Among fellow photographer friends, most of us have got the question at some point:
“I love the photos from my wedding! Can I get all of the images that you shot? You don’t need to edit them or anything.”
The short answer is no. But as I’ve gotten this question a few times, it’s important for me to explain why, so that you feel heard when you ask this seemingly very reasonable request.
The industry standard among professional wedding photographers is that RAW files and unedited jpegs are not available for purchase. It’s detailed in the contract you’ll sign but reading the fine print is a chore few of us engage in.
That’s why when you sign with me, I’ll provide you with a summarized version of the main points to draw your attention to on my contract. However, that doesn’t replace the need to understand each clause of the contract and ask your questions beforehand.
What comes home with me… are the raw ingredients.
The gallery in its final form represents every image that is selected by me for being worthy of inclusion, i.e not out of focus, blurry, under/overexposed, a near duplicate, badly composed, with blinking/ bad expressions etc (artistic discretion notwithstanding).
Each image represents my brand. I am proud to stand behind that, given that there is so much more to creating images than clicking the shutter. In fact, what comes home with me at the end of the wedding day are just the raw ingredients.
When I cull through the photos, which takes several hours together with years of experience, there is a quality control process that happens to ensure that you receive every image that is a worthy representation of both my work and the moments of your wedding day.
Much like the leftover ingredients that your baker used to prepare your wedding cake, the images that are not selected for inclusion into the gallery are just a byproduct of the process of creating the finished product for which I am commissioned.
They’re not suitable to represent the standard you set for your wedding or the measure of the quality that I seek to provide as your photographer. You can rest assured that no gems or even halfway-decent images are somehow left out of the final gallery.
At the end of the day, you need professional-quality images, and my assignment is to provide them.
We take dozens or hundreds of images of your ceremony arch florals, your table settings, your wedding party. We give you those that are good enough to tell the story of your day, keeping in mind variety, pace and flow of the finished gallery.
It’s just like writing a book, where all the elements come together – the overarching plot, the fine details, setting the scene, introducing the characters and continuing the narrative, all the while building pace and momentum, then wrapping up the tale in a satisfying way.
There’s always an agreed-upon set of expectations regarding the approximate number range of photos that are to be delivered. What I have to charge in order to remain in business takes into account that number and the corresponding editing time.
That said, I never restrict the image count. I simply deliver what I need to in order to tell the complete story. That’s why it’s so important you trust your photographer. I write this in the very first email you’ll receive from me.
It’s my job to be open and upfront.
It’s my job to be open and upfront. I do everything I can to inform, educate and manage expectations.
We are in the business of protecting our brand, assets and livelihood without compromising our integrity. We are also in the business of keeping our clients happy.
Like many aspects of being a business owner, it’s a fine balance.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions, and be sure to comment and share if you found this article helpful.
Zoe Larkin is a San Francisco-based wedding photographer, specializing in intimate weddings. Zoe creates images that combine documentary photography with a stylized edge. Her work has been published on A Practical Wedding, Offbeat Bride, Equally Wed, Catalyst Wed Co and others. Read more about Zoe here.