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March 16, 2018

Heirloom Wedding Albums – Is there really a difference between ours & theirs?

If you’ve been anywhere in the vicinity of my heirloom wedding albums lately, you’ve most likely seen me hug them, smile at them, rave about them, and basically treat them like my children.  They ARE my babies, and  once you have your very own, you’ll understand why.  Our handmade, artisan wedding albums are not only absolutely gorgeous and timeless, but they are made to last for generations.

Let’s talk about “other” albums though.   I’ve seen colleagues rave about an unnamed lab’s wedding albums (we’ll call them Company X) for quite a few years.  Colleagues I admire, and colleagues who frankly, are about in line with us, price wise.  If you’ve met with a few photographers about your event or wedding, you’ve likely even held one of these albums yourself.    Because I use Company X for prints and other press products (and have been very impressed with the quality and service), I assumed I would enjoy their albums just as much, and with so many photographers saying great things, it should have been a shoe-in .  I didn’t have any intention of switching companies (thats how much I adore my album makers), but being curious, I needed to see for myself.  During a recent sample album sale, I bit the bullet and tried them out.  Below, I will outline my observations and comparisons, and then conclude with my thoughts.

 

NOTES: For these observations, I’m comparing the top-of-the-line albums from both companies.  Images were taken at the same time.

Compay X = the other guys’ album lab (Album shown is ~45 days old)

Company A = our album lab (Album shown is ~4 years old)

Presentation

Company X (theirs) – It came in the mail, packaged and protected well.  The albums include a heavy duty cardboard box for safe keeping in the client’s home.  Unfortunately, upon opening up the box for the first time, it was like a straight shot of HEAVY glue fumes to my face.  Likely, this is caused by their machine-made production process, and the fact that it is constructed and delivered within 3-5 days.  The smell will likely dissipate over time, but personally I felt like it spoke to the hurried nature of the production, and perhaps the quality.

Company A (ours!) – The albums also arrive produced and packaged well.  Our albums come standard in a leather keepsake box.  Scent free (unless you order a leather cover, in which….yum!)

Heirloom Album Keepsake Box

Top Image – Company X’s albums come standard with a heavy duty gray cardboard box
Bottom Image – Company A (ours!) comes standard with a black leather keepsake box

Heirloom photo album differences

Upgrades & Cover Options

Company X offers 48 different cover material options, including leathers & linens, as well as canvas, acrylic, & metal photo covers.  The option that holds a slight edge over ours is that they allow the photographer to upload a custom title (like, for instance, the client’s name) in any font, for no extra charge.  These custom fonts can only be printed in black, on certain leathers.   How this etching will hold up is yet-to-be-determined.  (EDIT: While taking photos of the albums, I was examining the lettering, and with hardly any effort, I noticed I could easily peel the letters off. The material seems to be a sticker)   There are several cameo photo options for the cover as well.  The pages are printed on lustre or fine art matte paper.

Company A  offers 77 different cover material options, including leathers, non-leather(vegan), linens, and Japanese silks.  Our company also offers the designer/photographer to send in a CUSTOM material, and if they can use it for the cover, they will, making it TRULY one-of-a-kind.  Custom logos, monograms, and fonts are possible for an upcharge, in any of their embossing colors.  Other options also include photo canvas, acrylic, photo leather, metal, and custom cameo sizes, multi-material covers (as shown), overlapping materials, etc.  Literally, thousands and thousands of possible combinations and options, and the company will also work with the maker to make something unique and custom for the client.

Renaissance albums vs other albums

Top Image – Company X’s album. The album is about 45 days old, and with a tiny swipe of a dull finger nail I was able to take some of the leather off (???) plus remove the lettering.
Bottom Image – Company A’s album, 4 years old. I conducted the same scratch test and couldn’t even tell where I touched it. I need to get a new sample but I LOVE showing my clients how well this has held up, even with hundreds and hundreds of hands touching it over the years, not to mention being carted everywhere I go.

