Software Review: Fundy Designer with Album Builder v6

by Greg Scoblete

April 10, 2014

Fundy Designer lets you quickly create professional wedding albums for $329. All photos courtesy of Fundy Software.

If you’ve had any exposure to professional album-building tools over the past several years, the template looms large. Originally designed as means of streamlining your workflow, album templates can also be something of a stifling straightjacket, coercing you into a limited set of rigid designs. If you’re chafing under the template, you owe it to yourself to give Fundy Designer a try. We did and were impressed with the results.

Working in Album Builder
The first thing you’ll notice about Fundy Designer is its stark minimalism—the layout is clean and uncluttered. If you’re a first-timer, the lack of immediately visible toolbars and menu options means you’ll have to hunt around a bit to learn the ropes. Fortunately, the learning curve is quite small.

Getting started is just a matter of dragging and dropping a batch of images into Album Builder. A future update this spring will give you the ability to organize this batch into categories, but for now you can just sort them by date. Then, you have a choice to make: selecting a professional lab. Fundy Designer is integrated with almost every professional lab in the country and stores its album specs so you don’t need to concern yourself with establishing page dimensions; just click on the lab, find the particular album you’d like to design and you’re on your way. Alternatively, you can create a completely custom album for which you determine spread size (height, width, DPI, etc.) as well as the cover image. Then it’s on to building your album.

Drop-Kicking the Template with Drop Zones
Fundy smashes the prevailing template paradigm in favor of a new approach: a series of dynamic “drop zones.” The drop zone is where your image “lands” on a page. Nothing about the zone is sacred, rather everything is tweakable, often with nothing more than a click or drag of the mouse. If you add more images to a page, the drop zones resize themselves automatically to accommodate them (you can also drop more than one image into the same drop zone and turn one of them into the page’s background). This structureless approach means that each album page is truly a blank slate, awaiting your creative touch.

Using planner view, you can move pages around, swap images and designs, and get a top-level overview of your album. 

You have two alternating workspaces. The first is a “planner view,” which shows every page you’ve built or need to build. From here you can drag-and-drop images onto pages and enjoy a high-level view of your complete album with the ability to make a few simple changes. You can drag the pages forward or backward to change their placement in the album, randomly “shuffle” the images on a given page iPod-style, or view a series of suggested layouts already pre-populated with the page’s photos. In keeping with the software’s minimalist style, the planner view editing tools only appear when you hover your mouse on a given page.

In designer view, you’ll be able to work with Fundy’s dynamic drop zones.

When you need to make more detailed, page-level adjustments, you can flip into “designer view.” It’s within this view that you can have fun with the drop zones and the images you’ve placed in them. Start with the photos; you can zoom in or move them around within a given drop zone. You can center or align them to the edge of the zone, change their opacity and even drag them across the page to reposition them, with the displaced photos automatically adjusting themselves. The planner view has a series of grid lines that will tip you off to the edges and spine of the book as you work, but these can be turned off when you want a cleaner view.

When you click on a specific drop zone, a small menu bar provides access to a few more editing options. Here you’ll be able adjust the buffer (or frame) around an image, adjust the space between pictures in a single drop zone and lock the number of photos that will appear in a column or row in a given zone. Working with drop zones is strikingly simple, and fast. It’s not hard to imagine even newcomers cranking out high-quality album designs in an hour or so. In fact, the biggest bottleneck you’re likely to encounter is self-imposed: selecting the photos you want to use.

Beyond the Zone
Fundy Designer doesn’t support image editing natively, so if you need to make more serious edits, the program can open your photo in your editor of choice. When your fixes are done, the changes immediately and automatically propagate into your album page and into the images you’ve imported into Fundy for your project.

As you work, your project is auto-saved every five minutes, but there’s no undo button (it’s promised in a May update), so any mistakes you make are impossible to take back. Beyond the photos and drop zones, you can adjust the background color of your pages with either Fundy’s own generous palette or a custom design you upload yourself. There’s also a basic text editor for adding some verbiage around the page. As you’d expect, there are plenty of font options and sizes, and text can be dragged and resized until you’re happy.

Your final product can be exported in full-resolution JPEGs (either single pages or two-page spreads as one file) for printing or low-resolution JPEGs for web posting. Later this year, the company will add the ability to export a layered PSD file or just a selection of page ranges instead of the entire album.

Missing Pieces
All software is a perpetual work in progress and Fundy Designer is no different. Fortunately, the company is pretty upfront about what features are in the pipeline and when you can expect them. Among some of the features you can expect soon are the ability to apply three black-and-white and three sepia looks to photos; an export-to-Facebook option; and alerts if an image is zoomed in too much for export.

The bigger issue some may have with Fundy Designer is its versatility. Where some album builders offer the ability to create other pieces of output, including wall art or web pages, Fundy only accommodates professional albums. (Some photographers, on the other hand, might like this album-focused dedication.) There will be additional software releases from Fundy later this year, such as Blog Collage and Gallery Designer for creating web pages and wall art, but they’ll cost extra.

Bottom Line
I won’t pretend to have encyclopedic knowledge of every possible high-end album builder on the market, but using several of them over the past several weeks in addition to Album Builder is a rather dramatic study in contrast.

Fundy Designer takes a very visual approach to album building, an elegance that serves the user well throughout the design process.

Where the dominant approach favors not just templates but usually a welter of features to go with them, Album Builder focuses on elegance, simplicity and ease of use (made possible—it needs to be said—by a powerful software). To put it crudely, it feels a lot like the difference between Windows and Apple, with Fundy in the Apple role. There’s a crucial caveat though: Fundy doesn’t tack on an Apple-sized premium—the $329 you’ll pay for Fundy Designer is right around the $300 sweet spot most competitive album software titles command. 

Still, if you’re used to having a huge arsenal of features and output options at your command, you won’t find them in Fundy Designer. My guess is you won’t miss them.

You Might Also Like



Tout VTS