Option #1: Albums can be super duper easy and profitable with an awesome workflow.
Option #2: Albums can be insanely frustrating, take up a TON of time, and eat up your profits with an inefficient workflow.
I don’t know about you, but the first option sounds a lot better to me. So let’s do that.
You need to create an awesome album workflow for yourself. The is the step-by-step process that keeps your album creation fast and organized.
There’s a catch. Like pretty much everything in photography, workflow is personal. What works for one person won’t work for the other. The more you can consider your own unique circumstances, methods, and preferences when defining your workflow, the stronger it will be!
Don’t worry though. It’s pretty easy. Simply think about your album process, write down all of your steps, start to finish, and see if there are any spots where you could be more efficient!
I’ve designed a ton of albums, made lots of mistakes, and figured out ways to ensure I was using my time wisely. This is my workflow. Hopefully it inspires and helps you create your own! (If you want to learn a whole lot more about creating albums, check out our easy-to-follow tutorial!)
Note: I use InDesign for album design, Lightroom for photo editing, and Photoshop for retouching! Three awesome programs, with specific uses!
What Is Awesome Workflow?
First, what makes a workflow awesome? Here’s what it needs:
- It’s fast: You need to be able to create an album in a reasonable amount of time to make it profitable. If you’re using InDesign, and have created some custom templates for yourself, you should be designing a 15 spread album in well under an hour (I take about 30 min to get the thing done and ready to show to the client by using my own templates, lots of shortcuts, and focused attention)
- It’s efficient: You need to be doing things like retouching only when it makes the most sense (as in, after the design has been approved!) No time wasters allowed.
- It’s complete: Don’t leave out important parts, like sharpening or retouching! They need to happen, so make sure you have them slotted in to your workflow, and know exactly when you’ll do them
- It’s flexible: Great design comes from the ability to experiment, and make changes on the fly. Make sure your workflow allows for lots of creativity in the design process (like trying out a few different photo combinations until you find the right one!)
- It’s fun: Designing albums should be fun. You’re taking your favourite images, and putting them together to tell a story! With an efficient workflow you’ll be able to enjoy the process without taking up a ton of your time!
So are you ready for a workflow that fills all those needs??? Are you???????
1. Edit Your Photos
Make sure you’ve already chosen the final set of images that you’ll be presenting to the client. You can’t design the album until that’s all done! Then edit them. Use Lightroom for maximum speed and consistency (Want to learn how? Check out our tutorial!). Get them to a finished state, except for cosmetic retouching.
2. Pre-Design The Album
This is where the magic happens. Go ahead and design the album exactly as you would like, without any client input. Don’t worry about length, just make it tell the full story. Designing this way saves time, since you can just go with the flow. It also helps you create the best album possible since you can choose the perfect images to tell the story. There’s no pressure and no constraints, so it’s crazy fun.
Show the album to your clients. In-person is best, so you can talk them through your choices, and show them a sample album to get them excited. Or, if it needs to be online, you can use the Lightroom Web Gallery function to show the album spreads in a handy slideshow. It’s easy to make, easy to share, and doesn’t cost anything if you already use Lightroom. However you do it, just make sure they can see it in all it’s glory!
4. Make Edits
Now that your client has had a chance to see your pre-design, they might have a few edits. Use InDesign, and this process is literally drag and drop simple. This stage shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
5. Get Approval
Once you’ve finished all the editing, and they’re happy with the design, get your client to confirm that the album is good to go. Double check that they’re approving the right version to avoid frustrating (and costly) reprints.
Now that you know exactly which images made the final cut, go ahead and retouch them. Saving your retouching until this point ensures that you aren’t retouching photos that wind up being taken out of the album. Retouching takes a fair amount of time, so make sure you’re using that time effectively. You’ll want to use Photoshop and get yourself a tablet for fast retouching. Use the Autoloader script for Photoshop to fly through all the images.
The album is super spiffy, so it’s time to export the files for printing. There’s a ton of debate about this stage (different versions of InDesign handle JPEG exporting differently), but right now the InDesign wizards recommend exporting as a high res PDF, and then pulling out JPEGS in Photoshop for the absolute best file quality.
All images benefit from a little touch of sharpening before print. Sharpening the final spread lets you control the consistency and amount of sharpening based on final image size.
