With the digital photography era, the customs in the wedding industry changed, period. Many customers don’t need a professional grade of photography prints; actually, many do not even print their photos.
And lately, this trend is growing into wedding albums too. Many different companies promote wedding albums printing services. One of the most recognized is Shutterfly in the US or Blurb in the UK. They often offer high-quality layflat books that are about 1/3 the price of the wedding album provided by professional wedding photographers.
Many brides ask questions like, “I am curious if the quality of printing that photographers have access to are noticeably better than those offered by Shutterfly and similar companies?“
Okay, let’s dig into this. If you want an album that will last for generations, then a high-quality album from a professional photographer is the only way to go. Yet don’t assume that all photographers use an excellent company.
Shutterfly or Blurb are very low-end, consumer-grade brands. They do great for what they do and obviously for their price, but they are still low-end. There are mid-grade companies, like Millers or Zno. And then there are professional companies creating high-end albums, but those take orders only from professional photographers.
A professional wedding album requires to be designed first. It’s done either by professional designers, or you need at least special and pricey software. This design has to be verified together with all the specifics because making an actual album costs a couple of hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and if there is a mistake, someone has to pay for it. In this case, it’s the photographer.
Then there is a big difference between books and albums. Albums are a totally different thing and much more expensive. The book’s cost could be around $200; for the real album, it starts near $800, and that’s before adding design work and me being paid for the emails, editing, ordering, and the need to make a profit. And openly, there would be no purpose in my offering printed items that weren’t noticeably different from low-end, consumer-level brands.
Please understand that low-end doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a waste. They are okay, especially if you want something quick and cheap and don’t mind replacing it later. But they are nowhere near the better print options.
It’s like wine. Five-bucks wine from Kmart might be okay if that’s what you’re into! But it’s also absolutely not the same thing as a high-end wine. Depends on what you value. Some people really appreciate the taste of a specific kind of high-grade wine. Many literally can’t tell the difference between high and low end.. so why pay more?
I always recommend getting your hands on the ones your photographer offers and see if the quality makes the difference to you. To me, and to my clients, it definitely does. Higher-end companies use components that last much longer (like, decades longer), stand up to much more use, are much more color-faithful, and have a much more luxurious look and feel, with thicker, textured pages and covers.
And again, be aware that Albums are VERY different from Books; it can be confusing as some photographers use the terms interchangeably. High-quality Books from a wedding photographer are typically in the $500+ range. High-quality Albums are more in the $1500+ range.
I usually charge around $10,000 for a wedding, and the album chosen by 90% of my brides is $2,500.
You can’t genuinely appreciate an excellent wedding album until you have held one. My couples are astounded when they feel those albums for the first time. It’s difficult for them to not get one after they have held one, even if they didn’t think they wanted one in the first place.
Professional Wedding Albums
My final conclusion is that if you don’t have a budget bigger than $1,000, I suggest going for a customer-grade album or book. If you want a piece that will become your new family’s heritage, definitely use your wedding photographer’s services.