by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

shooting with the intent of photo albums by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

Have you ever attempted to piece together a photo album only to find that your images just aren’t working well together on the page spreads or the album does not feel cohesive?   Today I will be sharing what I have learned about photographing for albums from a personal and hobbyist perspective, and the lovely Kelly Garvey will be sharing with you from a professional point of view.

shooting with the intent of photo albums by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

1. Photograph your intended image, then photograph a detail. There are many photographers who love to shoot the details whether that be the curl of their child’s hair, their tiny hands clutching their favorite stuffed animal, or the flowers in the field where they take the kids to run around.  I myself have come to realize what a great addition a complementary detail image can be to my initial portrait and I have to mentally remind myself to snap a few details when I’m photographing my children.  A diptych is a lovely way to present a portrait and a detail image in an album and it can give the viewer context and insight.

2. Utilize the same location multiple times. I love the light in my bedroom around late morning and late afternoon and I enjoy photographing my children in this space.  Putting together a cohesive album spread is easier for me when lighting and location is similar.  I also keyword everything in Lightroom including the location (as in girls’ room, master bedroom, backyard, playground) so that when the time comes to create an album it is easy to pull up the images that I want.

3. Overshoot a small moment.  My family went to breakfast recently and I brought along my camera and took frame after frame of my little one at the table.  Some of those are not wall space worthy but combined into an album spread they tell a story and compliment each other well.  If I had only taken two frames I wouldn’t have been able to put together the lovely spread.

4. Pull way back.  Filling the frame can make for beautiful photos but try to take several (or many) steps back and leave room around your subject at times.  This will give you more options with layouts and crops when it is time to design your album.

5. Find an album company that works for you.  Everyone has a different workflow and wants a different level of control and options when it comes to album design.  Personally I want things as clean and simple as possible.  I love Artifact Uprising for that reason.  The layouts that they offer are simple and modern, but I also have the ability to upload my own spreads to mix things up.  They print on paper so I do keep photographic prints of my favorite images as well for archival purposes.

shooting with the intent of photo albums by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

I hope my tips have inspired you to create that album that you’ve been putting off for the past year, but keep reading to see what Kelly has to say about her approach to photographing for an album.  She has some fabulous things to share.

shooting with the intent of photo albums by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

I love shooting with a photo-journalistic lifestyle approach and creating images that tell a story. While that is my personal goal to capture images that have that feel every time I shoot, I do have to keep in mind the intended result that my client is striving for as well. In theory, my clients come to me because they see my work and have the same vision as I, but I know everyone is different so I like to ask specific questions that will help me learn how they’d like to see their images utilized in their home to make sure that I deliver exactly what they want. For this reason, I created an online questionnaire using MachForm for all of my clients to fill out. On the form I ask questions that will help me get to know their style better, that will help give me insight into their lives, get to know their personality better and what their interests/hobbies are. Then I also ask some questions that will help me get a feel for what they hope to get out of the session. Some of the questions include:

  • What are your ideal images you’d like to have for yourself and for your walls?
  • What do you hope to come away with from your session?
  • In the back of your mind going into this, what do you plan to do with your images (so that I can better serve you)? Create a card, design an album, purchase images to hang on your wall, own the digital images so you can do what you want?

My goal in asking these questions is not for the client to present me with a pinterest page of other photographer’s images to show me what images they like (thankfully that hasn’t happened to me much but I hear stories from other photographers), my goal is to stay true to MY style while also presenting the client with exactly what they want and the kind of images that will provide them with their desired result. I want them to walk away feeling fulfilled and like they have everything they ever wanted. My goal is to know what they might want so I can keep that in mind while shooting. I don’t ever over think it so much that I lose sight of the spontaneity of the moment, but it is nice information to keep in the back of my mind. If a client tells me that they really only have a need for a couple images and that they want to display those images as wall art throughout their home then I know that they won’t be interested with a gallery full of 100+ detail shots and that I should focus on those images that lend themselves to being hung on a wall. Although I still give them some detail shots and lifestyle moments to choose from, my focus is now on getting several solid portraits for that client. If there are multiple kids I would make sure to capture several of each child that would hang well side by side (with the same crop, the same light, the same feel, etc). I would make sure to get in close AND back up to account for different print sizes. When a client is interested in an album or a collage, I make sure to shoot with depth. I want to utilize angles and perspective for added interest and variety in order to effectively tell a story. Although this is my shooting style all the time as a lifestyle photographer, when I know that is the intended result of a session I make sure to focus on it even more. I still want to capture those BAM blow-me-up-on-a-wall type portraits but I can also allow myself a lot of freedom to be creative. When shooting a session with an album as the end result in mind here are some things to keep in mind:

shooting with the intent of photo albums by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

