As photography has become increasingly accessible and the barriers to entry have collapsed, the longstanding routine of granting our photos a material existence has fallen out of trend. Simply put: we’re taking more pictures than ever before, but we’re also printing far fewer. Ask any serious photographer, and they’ll surely say that printing a photograph is the only way to judge its actual quality. The tangible form, future-proof quality, and grandma-friendly nature of printed photographs is the reason I’ve offered wedding photo albums to couples from the very start.
Since printing is steadily falling out of fashion, and bound books and albums even more so, I’ve put together this introductory guide to everything you need to know about wedding photo albums. The first section will define the critical terminology related to photo album design and printing. Acting as a foundation, the terminology will help to establish the differences between wedding photo albums and books. Following that, I will introduce you to the three different types of photo albums.
Wedding Photo Album and Book Terminology
There are two common uses of the term page concerning printing, and it can sometimes confuse both photographers and couples. The most common is in the sense of a book, where a page is a single side of a two-sided sheet of paper. The second sense of the word refers to the double-sided sheet itself, which is sometimes called a “leaf.” For our purposes, concerning wedding photo albums and books, a page refers to the latter, meaning two sides.
What you see when you spread open your wedding photo album or book is the called the layout. Specifically, it refers to the back of one page on the left side and the front of the following page on the right side of the fold. Layouts are sometimes called “spreads.” Similar to books and magazines, wedding albums are designed one layout at a time. When reviewing your album design, you will be approving individual layouts, not pages.
Silver halide & traditional photo paper
Silver halides are light-sensitive chemicals used in photographic paper and film. Traditionally, prints were created using an enlarger to project light through a frame of film (either negative film or slide) onto a sheet of photographic paper. Exposure to light would alter the chemical composition of the silver halide crystals suspended in the paper’s emulsion. When making a black and white print, developing the paper would fix the image-forming crystals in place within the emulsion and wash away the rest. Colour photographs are printed onto chromogenic paper. When developing chromogenic paper, cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes replace all of the silver halide crystals. Although the underlying technology is well over a century old, improvements continue to be made. Modern photographic paper offers a variety of archival benefits, such exceptional colour stability that lasts for decades, and excellent colour fidelity. Since most photographic prints now originate as digital files, the printing process has been updated to use high speed RGB (red, green, and blue) lasers to expose the light-sensitive paper and create the final print.
Giclée & inkjet
With respect to photography, giclée is the French loan-word for inkjet printing. Fine art and wedding photographers who sell large format prints use giclée as a euphemism to describe inkjet technology. These photographers will claim that using giclée is meant to suggest a higher quality print than what typical consumer inkjet printers can achieve. Although they may be correct, the term is unregulated and has no defined standard of quality. None of the above is meant to dismiss inkjet printers as a viable solution for serious work. Modern inkjet printers can achieve outstanding results, especially for large format reproductions, where they’re the only reasonably affordable option.
Giclée and inkjet are the same things.
Wedding Photo Albums vs Books
Industry-wide, wedding photo albums will have both of the following features: a hardcover, which is composed of two rigid boards covered by some material or fabric, typically paper, canvas, leather, silk, etc.; heavy-weight, stiff pages that lay flat when opened and don’t bend or flex when turned.
Wedding photo books can feature either hardcovers or softcovers, but they’re defined by the following characteristics: the pages are comparatively thinner (being light- or medium-weight) and don’t lay flat when opened; photos are printed directly onto the pages.
types of Wedding Photo Albums
Flushmount albums are the most common type of wedding photo album. They’re defined by the method used to attach the print to the underlying core page: it’s mounted as a single sheet flush with (i.e., level and even to) the page and its edges. Flushmount albums offer wedding photographers considerable flexibility when designing layouts because multiple images may be printed onto a single sheet of paper without requiring the additional labour of precise positioning. The simplified assembly of flushmount albums makes them the most affordable type of wedding photo albums
Overlay matted albums
Pages in overlay matted albums are mounted “overlay” style. The print is mounted to each side of a page and *overlaid* with a matte, which is a stiff premium cardboard with cut-outs (or “apertures”) precisely positioned and sized to frame the underlying images. Most manufacturers of overlay matted albums use a single print flush-mounted to the page (although not always to the very edges) and then overlaid with a matte. For instance, if a large overlay matted album contains a page with four images on a side, the matte does not hide four discrete prints underneath, but a single print with four images. This distinction is largely academic since you can’t tell the difference when handling the finished product.
Pagemount matted albums
In pagemount matted albums, mattes are mounted directly to the core pages. Individual prints are trimmed slightly smaller than the mattes’ apertures and fitted inside them to expose an even border of the core page beneath. Creating pagemount albums requires intricate handwork and a lot of precision in trimming individual prints and mounting them to the pages. A fraction of a millimetre is the threshold between something looking right and an obvious mistake. Creating pagemount wedding albums is time-consuming work that’s reflected in the premium price of the finished product.
Duo is Queensberry’s name for a line of premium albums that take the craftsmanship and classic appeal of pagemount matted albums and combines them with the modern charm and design flexibility of flushmount albums. Duo allows the photographer to design layouts that combined pagemount matted pages with full-bleed images mounted to the edge of the page. I offer Duo albums as a contemporary alternative to pagemount albums.
Hopefully, this has been an informative article. It was my goal to simply describe some of the album-related concepts that I struggled with when creating my product catalogue. As it happens, I’ve now made ordering a beautiful wedding album easier than ever: the Tier Two and Tier Three packages now include credits that may be used towards the purchase of an album.