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photographers have asked about two different topics. They ask 1. How do you shoot so many portraits and 2. How do you shoot with an album in mind. Well the answers to these two questions are closely related! The way I shoot portraits ensures that I will have a ton to choose from AND that the album spreads will be cohesive.  This past week I have been working HARD on album designs. I think I’ve completed almost 8 of them and I’m on a roll! Before we get too far into this post, let me explain my album process. I like to design my albums first, with the images that I think look the best.

I only do this because I LOVE design and I have a background in design work so I have an eye for composition and balance. I realize that most of my clients don’t have a clue about design and contrast and negative space. I used to ask all of my couples to pick 50 images (out of over 1,000 images!!) and that’s what I’ll use to design their album. This wasn’t smart for two reasons. One, it was overwhelming for the couple and two, most of the time they weren’t choosing images that flow together and make a cohesive album. So instead of using that approach, I have started designing albums first and then allowing my clients to have two rounds of changes. This way, they are still getting the album that they WANT, but they have something to start from that is designed well. Now, this just works for ME… it may not work for other photographers and that’s totally fine! It’s just my opinion.


If you haven’t noticed, I blog a lot of images….. A LOT. And I do this because I have a problem picking favorites but also, I use these blogged images to create the first draft of the client’s album. I add in a family formals page and make sure the ceremony is displayed well and it really makes for a simple process! I import that folder of images into Photojunction, prepare the album file and begin designing! I then export the design, upload it to the client’s gallery and enable the “commenting” tool so that the bride and groom can comment on the spreads about what changes they would like to make. It’s a very simple process and it works! Many ask if I use templates and the answer is YES and NO. I use templates and I also “adjust” templates a lot of the time! Recently, I have become involved with T4P – “Templates for Photographers”. Megan Garrison asked if I would design some samples and try out these template designs and so I agreed and I loved it! If you’re interested in purchasing some of these templates and seeing some of my sample images, you can view the T4P website:  (ps. I use Leather Craftsmen for my albums and I LOVE that company!)


So! When I am shooting portraits, I look for GOOD light! When I find amazing light… I STAY THERE. I do this for three reasons:

1. Why move when you have good light? Use it up!! Shoot as MUCH as you can in that great light and don’t risk your chances and time by taking one shot and then leaving to search for more locations! You are GUARANTEED great shots if you stay in that nice light so use MULTIPLE poses and lenses and create as many “looks” as you can!

2. When you stay in this good light for multiple poses, it allows your couple to get comfortable and relax a little. If you look at my blog posts, I take several shots in the same area and the couple is just making small changes in the way they are posed. This is how I can capture so many portraits in a short amount of time!!

3.  I’m creating great album spreads when I shoot multiple poses in one location. The light is the same, the coloring is the same, the ONLY thing changing is the composition and that makes for AWESOME album spreads!!!!


I realize this is a quick explanation of this but I’m going to be showing you SEVERAL (way too many) examples of some recent album designs that show off what I’m talking about!!



1. Pay attention to CONSISTENT LIGHT and COLOR

2. Pay attention to LIGHTS and DARKS and the HEAVINESS of the overall spread. You don’t want all your lights and darks to be clumped together!

3. Design is the balancing of shapes, color, and lines that creates a path for the viewers eye to easily flow across the page. (That’s not a legit definition… it’s just what I same up with:)

4. Break the wedding day up into different segments. Don’t fill spreads with portraits from all different times of the day. You should be telling a story!!

5. Balance color. If you have bright TEAL shoes on one side of the spread, try to add a little pop of teal on the opposite site, our eyes LIKE that consistency!

6. Less is more! 20 images on a page probably isn’t the best idea:)

Hope this helps some!



pops of coral throughout the design…

The purple tones of the car tie this spread together

The blue wall and consistent light tie this spread together

One location, MANY poses.

A neutral palette

DARK coloring and neutrals tie this spread together.

Different compositions make this spread interesting and not redundant!

Can anyone find the HEAVINESS that draws the eye in? If you said the MENU shot, you’re correct:) Pat yourself on the back and go eat an Oreo. You deserve it.

Favorite spread of the year!

One location, many poses.

There’s a reason the flowy veil shot is on the end… it draws your eye off the page.

Break up the black and whites

Consistent light… love it.

These next two spreads were shot in ONE location.

Simple is wonderful!

The dark brownish tones of the door tie this spread together.

You know I love this!

Love this one!

The wine colors are balanced….

Heaviness? The center image! It pulls the design together.

One location, totally different images!

Just change the lens up!

