Interview with Jenn Hopkins Photography

A while back (I mean a LONG while back), I had the great idea to interview a few of my favorite clients and get their expert advice on managing the album process.  In this crazy “learn as you go” business, taking a peek other’s workflow can be so valuable.

So I started with sweet Jenn Hopkins.  She was kind enough to answer my questions last June and I am just now getting around to posting them.  Since then, Jenn has brought into the world the cutest, most edible baby with a dimple that is simply to die for.

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I love working with Jenn, and it’s truly been a pleasure to get to know her personally too as we both entered the wild world of motherhood.  All my love to this incredible lady!  Ok, here’s Jenn’s interview!

Where are you located? Jacksonville/North East Florida, but I travel all over Florida and Georgia and beyond!
How long you have been a professional photographer? About 5 years now! Time flies when your having fun!

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Why did you decide to outsource album design? Because, frankly, graphic design is just not my thing. I SO wish it was, because I enjoy beautiful design, but I was finding that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t lay out my albums the way I envisioned them, or to the standards that I thought Albums Deserved. I purchased tons of “Templates” but nothing compares to a custom layout. So I was so thankful to find KruBooks.

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Best part of working with KruBooks? Katie makes whatever I need happen, happen. My layouts are amazing, she highlights my images in the best way, the albums are clean, and visually stunning. I love that once my Bride sends me her album image selections I can hand everything off to Katie and know she will deliever them an incredible product!!
Who do you use as your print and bind supplier and why? I use Finao. I personally love the choices. I think it gives my Brides something so fun to do, to be apart of the album design process in choosing their leathers and color options. They can go clean and simple or with pops of color. Depnding on their design style.

Best advice on how to handle the album process with your wedding clients? I went through a few different processes. I personally like my clients to choose their own images. I found when I chose the images and then let them make changes I was making LOTS of changes to the way the album was laid out, etc. and inevitably wasn’t happy with it. As much as I love filling albums with designs and moments, truth be told, Brides still love the filling albums with their posed family portraits, and portraits of friends and family. So, I leave the selection up to them. I do try to provide them with the types of images they should fill their album with, for example, I have them choose images from each part of their day. Getting ready, candids, and formals to make a cohesive album.

I have also decided to require their image choices before shipping out their disc of images. Those image discs are highly coveted and Brides want them right away! So it provides a little incentive for them to work on first choosing their images for their album. I also think it lets them go with their heart and first instinct when choosing images. They are much more decisive right after their gallery posts, then weeks or sometimes months after their gallery post. It also helps keep me moving in a timely fashion, and allows me to wrap up loose items like Bride and Parent albums pretty quickly after finishing up a Brides Gallery.

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Images courtesy of Jenn Hopkins Photography

The Memento Every Couple Should Have

A friend sent me this article today and I could not agree more!  A few years ago I wrote a post called The Argument for Wedding Albums.  The article in at echoes my exact sentiments:

“Today, a lot of couples think just getting the disc of images is ‘good enough.’ Here’s the problem with that thinking: it’s not true. Not by a long shot….

But of all the things you spend money on for your wedding, your wedding photographs are the ONLY thing that will increase in value over time. As the years pass, you’ll be more and more glad that you have them. Especially, if you can experience looking through them by flipping through a gorgeous custom-designed album instead of sitting in front of your computer and clicking “next” with your mouse.

So, figure out a way to make it happen. Figure out a way to afford that album. Forgo a centerpiece. Cut back on your guest list. Opt out of the vintage car you’ll drive in for all of 20 minutes.

Don’t just do it for you. Do it for your children. Do it for your grandchildren. Because when they root around in your attic in 2075, they will have no idea what do with a USB key anymore than they would with a laser disc player.” Kathleen Trenske,

Figure out a way to get the album, you won’t regret it.  Even if you wait five or ten years to have it made, it’s never too late!  I love it when people contact me while pregnant with their first baby because they know it’s an heirloom they’ll want to pass on.

Kathleen writes, “My parents have exactly 18 professional images from their wedding. Eighteen. I know them inside and out. I could describe each image to you so well that a sketch artist would be able to recreate them.  How do I know them so well? Because I’ve looked at them hundreds of times. I’ve looked at them hundreds of times because they were on display, in an album. An album that was made by a professional, filled with prints made through a professional lab and bound in a book available only to professionals.”

I can certainly relate to that!  I love looking through my parents’ wedding album and even my grandparents’ album.  But it’s not just important for the future generations.  It’s a priceless reminder of the excitement, love and vows you and your spouse shared that day.  And in my opinion, those are things you’ll want to revisit and relive and recommit to every single day.

