Until a few years ago, wedding photographers seemed to offer only one type of package. They would spend the day with you, take photos, develop them, and then provide a beautifully crafted album with a selection of the best images. I remember the time when the treasured wedding album would be shown to friends and family – those granular photos sticking on each page of a large leather book, everyone careful not to touch the images with greasy hands or bend corners, children being pushed away in case they’d do something that could damage the beautiful pages… A nightmare, really, but the pride of taking out the beautiful silk or leather book and show your fairly tale was the highlight of the first year of married life!

Digital photography, however, has opened up a huge world of opportunities including the chance for couples to produce their own wedding album with the digital copies from the photographer. Things have changed significantly since then, for photographers’ packages range greatly in price, depending on many variants and options: the DVD with all the images, a dedicated online page with a slideshow of all your images, a traditional album, a wedding book etc. So even the most expensive photographer will often have a service that is affordable to a couple with smaller budget, provided they’re happy to make their own album.

So what are the options currently available and what are the pros and cons of going for a traditional wedding album versus choosing a less traditional option? I’ve interviewed a few experts on the pros and cons, but first here is a summary of what is available:

♥ Traditional wedding album: despite seeing a decline, many couples still like the idea of having their photos, printed on quality paper, displayed in a luxurious album with a beautifully crafted leather or fabric cover. This is generally composed and provided by the photographer, and because of the quality of the album, the fact that it needs to be composed manually and that pictures are printed on exceptionally good paper, it can cost several hundreds pounds or more depending on the type of album chosen.

♥ The DVD: this option has become one of the most popular among couples, firstly because it allows you to have all the pictures on a disk accessible on any computer, digital frame or TV screen, and secondly because it is by far the cheapest solution; it’s handy, it gives you more than a handful of pictures, and you can do with them whatever you want (relatively speaking as copyrights rules still apply).

♥ The digitally produced wedding book, AKA the coffee table book: It’s sleek, it looks like Penguin published it for you, the images won’t ruin with time, and it does have the wow factor… provided it’s been made by a professional or using good printers. Prices range between a mere £50 for a DIY book, to £££ for a professionally made one.

♥ The online gallery: Some photographers offer to build an online gallery with your pictures with the option to buy copies in various formats (poster size, canvas, acrylic etc.). It works well if you have gone for a traditional album and want just a few more copies for friends and family or to frame for yourself. Also, if your guests want to buy some copies, they can access the gallery, select the images and pay for them without you having to get involved.

So the question is: are traditional wedding albums still worth doing? What are the pros and cons of the options above? I’ve asked the opinion of experts in the field, suppliers who offer different services and have various views on the matter. They deal with couples day in day out and know what the trends, preferences and most common requests are, and, more than anything, have worked in the industry long enough to know if or why an option is better than another.

I hope you’ll find their input useful and please don’t be shy. If you have any questions, feel free to contact them individually, or leave a comment below.

Polly Alexandre, Wedding Photographer 

♥ Until a few years ago, traditional wedding albums where the only option for couples for wedding photography was on film cameras. I know, however, that your specialty is to shoot on film (and it’s one of the many things that makes your photography so unique, in fact). Does shooting on film still force you to deliver images on traditional albums or do you have other options?

The film is developed and then scanned at high resolution to make a digital file so the same range of products and presentation options are available for my clients as for a digital photographer. You get the beauty, luminosity and softness of film with the convenience of a digital file! The images can be displayed online, delivered on CD or printed for albums and wall presentation.

Polly Alexandre Wedding Album

Image Copyright: Polly Alexandre

♥ What is your clients’ preference when it comes to albums? Do you find they are still interested in traditional options or are they more interested in digital ones?

My clients definitely prefer a more classic, timeless album that showcase their images and tells their story in an elegant and simple manner. I have previously offered different styles of book, but 95% of my clients were choosing Queensberry Matted Albums, so I now offer these to all my clients.  It’s important that the style of album is in keeping with the style of the photographs. I like to create images that are timeless, classic, simple, and filled with emotion. The best way to present these images is in a timeless stylish classic album. 

♥ What trends do you see emerging? Do you think wedding albums are still relevant to modern couples or are there alternatives that you think are here to stay?

Photographs are created to be enjoyed and looked at, not hidden away on a disc or on a computer! In this digital age where everything is being viewed on screen, and people spend much of their working day at a computer, it’s precious and wonderful to sit and look at actual photographs and albums. I think there will be a withdrawal from digital frames, and printed coffee table books, back to classic, elegant handcrafted albums with luxury materials and a timeless feel. Alongside this however people will want the digital files – for uploading their favourites to Facebook, and for sharing on i-pad & mobile devices.

♥ In short, what do you think are the benefits and merits of offering images to couples the way you do vs the traditional wedding albums (or, if you do put together an album for your client, vs. offering images on DVD so that the couple can get their own wedding book done via wedding books designers)?

