Here is a great new video that gives a general overview of what the differences between wedding albums and photo books are. For the in-depth specifics of albums and photo books continue reading our post.
Photographs capture the treasured moments of a wedding for generations to come. Traditionally, the wedding album has been one of the most cherished remembrances of that special day. Today, digital technology offers today’s bride and groom a variety of new options for recording wedding memories, from no-print digital files stored in the cloud and do-it-yourself (typically online) photo books to traditional albums prepared by professional photographers. Although most kinds of books offer ways to preserve and share wedding-day images, these choices are definitely not created equal.
Update 12/4/2014: Before we dive into the differences between the two, we have just conducted a recent survey about wedding albums. One question we asked our brides was “do you know the difference between a wedding album & photo book” Here are the results:
The results of the survey were quite interesting. 29 of the 45 surveyed brides either weren’t too sure if they knew the difference between a wedding album and photo book or did not know the difference at all. Which makes perfect sense, being a bride, you are dropped into the world of everything wedding and are not expected to know all of these things. Let’s dive back into the article!
Today, in the market, there are two main categories of wedding keepsakes. The main difference between them, yet not the only one, is the technology and paper used for printing them. While photo books (the type you buy from online suppliers) are printed by digital presses on regular (double sided) paper, in a process very similar to the printing of a business brochure, wedding albums are printed using a different photographic process onto photo paper, similar to 8×10 photo prints.
Now even though this is the main difference between the two types of wedding books, there are also many other sub-differences. For example, you can use Pro photo paper or regular photo paper; you can use lay flat digital-printing paper or regular digital-printing paper. The type of binding and the process and the materials used are also significantly different. For example, albums are typically bound in a true leather cover in a manual precise process. While photo books use leatherette or low cost (leftover) leather, this type of binding will also impact the way the books lay and, more importantly, how long it will take for pages to fall out, if they do.
As in everything in life the differences in quality bring about differences in pricing, so price alone gives some basis for making an informed decision.
There are two questions or issues to consider:
1. Comparing apples to apples – making sure you put side by side similar products from the perspective of delivering quality and capacity to preserve memories
2. Having a clear goal in mind- it’s not only “can I afford” but also “can I afford not.” For example, if product A has 15 years durability and is half the price than a product that has 100 years durability, it’s probably a perfect choice for a Christmas card or a calendar, but I am a little more doubtful that it’s a better choice for your wedding memories.
Before analyzing the alternatives, let’s take a quick look of the landscape:
Photo books: as mentioned, these are printed on double-sided paper by digital presses (similar to a printed business brochure), and the pages fold magazine-style.
Photo books are made in most of these product variations:
1. Soft cover – cover printed on paper, book pages printed on regular paper and bound with staples
2. Photo cover – hard photo cover, book pages printed on regular paper, typically bounded through perfect binging (type of gluing) or sown/stitched
3. Leatherette cover— a type of artificial material, book pages printed on regular paper, typically either perfect binging (type of gluing) or sewn/stitched
4. Genuine Leather cover — There are many different types of leathers. You can see a long review on Wikipedia , in general terms Genuine Leather is “made from the remaining layers” – Click to View Different Types of Leather or Click here for the Difference Between Top Grain and Genuine Leather. “Not “true” leathers, but materials containing some leather, may also be used. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may still be labeled as “Genuine Leather”
5. Lay flat paper – wedding photo books are bound using a very different technology than regular published books, in which the paper sticks out and doesn’t lay flat, unless a special and more expensive lay flat paper is used.
(For those really interested, when binding a photo book you take or group all the pages together – aka the book block — and place the book block within a pre-made cover. In order to hold this book block attached to the cover ¼ inch of the cover is first wrapped around the book block, creating a tunnel in which the book block sits. When glued or sewn to, this “tunnel” doesn’t allow the pages to totally fold. Thus when the book is opened, it typically will not stay open if left alone on the table, and for sure its pages will not lay flat. But lay flat paper, which is more expensive and hard to print on, has a small “plastic” hinge which enables the paper to lay flat.
However, lay flat paper creates a huge challenge when you want to create and present a panoramic picture, place pictures across pages, or extend a background across two pages (lying flat). Very few companies allow this feature, which is a beautiful and quite important when designing a professional wedding book.
For more about lay flat and spread images, see these pictures
Lay Flat – Images Spread Across
None Lay Flat- One Image Per Page
As mentioned, are printed on a single sided photo paper via a photographic process (similar to a 8 x 10 print), typically on Pro paper (which handles the image better and has much better durability. Albums are generally made in these variations:
1. Traditional albums — the pictures are printed separately (4×6, 5×7 8×10) and are slid into “frames” that are part of the album pages.
