In October 2014, while participating in a workshop led by famous wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis, we encountered a new type of wedding album made in Italy that was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and like nothing we had ever seen before. We simply had to start offering the new Digital Matted Albums by GraphiStudio to our clientele.
Back before digital imaging technology completely changed wedding photography ten or so years ago, most of the best wedding albums consisted of individual photographic prints that were set into mats — thick paperboard in black, white, cream, maybe even a color, with openings cut for the prints to show through. You might be familiar with mats that often come with frames. For albums, those matted prints became the pages.
In their new Digital Matted Albums, GraphiStudio has recreated the look of an old-school matted photo album, but modernized with truly state-of-the-art digital printing and lovely papers. It’s much easier to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of these albums in person, and this post is my best attempt at showing and explaining the somewhat arcane details of the GraphiStudio Digital Matted Album (and Image Boxes, too!).
First, start by taking a look at these photos of one of the sample albums that we have here in our studio for our clients (and prospective clients) to drool over. It is 9×13.5 inches with 30 photos (30 pages). The cover is real metal in the ‘Matte Silver’ finish, printed with a cool silhouette photo of our bride and groom in front of a sculpture at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, where their wedding took place. The spine and back of the album are wrapped in genuine leather, and the album is stored in a matching black leather sleeve. We also chose black for the inner lining of the cover, with the Wallflower logo printed as a sort of artist’s signature.
Look again at the previous photo, focusing on the pages this time. Notice the shades of silver, gold and brown in the page stack. Now let’s open the album to the first page of the ceremony.
For this particular spread, the left page has a ‘Gold’ mat, and the right page has a ‘Black’ mat. The gold is metallic, so the page shimmers beautifully as it reflects the light. The black is matte.
These papers are two of the six papers that can be used in a GraphiStudio “Multipaper” Digital Matted Album. The paper is actually quite thin. After printing, they are mounted to a thick paperboard core, which makes the pages rigid, and those are bound together with covers to form an album.
Although we call them “digital mats,” they aren’t real mats at all. The photo is printed directly onto the fancy paper that makes up the page surface. Normally, if you print a photo directly onto a colored paper, the color would come right through the photo, usually in unpleasant ways. When the paper is black, you can hardly see the photo, it’s so dark. So, first GraphiStudio must print a block of solid white onto the paper, and then print the photo so that it’s perfectly lined up over the white. The photo then retains the texture of the paper but not its color, appearing as bright and colorful as it’s meant to be.
There’s more. The mat (i.e. the part of the paper around the photo) is then printed with a pattern or ornamentation of some sort. Looking back at the two pages above, the gold mat on the left has a photo with a thick, detailed border of white ivy, and the black mat has a photo surrounded by a thin white border and fancy white corner brackets. On top of the white ivy border is printed a clear matte varnish, which counteracts the metallic sheen of the gold paper. On top of the thin white border and corner brackets is printed a clear glossy varnish, which makes them pop against the matte finish of the mat.
In person, the effect of the varnishes is fascinating, definitely one of the coolest aspects of the Digital Matted Album, but it’s very hard to see in the photos or to visualize in general. To get a sense of how the varnish (and the metallic papers) shimmer in the light, hover your mouse over the detail photo below to see what happens when I change the angle of the light slightly:
The dark brown and black papers on the left have a matte finish, and the varnish patterns are glossy, so they really pop when the light hits them right. Because the silver, light gold, and gold papers on the right are metallic and have their own sheen, I used a matte varnish over the white splatter border on the silver paper and the white ivy border on the gold paper to cancel the metallic sheen. The glossy varnish would have looked cool there, too, and we have control over all that.
Now let’s look at more pages in the album, as we flip through the pages covering the wedding ceremony in the Glasshouse and portraits afterwards in the garden and museum.
‘Silver’ left, ‘Light Gold’ right.
‘Black’ left and right. The cursive script in Italian has a glossy varnish effect, and spans both page mats.
‘Blue’ left, full-bleed photo on right. There’s a glossy varnish border around the outer edge of the right page, right over the photo, with the same pattern as the border around the photo on the left page. It’s nearly invisible at this angle, but shimmers into sight at different angles.
‘Beige’ left and right. The corner brackets have glossy varnish, and the rest of the mat is printed with a crumpled-paper texture that also serves to darken the light-colored paper.
‘Silver’ left and right. A wavy stream of dashes in glossy varnish spans both mats, but at this angle you have to squint to see it.
Full-bleed photo on left, ‘Light Brown’ right. A glossy damask pattern on the brown mat encroaches onto the left and right edges of the full-bleed photo.
