Now that it is a busy time of year for wedding album design, I thought I’d offer some tips for brides and grooms who are selecting photos for their albums. It can be difficult to choose the right pictures, especially when you can’t visualize how they will all go together in the book.

Because your photographer is experienced in album design, he or she will know what sorts of photographs to include. If you have any concerns about the selection process, I urge you to have your photographer select the photos. I offer my clients a choice: they can choose all the photos, or I can do it. After I design a first draft of an album, my clients can request any changes, so they always have total control over the photos that go in the final book.

If you’d like to choose the photos for your book, here are some tips to follow:
1. Start with a cover image that is meaningful and appropriate.
2. Choose a photo that would make a great opening image on page 1.
3. Include several photos of the details.
4. Include photos that show both action and reaction.
5. Be consistent with photos of family within the general flow of the album.
6. Don’t choose photos that won’t fit with any other pictures.
7. Trust your photographer’s judgment about color vs. black and white.
8. Choose a closing photo for the last page.

 

1. Start with a cover image that is meaningful and appropriate.

If your album will have a photo on the cover, don’t forget to specify which photo you want to be there. I recommend that you choose a portrait of the two of you, but some candid moments work well, too.

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If your cover will have a small inset photo, the best choices are simple images that will look good in a small size. Make sure the colors in the photo will look good with the color that you’ve chosen for the cover material.

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If your album will have a full photo cover, you can choose an image with more detail, because it will be larger and easier to see.

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2. Choose a photo that would make a great opening image on page 1.

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If your wedding took place in a scenic location, a landscape photo will be a great way to introduce the setting.

 

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A photo of the venue is also a good scene-setter for the first page.

 

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You can also begin with a photo of the invitation and/or rings, as an introduction to the events of the day.

 

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A portrait of the two of you also makes for a great opening page, if you don’t mind that it will be out of chronological order from the rest of the book.

 

3. Include several photos of the details.

Detail photos reveal a lot of information about the theme, mood, and appearance of your wedding day. Be sure to select related sets of detail pictures, so they can be grouped together in the book. If you choose one picture of a bouquet or centerpiece, and no other details, it’s difficult to find a place to put those pictures within the album.

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I like to start with getting-ready details before the ceremony.

 

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A layout of ceremony details is a great way to introduce that part of the day.

 

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Some of the most beautiful details are found at the reception, so be sure to include several of those photos.

 

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4. Include photos that show both action and reaction.

This is also my philosophy when taking photographs. The story is best told by documenting the main events that occur, along with people’s reactions to those events. It’s worth the cost of extra album photos to tell the complete story.

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When the groom sees the bride for the first time, be sure to include pictures of her arrival as well as the look on his face when he sees her.

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During the toasts, be sure to include not only the speakers, but also the people laughing or crying in response. By looking at these example photos, you can tell that the speeches were hilarious, which gives a lot of information about the story of the day.

 

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Instead of showing only the father-daughter dance and the mother-son dance, include a photo of the bride’s mother crying as she watches. Her tears reveal a lot about the closeness of their family.

 

5. Be consistent with photos of family within the general flow of the album.

Try to choose a fairly even mix of pictures of both sides of the family, but keep consistent with the major events of the day. The most common mistake I see in photo selection is that people choose photos of family that don’t fit into the events of the day. Lots of my clients will count photos of their family and try to keep that equal, instead of considering how those photos will fit into the album. (For example, “I have four photos of my mom, and four photos of his mom in the book. So it’s equal.”) But make sure that you choose the right timing of the day to keep these photos truly equivalent.

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For example, if you include a picture of the father-daughter dance, definitely include one of the mother-son dance. Often people will omit one or the other, choosing instead to use a different photo of their parent later in the reception. Although that might seem equal when you are counting photos of individual people (“four photos of mom”), it doesn’t make sense because you have eliminated an important event in the day. Showing the father-daughter dance without the mother-son dance is not an equal distribution of family photos, no matter what the overall count may be.

My advice: Don’t count photos of people. Include important moments and tell the story.

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The same concept applies to other events of the day. For example, if three people give speeches, include photos of all three of them. Even if there is a better photo of your best man from a different part of the day, don’t leave him out of the speech photos. He worked hard on that toast.

