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The extent to which digital technology had changed album design and layout became clear when the digitally-printed storybook albums were introduced. Storybook albums are essentially created using an extension of the flush-mounted technique, with images adhered to stiff mount board and extending to the edges of the pages. The covers may be of leather, metal, vinyl or fabric and may incorporate digital imagery of various types either in cut-out windows or digitally printed directly on to the cover material.

Each single side or double-page spread is used to present a digital magazine or reportage-style layout, which may incorporate from one to about ten individual images. The whole album may therefore incorporate many more images than was possible previously - perhaps over 200. When combined with an endless variety of special digital effects, such as photo collages, faded images, combinations of black-and-white and colour, colorization, sepia toning and of course the use of text, the resulting look is distinctly editorial in style. It is also possible to use images, perhaps appropriately faded, as page backgrounds or overlay images with text or musical scores. Another important development that emerged with the digital printing technology was a new binding technique that allows an album to be opened flat at any page. Although the join of two pages at the spine is still visible, no part of an image is lost. This means that pictures can be printed across double-page spreads and that the registration of the two halves is perfect. This technique helped to generate a whole new industry because, for the first time, graphic designers were able to approach album design on a double-page by double-page basis.

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Images courtesy of Graphistudio

Storybook albums are very popular, particularly with photographers who offer journalistic-style wedding packages. They are available from several companies in various sizes and may incorporate 80 or even 100 pages (ie 40 or 50 leaves). Different digital printing technologies make possible a range photographic finishes including matte, gloss, pearl, textured, art linen and metallic

The design of albums of this type can be a slow process and this must inevitably be reflected in the cost of the final product. The companies that manufacture storybook albums usually make appropriate design software available to their trade customers or even to the general public. Software of this type generally incorporates a substantial set of page template with can be used for drag-and-drop layout work. Using this standard approach, some photographers claim to be able to lay out a wedding album in three or four hours. However, a better result can usually be obtained if time is available for detailed page-by-page adjustments and the introduction of customized page templates where necessary. This latter approach can be very time consuming and consequently expensive. Most of the album companies also offer their own layout services at additional cost.

A well designed storybook album has a very modern look and feel, and experience has shown that their impact among family and friends is substantial. Another inherent major advantage is that once the design is produced, and stored as a digital file, smaller copies of comparable aspect ratio can easily be printed. This makes cheaper "parent albums" and "guest albums" readily available at reasonable prices.

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