‘Gold’ left, ‘Black’ right. An ivy border in white surrounds the photo on the gold mat. Because the gold paper has a metallic sheen, the white ivy border has a matte varnish to counter the sheen. The ornamental white corner brackets around the photo on right have a glossy varnish against a matte paper, in contrast.
Full-bleed photo on left, ‘Silver’ right. In the upper-left corner of the full-bleed photo you can make out the couples’ names, written in a glossy varnish. The silver paper on the right is “tarnished” with a lightly printed pattern.
‘Black’ left and right. This time, the black paper has been printed with a gray-toned pattern that spans the full spread. The only varnish is in the thin white lines that frame each photo.
We have a second Digital Matted Album in our studio, this one a 12×12 inch book of Brit and Zak’s wedding at the Chambers Bay Golf Course. It’s wrapped in ‘Light Blue’ genuine leather with a cutout for a small, square ‘Crystal Glance’ photo, and is stored in a matching sleeve. The inner lining is ‘Pearl’ with the Wallflower logo.
The pages of this book have a key difference compared to the first album in this post. Whereas the first sample was a ‘Multipaper’ album, this second sample is a ‘White Paper’ album (which the GraphiStudio website calls the DMA option). In this album, each page is a plain, white paper instead of one of the eight Multipaper options.
However, this does not mean that the mat on every page is white! We can have mats of any color, with any pattern and any varnish, it just means that we need to print the color onto it. The difference between White Paper and Multipaper is hard to spot on the darker papers that have a matte finish (black, brown, blue). The difference is more obvious in the metallic papers. Gold color printed onto white paper lacks the lovely metallic sheen of the true gold paper. Silver becomes flat gray. It’s still attractive, but not quite the same.
So why would you want the ‘White Paper’ option instead of ‘Multipaper’? Truly, there’s only one reason, and it’s price. Digital Matted Albums are not cheap, but you can save $10/page by going with the lower-cost paper. And ‘White Paper’ albums still have the same cool glossy and matte varnish effects, and the same cover options. Here we’ll flip through some pages in this large, 50-photo album — you’ll see the entire wedding ceremony plus an assortment of some of my favorite pages from the reception and our sunset photo shoot with Brit and Zak down on the beach.
There’s a really great alternative way to get these Digital Matted Albums: minus the album! GraphiStudio also offers Image Boxes, which are beautifully built boxes filled with loose digital matted prints. We have two of them in our studio. The first one to be pictured below features photos from Julia and Greg’s wedding at Thornewood Castle. The Graphi Box is wrapped in two colors of genuine leather, ‘Tobacco’ (the darker brown) and ‘Cappuccino’. The bride and groom’s names and wedding date are embossed onto the cover. The inside material is ‘Touch Paper’ with a nice soft-smooth texture in black. A black ribbon goes under the prints to help you get them out. There are 20 8×10.5 inch Multipaper prints stored in the box, each one mounted to a black substrate (the thick, rigid paperboard under the printed paper).
Here are some of the prints stored in this box, one for each of the different Multipaper options. In the left column, we have silver, black and blue. In the center, it’s light gold and beige. On the right, it’s gold, dark brown, and light brown.
Like you saw earlier, each mat color (whether ‘Multipaper’ or ‘White Paper’) can be further altered by printing a pattern, or even a color, onto it. In the photo below, all three prints on the left are on the ‘Silver’ paper. The far left print shows the normal silver mat, and of the two next to it, the upper print has a purple color added, and the lower print has a tarnished look. Both of the prints on the right are on the ‘Gold’ paper, with the lower print darkened with a damask print overlay.
Our second studio sample is a Studio Box (compare how the hinge differs from the Graphi Box above) in black ‘Touch Paper’ with names lazer-engraved in white and a red ribbon. It is the smallest Image Box available in both size and quantity, holding 10 6×8 prints. Like with the blue leather album earlier in this post, these prints are the lower-cost ‘White Paper’ option, and they are mounted on a white substrate instead of black. For the photos, we chose studio portraits of our three boys from our sister studio, Bump & Bambino. Following birth order, Caleb is the top row, Isaac in the middle and Levi at the bottom. Adorable, we know. 😉
GraphiStudio offers some terrific duplicate album options for parents. Additional copies that are identical in every way to the original Digital Matted Album get a 25% discount, but remain a high-priced item. A second, far cheaper option is a non-DMA album with press-printed pages and a printed hardback cover. Several sizes are available, from 8×12 to 2×2.5 inches. While they lack the unique paper options and varnish overlays of the true Digital Matted Album, they otherwise have the same photo and mat layout, and are in the $50-$200 range for most albums, depending on size.