If you walk the aisles of WPPI (or whatever photographer convention you have in your area), you’ll find an overwhelming array of options when it comes to album makers. As you glance through the sample albums, it’s almost impossible to make an informed decision, as most offer similar options with similar pricing. Plus, most of us have the tendency to get caught up in the imagery in the albums and start to confuse the quality of the albums with the quality of the featured photographers’ work. So how do we decide? Take a friend’s word for it? Just start ordering and hope for the best?
The decision paralysis leads to a lot of wasted money, as we photographers order thousands of dollars in “sample albums” that, even when discounted by the 30%-50% sample discount, cost hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars in total. So we at SLR Lounge thought it was necessary and useful to share with you our experiences and let you know why we decided on Finao as our album maker.
At our studio, we create roughly 100 wedding albums each year and print almost all of them as a variation of the Finao One. With the high volume it has been tempting to switch to a cheaper album maker, as saving just $50 per album adds up to $5,000 or more a year in savings. But we’ve decided to stick with Finao, a company we’ve been with for 3 years now after going through the expensive, time consuming task of experimenting with a variety of album makers. To save you all the hassle, here are the primary reasons we love our album makers.
Quality & Consistency
The print quality and color accuracy at Finao are excellent. In addition, the thick, durable pages and the sturdy binding ensure that the albums last for generations. The Finao One uses Fuji Crystal Archive Portrait Grade Paper, while some other album binders use the thinner album grade. In addition, masonite board is used for their covers, not the cheaper mat or chipboard that we’ve seen others use.
Of the hundreds of albums delivered, we haven’t had a single complaint; and furthermore, we’ve never had to send an album back for quality reasons. It’s reassuring to know that someone else has already done the quality control and you don’t have to put every album under a microscope to find potential issues.
Customer Service and Quality Control
Besides the overall quality, the second reason we have decided to stick with Finao is their customer service and quality control. They have a US-based customer service line that you can call during regular business hours with any questions, concerns, or changes to your order. This luxury is surprisingly not present across the board with all album makers. Some are overseas while others are one-person shops that will likely take hours or even a day to get back to you.
But the best thing about their customer service is what they call the “Finao Police.” Their team of quality control experts will send you an email if there are any errors with your order, from margins being too close to the edge to incorrect sizing for the cover photos. This level of quality control has saved us from printing albums with errors, which has saved us thousands of dollars. The money the Finao Police saves customers will likely offset the difference in the cost between Finao and a cheaper album maker.
The next reason Finao rocks is the many options that you can choose from. There are over 120 materials as well as options for round or square spines, cut or creased pages, studio branding options, and more. There are so many options that it’s actually easy to get lost or overwhelmed. I would recommend starting with the Finao One albums, as they are what most clients are expecting when they think of an album these days. I would order a set of three sample albums and then expand with a couple more options if you would like to hit different price points or if you’re just looking for more variety.
Ease of Use
Every step with Finao is online, from choosing your options to uploading your images. There’s no need to download any order forms or email the company separately.
While Finao is not the cheapest, it’s also not the most expensive. Sign up for an account for specific pricing info. Finao also has very reasonable repair costs at $50 per spread. This makes you a hero when clients call you panicking because they’ve spilled coffee on their $2,000 album. Additionally, their cover replacements are reasonable as well in case you make a mistake on the cover during the order.
Turnaround Time & Packaging
Finao has been reliable, not just in quality, but also in consistent delivery times. You can expect your album within a month of ordering it, and most of the time, it’s back within 2-3 weeks (in the U.S). We are not sure how long international orders take. The album arrives in a stylish, presentable box that can be delivered directly to the client. Plus all of the shipping materials and packaging is eco friendly.
The first con I have experienced with Finao is their pricing for duplicate albums, or rather, their lack of special pricing for them. Many of our album orders include 2 duplicate albums, one for the couple and one for each side of the family. Without special pricing for duplicate albums we are forced to downgrade the parent albums to lighter, smaller, layflat photo book options. While they have Mini Duplicate albums (playPALs) available, they just aren’t the same as their large, full, awesome Finao One Albums. It’s understandable that there are discount limitations for these high-quality, handmade albums, but having a 10% or even 20% discount would help the small businesses that make up their clientele immensely.
The second issue I have experienced is receiving updates for their swatches. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, swatches are small rectangular samples their cover material options. Finao is consistently adding new cover options and materials to their lineup, which makes them great and keeps them innovative and up-to-date on trends. But even though the swatches are reasonably priced, it would be great to receive these swatch updates for free, especially for loyal, consistent customers. After all, how are we supposed to sell something new if we can’t show examples to our clients?
The last thing on my wishlist, which none of the album makers that I’ve found does, is provide more visual guidance for the various options. For example, it would be really nice to see what a “Miami Ink” Leather would look like with a “Bohemian” two tone accent prior to ordering it. Does an “Ice” Cover go well with a “Trevi” Leather? It’s really hard to determine and it’s a huge risk to order something without more visual guidance.
And this brings me to the final qualm, which is the naming of the materials. Though it’s fun, quirky, and reflective of their company culture, the names for their cover materials can be plain confusing. For example, “Miami Ink” is their standard Black Leather, but I didn’t know that until I saw and felt the swatches. I prefer more straight forward naming, but this is a small issue that is easily overcome with some experience with the different options.
Finao Discount and Info
Overall, the Pros far outweigh the Cons and we’ll be sticking with Finao for a while. For more information please see their Website. Also, we have spoken to Finao and secured a discount code for our readers. Please use SLRLOUNGE10 (Expires 10/31/14) for $10 off anything.
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