty and time cost of album layout is the exact reason photographers don't offer albums. It has nothing to do with keeping price down. They want the extra money, but even they can't figure it out, and some of them describe themselves as professionals. How will you figure it out if the "professional" can't, and why should you have to?
The Knot suggests laying out physical proof prints. That's great, if it's 1980. But how much room and time do you need for that in addition to the 6-24 hours you spent selecting the pictures, X hours and dollars making the proof prints, X hours trying to figure out where to get an album and which kind/material?
And don't forget you have to get all the picks in one place, upload them and use a clunky Web interface with limited capabilities to translate your layout into a lab-ready design, which The Knot doesn't tell you.
TK attempts to navigate the nuances of telling your story, taking you through a dizzying array of decisions like ratios of details to people, color to B&W, etc., which is exhausting just to summarize, let alone slog through on your own without proper tools, experience or time.
And the best part of the process? You're on your own. Nobody will be there to help you because you told your photographer the help wasn't worth it.
I don’t know about other photographers, but my clients did nothing to deserve having to complete my job for me. If you had to slice your own pizza at a restaurant, you’d complain about your $7/hr waitress. Even the cheapest photographers are charging $50-$100 per hour for you to complete their work while making it seem like a deal.
Further, TK advises you to "weed out the bad pictures." That's another job you're doing for the photographer. And what if someone's blinking in every group shot? Who's going to Photoshop the eyes open or swap the heads? In fact, who's going to do all of the retouching for all of your images?
I retouch every page of my clients' albums, including blinks, head swaps, distraction removal, skin smoothing, stray hair, temporary blemishes -- all that for sometimes 70+ images in one album at no extra charge, if you order from me.
My wife and I were like so many couples who wanted to live the dream of printing our own pictures and saving money, but in the end it became just another chore that got put off. It doesn't work, and we wished we would have gotten it done professionally right away.
For context, in 2009 we'd paid a full $1,500 for an 8-hour, digital-only package, with one pre-wedding meeting and no reveal party. Our own DIY slip-in album is still totally empty. Heather really wanted to fill it. And for months we thought about it, then years, but it just never happened.
The thought of tackling all those files and the whole process I've outlined became so daunting we didn't want to think about it. So we let it fade into the past, which is all the more reason to have your photographer do it correctly now so you never have to think about it again.
Eventually, once I became a wedding photographer and understood albums, I was able to make a quality album using a professional lab, but that was several years after the wedding, and even at wholesale prices it cost hundreds.
You don't need to make something yourself to be proud of it, nor will you lose your indie spirit by choosing to have a professional do it for you. Treat yourself. What's more independent than enjoying a vacation while a professional does the stupid stuff for you?
It takes me about 4 weeks to design your complete album as a story, with the slideshow and the galleries, and have it ready for you to see at your own private reveal party. It will take some extra time to retouch, produce and ship the album, but none of that requires work or additional cost from you.
Inevitably, someone will say "yeah, but we made our own album in a few weeks and it was great and cost a fraction of a professional one."
Okay, but ask for context: What exactly did it cost in dollars and time? Was it a cheap piece of crap from Shutterfly? Are the pages rigid and durable? Is the quality really the same (albums from China look good but quickly peel, curl and deteriorate)? Did they have help from another professional acquaintance?
And if they really, really did it fast, easy and at low cost and are happy with it, all they've accomplished is turning a family heirloom into a cheap souvenir.
Really, for the measly few hundred bucks it may -- or may not -- add to your budget on average, isn’t the one thing that will connect you to your wedding moments and family forever — and your sanity alone — worth having your photographer do for you?
Joel Nisleit Self PortraitSelf portrait of studio owner Joel Nisleit. Joel's skills enable him to capture portraits like this in any location, from home to a parking garage.
Joel Nisleit is a Milwaukee wedding photographer who'll protect and honor the love, romance and beauty of your wedding forever. Contact me today so I can serve the aesthetic and historical significance of your wedding.