Due to budgeting and compromising, we decided to get a photographer to do both our weddings, but I would ultimately design and order my own wedding albums via online. After researching multiple sites, blog reviews, and boards such as weddingbee, etc, I decided on Artisan State. It seemed that it had the most affordable pricing for what are Flush Mount Albums, large sizes, quality paper (2 types, E-Lustre and Metallic), and the number of pages allowed. The large album size we decided on was 11X14 Hard Cover, Thick Pages. The flush mount books have a maximum of 50 pages (25 pages front and back). I priced the same thing out at Nation's Photo Lab and other sites that seem really great quality but very expensive, and it came out to be around $500+, whereas the basic pricing I got including shipping from Artisan State came out to be around $300 total.
FYI - I did see some good, and some bad reviews on Artisan State. Almost all the bad reviews were due to customer service.. Professional photographers, who ordered the albums thinking the turnaround would be really quick, and finding out that their orders were not shipped. Or when it came, there was something wrong, and they contacted customer service and never heard back. Meanwhile their wedding clients were very upset. I figured, I didn't really care if the albums took longer than the 2 weeks they quoted...and other reviews had said the albums were shipped quicker than they thought, and they loved their books. Also, keep in mind that the album is made in China, hence the cheaper costs. Some people don't like that and prefer having their album made in the US, but it is a lot more costly (I'm sure the quality is great though).
So long story short, I feel that the professionals were not as happy w/ the service, whereas normal brides like me were maybe not as picky, OR we were more patient because we were DIY and taking a risk of getting our albums made in China without knowing how this album would turn out anyways. A lot of people reviewed the little black book, which I'm also interested in and will probably be ordering if this album comes out well. The leather on the little black book was complained about, I would probably do the hard cover which costs a little more.
I figured I would do one album first, the California wedding, and order it. While it was getting made and shipped, I would work on my Hawaii wedding, but not order it until we saw the quality of the first album.
I worked a full week, non stop, 12 hour days, on the wedding album. I really liked the way it turned out, and their online software wasn't too bad. It was nice that they had templates based on the number of pictures (up to 10 per page) and how many landscape/portrait you had. You can also manually manipulate the sizes, add more than 10 pictures, and use their online tools to make sure the edges were aligned, shaded, outlined, etc. The best thing was that they had a "Preview" in which you could send a link to friends and family to see what the album looked like.
I took some screen shots of the online preview:
The album was printed and shipped very quickly, faster than the 2 week time frame they quoted, which was nice. However, I ended up travelling with my husband on his business trip, and the album got delivered while we were out of town! I contacted Artisan State and asked if they could ask FedEx to hold the shipment, or what my options were. The Artisan State customer service person was very friendly and nice, and quick. But by the time they were get back to me with a real answer (which was that it was already shipped), we had asked a friend who lived nearby to pick up the book if it showed shipped on the Tracking # online. So it worked out, and our friend hung onto it for us.
I was on my trip for 6 weeks, so anticipating the day I got back to see our hopefully beautiful album. The box was cardboard, not particularly thick. The album was cushioned in a squishy Styrofoam, and not much else. The first thing I saw, was the hard cover with our picture which looked nice. It was so heavy! I was so excited..but then I saw this:
My husband pointed out that the box looked punctured:
One thing I also noticed was that a couple of pages had some weird spots on them:
Other than that, I did like the overall quality of printing, color, heaviness of the book. Actually it was very, very heavy, but that's because my husband wanted the 11X14 size which is pretty huge. I kept it at 46 pages (23 total pages, front and back). I do think that the pages might be a little thicker in professional albums that I've seen, but it's not that big of a deal to us. Also, imagine if it was thicker..even more heavy!!!!!! What I liked overall the best was that I designed it myself, I was very proud of it because of that, and I was able to control what pictures went in, how they looked, what was background, what special effects I wanted to use, etc. If we had gone with our photographer to do our wedding album (just one album, not to mention the Hawaii one!), it would've cost us an extra $1000, plus it would've been how he wanted to put it together (which I'm sure which would be really great too, but just not necessarily what I would want). Other than the damage, I really loved how our album came out.
