The key thing that most people don’t understand when they embark on a career in wedding photography is that the photography is only one part of the business. I’m not referring to the pounds of paperwork and the endless self-promotion that occupy the bulk of a wedding photographer’s day, but instead to the tangible final product. While a number of wedding photographers make their money when they turn their shoots over to their clients after the Big Day, most photographers make their money by selling wedding output services such as books and framed prints.
Wedding photographs are a cherished keepsake, and they’re also the signature product of the photographer. There’s as much motivation for a photographer to help a client create a beautiful book as there is for a couple to want one—every person who looks at a well-designed book is a potential customer or word-of-mouth marketer.
Perhaps that’s why so many high-end book and output companies exist with such a wide range of products available. To help you navigate the waters of custom book publishing, whether you’re running a wedding or portrait photography business, here’s a look at some of the most popular output houses and the services they offer.
AcrylicPress uses Acryliprint HD technology to produce a varied line of modern and stylish acrylic prints, decor and gift items. Having seen the company’s print quality at the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) trade show, it’s not exaggerating its workmanship to say the output is tremendous. Triptychs, wall art or acrylic blocks are fused with photos. Most interesting besides the luggage tags are the custom sizes and shapes AcrylicPress offers.
Bay Photo Lab
Bay Photo Lab has a long history of innovative photographic printing and finishing services with the customer reviews to prove it. At the WPPI trade show, besides the books, its metal prints popped the most in its booth and appeared luminescent. Album choices include metal and acrylic covers for a unique client experience with remarkably fast turnover time and legendary customer service.
Black River Imaging
In business over 40 years, BRI has taken its knowledge and created a fulfillment system that ships albums and collateral directly to clients in two to three days. With no minimums, it’s serving all levels of the photography market from a craft Etsy seller to professionals. Paired with its fulfillment is ShootProof, a white label service that lets the client choose and order products. BRI then makes and ships the products out.
Blurb got its start creating on-demand books from easy-to-use templates and produces more of a consumer-level photo book, but it offers affordable books that are good to distribute to guests and family members. It also offers a unique on-demand letter-sized magazine, which makes for a memorable wedding product.
CG Pro Prints
CG Pro Prints wholesales prints in flats, canvas and metal. At WPPI, it launched Fine Art Prints with a double-matte finish in three standard frame colors. Having seen them in person, we can say they’re beautiful, and the company has a very enthusiastic staff.
Couture Book exists to change the perception of “cheap photo book” to that of highly designed, timeless works of art. Using a Flash-based website, photographers create their books, and Couture makes them bespoke. Reserve this service for special projects, maybe a portfolio, as it’s expensive and a tedious process.
Finao stands for Failure Is Not An Option, and of all the book binders we looked at, it has the most attitude and is rather in your face about wedding books with a promise of very high print quality. Besides making its brand of albums, Finao distributes Seldex, an Australian-based company that ships direct to the States. Both companies emphasize artistic vision and unique albums.
FineArt Albums offers pro lab services at cost-effective pricing, vending Fujifilm and Kodak papers. Its Digi Photo Book offers the most value, and we were impressed with the Modern Books mix of materials, including metal cameos.
Floricolor was founded in 1979 in Iberia and, with a U.S. presence, offers extensive collections of lovely albums. Hippie Chic caught our eye for the pastel colors, and its turnaround time is 12 days from Portugal to your studio. You can order a complete package from it, including bags for the album or wooden boxes. Like Couture Books, this is a luxury service and made with the finest materials.
Much like Floricolor, the Italian company Graphistudio offers collections in the finest materials. The Digital Matted Album is like most Italian creative expressions, all about the aesthetics. The artistry of an album from Graphi includes translucent pages with color linings. The prices are lower once you’re a member because the print work is essential to document a once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding.
From a modest beginning in the basement of the founder’s house, H&H is one of the industry’s largest single-facility pro photo labs. Its growth made possible by close customer relationships, it now services every aspect of professional photography. The albums are handmade and range from budget to hardcover press books and leather wrap albums.
Meridian Professional Imaging
A full-service pro lab, Meridian Professional Imaging focuses on providing photographers with an excellent value on a wide variety of quality products. Wedding photographers have a choice of six styles and seven album sizes to satisfy any client. Assembled Albums include the Destiny, Summit, Crystal and Superior. The premium Destiny album is library-bound, with a traditional leather cover and lay-flat pages. The Flush Mount Albums include the Classic, Crystal and Aurora. Album options range from metallic pages to special coatings and more. Meridian also offers more than 80 print sizes, including metal prints and their 10-foot Panoramix for couples who want a rather unique memory of their day.
