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Make a Photo-Printing Plan
Sparked by the below question posed by a MSW reader, we've rounded up our favorite—and most trusted—sources for printing your wedding photos, from the most hands-off (and as to be expected, most expensive) to the most hands-on (and cheapest). No matter your printing method, aim to order your book within six months of the celebration, when your emotions are still fresh, but you're far enough removed to be critical of which selects should make the final cut. And if you find yourself feeling some sticker shock, remember that you're creating a custom keepsake that will last for years to come—and that's truly priceless.
I love my wedding photos, but I'm not sure I can afford my photographer's prices for an album. What are some good options for putting one together myself? – Jane, via email
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Wedding Album 101
When budgeting for your wedding album, refer to your photographer's contract to calculate what you'll owe for the digital prints, if anything (the price might have been built in to your initial quote). The cost of each, and the number available to you for purchase, will likely dictate what route you take for designing your wedding album. In other words, the costs that follow are just one piece of the price puzzle.
Additionally, if you're creating a photo album through a source other than your photographer, then don't write off scanning Instagram and Facebook for candid shots to add to the lineup.
And thirdly, familiarize yourself with common printing methods and binding techniques before signing any dotted lines, or at the very least, ask for samples. Otherwise, you might be disappointed with the quality of the finished product.
One phrase to add to your vocabulary from the start is "layflat," whereby individual pages are bound together on one edge with special adhesive, then encased with a hardcover spine, allowing each spread to stay flat without creasing the hardcover spine when flipped through. When used in sentence: "Brides should buy layflat wedding albums."
Now, click through to check out some of our favorite sources for wedding albums.
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Your Wedding Photographer
Before you write off your photographer's album outright, see if he or she offers different pricing options. Then, consider the benefits of a professionally designed book. While the tab can reach upward of $1,500, the end result is worth it, says New York–based photographer Christian Oth: "It's an heirloom that will be passed down, and a pro knows how to create an outstanding visual story, from aligning margins and spacing to retouching and tweaking the layout." It's also the easiest, quickest way to get a gorgeous album. For an idea of how your pro-designed wedding album might look, click through samples on the following album companies' websites: Queensberry (shown), Leather Craftsmen, and Cypress. Top wedding photographers often source books from these craft companies when designing albums for clients.
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For a little more money, but less effort on your end, commission a business like TweedWolf.com to cull, edit, crop, and lay out your photos in a hardcover-bound book. After uploading all of your photos online or sending them by mail on a jump drive, the service takes over from there. The company sends digital proof after digital proof to you for tweaks, comments, adjustments—and ultimately approval—before printing and binding the finished product, a process that typically takes four to six weeks total.
Cost: Two options available priced at $270 (for the "signature album" shown) and $420 that run up to 120 pages. The prices include shipping.
Specifics: All photos are printed on archival paper using the "digitally offset" technique; Linen-wrapped cover options include a 7.75-by-9.5-inch hardcover in charcoal or a 13-by-11-inch hardcover album in charcoal, ivory or sand. The cover includes a cover photo inset (shown). Generally, albums average between 60 and 80 pages and include 250-350 photos.
Add-Ons: Reprints of your wedding album cost $150 each (and would make an excellent Christmas present for mom and dad).
Top Tip: Don't feel compelled to slim down your photo selects before submitting them to Tweed Wolf. The designers are up for the challenge of sifting through hundreds, and even thousands, of images at no additional charge.
Something Extra: In addition to the above upload methods, you can also hand over your prints using Dropbox, your computer, your phone, or even by syncing from Facebook. After you finish uploading, you will have the opportunity to indicate any favorites or delete any pictures that you don't want included.
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Just like Tweed Wolf, MyPublisher.com (the brand that brought you Shutterfly and tinyprints) culls, edits, crops, and lays out your photos in a hardcover-bound book (called a "premium album") through their design service, one of two methods available to create your wedding album. The second, more hands-on, but still digital, option begins with downloading the "MyPublisher BookMaker" software on your PC or Mac. From there, you'll layout your photos in its program and upload the finished, designed pages online, letting the service take over from there. What caught our eye? The gold-rimmed pages of its premium albums are simply stunning.