Go through all the finished files one last time to check them over. Make sure none of the images are pixelated, that everything is lined up properly, that your files are numbered correctly, that any dates are correct, and that everything is spelled correctly. A few minutes here will ensure you don’t make mistakes that cost you profit.
10. Submit To Printer
You’re a smarty pants, I don’t need to explain this step to you. :)
When the album comes back from the printer, be sure to give it a thorough check for mistakes and defects. If you live in a climate with humidity issues (like the insanely dry climate of Edmonton!) you might want to give your album a few days to acclimatize before giving it to the client.
Make that album look pretty, print out an album care sheet, and include a hand written thank you card. Any other little treats that you can add here are great for impressing your clients, and creating an awesome experience.
If you can deliver the album by hand, that’s prime. Otherwise try to make sure to give it some TLCin packaging so it’s still a great experience for the client!
Does your album workflow look different? Do you have any tips for creating amazing albums efficiently? Share them below!
Jim + Ravyn says
Great post! I like the idea of waiting until after approval to retouch the photos. Never thought of doing it that way. We're in the stages right now of trying to sell more albums. Debating whether to keep including with the packages or give an album credit (which will essentially make them spend more $ later). Either way, we want our client to value to album, and pull the ol' "Can we take the album out to save $$?". It's a tricky process, at least that's what we're finding!
Wonderful post, and I love this series. Couldn't have come at a better time! I have a shoot this weekend that I will be using for my first example album, so reading this has been especially helpful.
Question: what does the sample album that you use for in home proofing look like? Do album vendors offer photogs sample albums to show clients?
How about album vendor recommendations?
Hey Jim & Ravyn!
So glad you enjoyed it! Yep, saving your retouching to the end is a mega way to be efficient!
I hear you on the difficulty. Albums are a big investment, and so photographers really need to do a lot to show their clients why they genuinely believe they're valuable.
We never did album credit, though many have success with that method. I think the biggest thing is education, and letting your clients know all the reasons why your albums are so fantastic!!
Thanks so much for the comment! So glad you found it helpful!
I'll be talking about sample albums a lot more in an upcoming post, but for now a few quick tips.
Get a big album (show big to sell big). Album companies sometimes offer discounts on albums if you're using them as samples, though you'll still have to pay something. And our absolute favourite album company is Vision Art (www.visionartbook.com). We used them from the very very beginning, and love them!
Great article! I also use Vision Art books, they're awesome. I also wanted to add that for album proofing I use Album Exposure. It's a great way to show your clients how the album will really look. The best part about it is that they can make comments per spread. You simply then upload the changes they wanted and their original comment remains along with your updated response! It keeps a history of your changes and comments, Brilliant. The client then has control to press the "submit for approval" button when they're ready, makes them feel good :-) I've found this very helpful for reviewing with clients. Oh, and InDesign has saved me hours of designing, it's awesome!
Thanks for mentioning us Marisa! Just wanted to add that lots of people use AlbumExposure both in person as well as online so that they can record the changes the client would like right there in-studio. Great article!
Thanks for the comment Marisa! We haven't tried Album Exposure, but that's awesome that it works well for you!!!
And thanks for the tip Jared!!
I am just getting started shooting and wonder what/who you recommend for printing client albums.
Great article! Your site is so helpful, and I truly appreciate the time and effort your taking to give us such rich info! I'm doing my first album for a client! I just started my business, although photography is not new for me. I shoot portraits and events, but not very many weddings. I'm just not a wedding person. My question is, I usually pick out 30 of my best images from the shoot, edit and retouch, then schedule an in person proofing. I do it this way bc the photos make more of an impact. How would I integrate albums into this workflow?
If I've already done editing and retouching on my set I'm showing the client, how can I utilize this system for album design? Also, should I sharpen all images on an Image by Image basis, or sharpen them all uniformly at the end, like you already talked about?
Thank you SO MUCH for your help!
I look forward to hearing your response!
Ryan Macalandag says
Absolutely helpful! I am this very day trying to come up with this exact workflow. What a relief. Whew! :)
Ryan Macalandag says
Taking notes… :)
Ryan Macalandag says
I do everything in Lightroom – import, sorting, editing, exporting different sizes, album layout, print layout, archive/back-up. I have presets for everything. I just kinduv don't look the output JPEG from LR.
Robert Thompson says
Thank you so much for this! Keep it up with the patiently explained tutorials and don’t get discouraged by no comments on your posts.
Kaitlyn Luckow says
Awww thank you so much, Robert! :)
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