@pfinarffle: There is so little info online about consumer albums, I know! But I actually did a lot of research and it seems most companies only deal with professionals as it is a way of ensuring continued business and also because the masses don’t know much about the difference between flush mount and regular press printed style and so most confuse the two — not realizing what they are missing. And since there are rarely any consumer level events that showcase wedding albums and show us the difference in what we can get, I guess there is little market demand to show the masses what their choices are. (If anyone knows of any big events that are offered to the masses showing these albums, please let me know.)
That being said, here are the companies I’ve found that will sell directly to consumers (not just pros) and will sell a real flush mount:
**Bay Photo Lab – http://www.bayphoto.com – great options and will send you a swatch kit for free of their paper styles and different cover materials. Until yesterday, they were offering 30% off their flush mount albums and regularly post deals on their Facebook page. Plus they are the only non-pro level site that will add silk Moire lining to the inside pages of your album, a nice touch in my opinion. My only con: no photographic proof online that I could find of people who’ve ordered their albums through them, though they do seem to get great testimonials online otherwise on the quality of their products, plus their prices are the CHEAPEST. For me, I just need to see either photo or video proof (or see it in person).
**Black River Imaging — pfinarffle, you are correct in that they do sell to consumers directly (I confirmed this via phone). They don’t want pros to know that per se as it might screw with their business, so they will tell you that their site is “geared toward professionals” and try to turn you toward their consumer site instead, Somerset. But…they also won’t steer you away, and in my opinion, you can get much more for your money with Black River, plus as you said their software Cascade is easy to use, although the photos at first take a little bit to upload. I love their Mosaic style albums though — so pretty and creative. My con: not as many cover options as Bay offers – you either have the 12 textured lathers or the 12 basic colors. And if you order their popular Tuscany style, which has its own separate list of cover options, you can only do a basic leather front (no custom deisgn on front, except for adding a photo cameo window.) Plus you have to pay $20 to order their sample swatches – but the great thing about this company is fast turnaround time. Bay does theirs in 3 days. Black River does theirs in 3-5, depending on the album, plus they are the only company I’ve found that offers free shipping. And if it’s your thing, they are the only company that offers to gild your page edges in black, silver, or gold. And again another pro: tons of videos/photos online of people who’ve ordered their albums.
**Somerset Albums – http://www.somersetalbums.com – This is the consumer level site of Black River Imaging so everyone can order through here. But there is only one cover option — it looks like Black River’s Tuscany style but only comes in 5 basic color choices and that’s it. No gilding, no Moire lining but for a classic flush mount look, not a bad option. Shipping is free here too, but my con: to go this simple I think people are better off with Bay Photo as they can do a similar simple product but their prices are cheaper.
**My Photo Creations – http://www.myphotocreations.com – They have a simple but elegant flush mount in only two options – simple black leather cover limited to only 20 sides or the photo wrap cover option, the Marina, that can go up to 80 sides but is super expensive. Each extra spread past the standard 20 that comes with the album is $30 – the most expensive I’ve seen anywhere as each extra side usually averages about $7-9. But they are powered through pro lab, DigiiLabs, so I suppose the quality is probably good — just so darn pricey! Ooh, but just checked – they have albums on sale for 30% off until October 21, 2011.
**Picaboo – as you mentioned, nice flush mount option. Also very simple but this one like Somerset and Black River and Bay, you can customize by embossing your name and date on the front. They gild their pages too but for such a simple design, the dealbreaker for me was again the price. They start at either $400 or $500 just as MyPhotoCreations does, but you can go with an option like Black River’s Mosaic which start at much less than that for the standard 20 pages.
None of these I don’t think add tax to the price so that is also another bonus, if you’re looking to know what the total cost for your album will be.
For me, I am lucky in that my photographer was a very close friend and is doing me a huge favor — allowing me to order our album design through him just so I can get the most customization options as I am very particular about what I want my album to look like. And this will allow me to get my album through a pro site — right now leaning toward Forbeyon. But since this process is such a pain in the neck to go through without a pro, I figured I’d put the different companies that will sell directly to the masses out there.
If anyone knows of any more I may have missed please feel free to add.