web analytics

Let it Bleed

September 21st, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Style

In the good ol’ days, wedding albums were usually made by taking individual photographic prints and slipping them into album pages that had standard size mat openings. That had a couple of implications – every photo needed to be cropped to a standard dimension like 8×10 or 5×7 and every photo appeared with a border around it. As a way to present photos that approach was clean and traditional but somewhat hum drum. And if you shot in 35mm (which has a 2×3 ratio) you ended up cropping out much of your composition.

Today it’s much more common for a wedding album to created as a flush mount book, where one or more images can be placed on the page without restrictions about size or placement. Yet it’s common for contemporary wedding albums to echo their ancestral counterparts by placing images on the page surrounded by large borders. It’s as if these album designs are haunted by the papery ghosts of forgotten album mats that lie mouldering next to dusty enlargers in the basements of photographers who long ago traded film for digital.

If such traditional album designs sound eerily familiar to you, I appeal to you to let your images bleed!

Whenever the edge of an image touches the edge of the page it is on, it is said to be ‘bleeding‘ off the page. An image can bleed off one, two, three or all four sides of the page.

When a photo fills the entire page it is known as a ‘full bleed.’

Nerdy Backgrounder:
The term bleed comes from the printing industry. To get around the limitations printing presses have when printing near the edge of a sheet of paper, pages are printed on oversized sheets. Backgrounds, photos or other graphic elements that need to touch the page’s edge are actually laid out so that they extend a little beyond the edge of the page. After the sheet is printed, the page is trimmed down to it’s finished size. That margin outside the trimmed down page is known as the bleed area. A printer will specify it’s bleed area (often 1/8″ in the US) for designers to use when creating layouts for the press. Few labs and album companies that print photographically refer to a bleed area, but they still trim their prints and will often specify a trim amount that you should keep in mind when designing your album pages.


So why am I imploring to you to let your images bleed? I can sum it up in one word:


You busted your backside on the wedding day to take an artfully composed image that captures an emotional moment for your clients. You carefully processed that image in Lightroom or Photoshop to perfect it and make it a shining example of your style. Don’t you want to display it in a way that gives it the impact it deserves?

For example, here’s two page layout featuring a couple of photos from a recessional:

Boston Wedding Photographer

It’s not awful. The page is clean and balanced and I doubt a client would complain about it, but it is drearily static. Both images are nice, but in my opinion a layout like this diminishes them both. Look how much stronger the layout below is we just use one photo and run it full bleed across both pages:

Boston Wedding Photographer

In the full bleed version the image is large enough to really see the expressions of the couple. It encourages the eye to travel from the couple’s faces down along the line of attendants to the site of the ceremony, and then back again taking in the flower beds. This page spread is much more likely to get a client to go ‘Wow!”

Of course, not all images will work full bleed across a two page spread. You can see that even the image above had do be cropped considerably to fit the long, thing layout. If you don’t want to crop your image, consider letting it bleed off three sides like so:

Boston Wedding Photographer

In the example abobe we get to see the entire image full frame and it’s still large enough to have impact.

Of course, I’m not advocating that you limit yourself to one image on every two page spread, nor do I think think there’s no place for white space in your album designs. Albums need variety in their layouts to maximize the viewer’s interest, so mix things up while incorporating more bleeds.

Here are some other examples of layouts with bleeds to prime your imagination.

Boston Wedding Photographer

Make one page a full bleed and run photo on the adjacent page smaller to create a contrast between the two.


Boston Wedding Photographer

Center two horizontals and bleed them off their long sides for a modern take on the diptych.


Boston Wedding Photographer

Similarly, you can center a vertical on each page and bleed them off their long sides.


Boston Wedding Photographer

Try filling the spread with a horizontal and vertical. If you can use photos the have different scales to make the layout more interesting, even better.


Boston Wedding Photographer

Sometimes you need a border, such as when it looks too busy to have the images touching each other. Fine… but consider bleeding the non-adjacent edges of the photos.


Boston Wedding Photographer

Even if you’re going have a more traditional layout, spice it up by letting one edge of some photos bleed.


Boston Wedding Photographer

Here the left page is full bleed and two photos bleed on the right page. In cases like this where a bleed on the right page touches one on the left, you might think it is a looks odd, but I’ve found that it’s rarely an issue since in the final printed album there will be a fold, a seam, or some kind of gutter between the two pages to help visually separate the images.


Boston Wedding Photographer

And don’t forget… every now and then… when it works with your image… go full bleed.


About Earl Christie

Earl Christie has written 40 post in this blog.

Earl is a Boston wedding photographer who finds love and magic and wonder in everything he shoots.


Comments are closed.

ShootStyle Newsletter Signup

Sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch with ShootStyle and be among the first to learn about upcoming events.

Emails by Mad Mimi

Get the Latest Posts via Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner