What I want to do here is list the specific products I use along with their links. I'm not paid to promote these companies; I just love their products and service and am happy to spread good word-of-mouth :-).
First up: (I know, this is "duh" for most of you; my love affair with Lightroom is NOT a secret) Adobe Lightroom
Lightroom is my photographic everything. I can't fathom an easier way of organizing, finding, labeling, sorting, editing my photos.
2nd up: Lumapix's Fotofusion software
I use Fotofusion to design my entire album. I've saved out pages from past albums as "templates", so a lot of my design is "drag & drop" easy. I love & use Fotofusion's auto-collage feature a LOT. Oh, and they have a totally free demo of their software available - you can try it before you buy it (which is always helpful!). Of course, you don't have to have Fotofusion to make this happen; design work can be done in Photoshop/Elements, Lightroom (in the book module), or even in album-makers own software systems (MyPublisher all by itself is drag and drop easy).
And lastly, but not leastly: MyPublisher photo books
I know there are about a gazillion awesome album companies out there. But back in 2006, I made my first album with MyPublisher. I've since made 6 more annual family albums with them. Simply a truly great product at an amazingly affordable price (wait for a sale - there's always a sale!). I can't recommend them highly enough.
So that's the inside scoop on my favorite album-making tools. Hope it's helpful!
In addition, here are the links to the album making articles (with tips & tricks & examples) I wrote for I Heart Faces:
Creating Your Own Family Albums
Photo Album Design Tips
Now go make an album!! You'll thank yourself!