What happens after your photos are taken?

Did you ever wonder why it may take a few weeks for your wedding photos to be delivered to you?
Not everyone knows or understands the work that goes on behind the scenes after your photos are taken. For those that are curious, this will be a guide as to what steps I personally take after your wedding photos are taken. What potential work I may have to do and how long it usually takes.

 
 

Import & Backup

First thing I do as soon as I get home is to import all the photos from my CompartFlash cards into Lightroom. I always shoot RAW which means that the photos are uncompressed and as a result, have a rather large file size. So this process in itself can take a while as all the photos (for a full day wedding) may amount to more than 60GB. Once all are imported in, Lightroom then needs to build previews of the photos so I can edit and flick between them without any delays or loading times.
After all the files are imported and previews are built, I then make a backup onto an external hard drive. This is a safety measure in case something were to happen to my computer. The last thing I want is to loose all my clients photos.

 

Culling

Culling is narrowing down the photos into a suitable collection for the couple. At the end of a full day wedding, I may have taken anywhere between 2000 to 4000 photos. Now of course, not all those photos are usable. Certain situations I take multiple photos in quick sucession (my camera does 6 photos per second). The first kiss and leaving the church are good examples where I fire off a lot of photos.
Another example of multiple photos may be the family portraits. When there are a few people in one photo someone will always blink or look away. Taking more than one photo increases the chance of getting everyone looking at the camera with eyes open.
So I need to narrow down the 2000+ photos into a smaller size, showcasing what I deem to be the best photos of the wedding along with telling a story in an engaging way.
My first run through of the photos I will remove any photos where the camera miss-focused (it happenes), where the angle or lighting may be unflattering to the couple and any photos where someone is blinking or I am checking my setting by doing a test photo.
The second run though starts to eliminate duplicates, favouring the better version. There are always variations, that I keep. But sometimes multiple photos will be too similar to help move the story along, so those are removed from the selection.
The third run though is usual where I get the final layout. By this stage I am left with the most stunning, engaging and story rich photos.
This whole process can take a few hours to a day depending on the number of photo and the type of photos.
I usually do this as soon as possible as I still have the whole wedding day fresh in my head, so I know what important moments happened where and when.

 

Editing / Processing

This is by far the most time consuming section. As I mentioned, I always shoot RAW. The files are big with a lot of information in them, which allows for more options when editing. However the photos generally look flat and bland, because although they contain a lot of information, they are essentially a blank canvas ready for me to process however I want.
There is no one preset that I can apply to all my photos. Every photo is unique and requires individual processing to get the best from it.
I have my own presets that I’ve made, but these are usually just to get me moving in the right direction. Not to finalise a photo.
Everything will be process to how I envision it in my head. Exposure, contrast, color balance, hues, white balance, sharpness, noise reduction, vignetting, lens corrections etc. These will all be adjusted in various ways to achieve the desired look.
Photos that are taken in the same lighting conditions generally can have some of the settings copied over to them, but other adjustments will always be required.
On top of all these adjustments there are also more detailed and in depth changes that I make to photos. Teeth whitening, skin smoothing, removing shadows under the eyes, adding contrast and shine to the hair. These are just a few examples of detailed work that may be required on a photo. These changes need to be “brushed” onto the photo in specific areas. This is know as local adjustments. Usually the photos where I devote a lot of time to this are the portraits of the couple. The documentary shots of getting ready etc don’t require this.
Local adjustments may still need to be done to other photos, like removing harsh light or badly exposed areas. This can happen a lot in areas where lighting is not ideal. Sometimes I need to make local adjustments on every photo. Other times I hardly need to do any at all. It really depends on the photo.
The entire process can usually take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks for a full wedding. Everything depends on the amount of time I can devote to editing and the amount of editing required.

 

Export & backup

Once all the photos are edited I then need to export them for the client. I always export them at full resolution, high JPEG quality and 300PPI. That way if they want to print the photos themselves they can easily do so. Of course I can print any photos they want, but you are not restricted with printing with me.
Once the photos are exported I then make a backup of the JPEG’s and a backup of the Lightroom edit files. That way if the couple ever want me to make adjustments to a photo, I can access the original edit and make the changes.

 

Delivery

The JPEG photos will be uploaded to an online database for the client to download (and share if they wish). I always say to allow up to 2 weeks for delivery of the photos, but I usually deliver them before that. Depending on the package the client will also receive a USB key with the photos saved onto it.

 

Thank you cards

I always offer the client the option to have thank you card made to give to their guests. I will design the card however they want and they can either use myself or print the cards themselves. I obviously charge for the prints, but the design of the card is free.

 

So there you have it. What I usually do after the photos have been taken and why it takes the time it does. All of this is of course included in the package price.
This is more of an overview of the process. If anyone would like me to make a detailed blog post regarding how I actually edit photos, then please let me know in the comments.