As a Wedding Photographer, are you including an album with every package that you offer clients? I didn’t use to but I do now…. by Lisa Devlin.

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Its been a huge few years for wedding photography. The arrival of affordable digital SLRs have of course impacted massively on how many people now offer their services as wedding photographers. It feels like a buyers market a lot of the time as anyone looking to book a wedding photographer in the UK has a huge amount of us to choose from. Potential clients are often putting their demands in at the initial enquiry stage instead of waiting to see what you offer.  As an extreme example, I had this in my inbox a while back…

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you regarding a wedding taking place on XX.

If you are available for this date, I have a bride and groom looking for a photographer to capture a full day. They are, however, on an extremely tight budget.  The absolute maximum they may be able to stretch to, would be £400 for the total costings. The wedding is in XXXX Church with the reception to follow, down the road. It was originally planned that a friend would be photographing the events of the day, but it has recently come to light that this may not now be possible.

Ideally they are looking for the following:

2 Photographers

Coverage from preparation to first dance

Full copyright of all pictures

An Album

I was tempted to respond with ‘Dear Sir/Madam, thanks for your truly delightful email, I see your clients are after my Moon On A Stick package but I am busy for that day, in fact that whole year.’ I have also had lots of enquiries that state “We don’t need an album as we will be doing our own”. Of course if you are including the high resolution files in their package then they are very welcome to. But check up on those clients a year or even two down the line and see if they ever made that album. Or go back through your weddings and look at who was definitely going to order an album from you and see if they ever did. In the planning stages of a wedding, a few hundred pounds on an album to proudly display your wedding day can seem perfectly reasonable in the grand scheme of things. However after the wedding, when maybe the washing machine breaks down or they start to think about having a family, that chunk of money on a wedding album can now seem like quite a lot to find. Two thirds of couples overspend significantly on their wedding budget and often take quite some time to pay it all off. As photographers you will find that more often than not you will be missing the window of opportunity on providing a wedding album.

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Why bother at all? It takes quite a bit of time to design a wedding album well and with everything else we need to get done it can seem like that one thing that can be left. Well I got to thinking about all the lovely weddings I have shot since switching to digital and how few people had come back to order an album. I hope that some of my clients did put together their own albums and had fun doing it but I have spoken to quite a few who just never got round to it. After the initial excitement of getting your wedding photos, going back to even just select the ones for an album can seem like a chore. Then they are limited as to the albums that are available to them. Most of the non Photo Book companies are open to account holders only. I want my clients to have something gorgeous to treasure forever and to revisit with their kids and grandkids. Its just not as precious to huddle around a computer screen and what are they going to put that beautifully branded DVD or memory stick into in five/ten years time? Albums are also a fantastic marketing tool. Even in this age of social media and online sharing, I still get the most bookings of a couple’s friends if I have provided a beautiful album. They show off the images to their best potential and a good wedding album should strongly tell the story of that wedding day.

So if people are not coming back after the wedding I have decided to always include it in the package that I offer. I currently offer three different albums, a Photo Book from Bob Books as I like the photographic paper and how flat they lay; an Art Book from Folio, I love the fine art paper they use and their eco credentials: at the top of my range I offer Queensberry as they are quite simply the market leader in beautiful bespoke albums. These are all great companies to deal with and I respect them all in many ways. I include a Photo Book in their deal with options to upgrade to the other two album types. I think Folio books are really well priced for the finish and personal attention they give you. Although still at the top of the range pricewise, Queensberry has never been more accessible. You no longer need to invest in their sample pack to start an account and some of their range of books and albums are very competitively priced.

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Okay, it takes even more of your precious time to produce albums but just think how very exciting it could be for your clients to take delivery of it. Some album companies make the design process super easy and quick, some like Queensberry offer an in house design service or you can pay a designer to do the work for you. I use Clare Moore to design all albums for me using the PhotoJunction software which has the prerequisites for several album providers built in or you can set up any dimensions and export the lay-outs as PSDs or JPGs. This is how we do Bob Books although they also have very easy to use software themselves. Make sure you factor in an additional cost to cover the album design even if it’s you doing it. I asked Clare to provide some of her tips for effective album design.

*I always like to sit down and look at a couples images selection to get a feel of their day before I start designing and if possible have access to view the images that they didn’t select. It is very rare that I don’t end up adding a few images to help the album flow. (normally detail shots)

*don’t be afraid of white space. It can really enhance the images if you have the space to view them.

*the album needs to have a good balance of the day. You don’t want an album full of group shots but likewise you don’t want just hundreds of shots of the couple and none of the guests.

*I find the preview option in Photojunction really useful to refer back to as I design. It gives you an idea if your layouts are working.

*where possible I like to use the same layouts in different stages of the album to keep continuity.

*a good album design should really tell the story of the day.

If you don’t want to include an album then look at ways you can entice people back at some point to get one. I am not a great one for the whole up-selling thing but suggest that when you deliver the images to a couple, you send them a link to see what albums are available to them. Many people do feel overwhelmed when looking at images from their own day and if you’ve done a good job they should be completely wowed. Consider offering a discount on albums ordered within a month of the wedding or try contacting them a couple of months before their first anniversary. It could be a lovely way to celebrate their anniversary, revisiting their wedding through the story in a beautiful album. Of course most couples then show that album off which is why you end up booking weddings for lots of their friends. Once you have done all that hard work designing a book, it has never been easier to potentially make some more profit on it. Many of the album companies offer a copy or scaled down version which can be great for parents. Bobs even let you put designs in an online bookshop so it’s no extra work for you. Clare also suggests that you blog album designs so clients can see some real weddings in books. Again PhotoJunction makes this really easy with a QuickTime sideshow facility.

The big trade fairs like this week’s SWPP are a great way to see what albums are on offer and to be inspired by their sample designs. At Farm Week, we have a panel session on albums hosted by wedding photographer Eliza Claire on Saturday the 1st of February. We will be discussing albums and how to make them work for you ~ this session costs just £50 and includes a goody bag full of suppliers discounts.