When I switched from a “shoot-and-burn” business to an “in-person sales” business, I completely underestimated one tiny little detail: choosing print products to sell is hard. There are so many products out there. It’s tough to even know where to start! Which print lab should you try? Which products should you purchase as samples? What will clients like? Something as simple as a loose print becomes difficult when you realize that your lab might offer a dozen types of paper!
One product that should stand the test of time is an album. Everyone likes photos collected into books. (What’s the first thing you’d grab if your home was on fire? How many people say the photos albums?) But how do you know which albums to sample or sell?
In this article I’ll compare three different albums from Miller’s Professional Imaging, often simply called Miller’s, one of the major players in professional photo printing.
I’ve used Miller’s for about a year now. The first thing I’ll say about Miller’s is that the company is FAST. Last summer I ordered a Signature Book, and the order was delivered 26 hours after I uploaded my design. Crazy.
Not only is Miller’s fast, but the quality is great. Most of their photo papers are rated to last 100 years if properly cared for. They impeccably package their products for shipment. Miller’s customer service is also speedy and specific. If you’re not sure where to begin you print journey, Miller’s is a good place to start.
When you begin browsing Miller’s album options, you’ll find at least six or seven options in different product categories. I’ve purchased three of the options in the “Albums & Books” category: a Signature Album, Signature Book, and LayFlat Press Book. What follows is a nuts-and-bolts comparison coupled with my impression of each.
These are the details as of May 14, 2018. Prices and options are certainly subject to change.
LayFlat Press Book
The LayFlat Press Book from Miller’s is the least substantial of the three options. The paper is the thinnest, and the options are the least varied. I have an 8x10 LayFlat Press Book with 10 spreads and a brown leather cover. I ordered the book as a studio sample; the “studio sample” imprint stamp on the back cover is almost unnoticeable. Kudos to Miller’s for not making the “sample” designation too noticeable.
When it comes to specifics, here are your options for the LayFlat Press Book:
9 sizes, from 4x5 to 12x12
Variable page count (10 spread (20 pages) to 30 spread (60 pages))
Two types of paper (smooth or pearl press paper)
Two corner options (round or square)
Two cover options (custom image (extra fee) or bonded leather)
Cover stamping (for logos and names, extra fee)
Can add boutique packaging for extra fee
A 10x10 LayFlat Press Book with 10 spreads and no extra options is $55.00.
As I mentioned before, the LayFlat Press Book has the thinnest pages of the three compared here, and it’s the lightest book. While the book feels sturdy thanks to a thin hard cover, it doesn’t have the weight that the other two have.
One issue I see with my book is that large swathes of solid color aren’t as pristine and uniform as the other papers available in the Signature Book or Album. The smooth press paper is not as luxurious as the other album papers. The quality isn’t low by any means, but the other two books are just better.
My biggest complaint about the LayFlat Press Book is the crease in the middle of each spread. The Signature Book and Album offer seamless creases. If a photo spans the spread of a Signature Book or Album, then there’s no break in the image--not the case with the LayFlat Press Book.
I have a full-spread photo with the main subject in the center, and it’s completely broken by the crease. Do the pages lay flat so that you can squish the pages together to make a relatively seamless image? Yes, but it’s not perfect, and casual viewing is a little disappointing when images span the crease. Knowing this now, I wouldn’t put any important information, like a face, on the crease.
Miller’s Signature Album
The Signature Album is the cornerstone product in Miller’s album and book offerings. Even an entry-level album has weight and importance in your hands. The Signature Album has the most customization options available, which allows you to tailor each album to your specific client’s desires. I have a 12x12 Signature Album with 10 spreads of lustre finish thick pages and a brown leather cover. I ordered the book as a studio sample; the “studio sample” imprint stamp on the back cover is almost unnoticeable. Again, kudos to Miller’s for not making the “sample” designation too noticeable.
