This gorgeous wedding book tips the scales at 10.5 pounds. Oddly enough, that’s exactly what an AK-47 weights with the loaded 30-round magazine.

But why is this so important?

Natural split leather cover, thick padding, photo insets, sturdy archival plastic of the flush mount pages – it’s all posh and feels really great… but boy is it heavy!

Heavy is not a problem when you’re buying your wedding book locally. Or to be exact, it’s not your problem – ordering an album from the company based in NY shouldn’t cost any extra to the client in GA. But here across the pond, different story.

Let’s take for example the classic Leather Craftsmen leather bound wedding book. I have no idea what they charge in 2015, but let’s presume that for the photographer it would be $1000 delivered to his or her door (we’re talking about really good books here!). Now, how much our imaginary photographer charges for the design and handling of the whole process? $500 sounds more or less realistic. So for the client stateside who hired a US based photographer, that’s a$1,500 wedding book. Not exactly affordable, but not outrageously expensive either (trust me, I’ve seen $100,000 wedding albums).

Custom leather bound wedding album

Now let’s add an international shipping, shall we? Using USPS outside of the ConUS is a big “no-no” when it comes to shipping anything important; that leaves us with UPS, FedEx and DHL. Shipping a 12 lb package worth $1,500 to Belarus by UPS Worldwide Saver (one of the cheapest options) costs $382 plus $564.60 in customs duties.

So for my Belorussian clients, a $1,500 Leather Craftsmen album would cost a hefty $2,446.60. An arm and leg quite literally, as this amount exceeds most of the local wedding budgets – and I’m talking about the budget of the whole wedding!…

Coffee table books to the rescue! They are so much lighter, way more affordable and blazingly fast to produce. But with the cost of international shipping, a $900 Asuka Book still becomes the $1,500+ whopper once it’s flown across the globe to Belarus.

And don’t get me started on a “roundtrip” wedding books!…

Coffee table style family album

So what’s the answer to our wedding album dilemma?!

Buying locally, of course. For the first couple of years in Minsk I was hesitant to use local vendors (ever heard of Belorussian wedding books? No? Strange, they’re all the buzz!)… but then I bought a few, just for the fun of it. And I liked them a lot. Of course they are not in the same league as aforementioned Leather Craftsmen and Asuka, but remember that $2,446.60 quote earlier? Very similar album would cost you around $900 here in Belarus. Including door to door delivery, photographer’s markup and everything. Striking difference, isn’t it?… Same album, delivered from Minsk to Atlanta, would cost approximately $1,300 or even less. Now we’re talking!

PS: To illustrate this post, I’ve photographed two of my latest albums: a leather bound wedding book and a coffee table style family album. Both are proudly made in Belarus, and I like them a lot.

PPS: By the way, the weight is the main reason why I don’t have any sample books. There’s no reason to have just one (“you sell what you show”), and with my planned transcontinental move I cannot afford transporting a collection of sample albums. Besides, it’s always more fun this way – in each case we can imagine the perfect album without any “catalogue shopping”, then make it happen!