Production Process & Quality

Company X – All albums are machine made, and constructed and shipped in 3-5 days.  We live in a very impatient world, however, faster is NOT always better.  In my opinion, something that is supposed to last your lifetime, plus your future generations, should not be rushed.  To get the albums made and out the door, cheap processes are utilized, as well as cheap paper, which must be used for the binding process.  Because the turnaround is so quick, glue is unlikely to have dried by shipment, and thus is prone to warping.

Company A – Aside from, well, everything else, this is where our album company REALLY shines.  Our top-of-the-line albums (called “The Luxe”), are handmade in their New York studio.  Aside from the actual printing of the paper, everything is done by hand, including the cover construction and carefully gluing the pages and spine together, layer by layer.     Because everything is done by hand, the artisans can quality-control every step of the way.  The process takes 3-5 weeks, and they allow all processes to finish before moving on, leaving no overwhelming glue or production odors for the client.

Renaissance Album Soho album

Two examples of our Luxe Album. When opening your album, you’ll immediately view the first spread, making for a “wow” presentation. Because the spreads and covers are hand made, corners are tight & secure. These particular albums are printed on Lustre Paper, but our company also offers fine-art matte.

Heirloom album differences

Company A’s 10×10 highest end album. Because of the production process, the book opens to a plain black spread, and ends the same way. This particular album is printed on fine-art matte, but lustre paper is also available.

Guarantee & Customer Service

Company X – To give this company a fair chance to “talk up” and stand by their product, I gave them a call to ask about the album I received, and about their guarantee and processes.  It was a disappointing call.  The representative I talked to tried to sound shocked about the glue fumes, although it seemed clear she had heard it before.  She skirted around telling me the production process of the albums, and while she said they stand by their product, they would not accept any returns for issues arising after 30 days.

Company A – Lifetime guarantee.  If any manufacturing issues were to arise (of course this does not cover client-fault issues), they will replace it, because they truly stand by their product.  I have yet to come across any issues from clients, and even the one issue I had (which was MY FAULT), they worked with me to make it right.  Being a family company, they are truly trustworthy.  I had the chance to chat with them in person at a recent conference, and before I even said hello, they had seen my name tag and introduced themselves enthusiastically.  I know I can trust them, and I know they know who I am and will strive to keep my business successful.

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*Until April 17th, 2018, I am offering clients 20% off a Luxe Album (+50% off Luxe Parent Albums).  When inquiring, use the code OURALBUMSROCK.  Offer is good for past, present, and new clients.*

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Price

Company X – Admittedly, and rightfully, their albums are affordable.  Unfortunately, price is what drives so many photographers to use them, no matter if the photographer is claiming to offer a high-end service (and charging the client for it).  There are price points for everyone, which is fine.  However, I feel like charging a premium for wedding photography deserves truly superior service, from the actual work to the products delivered.

Company A – Our company’s high end albums are more expensive, but, in my option, completely worth it.  Our albums are supposed to last generations, and they do.  They arrive in a leather box for the client, which is truly priceless if there are to be future little ones running around, pets, or to just protect against daily life and dust.

Renaissance Albums Soho

I’m so obsessed with our beautiful albums. Thank you Renaissance for your continued support & gorgeous work!

 

In conclusion, I will definitely not be switching anytime soon.  There is too much at stake, when speaking of products that are meant to be looked at time after time, for GENERATIONS, to cheap out for the sake of profit.  I am preserving peoples memories, and I take that responsibility very seriously.  As I mentioned before, there are price points for everyone, which I completely respect.  However, if you value quality heirlooms, I would strongly suggest asking your potential photographer about the processes and production schedule involved with their album company.  Furthermore, consumer labs who cater to the client are going to have the same, if not worse, production and quality.

 

If you have ANY questions whatsoever, about our process, or what we can do for you, please let us know in the comments or send us a message via our website!  Furthermore, if you would like to inquire about our albums and services, we would LOVE to hear from you!

 

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