How to make an elegant photo album

Writer and Photography / Elizabeth Graves

Elizabeth Graves instructs us how to make a handmade photo album – a great place to store all your alternative photographic process prints.

make a photo album by handWhen it is time to present a collection of alternative process prints to others, do you agonize over the paltry selection of albums and portfolios in stores? Do you swoon at the high prices of simple photo albums? A nice album might cost the same as several months’ worth of chemicals and paper, and yet still not satisfy you. You should make your own “custom” albums to meet your high standards.

“Attractive photo albums are easy and affordable to make with basic supplies and simple tools. They can be made in and size of your choosing, and can contain as many or few pages as you wish.”

This article will show you how to make a hardcover, post-bound photo album, which is easy to make and has a clean, modern look.

Supplies for making a photo album

You’ll need several supplies to make a sturdy, long-lasting book or to make a photo album. Whenever possible, use materials which are designated as “archival” and “acid-free,” so that the papers and adhesives will not damage your prints over time.

  • Medium weight paper board to make the hard covers.
  • Heavy paper or cardstock to make the album pages and for the inside covers.
  • 2 or 3 metal bookbinding posts, which are small tubes with screw tops, which hold the book together.
  • Linen adhesive tape, to make strong, flexible cover hinges.
  • Decorative paper or cloth to cover the album with.
  • Paste, to apply the decorative and inside cover papers to the board, and a small, stiff brush or palette knife to spread the paste evenly
  • Ruler (one that won’t slip).
  • Sharp cutting tool for cutting the board and its coverings to the correct size.
  • Hole puncher or a drill to create the holes for the posts.
  • Pencil, for marking out your measurements.
  • Smooth cup or a “bone folder” if you choose to fold your pages to make spacers (discussed below).
  • Safe surface to cut on, such as a self-healing cutting mat.
  • Clean, washable or disposable surface to apply glue on.
  • Heavy weight, like a stack of books, and waxed paper or parchment, to put on the covers so they will be smooth and flat when dry.

Careful measuring is required

The first thing you should do after gathering your supplies is determine the size of your album. There are several size relationships you should keep in mind. The most important considerations are:

The covers should be slightly larger than your album pages, so that they extend about 5 mm (1/8 of an inch) beyond each edge. Examine a hardcover book to determine the size of overhang that looks right to you, and be sure to add that overhang to your boards on all sides.

When your album is filled with photos, it will make the album much fatter. To keep the album from bulging out, you’ll need to add extra strips of paper at the spine, so that it is pre-padded to full-album thickness. I do this by using long album pages, and folding them in several centimeters (just over an inch) at the spine so that the posts go through both the pages and the folded over spacers. This way, the spine is held at the correct thickness by the posts.

The length of the posts will determine the thickness of the album, including spacers, so choose your posts accordingly!

Your decorative cover paper or fabric will need to wrap around the covers and their hinges, plus wrap around to the inside by at least 2 centimeters (at least half an inch) on each side, if not more, so wait to cut your decorative papers until you can measure the covers with their hinges.

Assembly of the album

Prepare your album pages and their spacers. Either measure and carefully fold one edge consistently to “pad” the spine to the thickness that the album will be with photos in it, or cut strips of paper the width of your inner hinge and line them up at the spine. Mark where you believe you need post-holes.

Cut your boards. Carefully measure and cut four pieces of board at the size you determined will be slightly larger than your album pages.

cutting pieces to make a photo albumUsing the linen tape, make a hinge for both the front and back covers by spacing the boards slightly apart on the tape. Wrap the tape around both sides, and be sure to smooth out any wrinkles in the tape so they won’t show on the cover.

Fold the covers on their hinges, and put the pages and spaces in the cover, to check your measurements and be sure that it’s turning out the way you expected.

If everything looks right, it’s time to prepare the covers. Apply paste to the front of each cover and its hinge (including the linen tape), and carefully smooth the decorative cloth or paper over it. Smooth out any wrinkles. Fold the material around to the other side, and paste down the edges carefully. Apply paste to the “inside” side and cover with another decorative paper or album paper, cut slightly smaller than the cover. Before it begins to set, fold the cover along its hinge, and if possible, put a little wrinkle on the inside fold of the hinge, so that the paper isn’t under too much stress there when it is folded. (By opening and closing the hinge a few times, you’ll see where the paper is under stress.) Wrap these covers in waxed paper or parchment so they don’t stick together, and put them under a heavy weight overnight to dry flat.

When the covers are dry, you are ready to bind the book, ready to make a photo album. The posts will pass through the small hinge, the album paper, and its spacers. You can either punch these items separately, using a punch and a mallet, or clamp them together and drill through all at once. Use care when using a drill. Be very careful not to drill at an odd angle, which might result in an asymmetrical book, damaged covers, or injury!!

make a photo albumFinally, push the posts through the holes you’ve made, and screw the top of the posts on.

Further customization to your album

There are many ways to adjust this simple design to meet your needs. For example:

  • Add an additional small hinge, which can fold over the main hinge to hide the post tops. (This requires a larger space between the main cover and the first hinge, so that the album will still lie flat when closed.)
  • Drill very small holes, and tie the album together with strong cord instead of using posts.
  • Cut a window in the front cover board to provide a view of your first page, covering the window opening edges carefully with cover paper.
  • Leave a large margin on your alt prints, so you can punch them and bind them in an album directly, instead of attaching them to album pages.

Once you’ve made your own custom photo albums for your prints, you’ll be amazed at your options to make your albums truly reflect your vision.

Elizabeth Graves is an artist working with cyanotype, vandyke and collodion and a keen experimenter with all sorts of alternative photographic processes.

2 thoughts on “How to make an elegant photo album”

  1. @rathinavel.k
    I’m glad you like it, but i don’t think there is one for sale. The whole idea is that you make it yourself.

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