Fstoppers Review: SmartAlbums

Fstoppers Review: SmartAlbums

We talked about SmartAlbums a few weeks ago with their black friday launch and there was an overwhelming majority that agreed it was a complete game changer. I've been on the beta for about two months and have had the chance to do a review for you guys. The program is so simple to use but if you're too lazy to read there is a screen-share video at the end. It's a quick walkthrough of me building a personal album, it's silent though, so you should probably suck it up and read it, oh and then buy it.

Upon first entering SmartAlbums you are directed to the album page and here you will find all of your compatible album companies. With each update comes a slew of new album companies. Since they have people from all over the world using the product they try to accommodate all the companies from all over, so if some of them don't look familiar it's probably from overseas. The nice thing is they have companies like Blurb, that allow you to make quick personal albums that are relatively cheap, but also companies like KISS that allow you to deliver high end albums to your clients. If your company isn't listed, you can create a custom template for places such as Artifact Uprising. Also, make sure that if you buy the software and your favorite company isn't listed that you add it to the list in the facebook group along with emailing your album company and telling them you'd love them to partner with SmartAlbums.


Upon picking your desired company, it will give you the layouts of the available books. With KISS you have three options, and within those layouts you have different sizes. For the purpose of streamline, I will pick a square 8x8, one of the most popular options for wedding books.



I uploaded 652 photos from a wedding into my 8x8 KISS album. I did not intend to use all the photos in the album, it was more to test the upload speed. It took about two minutes to upload all of the photos completely into the software. That means a complete full resolution photo is in the software for use. Here you can see the beginning stages of your album. All your photos are available at the bottom. You can either select to view all photos, your used ones will be greyed out, or you can select to only view the unused photos. I like to view all so that I can view it as an entire set and see where I jumped photos.



Once you enter the software it is a drag and drop. I have selected my four photos and dropped them into my spread.



By hovering over the spread it shows a set of four boxes, this will allow your available spreads to pop up for the amount of photos that you have added to the spread.



In this case we have multiple sizes, dimensions and layouts possible for the photos.  Clicking the arrow to the right allows you to swap through them if you like to see the options without the photos. If not, you can avoid pressing the four boxes and just click up and down on your directional keys. This will swap the photos throughout the spread automatically and you can see exactly how the photos will show up.



To move to the next spread, you simply drag and drop to the next spread, it will automatically jump and place your photos. If you decide you don't want a photo in a specific place you can either click on the photo on the page and hit delete, or you can pull another photo and drag it onto the page to replace it completely. In this case I had her organizing her jewelry and wanted to replace it with the chosen photo of her arm on the chair.



Due to the proportion of the book and the photo, the photo is cropped. I could switch the layout, but I wanted to keep the full bleed. The side view shows you where the crop is, you simply use your arrow to move the photo around till the desired section is shown. In this case, I wanted to view the very top portion of the photo and cropped the empty space out.



The replace feature is one of my favorites. You can also do it to swap photos within a spread. So say you found your desired layout but a couple of the photos are in spaces you want swapped, simply pick your photo you want to swap, drag and drop it on the photo you want to swap it with. The photos will then switch places. In this case, I swapped the dog photo with her putting on her shoe by just dragging and dropping.



The team has done everything they can to make your life easier with album building. They've designed numerous shortcuts within the program to help you navigate and maneuver your photos.

Context Action Primary shortcut Alternative shorcut                              
Spread View, Timeline Navigate to next spread Right Key Page Up
Spread View, Timeline Navigate to previous spread Left Key Page Down
Spread View, Timeline Cycle to the next template Down Key  
Spread View, Timeline Cycle to the previous template Up Key  
Spread View, Timeline Select all Spreads ⌘+Option+A  
Spread View, Timeline Deselect selected Spread(-s) ⌘+D ESC
Image Browser, Spread View Preview image using Quick Look Space Key  
Spread View, Timeline Cut items (spreads or timeline elements) ⌘+X  
Spread View, Timeline Copy items (spreads or timeline elements) ⌘+C  
Spread View, Timeline Paste items (spreads or timeline elements) ⌘+V  
Image Browser Import images ⌘+I  
Image Browser, Spread View Delete selected items Delete Key  
Image Browser Add image to active spread ⌘+Up  
Image Browser Show all images ⌘+Ctrl+A  
Image Browser Show unused images ⌘+Ctrl+U  
Image Browser Show missing images ⌘+Ctrl+M  
  Show/Hide Image Browser ⌘+1  
  Show/Hide Image Inspector ⌘+2  
  Arrow Tool V  
  Hand Tool H  
  Close current project ⌘+W  
  Export current project ⌘+E  


