Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wedding Wrap Up: Parent Albums

There are only a few things left to do to wrap up everything from our wedding.

At some point we need to figure out how we'll be displaying our wishing stones from our guest book in our house. I also plan to make a shadow box display with some photos, our invitations, some dried flowers from my bouquet, Mr. Cola's boutonniere, and our LED luminary escort cards. And sooner or later we'll need to order an album for ourselves.

But one of the big wrap up items has already been taken care of: parent albums!

We gifted these to both sets of our parents for Christmas, and they really enjoyed them. Just like Mrs. Cheeseburger, we (I) designed them through Adorama, and while the results were very nice for a gift, I'm not sure we'll use them for our own album.

Using the Adorama design interface was quite easy. You can start off of a template design, to give you some ideas for layouts, but it's completely customizable to whatever you want to do. For example, you can insert a templated page, but then add, delete, or resize the placeholders or photos however you like.

So this template:

Can become this layout (or whatever layout you want. But I found it easier to start with a basic template, and then modify it, rather than starting with a blank page. Also, if you like a custom layout you made, you can copy it for later in your book, and just replace the photos):

Another nice feature of the Adorama design interface was that it was really easy to resize (Shift + drag the edge of the photo) and line up your photo with the rest of the photos in the layout. Upon clicking on the photos, lines appear, and you can either nudge the photo into place with the arrow keys on your keyboard, or use your mouse to drag the photos.

I also liked the feature that keeps track of the photos you've already placed in your album. I'd narrowed the photos for our parent albums to about 300, which I knew was way too many, but I wanted to figure out the flow of the book before narrowing it down further. At first, I imported all of the photos, but it was just too much to scroll through, so I organized our photos into different folders (i.e. getting ready, first look, etc), and imported them into Adorama one at a time, which was much easier to manage. And as I added each photo to the album layout, Adorama marked it with a check, so I could easily see I'd already included it.

Overall, I was really happy with the Adorama layout program, and after playing with it for a while, and becoming more familiar with it, it was a breeze to finish our parent books. I'd say I spent about 3 hours creating both books (but I used 80% of the same layouts for both books, switching in different family photos for the other 20%). And with shipping, the 10" x 10" 50 page books were about $96 each (although I believe there was a sale for 10% off on the 10" x 10" books at the time. Be sure to check their site often, it seems like there is always something on sale.)

Now, onto the quality.

This is the area that makes me reluctant to order from Adorama for our personal wedding album, as I'm not sure it will stand up to 50 years of looking through it.

The quality is definitely better than the Shutterfly albums I've seen though, and for the price, I still think Adorama is a good value. But I wanted to write this honest review so you're not ordering from them expecting quality binding that is going to last forever. For gifts though, that probably won't get anywhere near the use as your own album, I think Adorama is fine.

Here are some photos of one of the albums, I'll show you the binding first.
(It gaps a little near the binding on the bottom of the book. And there are also some glue spots in the center of the pages, near the binding. In the picture it looks like faint grey dots.)

(There is also a gap between the last page and second to last page, as the back, and front, pages are glued directly to the cover.)

The other quality issue I had with the albums was that some of the photos that were a little darker to begin with, printed darker than they should have. Actually, overall, I'd say that all of the photos in the album were all a little darker than when printed on my personal photo printer, and than they appear on my multiple computer screens. It's not a super huge issue, but definitely something that I noticed, especially on some of the larger, darker-to-begin with photos.

Now, on to the good! The paper quality was very nice, and much better than what I've gotten from Shutterfly (my only other online photo book experience). Per their website, the paper they use is "Fuji Crystal Archive Album photo paper, a professional quality archival paper with excellent resistance to fading." I would estimate it feels to be about 90-95 lb paper. Not quite as thick as the 101 lb card stock I used in my invitations, but close.

And again, I really liked the flexibility of the layouts. Throughout the 50 page books, I utilized about 7 or 8 different spread layouts, repeated several times, to keep things interesting, but still have a nice flow. And even just mirroring the spread layouts works well to change things up, but still have a feeling of consistency.

Also, as Mrs. Cheeseburger mentioned in her post, the lay flat pages are quite nice. The center crease is minimal, and this aspect of the Adorama books made me really happy, because I wasn't 100% sure how it would look in real life.

And finally, I liked the cover a lot. You have the option of a non-photo cover, with lots of patterns/textures (not really textured, but has the appearance of texture) to choose from, or you can have a photo cover with edge to edge coverage, or a combo of both. For the parent albums, we opted for a combo, with a textured spine and front edge texture, with a portrait orientation photo.

The cover feels pretty durable, and doesn't seem like it will show scratches very easily, so I'm pretty happy with this aspect of the albums.

Overall, I think I would rate Adorama albums a 7.5 out of 10. For the relatively low cost, quick turnaround time (about a week), paper and cover quality, and easy to use online design interface, it gets high marks. However, the binding isn't going to last forever, and I was a little disappointed with the slightly darker photo printing, so I'm knocking off a few points for those downsides. Still, even with those downsides, I would recommend Adorama over Shutterfly for gift albums, or a guestbook album, but probably not for your personal album that needs to hold up over years and years of viewing.

Are you planning to DIY any wedding albums? If you have used any, which online album companies do you recommend and why?

(All photos in this post are either personal photos taken by me, of our photos taken by Shoot Me Now Photography, or are screen shots from the online Adorama design interface.)


  1. This is a huge "to-do" on our list right now. I was going to go with this company after Miss Cheeseburger's post, but now I'm not so sure. We have time to create our album, but our parents are getting impatient, so this may just be the way to go. Your albums look great! Thanks for this honest review.

  2. Thanks for the review of this service. I'd never heard of it and may try to use it for future albums I want to create. We had a pro album made by our wedding photographer, and I also made my own more comprehensive album on Shutterfly, which was easy and came out really well.

  3. we did something VERY similar. our parents loved it and we kept one for ourselves!