DIY Parent Wedding Albums

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Technically, this post probably belongs over at Road to the Aisle, so I might post it over there, too. But a few people have asked me about this, so I figure, what the heck...

Back at Christmas, I mentioned how we had given our parents wedding albums for gifts. I promised to take photos of the pages and post a full review.

Well, 4+ months later, here I am, and I'm finally doing what I said I'd do. I stole my mom's album for the weekend and took photos of it for all of you to see.

We had the albums made from They are their "Assembled Albums," and we chose the 8" x 10" size, with 40 pages. The cover is black leather, and it is quite beautiful, and very sturdy.

We had our names and the date foil stamped on the cover. This cost a little bit extra, but we thought it was worth it.

I designed all of the pages myself, using Photoshop. I created a separate Photoshop document for each page using the specifications (measurements) from Mpix. From there, I pretty much had complete creative freedom.

The photo pages are mounted onto the album pages leaving a 1/16" border around the edges. If you decide to do collage pages like I did, you can make your background any color you want. I decided to keep it kind of classic-looking, and made my backgrounds black. I added a thin white border around all of the photos to give it a more finished look.

We did a couple of black-and-white spreads, too.

Mpix doesn't offer any templates, so this was all me. I experimented with different sizes with the photos, different crops, different positioning. Once I found combinations that worked, I repeated them on several pages, sometimes just changing them slightly. Above, you see that the templates on these pages are simply mirror images of each other.

For the groomsmen and bridesmaid pages, I decided to add a little text. Our parents didn't know all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen prior to the wedding, but everyone got along really well. I wanted them to be able to remember the names of everyone in the bridal party, so we had these pages that included a photo of each of the groomsmen and bridesmaids separately, with their names underneath. They came out really well.

Our parents' albums were slightly different from each other. Some pages were identical in both albums, but we swapped out some of the family photos. For instance, above, you see a page with photos of my parents and me. In Michael's parents' book, that page contained photos of him with his parents.

I love that the pages lie flat when you're flipping through them.

On the right, I cropped the photo to be 8" x 10" size, and uploaded it as it was so that it took up the entire page.

One limitation to these albums (as compared to some others) is that you cannot span a photo across both pages (as a two-page spread). If I had that option, I probably would have done it for the photo of our bridal party in the field.

The page on the right is one of my favorites. Our photographers had taken a photo of us dancing from an angle that included a lot of the floor in the shot. I cropped the photo to fit to the full 8" x 10" page, then layered smaller photos over the top of it (over the dance floor). I just loved how it turned out.

We had to have a full spread dedicated to the toast. SO. MANY. AWESOME. TOAST. PHOTOS. It was so hard to narrow them down.

This is another one of my favorite spreads. Love the huge full-page photo of the cake!

For the reception, I ended up using a lot of smaller photos. We had so many good ones, and we decided we would rather use more photos at a smaller size than have to narrow them down and use less of them at larger sizes. These turned out to be some of my favorite pages, simply because they are so filled with FUN.

Last page, with the back cover.

Here is a close-up of one of one of the pages with a full-page photo. You can easily see the 1/16" black border that they leave around each page. The photos are mounted onto the album pages really well.

Here is another photo of one of the corners. I wanted to show you what one of the pages looked like that had the black background.

We are extremely happy with how these turned out, and couldn't be more pleased with Mpix. These albums are a bit pricey--definitely more than you'd pay should you decide to use Blurb, My Publisher, etc. But the quality, in my opinion, far surpasses that of the other companies. These are professional albums, and if you look at it that way, the prices aren't bad at all.

They were delivered to us really quickly, too. Once I uploaded the pages and submitted our order, I want to say they were on our doorstep less than a week later. I think they generally process and ship orders within 24-48 hours.

Disadvantages to these albums? Well, the biggest one is that you kind of have to know what you are doing. Experience with design and layout certainly helps, especially when you have to be mindful of leaving space around the edges for trimming. As I mentioned before, Mpix doesn't provide any templates, so you have to start from scratch on your own. For some people, that's a huge advantage--total freedom to do what they want with every page--but for others, it's a disadvantage because it is wayyy more work.

We plan to eventually make an album like this with our honeymoon photos. I just have to find the time! For our parent albums, we had a reason to get them done quickly--I had a deadline! But it was all very time-consuming. I spent the better part of a WEEK in front of the computer designing pages.

In the end, it was completely worth it. Before we gave them to our parents, I was flipping through them myself several times a day. They're beautiful, and the quality of the photos is fantastic. I have no doubt that these albums will stand the test of time, and will be something our parents will be able to share with people for years to come.

If you have any questions about the albums, please let me know in the comments. Be sure to check back, because that's where I'll answer the questions as well.


Teresa May 3, 2009 at 9:33 PM  

Heather the albums look beautiful. I've just leaned about Mpix so it's great to see an example of one. My only question is how thick are the pages?

I'm thinking about using them to make our wedding album. I still have to look at their prices and talk to the Kracke's about making a connection with them to have an album printed once I design the pages. Hopefully by our one year in Oct.

Sara May 3, 2009 at 10:18 PM  

Very beautiful!!!

I have been interested in getting a copy of photoshop. Did you get a personal copy or did you swipe it from work?

I wanted to do something similar for my parents but they already ordered a photo book from shutterfly before I could surprise them! I think maybe I should do one anyway, because this one might come out more professional.

Lindsay C.,  May 3, 2009 at 10:59 PM  

I just wanted to tell you how much I love your blogging! I have been following you since Road to the Aisle (I'm a former knottie) and your tips/advice/recipes are spectacular! Just this weekend I made the chocolate chip dip and cupcake bites you had previously posted on your blog.

Anyway, this post is also relevant to me because I was just looking into making an Mpix album about a week ago. In fact, I could not figure out how to create a template in Photoshop to save my life. I posted a question regarding this issue on the Mpix message board and it was never answered. Your post couldn't have come at a better time!

Could you share the dimensions used in Photoshop? My husband is a graphic designer, so he can work out the logistics of the rest of the layout, but I guess I just need to know where to start. Also, is there a "help" section on Mpix that addresses these questions? I could not find one!

Thanks for all of your creative posts!

TPOX May 3, 2009 at 11:07 PM  

Wow! This looks amazing! I am so glad you posted this here, as I am still trying to figure out what to do about parent albums (and my wedding was 6 months before yours!). Your photos of the book are fantastic! I still have a few questions, though... :-)

I would also like to know how thick the pages are... are they sturdy and stay stiff on their own? or flex and bend?

Did you use the "e-surface" paper? Get the lustre coating?

How thick was the white border you added around the photos?

I have some experience with photoshop, so I think I can make that work, but would you be willing to share one multi-photo template page?


TPOX May 3, 2009 at 11:20 PM  

Ok, a few more questions! So it sounds like you made the canvas size 8x10, then filled it in with various sized photos. On pages such as the dancing montage ones, what kind of border did you leave between the photo and edge of the (to be printed) page? 1/4"? less?

Also, "40 pages"... does that mean 20 pages, with 40 sides?

I agree with the other poster - mpix is not quite informative enough!

Mrs. J L May 4, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

it came out AWESOME!!! I have to get to work on our ours still...

Heather May 4, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

OK, to answer the questions that have been asked so far...

The pages are thick. They are completely sturdy, and they do not bend at all.

My husband is a web developer, and I've always been interested in photography/dabbling in graphic design, so we have had Photoshop since college. We have had a couple different copies, given to us by school, by my husband's job (so he can work at home), etc. I'm very thankful for that since it is so expensive.

When creating your pages in Photoshop, you need to create the page exactly the size of the album you are ordering. So, in my case, it was an 8" x 10" album, so when I created my pages in Photoshop, I started with an 8" x 10" document/canvas.

When I had questions regarding the albums or the specifications, I e-mailed Mpix directly. They were awesome about getting back to me quickly, and I got all the answers to the questions I had. Granted, I wasn't asking them to walk me through setting up a page or anything--they were mostly just questions regarding trimming.

We just got the e-surface paper, no lustre coating or anything special. We're very happy with it. The paper is of nice quality, and the colors are bright. The paper has a nice, subtle gloss to it.

Now, I'm not sure how much help I can be about my templates, because honestly, we didn't save them. Since they were high-resolution Photoshop documents with high-resolution photos inserted into them, each file was HUGE. Once we got the finished albums back and they were perfect, I waited a couple of weeks and then deleted all of the files because I knew we would not need them again.

With that said, I *believe* the white border around each photo was maybe 3 or 4 pixels.

