Desperate to make some albums but you sit down to get started only to feel completely overwhelmed? Don’t know where to start? Sarah Wilkerson got the opportunity to play with Fundy’s SOS Album Builder and has provided us with this fantastic review – it must just be the answer you’re looking for!
(Heads Up: It’s a long review. IF you already know all about Album Builder and just want a chance to win a copy of your own, scroll down to the end for more details!!)
Fundy SOS Album Builder
I’ve been looking for something like FundySOS Album Builder ($299)– and not just for the occasional wedding or portrait album but also for personal albums (A Year in Photographs 2010 … on my to-do list!) and blog collages. I’ve tried a number of other templates and programs that purported to make albums and collages easy to do, but in general I’ve found them to be slow, cumbersome, and not nearly as customizable at I needed (at least not without LOTS of reworking on my part). In short, I was thrilled when I got my hands on Album Builder. Here was my experience….
Getting Set up
I click on the Create Album button, and a Start Album panel pops up … and I have no idea what to select. Luckily, the documentation for Album Builder is great, as is the customer support. The Start Album options are based on specifications that will be provided by your album company (such as suggested bleed, margins, sizes, etc), but Album Builder also includes presets for a blog collage and for a number of Finao albums, which is especially great if that’s your preferred album company. If you’re using a different album company – or if you are building something totally from scratch, then you can simply input your Guides, Cover Size, Page Size, and Spread Size manually. Once entered, you can also save your settings as a preset to grab easily the next time.
Create a Layout for your Cover/Spread/Blog
Now the fun begins: time to create my layout. I use the marquee tool to determine my design area (NOTE – You MUST select your design area with the Marquee tool, or nothing will happen. Speaking from experience. Just sayin’.), then I click the big Ninja Layout button. There are three main options in the Ninja layout: keylines (black, white, or no stroke around the image), Edge Feathering, and Maker Buttons. I select 5px white keylines and no feathering.
Time to choose the Maker. Here’s the rundown:
Grid Maker: Creates a grid of images that are all the same size and orientation. You dictate image ratio, orientation (horizontal, vertical, or square), number of rows, number of columns, and space between each image.
Puzzle Maker: My favorite! Simply select the number of vertical and horizontal
images you want in your grouping, choose the space you’d like to have between each image, and be amazed as it creates a perfect assortment of vertical and horizontal image spaces for you. You must be working with a square shaped design area .
Quick One Up: Pretty straightforward, but it’s nice to have a two button click for it. You define your design area, set your keyline width and color, then click Quick One Up to create an image box that fills your defined space.
Row Maker: Creates up to four rows of images with your selected number of horizontal or vertical images in each row.
Column Maker: Creates up to four columns of images with your selected number of horizontal or vertical images in each column.
I’m going with Grid Maker. I choose 1:1 (square) for the image ratio and opt for 2 images across, 2 images down.
It’s time to watch the magic happen. With my image boxes selected in the Layers Palette, I hit the Fill Opening Button, and choose 100% fill to make the image fit the box. My active image box turns red, and I simply select the image I want to occupy that box.
I use my mouse to position the image within the box just as I want it, then hit enter. Voila! Another box turns red; I select my desired image; position; press enter; rinse, and repeat. I can’t imagine a more efficient way to put together an album or collage.
There is also an Advanced Fill Option and integration with Bridge. I didn’t play with these options much, but it just goes to show how powerful the program is! This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Refining, Adjusting, and Repositioning your Images/Layout
What if I need to clone out a black spot or swap the placement of two images? Or if I wanted the design area to be a little bigger? Or if I want to convert the whole set to black and white? Easy enough! I press “Pop Out Images” to edit (I have the option of editing the original or working on a copy of the image that I’m using in my album); when I’m done, I simply hit the “Return Images” button. I can select a bunch of images and then press “Apply Actions” or “Apply Filter” to batch edit multiple images in the layout . I can also reposition/recrop/resize my images within the image opening – or adjust the image opening itself.
Once I have my images placed within my custom layout, a push of the “Add Element,” “Black Background,” or “Background Color” button allows me to enhance the page with additional elements– backgrounds, textures, logos, borders etc. I add my logo to the front.
Moving On …
Okay, so I feel pretty good about my cover layout. What now? I simply press the “Save and Next” button; my cover is automatically saved as a PSD, and a blank spread opens for me.
I select my design area, press Ninja Layout, select my Keyline color/width and edge feathering, and now I get to choose a new Maker Button. I choose Puzzle Maker and try to throw it for a loop: 14 horizontal, 11 verticals. Make a puzzle out of THAT!
It’s no problem for Album Builder.
All of my image boxes are selected, so press Fill Opening, select the images I want in each box, and … Save and Next. It’s seriously THAT fast (faster yet if you don’t have a 25 image layout, but even so, it only took me a few minutes).
I’m a machine with the page spreads. Create, Fill, Save and Next. Create, Fill, Save and Next. Oops! I got so carried away that I put in the wrong pic! Save and PREVIOUS. Nice!! Swap out for the correct image. Save and Next (and on, and on)…. Save and Final. And DONE!!
That’s pretty much it! Of course, now that I’ve developed an Album that is a work of sheer genius, it would be a shame for it to be used only once. Not a problem – I can save the entire album layout as a template (I can also save individual pages). The DesignMatic button makes life even easier – once I’ve saved and installed my album design preset, DesignMatic carries me through every image box in the layout, prompting me to select my desired image for each space for page-after-page. I could build an entire album in twenty minutes (unless I’m indecisive about my image selection for each spot, but there’s not much anyone can do about that!).
Top all of that off with efficient little extras (like custom preset buttons) that show just how much thought went into the software, and we have a big winner.
The Bottom Line
Fundy SOS Album Builder is marketed to those who develop Portrait and Wedding albums, but other pros and photo enthusiasts are likely to put this one to good use for Family Albums, Blog Collages, and even Facebook Layouts.
However, be forewarned: it is a little overwhelming at first. This is not a two button Album Maker; it has lots of options (that’s what makes it so powerful). As it turns out, powerful tools usually do have a bit of a learning curve (did YOU think Photoshop or your new DSLR was intuitive the first time you laid your hands on it?), but if you set aside a little time to learn Album Builder, it will pay off for you tenfold.
I enthusiastically recommend this to anyone who works on image albums or collages.
I’m telling you, you NEED this … but we want to hear why you need it in your own words! Leave a comment on this post telling us why you deserve to win a free copy of Fundy SOS Album Builder. Fundy himself will select the five comments that catch his attention the most, and we’ll select the winner randomly from among those five. You have until Sunday, December 19th midnight EST to get your comments in. The winner will be announced later in the week on the blog!
Can’t wait? Want to try Album Builder out yourself now? Get your free trial over at Fundy SOS, then use code clickinreview to receive 20% off your Album Builder purchase! Code expires Tuesday, December 21.