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how wedding photographers edit wedding pics

Hi friends! Today I’m going to take a deeper dive into how are your finished wedding images are created! That means diving 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 wedding. It also helps to throw some light on why it takes so long to complete the finished wedding gallery! I have a separate post about that here! 

There are articles online about what happens during post-processing. However many of them are overly technical, weirdly defensive or out of date. Like, at no point does a DVD or CD enter my office!

I use the terms ‘editing’, ‘post-processing’ and ‘post-production’ somewhat interchangeably. It tends to be called ‘editing’ by the community at large. 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. However much of the this is also common practice throughout the industry.

Unlike all your other vendors who are done when your wedding’s over, your photographer’s real work starts after the wedding.

Our editing process means turning the RAW, unedited files into the finished jpegs. They are 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 that we 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. I have to be 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?! One entire set of cards remains untouched in a drawer until after final delivery. 

screenshot of photo mechanic explaining how its used by wedding photographers for creating finished wedding images


Culling (selecting photos) – Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits

Industry standard these days is using Photo Mechanic. As well as importing, the program 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.

This varies based on guest count, coverage time, pace of your day, special requests etc 

Rest assured it takes time to make sure I’ve not picked duplicates of the same thing. That would be boring to look at and not respectful of your time. It also takes experience to avoid only picking the best of the best!

Trust me, I’ve made the mistakes early in my career. I’ve left behind great moments and variety because they were not prize-winning masterpieces. Now I’m sure to make my selects thoughtfully and diligently. 

showing workflow for wedding photographers using lightroom to understand How are finished wedding images are created?

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. What if the color of the light actually changed? And have I just randomly changed editing styles halfway through due to screen fatigue?

That’s why it’s important to take breaks and return to editing another day. You can see everything with fresh eyes. Looking at the images for too long can compromise our judgment.

How are my finished wedding images created? photoshop screen of wedding images

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). Others will run every image though Photoshop to create their signature look.

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.

Wrapping up

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 it all. Thanks for reading!

Related articles

Why does it take so long to get my wedding pictures?

Can I get all the RAW files / unedited jpegs from my wedding?

What affects the look of my wedding photos?

How are my finished wedding images created?


July 5, 2019


Lover of ice cream, killer of houseplants, Zoe is a San Francisco-dwelling love documentarian. Contact | Insta

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