An Argument for Wedding Albums

It’s true that the times they are a-changin’. This world is getting increasingly digital, and with the development of the ipad and Kindle, books and magazines are becoming less…well, necessary. It’s interesting to think how this will affect the world of wedding albums. A while back, I was asked if instead of printing the layouts and getting them bound into an album, if I would just give the couple the jpgs so they could show it to others on their computer or iphone. I had no problem with this, and they did save money on the printing, but I couldn’t help thinking how sad it would be for the couple 20 years down the road when they don’t have anything physical to hold and show the kids. I made sure to mention that they could hold on to their files and contact me at any point if they wanted an album printed.

The other day I stumbled upon this photographer’s blog post detailing how his daughter recently discovered her parents wedding album and how much fun they had looking through it with her. Dave writes:

“I think the most striking thing about our daughter discovering this wonderful time capsule is that she could discover it. If it were a DVD, she would have read the title, found it boring and moved on. Also, after several moves and boxing and unboxings, I doubt it would ever be found and if it were, we certainly wouldn’t have been able to share the warmth of a family moment on the couch, turning the pages and sharing part of our past with our little girl. An album is so much more than the 1′s and 0′s so many of us photographers burn down to a DVD. An album is immune to advances in technology. If the DVD format changes and drives are updated and the jpg format becomes a thing of the past, your album doesn’t care. An album is unaffected by power outages. Light’s go out, it still works. Brides are often referred to as princesses, what self-respecting princess doesn’t have a book to tell the story of her wedding!

I realize that so often the issue with buying an album is price. I would rebut with the simple fact that if a bride is going to pay $25,000 for her wedding, she should trust her photographer to put together the best !#@%$ book they can to show off their big day! Forever! In a medium where, should their daughter (who, by the way, believes in true love, fairy tales and princess stories) find it on the bookshelf, she can bring it to her mom and dad and ask them who every person was at their wedding.”

Wonderfully written and so TRUE! There are many brides today who walk away with just a CD of their images, intending to get an album made later but never do. Well, let me tell you, it’s not too late! I’ve done plenty of albums for people who have been married for several years and are finally ready to get an album. In fact, this Christmas I designed a wedding album for my husband’s sister and brother-in-law who had just celebrated their five year anniversary. And because I hate having a blog post without pictures, I might as well sneak in some favorites from their album!

It’s even sweeter to remember this special day five years down the road. And now Lorren and Cole have two precious girls that will LOVE to look through the book about their princess mommy and prince daddy!

It’s All in the Details

My biggest weak spot when designing an album – detail shots! I just can’t say no to those amazing flower close-ups, getting ready accessories, reception details, and of course, ring shots! I know from planning my own wedding, SO much time goes into arranging the “little things.” Why wouldn’t you want all that hard work featured in your album!?

Details shots are perfect for the opening pages of the the album. They quickly convey the color scheme and mood of the wedding. Check out all the pretty pink in this spread:

photography by Brooke Schwab

I love the bold blue in this one, and how the main image captures the intricacy of the dress hem. There are so many great “getting ready” details – the bouquets, the shoes, the dress, the hair, the make-up…the list goes on and on!

photography by Brooke Schwab

Set the scene for the reception section of the album with some more great detail shots. Here’s the spread from my own winter wedding:

photography by Steve Lyons

Sometimes I like to put a bunch of detail shots on one page to capture how well everything fits together…

photography be Dede Edwards

And sometimes I like to feature just a few shots to make a strong and elegant statement.

photography by Elizabeth Dondis

It’s easy to pick the formals and action shots for the album, but don’t forget those all-important detail images! These pictures are what really tell the story of that unforgettable day.

Flush Mount vs Coffee Table

On my site, there are pricing options for two types of books – coffee table style and flush mount style. These books are different in look and feel, but both are high quality albums. When I first started KruBooks, I spent a lot of time comparing and evaluating print and bind suppliers. To keep things simple, I decided to pick one strong supplier for each book style. I decided to use Asuka for my coffeetable books, and Leather Craftsmen for my flush mount albums. I continue to keep my eye on other companies and new supppliers…I want to make sure I am offering the best! But in the past year and a half, I have been so pleased with the end product for both companies. Here’s a detailed description of each book type:

Coffee Table Books: Featuring Asuka Book Bound – Hard Cover
Coffee table books are slightly less formal and less expensive. These books are like what you would find in the photography section of a book store. The layouts are printed directly on the page. All pages are protected with a varnish coating which gives them a lustrous look and satiny feel. The cover is printed with a picture, and each book comes with a frosted case which allows extra protection. Here are some pictures from the Asuka website:

Flush Mount Books: Featuring Premium Leather Craftsmen 3500 Series
The flush mount books are higher end and more traditional. Your layouts are professionally printed and hand-mounted onto thick pages. There isn’t a “gutter” or middle hinge, which means none of your layout will be lost in the middle. This feature provides you with a full panoramic spread. The cover is a made with top grain cowhide leather. For an additional fee, you can get upgraded leather options or premium fabrics. Here are some pictures from Leather Craftsmen’s site:

If you have any questions about these two styles, or which is right for your album, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to help!

