Album Design: How To Make Something Real In A Digital World

In a world gone digital, photographer Ryan Browne reminds us why the tangible matters – and how a simple album design can change your clients’ lives. (Photos and quotes contributed by RYAN BROWNE, FORGED IN THE NORTH)


These days, everything is digital. Our conversations are digital, our photos are digital, our books are all-too-often digital – even this article is digital.

Maybe that’s why, more than ever, we are drawn to the tangible, the artisan-crafted, the real and raw and rough-to-the touch.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

Deep matte prints. Gallery wrapped canvases. Leather bound albums.

We want these things. And so do our clients.

“In an age where everyone is glued to their screens non-stop, slowing down and holding something in your hands is more important than ever.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

Album Design For Busy Photographers


“They lost everything.”

It feels like a speed-dating question. “If your house caught on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab?”

After their spouses and children and pets, people invariably answer, “Our photo albums.”

At least, they used to. When people had photo albums. Now we’d all just reach for our laptops.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

One of Ryan Browne’s couples was lucky enough to have an album to save – but unlucky enough to actually experience a devastating house fire. The fire was so severe, not a single item from their home was salvaged.

“They lost everything. Even their wedding album was completely destroyed, so they emailed us and asked about purchasing a replacement. I spoke with our album printer, Red Tree Albums, and, incredibly, they offered to re-print the album for free.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

Red Tree Albums understood what we photographers often grasp only after years of serving our clients: a photo album is more than a product. For the couples and families who move past our lenses, photographs – and the albums that contain them – are proof of life.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

“After the couple received their new album, they emailed us and shared that receiving the new album made them feel like they were getting their lives back again. After losing everything, a simple book of wedding pictures lifted their spirits.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North


Album Design Shouldn’t Be Your Barrier To Entry

Whether you photograph weddings, newborns, families, seniors, or puppies wearing overalls, the images you make matter to your clients. The stories you tell and the moments you capture are priceless to the people whose lives you document. And an album is the logical next step.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

“Humans build and create the things that are important to them.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

Unfortunately, the task of designing the album overwhelms many of us. How do we narrow down the images? Lay them out on the page? Match up the edges?

Then what if the client wants changes? Won’t that take forever?

Album Design Should – and CAN – Be Easy

Ryan bypasses these worries by using SmartAlbums for album design that’s clean, contemporary, and easy to edit.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

“SmartAlbums makes our business look good! Clients love that they can proof their albums and give feedback from the comfort of their own home. It’s a seamless process that removes all the fuss from album design and printing.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

SmartAlbums is populated with thousands of professionally-designed, drag-and-drop templates. Easy to customize mind-blowingly responsive, you’ll whiz through an album design in mere minutes!

Album Design For Busy Photographers

One Stop Shopping for Album Design and Printing

SmartAlbums is seamlessly integrated with all your favorite labs and album crafters – and by “all” we mean ALL. There are over 100 album suppliers connected to SmartAlbums’ album design software. If your favorite lab or album crafter isn’t on their list, we’re betting you made them up.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

“SmartAlbums gets to the core of what photographers need. There’s no fake glimmer, no holding back, and no bullsh*t. From their customer support, to their products, to their ability to support small business owners: they’ve created tools that make our lives easier, so we can focus on running our businesses.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

Don’t stress over about bleeds, safe zones, and other complicated print specs. SmartAlbums’ accurately preps your album design for print by your selected album crafter, so you can focus on what you do best!


Sell Something Tangible… Digitally

Ryan’s website (co-curated with his Forged In the North crew) is brilliantly designed to showcase his album offerings. From cover fabrics to book styles, album design samples to embossing options, Ryan invites his clients to fall in love with their album before they’ve even been photographed.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

Collaborative Album Design

Whether you pre-design your albums (creating the initial album design without any input from your client) then accept feedback, or await your client’s image selection before beginning an album design, SmartAlbums makes it easy to collaborate with your client.

With drag-and-drop responsive templates, streamlined client feedback, and unmatched lab connectivity, you’ll never again spend months (or years) waiting for a client to approve their album design.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

ShootProof + SmartAlbums

If you prefer to get your client’s input before beginning the album design process, their ShootProof gallery is the perfect place to start. Using Favorites or Labeling, invite your clients to mark their album picks. Download only those images to import into your SmartAlbums project, and you’ll have a perfectly curated selection with which to build your album design.

“ShootProof streamlines our final client delivery. We want the very first thing our clients see from their wedding to feel special; and ShootProof’s beautiful site design gives us full confidence that our couples will feel valued.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

Album Design For Busy Photographers


You’re Selling Good Feelings

People buy two things: solutions to problems and good feelings.

You might argue that purchasing a wedding album solves a problem of sorts, but the itch it truly scratches is in the soul – one of those tingles that only really sorts itself out with warm vibes, strong hugs, great company, and the best of memories.

Album Design For Busy Photographers

“At first, your album is simply a beautiful way to see the story of your wedding. It’s printed, curated, and told the way your photographer intended. But over time, your album becomes a treasured keepsake. A way for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see how two people actually felt on their wedding day. How they looked at each other. And how all the important people in their lives supported them in their love.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North 

Album Design For Busy Photographers

If your website, brochure, or samples haven’t convinced your clients to purchase an album, their photographs almost surely will. There’s nothing quite like seeing your own face in a photograph, glowing and joyful and surrounded by people you love.

Place that photograph in a handcrafted album, and the memory expands.

It becomes tangible.

“I never thought of albums as having any real power. But now, more than ever, I realize how much an album can mean to someone.” – Ryan Browne, Forged In the North

Album Design For Busy Photographers


Tell us YOUR album story in the comments below!


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