The explosive growth of digital capture over the past few years has lent a whole new dimension to wedding photography and traditional wedding albums.
With today's designer coffee table books, photographers can begin to exercise creativity in ways we couldn't even imagine just a short while ago. Stunning graphic elements can be incorporated seamlessly with multi-image arrangements, put together on a single panoramic spread. With picture in picture, torn edges, sloppy borders, and magnificent composites, wedding albums have never looked so good. At last, the digital revolution has brought panache and wow appeal to wedding album design. I have waited 40 years for this.
Go for the Wow
Whether you or the client prefer an exotic Italian wedding book, like those of GraphiStudio or Tony Sarlo, or if you're committed to fine-quality American wedding albums by such companies as Leather Craftsmen and Zookbinders. The same principles of graphic design still apply.
1. Know Your Client's Tastes. The most important step is to garner as much information as you can about your client's taste. You need to know just what you are heading into right at the planning stage. After all, it would be futile to use an assortment of sloppy borders and torn edges if the bride happens to hate that kind of stuff. On the other hand, it would be a lost opportunity if the only design element were the occasional drop shadow, for a bride with more flamboyant taste.
I usually flip through two or three different designer albums with the couple to get their reaction to various special effects. By adding a simple Notepad file into their folder, I can keep tabs on our discussions and be absolutely certain I put together a design they will love.
2. Sort Selected Images. Once I have a reasonable idea of their likes and dislikes, I move the selected images into a work folder and decide which of the pictures would make good backgrounds and which are best as primary images. Occasionally, I have a bride who has all that figured out for me and that's a bonus. After browsing all the primaries, I'll go ahead and experiment with a few edge effects and filters, saving the new version of each image as a PSD.
3. Create the Canvas. Next, I create the canvas in the size of a full-page panorama, or go straight for one or more background images, sizing and cropping them to fit the spread. After adjusting brightness, contrast, or perhaps reducing to sepia tone, I will begin to add selected primary images, sizing and positioning them for greatest impact.
4. Heart of the Matter. While it sounds so incredibly simple, that's basically the process. For younger photographers, who were brought up in the Nintendo generation, computers are second nature. For those of us who have lived two-thirds of our working lives before the age of computers, we've had to work a lot harder, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
For many of my images, I will take the time to create a look in Photoshop, but I have found a number of off-the-shelf products very useful, as well. Occasionally, I will turn to Bellwood FX templates for a torn edge, or Professor Franklyn's Instant Photo Effects for a ready-made sloppy border. Both are time-saving, inexpensive, and fun to use.
At the end of the day, it is what you achieve, not how, that matters. For me, it's also a measure of how much enjoyment I can get from the remainder of a long and colorful career. In fact, it has even given me a second career: designing albums for those who don't want to.