The wedding album is the culmination of a year or more’s planning, all the money, thought and care put into a wedding…and a record of all the people the couple love, gathered for one day to celebrate with them. Over time the wedding album becomes a historical document, an heirloom that is passed down from generation to generation.I remember spending hours poring over photographs as a child, and through the albums my mum carefully put together to record the passage of our lives over time.  It is these albums that celebrate life & are the record of significant moments, of love, relationships, experiences and memories. In essence all the things that matter in life. I love a proper printed photograph rather than printed onto paper. Although there are some good DIY book options available online, these are a different type of book & are not as luxurious and classic as a matted, bound wedding album with a beautiful; silk or leather cover, and actual photographs hand-mounted inside. Designing an album is a skilled task, requiring graphic design skills to balance, colour, composition, scale and so on, as well as insider knowledge of the flow of a wedding and how to lay the images out so that they tell a story in the most visually impactful way. These are skills that generally only a profession working in the field possesses. Because I do have a number of creative people, including graphic designers as clients, I offer a CD only option, however I find that the majority of my clients go for the album option too.

Dasha – Wedding Photographer, Exhibit Emotions

♥ Your package includes providing the couple with a high res DVD with the wedding images and/or putting together a wedding album. What do you find your clients generally prefer?

60% of my couples prefer the dvd only package, while 40% go for the album along with the disk.

Exhibit Emotions Image Collection

Image Copyright: Exhibit Emotions

♥ Do you think there is a decline in couples requesting a wedding album? If yes, why do you think that is the case?

Within my target market I think there might be a slight decline in couples choosing to go with the wedding album. Not that they don’t want to have an album, it’s just that these days it’s harder to afford one. Wedding albums that I offer are handcrafted in UK, and as with everything handmade – the production costs are quite high. I think couples who are buying the disk are hoping to make a photo book themselves, but as statistics show the majority keep putting it off and eventually never really get around to doing it. Some couples buy the disk package initially and then get their album within a year after their wedding. That way they can split the payments, and save up for a quality product.

♥ What trends do you see emerging with regards to wedding albums? Do you think they will continue to be relevant to modern couples? What alternatives do you think are here to stay?

In the recent years we definitely see more online sharing of the images from weddings, especially on Facebook, so I think we will see the social online sharing developing more and more. Even now there are apps that allow you to always have your wedding photos in high-resolution with you on iPhone and iPad. Obviously, when you are meeting friends it’s a lot easier to take out a phone and show them some images, rather than bring a wedding album. Having said that, I don’t think wedding albums will go any time soon. It’s just such a beautiful way to showcase the wedding photos and tell the story of the wedding day in photographs. It also can be passed to next generation as an heirloom. I love looking at my parent’s wedding album. It makes me so happy to be able to see how they got married, how happy they were, what they were wearing etc.

♥ What do you feel are the benefits and merits of offering images to couples on DVD and on traditional wedding albums?

The benefit of having a disk is obviously having a control over how a couple uses their images. They can print them, share them online, make coffee-table books etc. Even if they have a wedding album – the disk serves as a sort of a back up. There are also disadvantages, as sometimes people order prints in Tesco or Boots and the quality of the prints just doesn’t live up to expectations, and also doesn’t do photos any justice. So, even if a couple has a dvd with their wedding photos, I would recommend to get products like prints, photo books, photo boxes through their photographer, as he/she would know the best places to get the best quality. When I meet my couples I always recommend to go for both disk and album. In that way they are getting the best of the both worlds. Contemporary – control over images, and ability to share them online, and traditional – good quality stylish wedding album as a keepsake of the best memories from their wedding day.

Sam and Emma, Wedding Book Designers, Illustries 

♥ Wedding albums seem to be gradually disappearing from photographers’ packages. Why do you think that is the case?

We think there are a lot of options out there now, couples don’t always want to stick to the traditional. Perhaps they want to create something themselves, to have something hand-crafted or more personal, or they are happy to just display digital images. And also, we’ve found that a lot of the photographers don’t enjoy creating albums – it takes such a long time, and can be very formulaic with traditional routes.

Wedding Books

Image copyright: Illustries

♥ Do you think this has an impact on your business in any way (negative/positive)?

We have definitely found that couples are looking for something different. They spend so long planning their wedding, paying attention to every detail, making sure it reflects their taste and unique style. And then all too often the album choices are pretty standard. With more photographers offering digital-only packages, couples can choose to create something more ‘them’, and Illustries can definitely do that!

♥ Why do couples go for a service like yours?