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When choosing family formals, be consistent between families. In this example, each page shows a photo of the bride or groom with the parents, and then a full family photo with siblings. It doesn’t matter which formals you want to include, but do make them consistent between families.

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In this example of wedding party photos, the bride and groom selected a relaxed group picture of the ladies, and then a similarly relaxed one of the guys laughing. Be consistent between groups.

 

6. Don’t choose photos that won’t fit with any other pictures.

Another common mistake that I see are pictures that aren’t chosen as part of a group of related images. For example, if you choose several photos of the ladies getting ready, and only one of the guys getting ready, it will have to go on its own page by itself. That one photo won’t belong with any others in the book.

I often see people choosing one candid photo that occurs during the formal portraits. Those pictures are especially difficult to fit in the book. Typically the pages before the formals are the ceremony, and the pages after the formals are the portraits of the bride and groom. If there is one picture of a bridesmaid laughing during the formals, I don’t know where to put it.

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This is pretty typical for a layout of family formals.

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Here’s another example of formals. If there is a laughing bridesmaid photo that needs to go in there somewhere, it just doesn’t fit.

 

7. Trust your photographer’s judgment about color vs. black and white.

It’s not desirable to mix color and b/w photos on the same page, because it’s distracting to the eye and doesn’t flow together well. If your photographer wants to have a page that is all black and white, it is probably done with very good reason.

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The photo on the right was originally color, but it looks much better in this layout as black and white. Don’t be alarmed if your photographer changes it for the sake of the album.

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This series of images is much more impactful with a consistent b/w treatment and layout.

 

8. Choose a closing photo for the last page.

Think of how you want to end the story of your wedding, and be sure to include a photo for that purpose.

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A relaxed candid or portrait of the two of you at the end of the night is a great choice.

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Your rings can be a nice closing image.

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Sunset over your venue is a clear way to show the ending of the day.

 

The most important things to remember:

1. Your album is a book that tells a story.
Select photos that include the important moments and tell the complete story.

2. Your album is an art piece.
Select photos that you find beautiful.

3. Your album is a family heirloom.
Select photos that will be important to you and your family many years from now.

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COMMENTS

Charlotte,I am an ongoing visitor of your site, and a fellow photographer. Your work is beautiful and I have found many of your blogs insightful. I’m in south denver and constantly looking for great new locations to shoot.I had a question regarding your choice of album vendors. I went to Imaging USA last year and eventually everything started to look the same. I have used WHCC and ACI for press printed albums. They were okay but I’m looking for something like them that’s not press printed. I got a Graphi sample but it takes weeks to produce them and I hear nightmares of QC. Any recommendation on album companies to try?

Very thorough! I’m sure this will be valuable to wedding photographers, too!

This was REALLY helpful; thank you!

This was REALLY helpful; thank you!

This is a great walk through of choosing images along with examples. Thanks!

Great post!! Such helpful advice 🙂

Love it all Charlotte. Great tips for brides and great layouts!

Charlotte, AWESOME post! Such a great, helpful idea! 🙂

Charlotte – this is an excellent post for photographers and brides to be in regards to designing a wedding album. I will have to bookmark this and share it with others.

What a great guide! I let my photographer choose my images and I’m so happy that I did- there are so many elements that go into the storytelling and design that it can be awfully difficult to visualize. But this is great, you did a fantastic job explaining the choices!

Fantastic information for your clients Charlotte!

BTW I’m in love with your closer, everything from the tonality to the pose looks like it was the product of a day-long advertorial shoot.

Excellent, well-written guide. I would like to see a flow chart that says “Option 1: Let the photographer do it.”

Very informative!! I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind for my next album! Thanks!

These are great tips. I just designed my first sample portfolio album. Next on the list is a full wedding sample, I’ll definitely use some of your tips!

Thank you for this. I’m in the process of putting my wedding album together, and it really helps a lot!

Oh my goodness, what lovely photos and what a great entry!

Charlotte, you continue to inspire me with your work and great posts. This page is so incredibly helpful!

Charlotte Geary

CHARLOTTE GEARY

I photograph fascinating people, and I teach other people how to do it, too.

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