As you head off to a white sandy beach on your honeymoon, your photographer is still going to be hard at work. Most couples are unaware of the long hours a photographer puts in after the wedding day is over. Post-production for a wedding can take ten to twenty additional hours beyond the wedding day. This is one of the major components you are paying for when it comes to your wedding images. Great photography also needs great post-production and this is really the most time-consuming and expensive portion of a photographer’s workflow. You have to keep this in mind when paying for a photographer; it’s not just what you get on the wedding day, it’s an entire experience.
Download & Back-Up:
Let’s walk you through a typical digital post-production workflow. First thing is the downloading of images from the media cards they are captured on. This can take up to one hour depending on the number of images captured. Most photographers have RAID systems and the images will also need to be transferred to that secondary storage for safety. (*These drives are expensive to buy and to maintain.)
Once the images are downloaded the next step is editing or choosing the best images from the wedding day. Both of us “edit in” which means on the first pass we choose all the images we like as opposed to the ones we do not. Mathematically this takes less time then choosing the ones that won’t make it. Editing a wedding can take anywhere from two to four hours. The number of images shot will vary between photographers, but on average it is 2500-5000 for a typical wedding. It all depends on the shooter. After an edit there are roughly 800-1000 images. A good rule of thumb is that you can expect roughly 100 final images per hour of coverage. More images doesn’t equal better, it’s about quality not quantity.
The editing process is done with software where the keepers are tagged with a color. Once tagged they get moved into a separate folder. Right now you are probably asking yourself If they took 2500 and only kept 1000 what are the other 1500 images?? The unused images are made up of blinks, bad expressions, out of focus images, bad exposures or sequences where one image is clearly much better than the other. A photographer might shoot forty images in a row of the bride walking down the aisle but five of them are the hero shots. The rest are unnecessary. This is something you are paying your photographer for. Being a great editor takes years of practice and hundreds of shoots to become proficient. Trust us, you don’t want to go through 2500+ images!
Most pros shoot in RAW format. By itself it is a big fat gray file that looks like a stale doughnut. But when processed well it turns into the most delicious cupcake you can imagine. (See the couple in storm image below.) It involves hours of color correction and other adjustments. This process can take two to four hours. Besides color balancing there are also tonal adjustments, as well as adjustments for clarity, sharpness, white and black points and more. Software changes all the time and photographers have to keep up with education of that software as well as third party plug-ins that enhance it.
Conversion & Photoshop:
Once Raw processing is complete the files then need about an hour for conversion to jpegs. Once in their final jpeg form the real work begins. Most photographers will spend countless hours in Photoshop doing work that cannot be done in the Raw processing software. Your photographer will be doing things like adding vignettes, removing unwanted objects, beauty retouching, color pops, B&W conversions, sharpening and hundreds of other things available to them in some VERY EXPENSIVE software.
Upload & Show:
Once this is done the best of the best is uploaded to the client. Converting for upload and/or building additional slideshows all take time and can add another few hours to the production times. Every photographer does it differently and ALL have their own opinion on the matter. The point of this article is to understand what goes into post-production. The exact methods will vary from shooter to shooter and as long as YOU like the end results than the process is irrelevant. One is not better than the other and there are many ways to get great final results. Just know that it takes A LOT of work and ten to twenty hours to get there.
The Real 411: There is a lot more to what a photographer does than just shoot your wedding. Besides camera gear it take tens of thousands of dollars in computers, software and storage systems to produce high-quality work. In addition, it costs several hundred dollars a month in electricity to run all the computers. We hope this post has helped you understand some of the cost involved in hiring a good professional photographer. They spend hours editing, processing, Photoshopping, backing up and storing your files. It is a time-consuming process with steep learning curves. Software changes all the time and your photographer will be purchasing and learning new methods several times a year. If you hire a photographer who is just going to hand you a disk of unedited images with no color correction or cropping which includes everything he or she shot on your wedding day the results will be disappointing to say the least. Anyone who does so is doing YOU a disservice. You are the one who will have to go through 3000-5000 images and pick the best. You will have to invest in software and the time in learning how to use it. It takes years to learn to do it properly. This is why it is worth it to pay a professional!