When it comes to specifics, here are your options for the Signature Album:
Thick or thin pages
11 sizes, from 5x5 to 10x15
Variable page count (5 to 25 spreads with thick pages, 5 to 50 spreads with thin pages)
Four types of paper (Classic Felt press paper, E-Surface photographic paper, Fuji Deep Matte photographic paper and Metallic photographic paper with Linen Texture)
Four types of paper coating options (Lustre Coating, Pebble Texture, Fine linen Texture and Linen Texture (photographic paper only))
Two corner options (round or square)
Three paper gilding (the fancy gold, silver, or black you can see on the paper when book is closed)
Foil stamping and Debossing options (extra fee)
Twelve cover options (Standard Leather, Distressed Leather, Pearlescent Leather, Metallic Leather, Etched Leather, Linen, Cameo, Custom Illustrated, Custom Image, Acrylic, Printed Metal, and Printed Wood)
A 10x10 Signature Album with 5 spreads and standard cover choice (leathers, linen, cameo) is $122.50.
As I said, the Signature Album is the most impressive when in your hands. It has weight and heft. It just feels like a quality piece of work. Much of the weight is attributed to the cover, but also to the thick pages. My signature album is what I show my clients first. It’s the easiest “wow!” moment to begin with. (And I always let my clients flip through the pages. They have to feel it to want it!)
I have noticed something odd, though: for some reason, people seem confused by the thick pages, especially on the last page. They just expect to have more pages for the thickness, and they often try to flip a page that isn’t there.
If I had the budget, I would order Signature Albums for myself for all of my family photos. The Signature Album is easily the best book product in Miller's lineup.
The Signature Book sits just below the Signature Album in the Miller’s album and book product line. The Signature Book has moderate customization options available, though not as many as the Album. I own a 10x10 softcover Signature Book with 16 spreads.
When it comes to specifics, here are your options for the Signature Book:
10 sizes, from 5x5 to 12x12
Variable page count (5 spread to 25 or 50 spreads depending on cover material)
Two types of paper (matte or pearl)
Five cover options (Softcover (free), Custom Image, Bonded Leather, Faux Leather, Linen)
Foil stamping and Debossing options (extra fee)
Can add boutique packaging (extra fee)
A 10x10 with 10 spreads and softcover (softcover requires 10 spreads, not the 5 spread minimum) is $51.00.
I love the look and feel of the Signature Book. The matte paper just feels nice. It’s smooth and beautiful. It has decent thickness (though nothing like the thick Signature Album pages). The photos are sharp and clean, higher quality than the LayFlat Press Book. I’m just going to say it again: I love the look and feel of the Signature Book pages.
The only reason to choose something else might be that the Signature Book is not nearly as hefty as the Signature Album. The softcover itself is just another piece of paper, so there’s nothing extra protecting the pages. The softcover aside, I love the Signature Book.
Quick Comparison Categories
Price - Signature Album is the most expensive; Signature Book and LayFlat Press Book are almost equal.
Customization and Options: Signature Album is the most customizable; Signature Book is the least customizable.
Paper and Printing: Signature Album has the most options and the highest quality; Signature Book has two options (I’m in love with the matte paper); LayFlat Press Book has two options, both are the thinnest and lowest quality.
So which album wins? Well, it depends on your client and your desires.
The Signature Album is high-end option for the most special photos or for a client looking for the best. The customization options and the quality papers make this the Miller’s standard-bearer.
However, for a budget-conscious album that is still beautiful and impressive to hold, I would choose the Signature Book any time.
The LayFlat Press Book is an after-thought; I don’t think I’d order another one.
One more thing: remember, the actual cost of the album is the not the price your client pays. How would you make any money? Read this, this, and this to learn more about pricing.
Oh, and want to learn more about In-Person Sales and album design? Read this and this.
Now go print!
Aaron Taylor is a stay-at-home-dad and professional portrait and product photographer. Aaron is forever blessed to be in love and married to his best friend and partner in parenthood. Most of his time is spent chasing his curious, energetic kids, a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. Aaron lives in Columbus, Ohio. Before moving to Columbus in the summer of 2016, Aaron was a high school English and Drama teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland. He spent ten years in the classroom and earned National Board Certification in English Language Arts. Give him his family, a good cup of coffee, and a homemade cookie or three, and all is right in Aaron’s world.