Every Illustry is unique: created just for one customer. Everything about it is bespoke to them – we interview them and write their love story from first meeting to happy ever after and then combine their wedding story with dozens of creative touches to make a beautiful memory book that helps them feel like they are back in their special day every time they open it. Our customers tell us that they wanted something ‘all about them’, something that reflected their own relationship. We think it is the bespoke element that sets us apart, along with the combination of words and imagery, which you can’t really get anywhere else.

♥ What do you feel are the benefits and merits of providing an actual wedding book instead using digital images vs a traditional wedding album and a simple DVD package?

Although wedding albums can be very beautiful, they are often very formal, and even a little imposing – they tend to sit up on a shelf gathering dust, as do all the little mementoes of the day. Illustries are pretty informal, they get passed around all the time, bits get read out, they really capture the mood of the day – along with all the little details that can get forgotten about. Everything is in one place: vows, readings, speeches, the menu, the guest lists, even guest comments – no need for a memory box! And with a digital only package, it seems sad to let all those lovely memories languish away on a DVD – we think they need celebrating!

 How does having a wedding book made up by experts like you compared to having a wedding book done via one of those digital prints companies that allow you to download the software and build your own?

There are some good photobook companies out there and they are a great option if you’re on a budget, in particular. But they are pretty generic with limited layouts, background choices and colourways. And adding text is a nightmare! That’s why we don’t use any template software, all our designs are unique to Illustries. And the whole idea for Illustries came from frustration with the choice out there. Emma was getting married and wanted to create a memory book with lots of text but it was impossible – step in Sam, as a really experienced designer, and Illustries was born!

♥ What trends do you see emerging in the future with regards to ways to showcase your wedding memories?

In our opinion, bespoke is a really strong trend – couples want every aspect of their wedding to be different and the ‘album’ needs to reflect that too. It is all about personalisation – not the traditional sort, like embossing a name on a cover, but about making it person.

Ian White, Traditional wedding album supplier, Parker Photographics Ltd UK

♥ If you remember, the first time we spoke I told you that I wasn’t sure I wanted to feature traditional, luxury albums on the blog because I didn’t feel there was much of a story to them. However, at the time you made a very good argument in support of wedding albums. Can you share it with our readers?

The printed storybook album was first designed in Italy about 8-9 years ago. It took the world by storm and all couples wanted their images to look like a glossy book. However this then brings a huge amount of book binders to the industry thus swamping the market with printed books. As with all products in fashion, unless somebody comes up with something new it usually goes back to old fashion ideas, hence fashion goes around in circles. This year as one of the largest album suppliers, we are starting to see a lot more interest in traditional matted albums ,which we have supplied for the last 45 years!  Sure, there will always be people thinking all they need these days are digital images to display on large format TVs…

Wedding Albums

Image Copyright: Parker Photographics

♥ Why do you think wedding albums are still a relevant choice for many couples?

Currently the file format for images are Jpegs and Mpegs –  so who can guarantee these formats then? What is Google planning for their cloud systems? Have they or anybody else got replacement file formats for images that will be the only formats in the future to play on electrical devises? Of course it will not bother the sensible couples that insist on a hard copy album for their historic moment in time, because their kids and grandchildren will be able to look back in time. Whereas the techno couples might have a problem. Did you also know that images on a disc can corrode after 5 years and disappear completely?

♥What do wedding albums offer that the immediacy of having 100s of pictures on screen wouldn’t?

Technology has a place, a digital frame may appeal to some people because it never stops showing hundreds of images of your family members. But there is also a huge place in many people’s houses for just a picture in a frame. I never stop looking at the 

same image on one of my walls at home because it was a moment in time that gives me endless joy each time I look at it. I don’t want it to change for another image, I just like looking at the same image. This in my opinion is the view of many people in society and is why a wedding album is so important. It does not run out of power, it’s future proof, and it’s a hard copy of a historic family moment in time that you can simply sit down and turn the pages in total control at the speed you wish to turn the pages.   The other point of importance is that albums such as ours are made from high quality fabrics and leathers that offer clients value and texture with something to cherish unlike a boring CD/SD card. They are made from the fabrics of the decade and give pleasure to future generations looking back at their Parents fashions.   The modern photobook ordered on the internet will look very dated and tatty in no time at all. We think it is important to have quality presentation in the form of a hard copy, but also to ask for a CD copy so they at least have the choice of modern display mediums knowing they will always have that hard copy for the future generations.

♥ What trends do you see emerging with regards to wedding albums?

Who knows…? All I know it that in USA there has been a CD only trend with brides for the last 3 years because they wanted to order cheap photobooks online and to show their images on electrical devices. Companies I know in the States now tell me new brides what something more than a CD and are all going back to ordering classical albums. 

So, as you can see, it seems that our panel is unanimous – wedding albums are still very relevant to couples today and all the experts believe that traditional or non, professional albums are still highly recommended.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the experts? Do you believe wedding albums are the way to go, or are you more in favour of DVD or other digital forms?