A Guide to Photo Albums

A Guide to Photo Albums

There’s just something satisfying about the task of sitting down and leafing through your photographs, picking out your favourites, giggling over the good times captured with your loved ones and working out which ones should be displayed proudly, and which ones should go in the box marked ‘for my eyes only’- we’re talking Uncles dancing at weddings after a couple of drinks, and babies crying the first time someone holds them.

Although there’s plenty of joy and fun to be had with photo albums, picking out the one that fits your needs isn’t always straightforward. With so many options for binding, leaves, styles and materials available, wading through the waffle to work out what you want can cause a headache. That’s why we’ve pulled together this guide explaining what each option offers and whether it’s the right choice for you!


There are a number of binding options available, each with a different look and also a different practical element to them. Here are some of the key ones you’ll most likely come across:

Case Bound – One of the more popular options, case binding creates a spine like you would find on a hardback book. It achieves a neat and professional finish, and also allows you to store your photo album on a shelf with ease. This type of binding would be suitable for a range of needs, and can have a round or square design to the spine.

Spiral Bound – This option creates a look similar to a spiral bound notebook, with a long plastic spiral forming the spine. The looks tends to be more contemporary and casual than case binding, and so usually works best for personal use or as a gift for a young person. The spiral binding allows you to fully open the album and lay it flat on a table which is perfect for easy access when viewing and also when adding decorations and customisations. The pages are also easy to turn and can be folded back to back without damaging the spine.

Wiro Bound – Although at first glance spiral binding and wiro binding look identical, there is a subtle difference that can provide a neater finish to the album’s look. Spiral binds are formed of a single piece of wire that spirals through the holes in the album pages, holding them all together. Wiro binds however are formed of parallel double loops along a piece of wire. This ensures that the pages align perfectly when the album is laid flat, whereas spiral bound albums can sometimes have a slightly skewed look.

Concealed Wiro Bound – Offering all the benefits of wiro binding, concealed wiro bound albums have a slightly more classic look as the wire is concealed within a flat spine cover to achieve a case bound effect.

Inserting photographs

Your options for inserting photos into the album will be determined by how your album will be used. If it’s going to act as a scrapbook of memories from a certain event, then you may want your photos to be secure and permanently placed. If your album is going to be for personal use, as a way to keep your photos safe, then you may want the option to move, swap and remove photos. Take a look at the different variations available to you to see which would work best for you.

Self Adhesive Photo Albums – If you’re looking to permanently position your photographs then a self adhesive album may be the answer. These albums have sticky pages which are covered with a plastic sheet. This sheet can be pulled back in order for you to place your photos on the sticky page, and then can be smoothed back down over your photographs afterwards. This creates a beautiful finish for your photos, and also allows you to change the layout by putting your photos at an angle or in a particular shape on the page. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to remove or alter your photos afterwards.

Slip-in Photo Albums – A popular and familiar choice, slip in albums contain clear plastic pockets that your photo will fit into either from the top or side. This is the perfect option for those of us that may want to alternate where photos are placed or swap them for another one at a later date. It’s also a great idea if you usually add a date and place to the back of your photos, as you can remove the photo with ease to check. Slip-in photo albums tend to conceal the back of the photograph so that you can’t see it from the next page, although flip albums are available that will allow you to see the front and back of a photo.

Photo Corners – Many traditional photo albums allow you to slot your photos into photo corners. These keep your photos secure and allow you to make changes without using plastic pockets, and so achieve an attractive, classic finish. Self adhesive photo corners can be purchased separately if you’re looking for the classic look but wish to change the layout on your page.

Peel & Stick Albums – Easy to use to create an instant professional look, these albums are covered in self adhesive glue with a protective sheet over the top. You can simply press your photos into place after removing the protective sheet to keep them securely in place. As with self adhesive albums, you may not be able to adjust or remove your photos after inserting them, and so plan your layout and choices carefully beforehand.

Things to consider

Photo size – First thing first; what size photographs are you going to be working with? The most common size for a photograph is 6” x 4” but you may have other needs. For example, will you be working with very old photographs that may be slightly smaller or vary in size? Is this photo album going to be a gift for someone else, in which case you might wish to include slightly larger photos with lots of decoration and commentary? Make sure you establish a rough idea of your needs before you make your purchase.

Cover material – Photo album covers are available in a range of materials to provide a different look depending on your needs. Most photo albums have a board cover which not only provides a sturdy, hardback feel but are usually available with different designs and patterns on them. For the luxury feel and style often required for gifts however, fabric, leather and faux leather are all options available to provide a stunning texture and finish.

Number of pages – Descriptions for photo albums can cause some confusion about how many pages an album has. It can be easy to confuse the number of sides with the number of pages, so keep in mind that one page equals two sides. Therefore if an album has 60 pages, this translates as 120 sides, and vice versa if an album is described as having 80 sides, this would mean 40 pages. Make sure you’re clear which is which before making your purchase, and if possible try to find out how many overall photos the album holds too.

Glassine – A translucent or opaque paper that is both air and water resistant, glassine is a very practical material to protect your photos. Useful for covering your photographs and preventing them from sticking together, it is often used for protective sheeting to be placed over the front of photos in albums

Acid Free paper – With a neutral pH balance, acid free paper helps prolong the life of your photographs. Acid in paper can migrate to photographs upon contact, causing irreversible decay and damage, and so by removing active acid pulp from the paper, the risk is avoided altogether. This option is particularly important to consider when working with old, precious photos that require extra care.

Memo – If you’re planning to include comments, dates, names or even little stories with your photographs, then it might be useful to consider a photo album with a memo. This is an additional space next to your photos where you can write little notes or snippets of information. Some memos will include lines for you to write on, but some will be completely blank. Memos will differ in size depending on the album so if you have a particular need for yours then it’s best to browse for the ideal design for you.

Are you creating a photo album this year? Tell us about it and any inspirational ideas you’ve had in the comments box below.

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