2. Flush Mount Wedding Albums — each page is printed as one photo and then mounted on a cardboard, one picture per side. Therefore the pages are thick and do not fold. Today this is the most common and popular wedding album.
3. Album with Flexible Pages – this is a new product on the market, in which pages are photo printed but glued back to back in a unique technology that delivers a magazine style yet with photographic pages.
4. Covers – the above albums come typically with either a photo cover or a true leather cover. Because of the nature of the album binding there is no “book block” that is tucked into the cover’s “gutter” and thus pages fully lay flat. These albums typically (if created by a professional, or when using BrideBox album design software) deliver full panoramic and lay flat pages.
Typical True Leather Cover:
Album With Photo Cover:
Lay Flat/Panoramic Pages:
Photo Book and Photo Album Price Framework
Photo books – created by the customer, a photo soft cover 8.5 x 11 , 20 page (sides) book will cost around $25 and a hard photo cover around $35, lay flat pages will increase the price of this book to around $65, and a genuine leather hard cover to around $120
Wedding Albums– when designed and created by the photographer prices of an album will average around $765 (Bridal Guide) but some albums can get up to $1500 and more. When created by the bride a flush mount album will range from $300 to $500
Now we have an idea of the landscape we can start evaluating these very different options.
For couples on a budget, the inexpensive photo book is a relatively new option. Originally intended to allow users to create text-based books on demand, the do it yourself book publishing industry now offers many templates and formats to create photo books on any subject – including weddings.
Creating a wedding photo book can take as little as an hour, using digital images. Couples can work from proofs provided by their wedding photographer, as well as informal images captured by family and friends. Users are offered a variety of templates to choose from, in sizes ranging from mini-books to coffee table style. Choices typically include hard or soft cover (and even genuine leather), background designs and themes, and glossy or matte paper options.
A key reason for the rising popularity of the wedding photo book is cost. Prices for a basic book start at around $20 per copy, increasing with choices for such things as cover type, size and number of pages. Books can be produced and delivered in as little as a couple of weeks.
One reason for the appeal of the photo book is its flexibility. Within the framework of available templates, users can customize the book any way they want, with whatever images they choose. The digital files can be saved for future edits, too. Books can be created in a variety of sizes for different purposes, such as a mini-book for each member of the wedding party alongside the main photobook.
Although photo books are easy and inexpensive, putting the user in creative control, they aren’t designed for permanence. Since photobooks are an outgrowth of technology designed to create books and magazines based on text, they’re printed rapidly using laser or inkjet technology on a limited range of relatively thin papers, which aren’t intended to last for long periods of time.
Also the images used in these books lack depth and vibrance, compared to a photographic print. This is magnified by the fact that most home users do not have calibrated monitors, so most of the images are not color corrected. Most of the online services do not enhance or retouch the images before printing, either, unlike a pro lab and a pro photographer.
Likewise, the photobook’s limited hardcover options lack sturdiness, and bindings may not last. And, since photobooks are modeled after text-based books, they aren’t designed to lay flat or, in most cases, allow large cross spreads from one page to another. Since permanence is not the main goal with photobooks, images can fade over time.
On the other hand, a professional flush mount album traditionally offered as part of a wedding package offered by a professional wedding photographer, and now also offered direct-to-bride by Bridebox, is more expensive but it makes up for the cost in quality and permanence
The traditional wedding album is designed to emphasize the beauty and emotion of the day, and to preserve these unique images far into the future. These albums offer a higher quality of images and presentation and, equally importantly, the durability and resilience to last for generations.
At prices ranging from a few hundred dollars for a basic album package to a few thousand for a leather bound album on specialty papers, the wedding album is a product of creative vision and dedicated technology. Of the many proofs made in a wedding shoot, the photographer, in consultation with the bride and groom, takes the best images and edits them thoroughly, a process which can take weeks.
The resulting set of images is then prepared for printing, using archival inks and a variety of archival photo papers such as metallic or linen. These papers are heavier than the papers used in text-based books, particularly those offered as part of the inexpensive photo book packages. The pages of a wedding album may even be sprayed with lacquer to enhance permanence.
The printed pages can be bound in a variety of book formats, with covers ranging from cloth to leather. Bindings for wedding albums are sturdy and designed for laying flat, ensuring that they won’t crack with repeated viewings. Although this kind of wedding album is a unique creation, some packages include a set of small memory books or prints which can be given as gifts.
Wedding photographs are irreplaceable, the record of a day that can never be duplicated. Thanks to digital technology, today’s bride and groom have more options than ever before for recording and sharing the images of their wedding day. But the traditional wedding album endures as the best way to preserve those images for years to come.