Q&A With Renee Blake, Professional Album Designer

 
 

Images: Samm Blake / Album Design: Renee Blake

 
 
 

When Renee Blake was asked by her wedding photographer sister Samm to help design her wedding albums, she had little idea that she was embarking on a journey that would see her carve out a unique niche for herself and design albums for some of the world's most popular photographers.

I'm absolutely stoked that Renee, from Renee Blake Design will be one of our mentors at The Album Atelier and sharing tips and advice to help photographers improve their album design skills. I caught up with Renee to find out more about her journey and profession and even prised out a few hints at what attendees can expect to learn from her at the workshop.

 

Image: Photography With Cassie

Image: Photography With Cassie

 
 

Q: What attracted you to designing albums for other people?
 

A: It really started when I was living with my sister Samm who's a wedding photographer. I noticed that she was often designing albums, then one day she asked if she could pay me to do the designs for her! At this stage I had no idea that being an album designer was a thing but I've always loved design (my background is in fashion) and I've been telling stories through scrapbooking since I was little, so the concept of designing albums came quite naturally. Samm taught me how she designs albums and soon got some other photographers to try me out. Within a few months I launched my business at a photography workshop in Byron Bay. The photographers there were amazed that there was an option to outsource their album design and at that point I realised that this could be a proper career.

 

Q: how long have you been designing albums?
 

A: I've been designing for almost four years now including three years full time, and I'm still learning so much!

 
Images: I Got You Babe

Images: I Got You Babe

Image: I Got You Babe

Image: I Got You Babe

 

 

Q: do you find it challenging to work with images from an event that you didn't attend?
 

A: There are moments when I think I would like to know more about the day so sometimes I'll ask the photographer to give me a bit more information, but I (and the photographers I work with) like that I'm looking at the images with fresh eyes and delivering my perspective of the wedding. I love puzzles and I see each wedding as a puzzle where I have to figure out how all the pieces fit together. And just like jigsaw puzzles, sometimes there's a piece that seems to be missing so I will go back to the photographer and ask if they have an image that will fill the gap in the story.

 

Q: do you prefer to select the images for the design or do you work with the images supplied to you?
 

A: There's three main ways: the couple pick the images, the photographer picks the images, or they send me the whole gallery and I pick the images. There are advantages and challenges for all three but as a storyteller I prefer to pick images that will tell a balanced story of the day and highlight the important moments, especially those involving the guests and the emotions.

 

Q: how do photographers brief you?
 

A: I'll be talking about this in much more detail at the workshop but I have quite a unique method where I design by the number of images rather than the number of spreads.

 
Images: Leo Farrell

Images: Leo Farrell

Images: Leo Farrell

Images: Leo Farrell

 

 

Q: What do photographers say is the most frustrating aspect of designing albums?
 

A: Time management. Photographers are always after that elusive work / life balance and albums can disrupt that. Busy photographers often don't have the time to design the albums and so look at outsourcing, while a lot of new photographers simply don't know how to design albums and that means they spend too much of their time trying to figure it out and still not getting anywhere.

 

Q: how do you think photographers can improve their designs?
 

A: I see a lot of designs where there's just too much clutter and either too many images or too many stories on a spread. I feel that less is more when it comes to albums so keep it clean and simple. I also see different editing styles or colour temperatures clashing on a spread, and attention to cropping can make images look a lot tidier against a white page.

 

Q: do you have a preferred album size or shape and do you advise on this?
 

A: When photographers who are new to designing or outsourcing contact me about my services I always like to recommend square flush mount albums at 10" x 10" or 11" x 11" but some photographers are quite particular about the size or shape of album they offer their clients so I'll work to their specs. 

 
Images: Michael Briggs

Images: Michael Briggs

Images: Michael Briggs

Images: Michael Briggs

 

 

Q: what's the turnaround time for one of your album designs?
 

A: I send my first draft within seven days through a cloud-based proofing system. From then on it depends on how many revisions are required and how much time it takes the clients to approve the design.

 

Q: have you noticed any trends in album design?
 

A: Covers are becoming bold and different rather than just having the names embossed. Packaging design has also become very popular.

 

Q: does your design work include ideas for the cover and packaging?
 

A: It's definitely something I offer, from having names embossed in a particular typeface to picking out the fabric and colour and adding the client's logo if they have one.

 
Images: Michael Briggs

Images: Michael Briggs

Images: Michael Briggs

Images: Michael Briggs

 

 

Q: We're super excited that you'll be speaking at the album atelier! what can attendees expect to learn from you?
 

A: Lots of design tips! I'll explain the elements for a good album design and provide advice on storytelling through a book, including how to break a story down into chapters and shoot for those chapters on the day. I'll also go through a couple of albums explaining my thought processes and of course I'll outline the benefits of outsourcing your album design.

I'm also excited to announce that one attendee on each day of the workshop will win a free album design valued at $240 and every attendee will be offered 25% off their first album design!

 

To join Renee at The Album Atelier and be in the running for a free album design, just click the button below to book your ticket for either Saturday 24th June or Sunday 25th June. There are limited places remaining for each day.

 
Milton Gan