A New Concept In Album Design
Digital Technology Makes It Happen

I first saw "White Glove First Edition Books" at the Professional Photographers of America trade show in Atlanta in the summer of 1999. Since it's pretty much just Monte Zucker and I that cover the wedding side of things in Shutterbug, and we usually write about technique, I've been a while getting to it. And don't think that this review will be anything like the others, because it's written by a real live professional who looks at every product and says, "What can this do for me?" I think all the wedding, portrait, and art photographers out there who are concerned about the final presentation of their products ought to know about this company and their books. Because they're damn good, not to mention unique.

Let's look at weddings. Even though there's a "tech wreck" going on in the stock market right now, there are plenty of engaged women out there. These brides want the best photography and best presentation possible, and price is not their first concern. This is where you, me, and White Glove come in. Consider the following. Our prospective bride Mary has gone to three studios before visiting you. All are competent photographers and seem very nice. They extol the virtues of back-up equipment, professional labs, awards, assistants, etc. But she's having a hard time trying to decide which photographer is right for her, because they all seem pretty much the same. Then she enters your studio. (You of course are tastefully dressed, have wonderful mood music playing and a sweet cinnamon smell in the air--but that's a different column.) After a brief discussion, you proudly withdraw from its slipcase a beautiful, coffee-table book and ask her if she'd like to view it. You watch her eyes as she looks at the gorgeously printed book that happens to have wedding photos from one of your weddings. There are no mattes and no prints stuck on pages since the pages are the photos!

And what an arrangement! With artistic borders, text overlaid in boxes, sepia and black and white tones, even prints used as backgrounds. Wow! This photographer is an artistic genius! I don't care if he's $1500 more than the other guys, look at what I'm getting! And that's where I'm coming from. I don't care (OK, I do a little) how these guys do this, but I do know this can separate me from my competition. It can make me the artist, them the craftsperson. And artists get paid more, get more respect, and have more fun--it's true!

Now that you know how I feel about these books (notice I didn't call them albums) and how important it is to differentiate yourself from the competition, you might ask yourself, "Well that's great, Steve, but what if everyone starts getting these books?" They are priced at the high end of the market. The part-timer won't usually spend the money, so if you're in a populated area, there may be others with White Glove books. And you'll be in good company, no matter what your skill level. My bet is, if you aren't up there with the best, you'll want to be very soon.

Let's take a look at how this all happened. It seems that California photographers Paul Thompson and his partner Larry Crandall got together in January 1998 and had a little brainstorming session about albums. They decided that wedding albums were ripe for change, and not seeing what they wanted, they decided to create it themselves. After much experimentation, they decided that the only feasible way to get the look, quality, and permanence they wanted, and to be able to do it all for just one book, was to work directly from digital files.

Once the photos are in a digital file, they can be imported into Photo-shop, where they can be left alone, tinted, made black and white, or any of the myriad of other options Photoshop offers. White Glove does the printing on high quality archival papers then binds the pages together library style. And while the process isn't inexpensive, it is comparable to top of the line leather albums from other leading companies. The big plus here is that once you have done all the prep work for the digital files, it's a simple and rather inexpensive proposition to make multiple albums--even with different covers. Instead of offering the bride and groom's parents smaller albums, why not give them one identical to the couple's? Will that make you a lot of money? You bet!

Now let's take a look at the nuts and bolts of how this works and how to go about ordering your own album, oops, book. First you pick the cover material. There are six very elegant imported papers, black bookcloth and leather. Pick your size, from 5x5 to 11x14. Congratulations, the easy part is done. Next, you have to decide how involved you are going to be in the design process. The more work you do, the less it costs and the more control you have over how the final album will look. Option A is to send them the paper photos in order. They will scan them and design the book. Use option B and submit "photo cards" on the back of each image with precise directions for layout, text, and effects. Option C is to submit totally finished files for each page via flattened Mac TIFF files. And option D is to scan each photo individually yourself and submit with complete directions. The requirements for submitting digital files demand that you be quite knowledgeable about scanning and file preparation. It also demands that you have a Mac.

While I've been focusing on weddings in this article, there is also a market for fine portraiture that can be elegantly presented. And what photographer wouldn't enjoy having a book made of their own favorite or themed photos? This is a beautiful marketing idea.

Contact: White Glove First Edition Books, 8092 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92647; (714) 841-6900; www.wgbooks.com