By Gary Rabenko

Generally, my sample albums are clones of my clients’ albums. I might do a sample album of what one client’s album could have been to demonstrate the difference that image selection and quantity can make because it will include emotional images and reactions not used in theirs. The client’s album is done and they are excited. I worry that I failed them. The only way I can figure it out is to do the whole project anew — for myself and anyone who would enjoy experiencing the comparison.

After reading five articles on album design, I hope you feel confident in your image selection and in how the images will be used by your photographer, with whom I have suggested you discuss how to prep your images for their work.

If you are still muddling through your pile of photos on screen or in boxes, it’s probably because you need to cut down. That or maybe you are missing an important picture. Whatever that is, it’s always important. But you probably would say the same if any of the many photos you already chose was missing. So, you might feel better appreciating what you have, which should far outweigh what you don’t have.

Group photos are rarely flattering, exciting, or even essential in albums with a lot of candids of your family and friends being themselves. Today nearly any group photo is likely mediocre by 1980 standards. Then people had patience to be meticulously prepped to look good both as individuals and as a group shape. And photographers then knew how to do that.

It’s sad if those meaningful images are never utilized. That can also occur when the album designers have insufficient time to customize the arrangement and treatment of those images. The word design should mean something. It should involve intangibles such as having feel, inspiration, and an eye for design.

Honesty in album design for you could begin by admitting that the book will have no design! It could be just a holding place for your favorite photos. As such, without the transitional elements and photos to support or contrast other favorites, you should not expect there to be any design thought. That means there is no right or wrong.

Lack of thought allows rapid economic results. If value is important to you as well as price, be sure to include sufficient budget for the time involved to have skilled persons apply meaningful thought and attention to every phase of your album — from the personal consultation about what will mean most later, to the best approach during the photoshoots, through the preparation of the images by the studio and into the album image selection, design, and approval process. Without such attention to detail, the result can only be a collection of incomplete ingredients leading to a flat, unsatisfying, and bland tasting cake. Not how you want to end your dinner or your day.

Thought takes time. If you are working with an artificially limited number of photos, say 100 for example, it can take a designer more time to meaningfully juxtapose the three images that you chose from the bedekin photos than it might to artfully arrange three times that number. For example, the client admits she has many interesting and meaningful images to choose from the bedekin, but wants to budget the book’s images so as not to go over her contracted amount.

With a need to have so many dancing photos and friend shots, some have got to go. But trying to make three photos look like they belong with little supportive lead in and out shots, either squeezed into the page shared with procession shots, or spread out in an attempt to fill this one and only bedekin spread, can never work and both the designer and you should know this.

A quick way of doing an economy album would be to have the images arranged in chronological order, where you specify when grandparents and extended family are seen, and to what extent families are intermixed.

You can easily provide folders numbered from 1 to ## where ## is the last album page or spread in your contract.

Into those folders you place the photos that you want. You could even have a subfolder labeled “LARGE,” for an image that you want larger and more dominant on the album page.

I am not saying that you need to do this with your photographer. But in the case that you have definite ideas that are specific to more than a few individual images and you are not expecting artistry, rather than just provide a numbered list of the photos with notes (which is terribly inefficient and leads to errors during production), filling a directory structure with the files is actually a fun and fast way of getting your album more your way than just any way.

Artistic albums are different. For those, just specify the few that you must have or must not have, and let your photographer go to town with a budget to use whatever is needed. Many so-called artists are neither artistic nor sensitive to emotion in imagery. If the designer is a skilled artist in album design, this can work well. If not, it will be an expensive mishmash, instead of a boring basic book.

I have been completely digital since August 2001 and have continually been trying to help clients enjoy the new process that is so different from turning in a rubber banded pack of paper proofs as an album order. If you would like the directory structure which includes all the subfolders and more, please send me an e-mail. I will be happy to send you what you might find to be a valuable organizational tool.

There were two families that knew and loved each other. It was a small but spirited crowd with diverse guests and a wonderful couple. Photos were important to them, and they asked lots of questions every step of the way. We did a Central Park shoot.

On the wedding day, beautiful outdoor sun and sky shots sculpted the joy everyone felt and the beauty and splendor of the hotel’s garden. Many speeches and lots of shtick during the party and playful antics within the portraits led to loads of great content that could really make an album sing. They had lots of that in their first selection of 400 images. But when cut down to 100, most of the fun was left out. This is why I should make another album … for me. But is that right to them? What do you think? Please tell me how you feel about this.

Gary Rabenko owns Rabenko Photography & Video Arts at 1053 Broadway in Woodmere. To learn more, contact Gary@Rabenko.com, 1-888-RABENKO, 888-722-3656, or visit Rabenko.com.

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