Miller’s Professional Imaging
Like H&H, Miller’s Professional Imaging has been around since the industry started. It is the largest professional lab in the U.S. Its signature books ship in matte or pearl press paper that lightly shimmers and can include panoramas. Services include a storefront for your clients and custom USBs. If you’re looking for a lab relationship, Millers is there for you.
nPhoto is “the biggest printing lab in Europe” but produces products for the U.S. market, including its layflat photo albums. The company offers an array of albums in matching album boxes, with or without photographs, on an accompanying USB thumb drive. It also offers triptych-style Triplex books, which combine three images into a single, foldable frame.
Nations Photo Lab
Offering lab services like Miller’s and H&H, Nations distinguishes itself by being photographers first. It’s less of a big lab, but rather photographers who want your wedding business to succeed and offer prices to do just that. Its Album99 deal is 12×12 and 30 slides with a pick-a-cover option for $99.
Pic-Time emphasizes the photo experience online with a modern, fast website that works a lot like Flickr and outputs albums. It looks like the founders built a web gallery and then monetized that for wedding photographers. It offers a white label feature where you brand its service and offer it to your clients.
Pixellu makes SmartAlbums, an album design desktop software for photographers, with cloud proofing. After designing the album, you share it with clients for review and feedback before the print run. SmartAlbums has templates, too, for a faster workflow, and its feature set includes a slideshow output option. The app costs $299, with a subscription for cloud proofing at $16 a year.
RAW Digital Lab
RAW Digital Lab acts like studios photographers had in the film era—you shoot the wedding and upload the photos, and it does the rest, letting the photographer focus on the photos instead of post-production. Based in Australia, it processes photos from all over the world and works on a scale from light retouching to culling and editing. You upload RAW files and the lab returns a Lightroom album. Considering its menu of services, the pricing seems reasonable, starting at about $1 a photo.
RedTree Albums offers handcrafted albums, matted folios, fine press books and custom wooden boxes. The products are archival and constructed with beautiful, high-quality materials from a design you choose online. RedTree’s focus is HD printing with super-fine details and gradients.
Renaissance is focused on the family aspect of the business and emphasizes that in its marketing and presence at trade shows. If a personal touch is important to your business, Renaissance shares that belief. And the albums we saw at WPPI were simple and elegant.
Based in Germany, Saal serves Europe and the U.S. with a desktop-based application to lay out an album and then order it. It prints photo books, booklets and fine art in an usual assortment of finishes. Providing ICC profiles, Saal’s focus is a fast turnaround time and a reasonable price.
Simply Color Lab/ShootQ
ShootQ, a studio management application, partnered with Simply Color Lab in 2015 to offer their users a complete workflow, from the shoot to post to album delivery, and at a significant cost savings. Simply Color started with wood prints and now includes albums, custom work and photo gadgets.
The Album Master
Whereas the other vendors listed here provide a quote for services, albums is all The Album Master does, and its pricing starts at $79. In the booth at WPPI, the casualness of the fabric series appealed to us, especially after seeing so many luxury albums from other vendors.
“This isn’t your grandma’s photo album” is Vision Art’s tag line, and by that it means a robust, archival-quality album that will outlast even your clients’ vows. Spill wine, spaghetti sauce and even take it camping, it promises, because its albums are tough and priced to match.
White House Custom Colour
Another huge lab in the industry, White House promotes environmental responsibility as a core value, and its commitment is realized throughout its processes. WHCC produces not only custom books and prints, but tools for the photographer to help sell their work. With sample books for their bindings and print quality, as well as inspirational guides to help motivate clients, the WHCC tools extend beyond output alone. Their Image Box is a complete presentation solution for a wedding album or mounted prints, which are packaged in unique leather- or fabric-bound boxes.
This German-based output house ships to the United States and prints photo books as hardcover or softcover, as well as printing books bound in linen, leather or printed linen. WhiteWall also creates archival-quality prints that are mounted under acrylic glass and a unique line of direct-to-metal printing, as well as canvas prints on a number of different materials and custom-framed prints.
Take the photos, upload them, and Zookbinders takes care of the rest. The products on display at the WPPI trade show featured a French-door-style cover and pages that turned out from the center. It treats the wedding like a story to share instead of an album to flip through. Considering it handles the entire process after shooting, its services are worth a look for the busy photographer.