Upon building your book you will come across various tips to help you build your book as well as any error messages for the company you are dealing with, be it if you have too few spreads, your photo resolution is too low or if you can only end on one side of a page instead of two.



With export you can pick if you want to export for print or for proof, or pick both. Currently export for proof is JPEG and PDF, but come early spring there will be export options for both proofing with Photoshop and InDesign.



Other: Some people brought up the fact the black friday purchase bought you into the beta, which allowed the black friday purchases to fund the final leg of the product.  As of yesterday, SmartAlbums is completely funded and on the market for full use. You will no longer get access to a beta, you will get the full version and a product code.


What I liked: 



Easy to use

Constantly being improved and updated

You only have to pay a one time fee

You can build client as well as personal albums


What could be improved:

Not Windows Compatible (as of yet, will be released in 2014)

Seriously, I could only think of one.

Overall: SmartAlbums is just flat out great. It changes the dreaded album making and allows you to pretty much design an album in your sleep. It not only speeds up your workflow but saves your sanity. If you're looking for a moderately priced item for a tax write off before the end of the year, this definitely should make your list.

Extra: I did a video of a quick personal album for you to watch. I went a little slower so you could see my moves, but it took me 15 minutes start to export to make about a 25 page album. The more you make the quicker it starts getting. You know where you want photos to go, you know the layouts.



Don't forget to say hello to them on facebook and twitter. Buy it here!

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Mark Matthews's picture

Yervant has an Album Design Software similar to this that's been out on the market for over 5 years.....

Trevor Dayley's picture

Fantastic article Sarah. Smart Albums is definitely a program that is going to make designing albums fun again for photographers. Huge fan!

Ryan Sands's picture

I've been using Smart Albums since the beta was released on December 5th and it is an absolute game changer. I've already designed 3 albums using their software. Each album took me less than 30 minutes each! In a matter of minutes my wife picked up the software and was flying through spreads. We dreaded album design before this software was released but now...we seriously would never use anything else. It's that good! Honestly, if you think there are other software packages out there for less money that are better, keep using them. I'll stick with Smart Albums, thank you very much :)

Bert McLendon's picture

It looks like it's very similar to Blogstomp but for albums. Is that a fair comparison? I LOVE blogstomp.

Joel and Amber's picture

It looks amazing, I'll admit. But THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS??? Are you kidding me?? I would expect it to have toast and coffee ready for me in the morning for that price! Especially considering KISS has a very easy, intuitive album design for... FREE.
Just don't see this being worth the cost here.

Trevor Dayley's picture

I have used the KISS software for the last 18 months and SmartAlbums is far easier and much quicker.

Adrian Ciolacu's picture

Nice. But: not Windows Compatible, high price, new on the market.
Page Gallery by Yervant, FotoFusion and Fundy Album Builder are well known on the market.
I have already bought Fundy Album Builder. And version 6 is going to be awesome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ3UVCfgCW0

kristaphoto's picture

I cannot wait to start using this!

Daniel S's picture

I used this to design my sister's quince album (23 spreads) WITH 3 changes in 30minutes. All that's left is to insert some text and export the hi-res jpegs to my printer's PDF specs.

When I switched from Photoshop to InDesign to do my albums, I saved a TON of time. Now I've saved like 50% more. I'll still use InDesign, but to have 99% of the album done is incredible.

This SmartAlbums is to InDesign as Lightroom is to Photoshop.

Magnus's picture

A compatible album proof tool to this would be http://www.albumparrot.com - it integrates album spreads and gallery into one view and works in many different languages (german, french, italian).