Love it!

xoxo, Katelyn
30 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Becca reply

    This was an excellent post!!!! Love it!! So glad I’m lucky enough to have such a talented photographer!!! =) Can’t waitttttttttttt

  2. Meredith Whitley reply

    AAAAA! This makes me soooo EXCITED for the albums you are going to design for us!!!

  3. Rebekah Hoyt reply

    THANK YOU for sharing your expertise and your ideas! I have always lovedddd your album spreads and use them as teaching tools and inspiration, and this post is simply amazing. Thank you for being an open book, willing to share and to teach. You are wonderful!

  4. Rebekah Hoyt reply

    THANK YOU for sharing your expertise and your ideas! I have always lovedddd your album spreads and use them as teaching tools and inspiration, and this post is simply amazing. Thank you for being an open book, willing to share and to teach. You are wonderful!

  5. Jill Powers reply

    YESSSSS! Can’t wait to see that puppy in person! :) You’re amazing! xo

  6. Caroline R reply

    YOU’RE AMAZING!! and 8 albums in a week?! i think you have some secret powers that you need to share with the rest of the us! ;)

  7. Girish reply

    Beautiful photographs and layouts. Thanks for the pointers for albums.

  8. Melody Gillikin reply

    Thank you for sharing Katelyn… <3

  9. Kristina W. reply

    I love your album sreads! They look fantastic!

  10. Ashley Daniell reply

    I am in LOVE with your spreads, your work, everything! Love, love, love!!! This has raised even more questions for me though! LOL

  11. James Paul reply

    Incredible post from an incredible photographer! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Stefanie reply

    Thank you for posting this! It’s fantastic and helpful. :)

  13. Abby Grace reply

    Aaaand this is why I love you. Your album designs are so exquisite, they’re almost painful to look at. I’m SO excited about how many different spreads you’ve posted- I’m now WAY jazzed about designing my next album! YOU. ARE. AMAZING.

  14. Erin Leppo reply

    Thanks for sharing, Kaytelyn!! You’re always so helpful and are such a great resource! xxx, Erin

  15. Morgan Trinker reply

    Katelyn, thank you SO much for this post! I often get overwhelmed by trying to do too much with too many locations during portrait time on the wedding day, and you’ve proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s possible to get a wide variety of shots just by changing up your lens, the pose, or your perspective. Thank you for this! And yes… your spreads are TO. DIE. FOR.

  16. Loria reply

    Love this!! As a photographer that doesn’t design or sell albums, I still get asked for advice on photo selection by brides. This is a wonderful post chock-full of helpful information and opinions! Helpful for my brides and for the near future when I start selling albums as well!

  17. Meredith Sledge reply

    Oh goodness! This just makes me SO excited for the day when you can hopefully shoot my wedding. My goodness. All your clients probably proudly brag about you and their albums all the time. I would.

  18. Erin reply

    I love this post and your album designs are wonderful! I think this post gave the the inspiration I was needing to finally design my wedding album (only 3 years after our wedding)! Thanks for your insights.

  19. Sandra reply

    Thank you so much for this post. Love the suggestions and seeing so many examples. Happy holidays!

  20. Laura reply

    Great post! Thanks for the advice and insight.

  21. michelle brooks reply

    katelyn this is an AWESOME post! Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t get over how talented you are, and how you get such good light in your images! Do you use much OCF? Anyway, thanks again, I got some good adjustments to make in my album design workflow :)

  22. eryn kesler reply

    how did I miss this awesome post? LOVE your designs!

  23. eryn kesler reply

    I just got done making my FIRST album design EVER! This post was so helpful and inspiring, I kept coming back to read your suggestions, and it REALLY helped me! thank you thank you!!

  24. Jessica Villegas reply


    I absolutely love your pictures.. what software do you use to layout your photos? what is your standard canvas size if you don’t me asking.. Looking forward to hearing from you.. Thank you

  25. Aunt Janie, Craig’s aunt reply

    Katelyn!!! I so enjoy your artistry!!! You are a master. I just keep coming back to your website to enjoy it! Again, beautiful work with Bev and Craig. I love your take on that special couple!

  26. janelle reply

    i just looove this post! so gorgeous and helpful! xoxo

  27. Evi reply

    LOVE this. Thank you so much. Your photography is what i aspire for.

  28. Spreadin’ the Love! » Rebekah Hoyt Photography reply

    […] learn from other people as I go along.  I am so thankful for Katelyn James who recently posted a blog all about her approach to album design.  I read it like a textbook!  It’s […]

  29. Bre Sessions reply

    Great post, very helpful tips for thinking about design! I design albums for other photographers and wish everyone shot this way, it would make album design So much easier!!

  30. John Gillespie reply

    Thanks for sharing these great shots! Awesome!

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