Image Selection: How Many Images

One question I am frequently asked is: “How many images should I send/choose for my album?” The first and easiest answer, of course, is that it depends on the number of pages. (Quick definition check…the terminology in the album world can be super confusing, because many people define the same words differently. To keep my head straight, I distinguish a “page” as one side of a layout…similar to how a book’s pages are numbered. When referring to the two sides together, I use the terms “layout” or “spread.”)

To give people an idea of how many images will be included in their end product, I use the guideline of 2-3 images per page (which is 4-6 images per layout). Why the range? When I plan an album, I like to think of the overall balance…not just the balance of a spread, but the connection between all the layouts in the book. To have a real “page turner”, you want to keep the viewer involved with interesting and varying designs. This mean having some full spreads, as well as some simple, clean spreads. The more basic spreads have two main purposes: 1) they allow a couple of stunning images to really make an impact, 2) they give the eye a rest, a stopping place to re-orient. I’m never one to lean towards chaotic or busy designs, but when I do a spread that showcases many images, I like to “restore the peace” with a really classic design that has just a few strong images. It’s incredible how much impact images can have when they are designed in the simplest way.

Here’s a couple spreads to show the value of album variety. This first spread isn’t “busy”, but it is full. There is a faded image on the right side, as well as an overlapping white bar with smaller images. The balance of the spread is maintained by the larger detail shot on the left side, and the similar color palette across the images.

photography by Dede Edwards

On the next spread, I wanted to add in some white space and just showcase two images (and one GREAT flower detail shot). The lovely bride and groom with a burst of green…

Here’s an example of a simple page that really captures the emotion of the images. The large image on the left and the abundance of white space on the right allow the eye to really absorb what’s going on. Don’t you just want to CELEBRATE?

Finally, a spread with edge to edge images. Still simple, but with a little more to take in. The single sepia image balances the spread and give your eyes a starting point.

Since you can’t predict how the images will fit together in the end, it’s better to send too many pictures than too few. The guideline of “2-3 images per page” isn’t really a design mandate (you can see that two of the spreads above only have 1 image per page), but rather an alternative way to think of album layout. Instead of forcing images into pre-designed spreads, why not let the images lead the way! Group high-energy images (getting ready, reception dancing, etc.) into clean, but action-filled pages. And let those powerful “wow” shots have their own space. The end result – an interesting and stunning album that is specifically designed for YOUR images!

Image Selection: Direction and Freedom

Image selection for an album can be overwhelming. I remember the day after my wedding, I was itching to get my hands on the photographer’s pictures. When I finally got the proofs, I was so enamored with seeing myself in a big, puffy dress that I loved every single shot! Truly, all 727 of them. The first wedding album I designed for myself was 64 pages…after I cut back! One of the great things about the switch to digital photography is that brides are getting more images of their special day. But how do you choose which to put in your album?

Several people can be a part of the picture selection process. Some brides want to choose all their pictures; sometimes the photographer selects all the images. My ideal designing situation is to get the CD of all acceptable images (the ones you’d be happy to have in your album) and also a list of the bride’s and/or photographer’s must have images. This combination of direction and freedom is a designer’s dream come true. The list of your absolute favorites reduces the amount of revisions and image swapping down the road. And the range of other images allows the designer to put together a variety of shots that complement each other. Some close ups, some landscapes. Some people shots, some details. Colors and photo treatments that coordinate and make the entire layout look like it just fits.

Here are some examples of what designer freedom can produce:

photography by Dede Edwards

The beauty in the above layout comes from the similar lighting and color tones. Let’s say the bride didn’t send two of these pictures, so I had to use ones that weren’t taken at this time of day or on the beach. The effect is lost when a couple of images are swapped.

Here’s another example of a beautiful complimentary layout. In this spread, the soft pink hue is repeated on the right side, which really allows the black and white image on the left to make a statement.

photography by Brooke Schwab

I love the challenge of mixing and matching images to get the perfect look for each spread. Visually appealing layouts are what make the story come alive! So when selecting your album images, you definitely want your favorites in there…but don’t be afraid to leave the rest up to the designer. Sit back and enjoy some well-deserved relaxation. You may be amazed at what a little creative freedom can produce!