From experienced photographers who lack album design experience, to album designers who could use a few new tricks…we thought we’d gather together some useful advice for everyone to benefit from! No matter what your skill level is, there’s always room to learn and improve.

Our interview to photographer Mariya Stoyanova

Mariya Stoyanova of Phomenti Albums and Photography recently chatted with us about the do’s and don’ts of album design. She gives her expert advice on layout, image editing and a few useful tips to keep you on the right track. Read on and see how Mariya can help you!

Q: What are the most common mistakes that photographers make when designing an album?

A: In my experience the most common mistake photographers make when designing an album is getting carried away with their own personal preferences and ignoring the bride and groom’s opinion. My advice would be to take the time and actually ask the bride and groom if they have any preferences on what their album should look like. This way you avoid wasting time with an endless thread of revisions, emails and phone calls back and forth.

Q: Your best advice for creating a cover? What should people avoid doing on an album cover?

A: When designing a cover for an album always stay away from the edges because the album manufacturer will need some free space (bleed) for cutting the prints a bit tighter in order to make the cover. Also, never design a crowded cover. Less is more.

Q: What should go on the first and last pages of an album?

A: For the first page, choose one image which represents the bride & groom (main person/s in the event). For the last page use a closing picture of people walking away, saying goodbye or just follow the sequence of the event and use the final pictures from it.

Q: What is the minimum number of pages to include in a sample album?

A: The minimum number of pages per album depends on the minimum requirement by the album company, the photographer or the budget of the clients. I would say 10 spreads/ 20 pages would be the minimum number of pages that are required to tell the story of a wedding day. In my opinion, however, 10 spreads/ 20 pages is not nearly enough to tell the story of an entire day filled with a lot of unforgettable moments. I would recommend a minimum of at least 20 spreads/ 40 pages.

Q: When reviewing and editing an album design, what are the most important things for someone to check for?

A: Checking for consistency or variety in the design, depending on the preferences of the client/s; Staying away from the page split and the edges for print purposes; Following the sequence order of the event in order to "tell the story" of a wedding day/s; Putting the images next to each other so that the images from the same moment of the event belong to the same page or on consecutive pages, one after another.

Q: What are the Do’s and Don’ts when editing images?

A: My answer here is that the Do’s and Don’ts will depend on the result one is looking for. However, the general rule of thumb when editing is to do everything within reason and using personal judgment is valid here. My advice is to not overuse exposure compensation, burning, dodging, color correction, contrast enhancement or cropping.

Q: How can one create an album that reflects the personal style of their client?

A: Style is a very subjective term and may mean different things for different people. That is why designing an album without having any idea of what the clients’ likes and dislikes are is like playing the lottery, and in my view a huge waste of precious time. My advice is to clarify the style of choice with the client prior to designing the album. This can be done by looking at examples and deciding on one that is close to what the client is looking for. If the client is still not confident with their choice, then a suggestion can be made. This suggestion can be about the most popular styles or the most clean, timeless styles.

Q: How should images be arranged on the pages?

A: The image arrangement on the pages is a major part of what constitutes a design style. And a style is a completely subjective concept. As a custom designer, every day I create various design styles and help photographers, brides and grooms find the best one to suite their tastes. However, there is a silver lining when it comes to arranging images on the pages of an album. If the client’s personal preference is for a design which doesn’t look crowded then the images can be kept smaller on the pages and the special effects kept to a minimum. If the bride and groom however have a lot of favorite images and want them all included in the album creating a suitable design can be a real challenge. The reason being is that the purpose becomes not designing amazing pages, but rather incorporating a large number of images on a limited number of pages. My advice is to educate the bride and groom regarding design styles, image arrangements, average number of images suggested per page. A simple rule for a beautifully laid out album pages would be the following: 40 images on 10 full pages; 60 images on 15 full pages; 80 images on 20 full pages.

Q: Are there any colors that one should avoid using?

A: This is a matter of personal choice. In my view pastel colors don’t look good when printed.

Q: Designing can take hours/ days! How can we speed things up?

A: There is no magic formula for creating a professional-looking and exciting album design with a minimum effort. Even the modern, free one-minute design software can’t do magic. Specialized software can make it easier to achieve certain effects and even save a bit of time. But what each single piece of software on the planet is lacking is the human creative skill. That cannot be substituted. Buying a large amount of software for designing albums will neither automatically turn anyone to a skilled designer overnight nor save time as software takes time to master. Designing albums is a full-time job and professional quality takes professional efforts.

Q: Any advice when using certain fonts and text on an album cover/ on the pages?

A: The best option for using text on the cover such as names, event date, poems or phrases on the album pages is to choose a romantic looking, readable and clear text if the event is a wedding. If the event is a baby shower for example or a kid’s birthday, the font can be playful and funny, but always legible for print purposes.

Q: What is your most useful trick of the trade?

A: My most useful trick of the trade is not about designing, photography or technical nature. It is…surprise, surprise…Customer service! It seals the deal; it makes or breaks your business. Customer service is everything.

About:

Mariya Stoyanova is a professional album designer and business owner who has been working in the field for eight years. She is also a wedding photographer.
Her educational background is in Marketing at Baruch College in New York, and Cultural Studies, Media and Communications in Europe. 

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