I contacted Artisan State via email, sent the pictures of the damage, and the response was very quick. They immediately responded and said they would be sending another album! They didn't even ask me to mail this one back. I was ecstatic! One weird thing was that they said they thought that the damage was done in production, whereas I had stated in my email (and still think is right) that it was damaged during shipping. Anyways, whatever the problem was, the book was shipped in a snap, I mean like within 2-3 days, and this time the box was pristine.
I was so eager to see our new and improved album!!!!..... Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut.... I noticed right away that the quality didn't seem nearly as good as the original book. The color was off; much lighter, and even the quality of the paper or print or something didn't look as good and shiny as the original book. For example, the blacks didn't look black, they looked almost blue or gray. Pictures that looked rich in the original album looked flat, almost like they were printed in draft mode. I took some time to figure out how to take pictures of the books in a way that would show the differences, but with the bad lighting we have at our house, I felt my Iphone pictures weren't clear enough to really show what I was talking about. So I used a digital camera to take some comparison photos with the Macro function for close ups. I took a lot of photos and sent them another email, and let them know that depending on the quality of the album, I'd like to order at least 3-5 different albums so I'd like to make sure that the quality of print is as good as the original album. They responded again, right away, and said that they apologize, and that the"engineer has adjusted the color when reprinting by mistake." I'm not sure why or what that means, but they said they would reprint another book.
So now I am waiting for the reprint..... I will update this post when I get it. So far, I feel that the customer service is pretty good, easy to communicate with and I get fast, polite and helpful answers via email, and that they are trying to make sure that I am a satisfied customer. I feel bad that I'm "complaining" so much, but at the same time, this is our wedding album and if I am paying $300 and spent HOURS and hours designing my album, I really hope the printing and the quality and richness of the photos do come through!!!
Received the corrected album a few weeks ago, but was very upset to see that this time the pictures were DARKER than the original book...!!!!!!!!! But I have been too busy to take pictures and send a new complaint out. This is honestly very disappointing and annoying because I just want them to send me an album the exact same quality as the original, and so far I've noticed that both corrected books are Lighter in weight than the original, and the paper/picture print quality is not nearly as "crisp" as the original but damaged album.
I don't understand why the picture color is "lighter" or "darker" than the original book... the color shouldn't be tweaked in my opinion from the original uploaded pictures from my professional photographer, unless I tweaked them using their online tools! I know they are capable of good quality because of my original book, so that is what is keeping me from ordering my other albums that I spent hours designing... I must say that their customer service so far has been very good, very quick, and very fast to ship corrected albums to me... but if each album is not good enough, what do I think overall of the quality of this company??? Do I really want to go through the same thing w/ the other albums that I order? I'm not quite sure. It sure is annoying to me to take pictures and complain multiple times. It's not my nature to complain this much, but I just want to get what I paid for, which is an undamaged, quality printed book that I know can be done based on my original album!
Received ANOTHER replacement, and of course, guess what --- due to incompetent packing materials, the album is damaged AGAIN!!!! On a positive note, the printing on this one is good, just as good as the original album, thank goodness. But how disappointing can it get to receive a brand new album and hoping it to be beautiful and perfect, to find out that it got damaged in shipping :(.
The front cover has a huge dent on the front cover, and if you can see from the last picture, there is no Styrofoam protecting the top. Not that it even matters, since my First album was wrecked from the top also and it had styrofoam all around.
Sigh here we go again with another complaint.....
I Just think it's principal. If the company is capable of a quality product which obviously it is, then they should be able to send a proper product replacement. The one good thing I can say about their customer service is that each time they responded very quickly, AND they have attempted to replace the item for no cost. However.. it's 4 times now!!!! Kind of ridiculous, no????