Ready? Here it goes!
I was supposed to do this long, tedious experiment today that then fell through, so I had some time on my hands to... do a whole lotta' nuthin'. I decided to look at wedding photos, since it's past time to start thinking about albums.
It's really hard nowadays just to find an image of an old fashioned album... I won't say 'crappy' per se, but I think we all know that the days of glued-in-pictures albums are history. Taking the place of these not-so-sturdy albums is the flush mount album of course:
This should come as no surprise to most. Even the super cheap companies like Shutterfly and AdoramaPix use this fancy shcmancy technology. Those albums you can get for probably a maximum of $100. We use them for vacation photos and gifts for family members... but they don't exactly qualify as wedding album quality. No offense to these companies and others like them, the purpose of Shutterfly and AdoramaPix is ease and affordability. Shutterfly photobooks are the bare bones; thin pages, regular binding, but still great quality, and hardcover to boot! Adoramapix pages are slightly thicker, quality is slightly better, and they have the added bonus of having lay-flat pages with no seam in the middle so you can add panorama shots. Pretty cool, but still, not high quality enough for a wedding album.
So I set off on my search for professional album companies. The first place I looked was my own e-mail archives. Ben had originally told me his album pricing, and I knew there was a reason I had disregarded it in the beginning:
Eww... I don't get it! Those prices are ridiculous right?! But I'm not faulting Ben, I know that those prices are standard... Wha?!?! How?!?! That's just the way it is I guess (except I know for a fact that that Blurb book only costs a little over $100... who you tryin' to fool, Buddy??). I was most upset at the limited number of photos you're allowed. Finally I remembered the only other professional album company I had ever heard of, Muujee:
I didn't know it at the time, but this was to be THEE ONLY professional album site I would find that allows a normal person (as opposed to a professional) to order their own album. Their prices are not much better (if you want the good stuff), BUT the key difference is that they allow you to add more pictures per page. For $500 less than Ben's albums, I can get the same album with 30-40 more images. So the company's concept is slightly different obviously, and because it's direct to you rather than through a photographer, it's a tad cheaper. I was still baffled though when I realized how much it would cost to get an album for us and three parent albums... Ready?? $3,000. Yes, that's more than I make in one month. That's more than three month's rent.
So I still wanted to find something else out there that was reasonable but still high quality. I mean, do people just save up their pennies forever and only buy albums years after their wedding?? Well, I was determined not to get discouraged just yet. I found a resource online that had a whole list of online retailers of flush mount albums!
As you can see, I went to every single site within the US and only one even let me create an account and log in as a normal person and see their prices. Seriously? Fine! I'm not a part of your system!
(My computer? I very nearly threw it on the ground). Anyway, the point is, since I only sneaked into one company somehow, I don't know how their price versus quality really compares... but the prices shocked me. Direct-to-photographer prices are ONE FIFTH what photographers charge brides. Now, I guarantee some photographer out there will tell me I've got it all wrong, that this is some isolated incident, that I don't understand everything that goes into it... nice try. I finally changed my search terms around (I don't remember to what) and found some other sites that don't need special logins and registrations to order... all the prices pretty much maxed out at $600 for 12x12 albums with leather covers and thick lay-flat pages and up to 60 pages (~120-180 images).
And my favorite, Black River Imaging:
Also, the same resource that I mentioned above, Modern Album Designs, that had that whole webpage of unhelpful other websites, they also help individuals, even if it's just by hooking you up with a photographer, you can still possibly get discounts... I dunno' though, I haven't checked. Probably not with my luck. Anyway, I was particularly peeved because one of the websites that's only for professionals had something I'd never seen before but instantly wanted:
HOMEMADE PAPER ALBUMS!!! These are from Core Albums, and they just in general have really cool stuff. They all have a very modern, yet homemade feel but are still super professional on the inside. I contacted them pretty much begging them to let me order through them or at least hook me up with a photographer that I could order through, and I'm waiting to hear back... Very discouraging and disappointing.
Pity me yet?? Well continue pitying, because then, fueled by the idea of rustic design, I changed my search terms yet again and I found this!!
Ohmigod Ohmigod OHMIGOD!!! Are you serious?! Rustic on the outside, modern on the inside flush mount albums from Loktah. If you're thinking 'Oh, how fun! They kinda' look like your invitations!' Well then rub it in, why dontcha'! Because every single one of these is out of my reach. These guys are totally upfront about only working with photographers...
**Side Note: By the way, they humiliated me twice over by making me realize I've been spelling loktah (or lokta) wrong this whole time! In my defense, the website I was buying it from was spelling it wrong, but still... how'd you guys let me do that all this time?! You know what's hilarious too is that once I spelling it correctly, I couldn't believe how many vendors online sell it! I had such a hard time finding it when I needed it for invitations... Well no wonder! I feel so ridiculously dumb now!! **End Side Note!
Point is, this would have been pretty ideal. I have contacted them as well to find out if I can pair up with a photographer in my area, but, no word yet :(
Part of me feels like I'm going behind Ben's back and the other part of me resoundingly reminds me that there is no way I'm paying $2000 for an album with only 60 pictures in it. Sorry. I have no idea how much these last two companies cost but for me, the design element automatically justifies the cost. After seeing the Loktah products, all I wanted to do was learn how to mount a book myself; that was the whole thought process behind making my own invitations, why not DIY this too?!?!
Well, I wish, because if I could, I think I'd've found my calling in life... *stops and looks up... thinking... re-evaluating...* I also just remembered my new cousin-in-law is a graphic designer... I wonder if she needs an assistant...
Well, anyway, while I contemplate a new career move, I desperately searched the last place I knew might possibly help me (do you like the drama I'm setting up here??). Also I was on a handmade kick, where does every self-respecting, smart, bored woman go when she wants something handmade?! ETSY! My lovely Etsy was less helpful than usual in this realm but I finally found one designer or, let's just go ahead and give them the all-inclusive title of middle man, who "sells" custom wedding albums:
They have contracts with these companies (some of them I already mentioned earlier in this post!) and they get through the red tape for you, and the albums are still only around $600. Now, another thought strikes me, that maybe the reason these albums are cheaper is because they are not as good a quality. But, consider this, this website only lists these companies but says they can order from any other company as well (they must have some sort of design studio or something that allows them to be eligible for a professional login) so I'm contacting them as well to see if they can order an album for me through my two favorites; Core and Loktah! I'm not getting my hopes up but this is exactly what I'm hoping for, and at a price that makes so much more sense! (Also, consider that if a Blurb book gets marked up 500%, how much are those $2000 albums really worth??)
I'll keep everyone informed, in the meantime, I just wanted to get off my chest how frustrating it's been to try and figure out this whole album thing without taking out a loan! So now I need advice/help/suggestions: How did you do your wedding albums?? Old fashioned slide-in? Through a "fast and cheap" company? Through your crazy-expensive photographer? Through a middle man?? How did it go?!?!