Hi friends! Today I’m going to take a deeper dive into the editing process in layman’s terms. Hopefully this will be helpful in understanding what the heck the photographer does once they leave your City Hall wedding. It also helps to throw some light on why it takes the length of time it does to deliver your finished wedding gallery!
There are articles online about what happens during post-processing but many of them are overly technical, weirdly defensive or out of date (at no point does a DVD or CD enter my studio!)
I use the terms ‘editing’, ‘post-processing’ and ‘post-production’ somewhat interchangeably. It tends to be called ‘editing’ by the community at large, but I think post-production is actually more correct because it encompasses more!
I can only speak as to what I personally do for my image processing, but to make this article more helpful I’ve included some info what’s common practice across the industry.
Unlike all your other vendors who take a break when your wedding’s done, your photographer’s real work starts after your wedding.
Our editing process means turning the RAW, unedited files into the finished jpegs that have been corrected for wonky horizons, color casts, correct exposure for skin and overall consistency. (And many other things too). That involves a few steps, broken down for you here.
Importing (AKA ingesting) the RAW files
After the wedding I grab all the cards (and any second shooter) shot to. I have a program that ingests all of these juicy RAW files to my hard drive. It’s called Photo Mechanic. I step away and let the computer do its thing.
It’s a process of swapping out the various memory cards from me and my second shooter and being REALLY darn sure I have copied everything before formatting the cards ready for the next wedding! (I do back up about a million times and also shoot to two different memory cards in each camera at the wedding. Isn’t that cool?!)
Culling (selecting photos) - Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits
Industry standard these days is using Photo Mechanic which easily allows me to pick the images I want to deliver to you. Yep, that’s what it does. It selects images. It doesn’t alter them in any way.
I pick the keepers out of all the images shot.
It depends on how many guests you have, length of coverage, the pace of your day, whether you’ve had special requests to capture, how long we’ve had for newlywed portraits, how many ‘moments’ were captured…
Rest assured it takes time to make sure I’ve not picked duplicates of the same thing which would get really boring to look at. It also takes some time and experience (trust me, I’ve made the mistakes) to not pick just the best of the best and leave behind some great moments and variety because they were not prize-winning masterpieces.
Adobe Lightroom - individual adjustments and consistency overall
Lightroom (available through Adobe Creative Cloud) is extremely popular for making global adjustments such as throwing on my custom preset that creates consistency and my signature look, and for tweaking elements in individual pics.
It’s like when you grab a picture from your phone and edit it in your favorite photo editing app, but on a much grander scale. The preset often sets the tone (ha, literally THE TONES!!) for your photographer’s style.
Stuff like minimizing the photographic grain in the images , cropping for better compositions, and generally making sure everything looks tip-top.
As you can imagine, going through each of the hundreds of selects one by one takes a lot of time. Like throwing up a VSCO filter on your selfie, you want it to look polished but natural. Not like you’re trying too hard. Welcome to my world.
Then you want to make sure pics from the beginning of the ceremony look the same color as the end of the ceremony and you haven’t just randomly changed editing styles halfway through due to screen fatigue.
That’s why it’s important to take breaks and return to editing the next day when you can see with fresh eyes. Looking at the images for too long can compromise our judgment.
Adobe Photoshop - for images that need further work
This is a very personal decision. Some photographers are adamant that they will not touch Photoshop (available through Adobe Creative Cloud) without you paying a retouching fee, others will run Photoshop on every image to create their signature look that you’ve hired them for.
I’m somewhere in between. I will do fine-image retouching to make you slimmer or remove wrinkles but these further requests do incur a fee. I do some ‘invisible Photoshopping’ on a handful of images in each gallery to remove some distracting elements. You won’t even know that the fire alarm has been zapped.
Hopefully this is helpful in understanding what the photographer does when they bid farewell and disappear into the night! I have more blog posts coming up that are helpful tips for clients to make sense of all the jargon and funny things surrounding their wedding photography experience.
Thanks for reading!
Zoe Larkin is a San Francisco-based wedding photographer, specializing in SF City Hall 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.