How to Design a Wedding Album That You’ll Actually Keep

This is an important but demanding task. If your photographer’s artistic vision is totally in line with yours, then, good for you, you can leave it all to them. Chances are, however, you’ll want to have your own inputs. After all, it’s your wedding album; it has to say something about you as a couple. In fact, your wedding photographer would probably love to hear your ideas.

Before I dive into how to design a wedding album that you’ll actually like and keep and come back to on every anniversary, I would advise against DIY. Sure, you have all the photos you need and you probably have the rights to them for personal use as well. And there are free album design softwares that you can use. For instance, if you’re a Mac user and you probably don’t realize this, you can actually design an album using the native Photos app, previously known as iPhoto. But there is only so much you can do with it; it’s free for a reason. Just as you shouldn’t try editing your own photos, you shouldn’t try manage the album design by yourself either.

All our album are designed in-house. For wedding albums, we use SmartAlbums 2 by Pixellu, an album design software created specifically for professional photographers. It’s an amazing piece of software. If you’re a serious DIY-er, I would definitely recommend checking it out. But, be warned, it will set you back a couple of hundred bucks. (To learn more our album design process, click HERE.)

Every Album Should Tell a Story

Back to album design. My philosophy when it comes to album design is that every album should tell a good story. This is because every wedding is a story and has so many interesting things going on in such a short period of time.

A good writer will carefully set the scenes, let the events unfold naturally and slowly, let the characters develop, and mix in all the other essential ingredients that make up a good story (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement).

Same thing for albums. To do this, each spread of the album needs to contribute to the overall storytelling one way or another. For instance, it can be an important part of the plot, whether it be pictures of the bridal details, or of the bride getting her her and makeup done. Or it can be simply the exteriors and/or interiors of the wedding ceremony venue, signaling the start of a new chapter. Simple as that.

Album Design Mistakes

Related to what we just talked about, the first big no-no is trying to squeeze as many pictures into the album as you can. It’s wedding album, not contact sheets. There’s no reason to turn it into pages and pages of thumbnails with ALL your wedding photos on it.

Mixing black and white with colors. The general rule of thumb is, keep everything harmonious. Think of how you decide what to wear every morning in terms of color. The same rules apply here.

bad design example 1 (photo from internet)

Messing up the storyline. Do not put different photos together for no apparent reason. If they belong to different parts of the day, keep them separate.

bad design example 2 (photo from internet)

Having too many pictures on one spread. (See the first example above.) Every spread should have a clear focus. Anywhere from 1 to 5 photos per spread is good. More photos than that tend to make the spread too crowded and the viewers will not know where they should pay most attention to. Possible exceptions are bridal details and wedding reception details. I usually devote an entire spread to each of them, arranging them in a carefully designed collage.

Using overlays. This is a very dated design concept. If you opt for a more timeless look, this should be avoided.

bad design example 3 (photo from internet)
bad design example 4 (photo from internet)

How to Design a Clean, Elegant, and Timeless Wedding Album

Avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above will set you in the right direction. Here are some additional tips:

Keep it simple. Simple designs are less likely to be dated. The spread below lays three landscape photos side and by side and uses the one in the middle to create a clean and subtle symmetry. Another way to keep things simple and elegant and clutter-free is to not use overlays; try not to lay photos on top of one another, as we talked about, or use frames, ribbons, garnishes, and the like. A simple layout with a clean white background like this will do.

Keep the focus clear. There’s no way you’ll miss the focus in this spread here because it’s centered and big, complimented by the rest of the photos.

Have the photos talk to each other. Notice in the spread above how the colors in each photo subtly match one another and create a seamless look. Note also how the the three photos on the sides provide a context for the one in the middle and lead to it. Here is another good example of using photos on the same spread to tell an important part of the story.

Last but not least, be bold and creative. I go crazy sometimes. For instance, below is a full bleed with one of my favorite images from the wedding. Normally I would go for a white background. But in this case, I decided to push the bridal portrait (it’s a vertical photo, not horizontal) all the way to the right hand side and put it against a black background. Notice how the dark backdrop nicely accents the dress, focuses your eyes right on the bride’s big smile, and adds a little bit of drama at the same time. It also reflects lots of things we talked about: simple, with a clear focus, and intentional (this is the end of the first section in the album with photos of the bride getting ready and right before we headed for the first look location.)

If you need more inspirations, you can see some more of my designs HERE, HERE, and HERE.

So these are my top tips for designing a wedding album that you’ll actually like, that you’ll want to open up and enjoy even 10 years from now.

You’ve probably seen at least half a dozen of different albums from your parents, friends, and family. Share your likes and dislikes below. Interested in having us design your wedding album? Shoot us a message HERE.

Originally published at on October 16, 2015.