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Time Out With Tanya

How to Design a Photo Album in 20 Minutes or Less

By Tanya Goodall Smith on October 27th 2014

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera and you can come along, if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here so you’ll never miss a Time Out.

how to design a photo album in 20 minutes via

Last year, I decided to start offering high quality lay flat albums to my portrait clients. I ordered a few sample books from Artisan State and my clients loved them. Unfortunately, the price point on these had to be quite high in order to cover my design time, and even so, my profit margin was so slim that they weren’t really worth my time.

how to design an album in 20 minutes via
At Click Away this summer, SmartAlbums by Pixellu had a booth and I was impressed with their software. In the past I’ve never considered purchasing a photo album design software because, well, I’m a graphic designer and I already spend hundreds of dollars a year on the Adobe Creative Suite, so why would I buy a proprietary album design software????? Now that I’ve given Smart Albums a try, the answer is really clear and that is to save time!

I just downloaded SmartAlbums this morning, watched the 5 minute tutorial and then designed a full album in 20 minutes (and I even checked a few Facebook messages and made my kids lunch during that time, too)! Not kidding. It’s so easy and fast. They have pre-set templates for whatever lab you use so you don’t have to take time to look for specs, create a file in the specified size, print out thumbnails, decide which photos should go on each spread, look around on your hard drive for each file, mess around with different layout options that you have to invent on the spot or pull from a previous design file, look around for the file export and color profile specs for your specific lab, etc.

Here’s a look at my spreads from a recent family session. These were all shot with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II lens (My go-to lately. It’s so versatile!). I edit using the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System, which is my other time saving secret weapon. Click here to view more details



















smart albums review

So, have you struggled with album design? Is it something you need to streamline? Guess what? You can try SmartAlbums for free for 30 days. Give it a try, and design a photo album in 20 minutes or less!

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Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Amy Watson

    hey.. have you used photo album design tool or software (we know, that you invested a lot to get adobe features). Photo album design tool and really very helpful in creating albums in minutes. These tools are very affordable too. I recommend to use that. 

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  2. Marek Cudek

    Hey Tanya :)
    New Smart Albums for Windows was designed. It’s going to be available for purchase on February 16.

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  3. Karen Freer

    I develop a lot of my photos in Lightroom, I have found that the built in album designer works quite nicely but I would like to have more control over the themes. Indesign would work better for me in that respect. I will have to give that a go.

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  4. Emir Plicanic

    We’ve been using InDesign for years now. And we can design albums in about the same time. You can see Khara do it in her CreativeLive class Workflow + Album Design.

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  5. Lauren Leith

    good to know about, and consider, thanks!

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  6. Basit Zargar

    nice article

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  7. Chuck Navarro

    Blurb books are very nice and well put together if you like the thin storybook like paper. Their covers come in a slipcover or a wrap around cover that is permanent. I’ve never been a fan of leaving so much space empty in albums like the one above. My clients always want the pages filled up. Not with more pics necessarily but just with bigger pics. I agree. While I’ve never tried any other software or company for my wedding albums I love what adorama offers. Their books are very nice and the web based software has a lot of options. Well enough of what I need. Books are “lay flat”, have tons of templates, and affordable.

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  8. Greg Avant

    It really depends on the quality of book or album that your want to sell to your client. Blurb makes a fine product but the pages are thin as a magazine and the cover is a paper slipcover. to a client this looks inexpensive and lets face it. It is inexpensive. With other companies like H&H Photo, Whcc, Bay Color and ACI there are so many more. We are not even going to mention Graphi Studios. They create albums that have leather covers Metal covers acrylic covers that are very high quility that some of these companies offer a lifetime warenty on their products. The pages are thick laminated and lay flat so the image covers both pages without a seam. These albums are heavy and depending on quality of materials types of leather number of pages I have found these albums cost anywhere from $250.00 to 700.00 and up. The sky is the limit. Just look up some of the companies that I have listed. There is one company that says if your album gets damaged by a natural disaster they will replace it for free.

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  9. Marc Avice

    Lightroom is directly linked to Blurb which makes it quite easy to make a book but I would be interested in knowing why you guys are choosing other companies.. (I have been using Blurb so far but I am open to suggestions)

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    • Kai Dean

      I was going to say the same thing, how do you find the Blurb books? I have not ordered one as of yet.

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    • Marc Avice

      I made ~5 books with blurb and I was happy with the results. I am a hobbyist photographer so it was not for selling.

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  10. Gareth Roughley

    I use fundy designer also and think its awesome, especially since they updated it to work in its own app rather than within photoshop. It’s easy to use and soon they will be updating so you can order direct from the editing module with some album companies rather than having to export the album then upload over the internet.

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  11. Greg Avant

    I use Lumapix Fotofusion which costs the same as the other two works on Windows and Mac and is very flexible is design. You and import different file types jpg png gif and output psd, psf, jpg etc.
    In version 5.5 you can even import PSD templates to use in photofusion. This is an awesome program.

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  12. Greg Faulkner

    Fundy album designer is much better, has more options for changing the design and has more modules available to do other stuff. Fundy is much more flexible and also has a free trial I’d urge people to try both

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  13. Pentafoto Tm

    Fundy Album Designer costs 300 dollars and lets you just select the files and you can just rearange them or resize them, if you didn’t like how he generated the spreads.

    I use In Design and it takes me a couple of hours for an album like yours, but I’m just starting in it.

    Nice to know that there are other alternatives.


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  14. Tanya Smith

    Hey Kevin, that’s weird! Did you download the PC trial?

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  15. Kevin Galbreath

    hmmmmm……download shows both PC and MAC but clicking to the BUY NOW page only shows the MAC version

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    • Tanya Smith

      Hey Kevin, I contacted SmartAlbums and here is their response:

      “The PC/Windows version of SmartAlbums is currently under production and we are very excited for the upcoming release! Unfortunately, we cannot reveal a launch date at this time but if you sign up for our PC VIP list (, we will send you a notification as soon as it’s available.”

      Hope that helps!

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  16. Kevin Galbreath

    apparently this program is only available on MAC

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