1. Shoot complimentary images.  Just as Elicia said so well, albums and collages provide a perfect opportunity to combine a beautiful portrait with a complimentary detail to capture a specific moment in time. For an album it’s a good idea to capture the entire frame then get in close to hone in on the details. Make sure to switch up your perspective and angle. If your subjects are engaged in an activity pretend to take pictures from the perspective of each family member for a few shots. Think outside the box. Constantly ask yourself what ELSE can I do. The client won’t need multiple images of the same thing in their album & it will be more exciting to look at if there is variety. It’s kind of nice to know that your pictures will be put to good use since you can use so many images in an album. Many times some of the images that you love the most may not be frame-worthy and those types of images are usually perfect for albums. I agree with Elicia that you should give yourself permission to overshoot when your intended result is to create an album!

2. Be cohesive.  Show cohesiveness in your editing, in the way you utilize light, and in your shooting style. Be consistent. If your images are all over the place then it will probably show in an album where the images are side by side. If the images are all cohesive then it will be more pleasing to the viewer. I’d suggest editing the images to use in an album in one sitting rather than little by little. They’re more likely to have the exact same color and feel that way.

3. Simplicity is good.  With album design I think simple is better and will allow the album to stay timeless. I don’t want my design to take away from the images or the story they tell. I always go with a clean, white background with a thin, white border between the images. I love Kiss Books because of the quality and simplicity. I love the color and material options they offer for the front cover. I like that you have the option to pay extra for their design service. I like picking my images and putting them in order but I have no problem giving up control when it comes to the design part. Their designers are well trained in creating layouts that make a statement and I have been happy with their work each time. Sometimes when I’m trying to save money and time I use the Moirai Compositor to design my album layouts.

4. Shoot consistently at sessions.  Many times I don’t have the opportunity to shoot in the same location, same light or even on the same day because my baby’s first year clients almost always order an album from all four or five sessions during the first year of their baby’s life. In this case you especially need to be true to your style and editing over time. You won’t be able to control the weather and will probably be switching up your locations throughout the year so you need to make sure you create a cohesive set with all of the things you can control: color, tone, exposure, editing, shooting style. With that cohesiveness your images will show well throughout the entire album. At the beginning of that first year pick out a few things to do at each session to show growth. There are so many options that you can choose just make sure whatever you do, do it every single time! Here are some ideas: have the baby wear onesies with their age on them at each session, choose a meaningful blanket for them to lay on at each sitting, have the baby sit in a certain spot or chair each time, have the baby hold a special stuffed animal, or even just using a simple pose in the same spot that you can re-create at each session would work. Those images will be wonderful for your album to place side by side showing growth and change over that first year.

shooting with the intent of photo albums by Elicia Graves and Kelly Garvey

To all of you who love designing HAVE FUN! For those of you (like myself) who would rather be doing something else with your time, just remember you can always find a reliable, quality company who offers that service and OUTSOURCE!

Thank you Elicia and Kelly for the great perspectives on shooting for albums!


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How would you like the chance to win a 10×10 Pacific Album from Bay Photo (includes PhotoWrap or Material Cover and 20 sides, 10 pages, with a value of $207)?  Simply comment on this post telling us what the subject of your last ordered photo album was and we will randomly choose a winner next Wednesday, September 4th at noon EST.  Good luck everyone and thank you Bay Photo!

winner update!

Congratulations to the random winner Katie who said, “My last album was actually for myself! I’m finally getting around to making my personal albums. It’s about time! Love this article :-)”!  I will email you shortly on how to claim your prize!