Cost: $220 – $600+ (for premium albums)
Specifics: All premium, flush-mount albums have thick, lay-flat pages; Cover options include photo finish wrap, standard leather in black, premium glove leather in 20 shades ($30 extra), photo inset ($50 extra), and photo-finish acrylic ($75 extra); linen-covered albums are not available. There are five sizes of 20-page albums available, but only three sizes are design-service eligible: 8-by-8-inch for $220, 10-by-10-inch for $320, and 12-by-12-inch for $420. If using the downloadable software, these two sizes of 20-page books can be ordered: 11-by-8.75-inch for $320 and 14-by-11-inch for $420.
Add-ons: Photo finish acrylic and wrap covers can be customized with a monogram, while leather and photo-inset covers can be imprinted with either foil stamping or debossing. Each page added beyond 20 costs $10 each; Pages are available in two thicknesses: standard (free) and thick ($50 extra); rounded page corners are available for an additional $25
Top Tip: Most additions and customizations have a price on MyPublisher, which can quickly add up to a steep total (the above "specifics" alone are enough to make anyone's head spin!). Stay on the lookout for coupon codes and online discounts, which are often advertised on the site's homepage.
Something Extra: MyPublisher also sells soft and hardcover books stating at 20 pages for $19.99 (only available using MyPublisher BookMaker, not the in-house design service). With the purchase of a premium photo album, "companion albums," or smaller versions of the main album, are available in six-by-six inches ($100 for 20 pages, with each additional page costing $1.25) and eight-by-eight inches ($150 for 20 pages, with each additional page costing $1.25).
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For a digitally printed album that you design yourself, try ArtifactUprising.com, where you'll upload and arrange your photos online using a template, then turn the reins over to the company for printing and binding; our favorite is the lie-flat version shown.
Cost: $119 - $349. 10-by-10 and 8.25-by-11 lay-flat albums (common choices for holding wedding photos) start at $149 and include 20 pages. Additional pages cost $4 each and can be added in two-page increments—up to 70 pages total.
Specifics: Albums lay flat, are press printed, and can include "panoramic" images (shots that span an entire two-page spread)
Add-Ons: Foil stamping in black, white, gold, and copper; fabric covers in 16 shades, from lemon to merlot.
Top Tip: Without any hiccups, the total project can be tackled in 10 days, plus shipping time
Something Extra: Artifact Uprising also sells hardcover and softcover photo books at a lower cost that allow for more total pages—100 and up—and can be added in one-page increments at a smaller fee than the lay-flat albums; however, they are not as customizable.
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The simplest—and most affordable—DIY method is compiling an old-school scrapbook, photo corners and all. If you go this route, shop for a photo album with acid-free pages so your photos won't discolor over time; we like the selection of books from ClaireMagnolia.com. Along with photos, you can include other printed mementos (like that ceremony program or menu card), too, in your crafty montage, which you'll collage at home.
Cost: $65 - $200 for a blank album (photos not included)
Specifics: Claire Magnolia fills all of its lay-flat albums with acid-free, archival paper. A standard photo album comes with cream or black pages, with the smallest offering being a 60-page, 9-by-12 inch book, and the largest a 100-page, 12-by-12 inch book, though pages can be added with an additional fee. All books can be ordered as vertical or horizontal productions (the dimensions shown simply flip).
Add-ons: The custom options can seem endless—and a little daunting. Here's a summary of how you can personalize. You'll first choose from 41 covers, in a variety of shades, that are silk, satin, linen, velvet, natural leather, or bonded leather. Then, you'll select from 87 add-ons, in several shades, which includes silk bows, satin and specialty ribbons, velvet sashes (that can be "debossed"), or silk flowers. Additionally, ask about adding a personal emblem or lace.
Top Tip: Some couples order their main wedding photo album from their wedding photographer, then save some money by DIY'ing their parent albums.
Something Extra: Claire Magnolia also makes custom guest and vow books if you're the type of bride who would like a matching suite of keepsakes.
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Preserve the "Best Day of My Life" and the festivities surrounding it with custom photo books from Recently, an app that compiles the photos on your smartphone into a magazine each month. You could even make a honeymoon ablum out of all the selfies you and your new hubby will be taking on your vacation!
The Cost: $9 per month app subscription
Specifics: Once your download the app and sign up for the services in the settings menu on the app, all you have to do is tap "publish" once a month and you'll receive a personalized magainze in the mail. You can hand select which photos you want to use, or just create a "wedding" or "honeymoon" album on your camera roll, and you'll be able to upload the entire album in just one click.