Obviously, since I deleted all of the Photoshop documents related to this design, I cannot share them. Honestly, I'm not sure how much help they would have been anyway, because they weren't set up in a way that you would have been able to delete my pics out of it and insert yours in, you know? All of my image sizing and cropping was done PRIOR to inserting each image into the final page.

To figure out sizing for everything, I just did a LOT of math. Generally, I started with a handful of photos that I wanted to try to fit on one or two pages. Then I tried to figure out the best way to get them to fit. Once I found measurements that worked, I simply jotted them down on post-it notes and started building my pages.

On your pages, you don't want to build in a border. Your images (or black background, whatever you're doing) need to go right up to the edges, filling the entire 8" x 10" canvas. For the trimming, you just need to be careful about WHAT you put at the edges. I believe I was told by Mpix to assume that anything within 1/8" from the sides COULD be trimmed/cropped. It won't NECESSARILY be trimmed, but it could be. So you basically want to make sure to keep text and heads at least 1/8" away from the edges. Or anything else you wouldn't want cropped, for that matter.

And yes, 40 pages = 20 pages with 40 sides. That was one of my questions for Mpix at the beginning, too.

I hope this helps, at least a little! If there are other questions, definitely leave them here in the comments and I'll do my best to help.

And thanks for all of the compliments on the album!

TPOX May 4, 2009 at 10:02 AM  

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I definitely forgot how huge PS files can get. I think I'll start mine next week... thanks again, this was a HUGE help!!

Jen May 4, 2009 at 10:23 AM  

Your album looks great. I've been a huge fan of myPublisher, but these look really nice. I'm wondering if you could use a picture to span both pages and just cut it in half?

I've done quite a few albums myself and I'm working on one for my Dad's wedding right now...

Heather May 4, 2009 at 10:25 AM  

You could cut it in half, but the pages don't come completely together in the middle, so you'd have at least an 1/8" gap in the middle of your photo. I don't think it would look very nice.

Denae,  May 4, 2009 at 10:46 AM  

SO beautiful! :) I'm jealous of your creative abilities.

Vanessa May 4, 2009 at 4:14 PM  

Hey Heather,
Thanks so much for answering my email - I have to write back! Before I do though, I wanted to say that your album is gorgeous! So very beautiful. I wish I knew how to use Photoshop. I'm planning on upgrading my computer in the not too distant future so will probably buy it then.
I love looking at your 'Road to the Aisle' blog! My boyfriend and I are talking a lot about marriage, and I love looking at ideas. Even my own circumstances aside, when I'm having a bad day it work it's one of the 'happy blogs' I like to read to cheer me up!

Janelle May 8, 2009 at 6:16 AM  

The album is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for posting the pictures of it. My favourite layout is the two pages for the groomsmen and bridesmaids, but i also love the shot of your wedding party in the fields and you've done such a lovely simple layout on that page which helps draw the eye to that shot.
Your DIY creations on Road to the Aisle have been such an inspiration to me. I think i'll have a go at doing my own album, probably with a lot of referring back to this post :)

Gaynor May 28, 2009 at 9:35 AM  

Hi Heather, the albums look great, as have every one of your DIY projects.

I have loved reading your Road to the Aisle blog since I got engaged in September and was looking for invite ideas. It has given me plenty of inspiration and even inspired me to recently start my own wedding planning blog over in Scotland (despite the fact im not a writer at all!).

Congrats on becoming an auntie too, must be so exciting. My sister is due in September and I cant wait to be an auntie too!

TPOX July 6, 2009 at 9:10 PM  

I just wanted to thank you again for posting this... I created my mom's album in May and it was at my door less than a week from uploading it to mpix. I gave it to my parents in June and they loved it!! I am going to work one for my in-laws next. I ended up going with a 10 pixel white border around the photos and it was perfect. I had been struggling with how I was going to get these done - but as soon as I saw your review I knew this would be perfect...and I was right! THANK YOU for the inspiration!

Jessica,  December 22, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

I just wanted to thank you for posting this! I ended up purchasing a blank album that looks very similar and assembling the album myself... but I used your album as inspiration, and appreciated all your advice!

Rob Fox October 15, 2010 at 5:19 PM  

If you are making your own wedding album then make sure you get all the best photos from your guests too.

Try using a service like GuestSnapper at which gives you an online album for your guests to upload their pictures.

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