A few days ago I launched an appeal to wedding suppliers asking if they’d like to take part in the Top Tips from the Experts regular series. This series is designed to bring you expert advice from wedding suppliers to help you planning your wedding or understanding your options so you can make informed decisions.
Today’s guest on Linen and Silk Weddings offering her advice and knowledge is wedding photographer Alethiea of Xander & Thea. Alethiea approached me a few days ago with this idea: “I thought about an article on everything brides and grooms need to know about the post-production process. It would be good to allow them to understand a photographer’s ‘work flow’, from backing up the images to colour correcting, converting files and ‘photoshopping’ them and the difference between burn and shoot photographers. I think it would help some brides understand the difference between a photographer who charges a couple hundred pound vs a thousand pound plus.” YES YES YES Alethiea! I loved this topic because, as Alethiea says, there are a lot people out there who, through no fault of their own, have very limited knowledge of the amount of work that goes into shooting a wedding and presenting the couple with a complete suite of images. Xander & Thea‘s post sheds light on the nitty gritty in very simple terms so that you, brides and grooms, can fully understand why photographers charge what they charge and why some charge more than others.
So, over to Xander & Thea and, please, if you have any questions or if you feel your opinion differs, we encourage you to leave a comment so we can have an open discussion about it!
When I decided to write this post I thought I’d research what others were saying, yet I couldn’t find one article on a photographer’s editing process that spoke to brides and grooms, and this reinforced to me the importance to talk about this topic. On many a photographers website (including my own) it simply says ‘Fully / Professionally edited high res images’ – do most brides and grooms really know what this means? It is a bit unromantic to let you into the ‘darkroom’, but here is the truth as to why many of us charge £1,000+.
I will not be the only photographer who has heard that infamous line: “£**** – not bad for a days work!”, which can often feel frustrating. ‘Creativity’ as a concept is intangible which is why it is difficult for many to understand the fees of such a practice. Hence, it is up to the photographers to educate people who through no fault of their own have no idea of how much money and time we spend working on the images. It is only fair that brides and grooms know what they are paying for.
The wedding day, although providing its own unique set of challenges, such as the need for patience, focus and direction, especially when there is no wedding planner, often feels like the starting point for us. Our job is to provide you with a beautiful cohesive set of products, e.g. USB/DVD/album/prints etc., therefore the aftermath of the wedding eats most of the ‘time’ pie chart up for us.
To edit efficiently and properly we must invest in professional software, an editing tablet, editing screen or colour calibration machine for our computer screens, as well as copious hard drive space.
Every photographer’s workflow will be different but to give you a rough indication of the process and the time it takes, mine consists of:
1. The evening I get home from a wedding I re-back up all the images. Before deleting them from my memory card I ensure they are backed up in four locations, two external hard drives, my laptop and my google drive. A bit excessive but it is always better to be safe than sorry, as with digital products the risk of them corrupting is always a possibility. With so many files it is so important for me to invest in high speed external drives, memory cards, readers and high speed internet
2. The next day, I categorise my images into sections of the wedding day to make the vast number of files easier to manage and then import my images into a professional editing software called Lightroom. I cull through the images taking the number from around 3000 to 800. This can often take me around a day and a half. The process of selecting the best can be tricky stuff!
3. The ‘editing’ process starts from this point onwards. It is so important for me to focus and work hard on the wedding day. I shoot fully in manual mode; by slowing down and really focussing on what I am photographing and how, I reduce this phase of the editing process. I don’t use filters and therefore I edit each image individually staying true to my style, aiming for vibrancy and simplicity. I aim to spend 5 minutes on each image, although sometimes my egg timer beeps before I am finished
4. Again, it helps to slow down and not just ‘shoot from the hip’ on the wedding day. I want to really focus on what I am shooting and not have to deal with distracting objects later on. However sometimes it can’t be helped; there may be a big FIRE EXIT sign in the church etc. In an instance such as this, where I have limited freedom to move about, I always take the shot and then in the editing process move into the famous Photoshop software to remove the ugly sign from the image. This gives a much cleaner visual for the couple and stays true to the moment. Likewise, if I know my bride is particularly self conscious about her skin, arms, or any other feature, I will often pay extra attention to clean, smooth or soften that particular area according to her wish. I am a woman and no matter how much your loved ones adore or compliment your [insert-body-part-here], you will always notice it. It is my job to make my couples look back on their images with nothing else to focus on but the love that is spilling out from them. It’s so important to get this balance spot on. Making the bride and groom unrecognisable is an absolute no no and takes skill and patience to achieve a look that is natural; accomplishing the right effect with the minimum interference. Depending on the complexity of the image, this stage can take from 5-45 minutes per image
5. The next stage of post-production is sharpening and converting the images to jpegs so that brides & grooms can view them. They are saved with a high resolution so that our brides and grooms can print them, enlarge them or turn them into something creative, such as blinds, murals etc. Once the images have been converted I go through them all again and do a second ‘cull’, I remove any that look out of place or don’t flow, I provide a minimum of 400 images
6. I run this folder through Photoshop, which saves them again ‘for web’, allowing my clients to upload them easily and quickly to social media or send to friends around the world etc.
7. If the couples have chosen to take up the offer of a private online gallery, uploading the images is next, followed by having prints made of a few favourites and uploading all the images onto their personalised engraved silver USB stick. They are packaged up with care and sent with a few special gifts tailored to the couple
The editing process is long and leaves your body aching. The whole process (excluding designing an album, three re-tries or other products) will usually take around one week, and this does not include consultations, engagement sessions, editing engagement session or the wedding day itself.
As in any industry when it is your full time job, time equals money. There are ways in which photographers cut corners and speed up the process and that is known as ‘shoot and burn’. The photographer shoots in automatic mode in jpeg format. The photos will then be either automatically batch edited or burnt straight onto a CD. This type of photography may appear cheaper but will often actually turn over a higher profit to the photographer than their more expensive counterparts as less time and money is spent in the process.
The key tip here is this: know your photographer. One of the biggest misconceptions is that the higher priced photographers are taking more profit than the lower priced photographers. Whilst this might seem intuitively true, the higher priced photographers will generally be investing substantially more time before and after the wedding day working on the images and in personalising the experience, meaning that they are making significantly less per hour. During this time, the lower priced photographer will already have moved on to the next wedding.
In addition, those higher priced photographers come with experience, better quality equipment and a genuine concern for their clients’ happiness. Experienced, higher priced photographers will vary in style and, unsurprisingly, price isn’t the only factor to consider. Take time to research the ethos of your photographers and pick one whose approach fits you. This may feel a little ‘woolly’ but there is a strong correlation between brides and grooms considering carefully their photographer and how happy they ultimately are with the photographs.
You only have one chance to capture your wedding in the way you really wish, so research well, budget for photography accordingly and enjoy the process of creating a family treasure.
Thank you so much Xander & Thea for your helpful insights into the post-production process!
Image copyrights © Xander & Thea