Currently I am trying to design a wedding album, which then I give to my clients (as their wedding photographer). And in this article I decided to share my ideas and thoughts about this topic. It seems there is not much of such information available. I hope this text will help some of you.
I don't want to discuss the various types of albums and covers. I will focus on the actual work of creating the design of the wedding album and highlight some of the details that may improve the impact of the album.
Doing some research I've seen several applications and tools that provide various capabilities to design albums. Such tools could provide large number of layouts of the photographs and various supporting features like borders and digital effects. But after reading messages in forums and reviews, it seems that there is no a single solution that would provide all the capabilities and be stable (or without bugs). There is one thing that concerns me most – the creativity, it's very hard (if at all possible) to facilitate the process and allow the photographer the creativity, which could be done with Photoshop or similar tools. Probably I have to add that after looking at numerous albums most of them seem similar and somewhat rigid or chopped. What do I mean by rigid and chopped? Well, if you take a look most of the lines in such albums (layouts) almost always either verticals or horizontal. Sure, it happens because of the borders of the photographs. But who makes us to follow the same pattern every time? If you've read my article about graphical elements in photographs, you know that there is more to it than a couple of perpendicular lines. And I like diagonals most of all, as I see it, the lines (especially diagonals) create the flow in the album page, exactly the same as the lines create the flow in the photographs.
So our challenge is to create a photograph (album page) out of several regular photographs (regular not in sense of aesthetics). Let's refresh the basics of the photograph, how we “design” a photograph. Looking in to a pure abstraction of the photograph, we can see the lines and spots of light and shadow. Lines usually created by the border of light and shadow, but instead of a simple dot on the photograph, they are like fences. And our eye tries to jump over the fence. Such an action requires some effort, so if the fence is low (low contrast: difference between the light and shadow is small), then the eye easily travels across the fence, or at least with a little notice. On the other hand, when the contrast is high, the fence will be high as well, and it might require a lot of strength for our eye to climb over. In such situations, to continue its travel the eye usually tries the least resistive way – it goes along the fence looking for a break in the fence or where it will be easier to climb over. That's how the eye travels along the lines. Similar situation with spots of light or shadow, those more like hills and pits, which are another obstacles for a traveling eye. I have to mention that the lines may not always be created by light and shadow. When our eye recognizes a face it reaches for the eyes of the person (that's when we so disappointed when we don't see they eyes or their expression is not what we expected). And even further, the mind recognizes the direction the eyes look and gives the command to the eye travel over there and see what happens there.
That was the very basics of the light and shadow travel of our eye. Now, when we know how the eye travels, or actually why our eye travels, we can try to create a maze out of those obstacles – fences, hills and pits (or pools). It seems like we are trying to create an amusement park, where the customer is the viewer's eye. And there are the same basic principles – to keep the eye moving, sometimes let it have some rest, and always try to suggest some way out of the dead end. Don't forget your goal to keep the eye within your park.
I hope you got the idea about the means we can control the viewer's eye. We don't have to loose the control in the album page with several photographs, it just becomes more complex to do so, but still possible. In order to steer the eye, we use the same techniques, but on a higher level. Each photograph in the album page will have its own direction or orientation. This orientation depends on the most prominent lines in the photograph. It happens when most of the lines or one big line creates a sense of motion, which has a sense of direction. Or there is another more common situation, a person in a photograph looks from the camera, and his/her eyes create the line that leads out of the frame. Such photographs should always bring the eye into the album, to the central stitch between the pages. There is the other side of the coin – the photograph is somewhat static (something happens in the center and there is no sense of motion) or the person looks into the camera. Such photographs look like anchors; it's hard to decide where to look after such photograph. There is nothing wrong with these photographs, they could be very compelling, but the eye tends to stay on the photograph and examine those little details that we may overlook at the first glance. I think, such photographs should be like a rest stop on the eye's way and be placed closer to the center of the album.
Well, we came closer to the actual design of the album, so let's start from the basic page template.
As you probably already know, I use Photoshop to do all the retouching, and today I am again going to use this very powerful tool to design album pages.
The first thing that you have to do is decide what album size you want to produce. This decision will be based mostly on your budget and the company you work with. For example I will start with 12x12 album page. You probably have seen the album mockups, they almost always done as a page-spread (two pages together). Some companies don't do page-spreads, so you have to find out if you have such an option, and what kind of template you have to use. To make the cutting of album pages more accurate and somewhat safe, you may be asked to design the page with certain margin (not a bleed, which is just an empty space). This margin could be somewhere between 1/8 and 1/6 of the inch.
Now, we ready to create a template, which we will reuse for all the pages.
Congratulations, now you have an empty template for your album page-spread. Let's continue with adding some template elements.~ Top ~
By adding new elements to the template we will define the layout of the page, which later we will fill with the photographs. I will start with a simple rectangle that is more or less in the center of a single page, which will be used as a placeholder for one of the photographs. On the other page of the page-spread I will combine several photographs.
By now we created a very simple template for a photograph. In the next steps I will add the background to the page, which will be taken from another photograph.
We can consider our template for the left page of this spread to be ready, so let's place the photographs in there.
Well, congratulations, the background image is created and placed in the album page:
Once we finished with the background image we can start working on the foreground image.
with the layer pane looking like this:
You can stop here, but I would add some embellishments to the page, such as a simple border to the photograph and maybe a shadow:
Here we have the black border around the photograph. Now let's add the shadow
And the page itself like that:
In the next article Wedding Album (Part 2) I will expand the techniques and we will combine several images on a page. And more information about creating borders is coming.~ Top ~