The term ‘sneak peek’ gets thrown around a lot by wedding photographers, but few take the time to explain what it means and why you’d want one!

What is a sneak peek?

A sneak peek is a small sampler of downloadable images, prepared by a wedding photographer for their client. It’s usually delivered to the client 1 – 7 days after the wedding day.
Example of a sneak peek gallery

How is a sneak peek delivered?

Most sneak peeks (or ‘sneak previews’) should be delivered via the photographer’s preferred gallery delivery software. This software is only available to professional photographers and some examples include Pixieset, Pic-Time, Zenfolio, Smugmug, Cloudspot, Pass, Shootproof, Zno, Pixellu and many more)

This not only allows you, the client, to gain familiarity utilizing the website, but allows you to download the images in addition. This would not be possible if the images were only posted on Instagram, Facebook etc.

Ability to download the high-resolution images is important, no matter which software is utilized for delivery. It means you are free to do anything you would like with them – print them, post on any social media platform, save to your device, etc – not simply repost or reshare the photographer’s social media post.

How many images are contained in a sneak peek?

This question was asked on the wedding photography subreddit not long ago, and the answers were quite varied! Some photographers reported sending 3 or 4 images. Others sent as many as 150! 

The average number of photos that you might receive in a sneak peak is between around 10 – 50 which I also know about anecdotally from my circle and online communities.

I provide a minimum of 20 images (that’s what will be contracted). At the upper end, if could be up to 40 or even more, but usually shakes out around 30 images in the preview. This is about the same for shorter or longer weddings.

understanding the team sneak peek or sneak preview wedding
Your photographer should provide a mix of photos in your sneak peek | Photography by Zoe Larkin Photography

Can we choose to have fewer images or unedited images and pay less or receive them faster?

Unfortunately not. Image selection is at the sole discretion of the business owner and lead photographer. If there are particular images that you would like to see in the sneak peek, this a) cannot be guaranteed and b) must be communicated during the planning phase, at least 1 week before the wedding. However, if a request is made on the wedding day, I will endeavor to accommodate it.

If you want fewer images to make things easier on us that’s fine, but will be the same price as if we had sole determination of the number of images.

Unedited photos are never released to be available to clients. A full article dedicated to why that’s the case is linked below.

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Essentially, the sneak peek, like many of our offerings are productized services. It’s not something where we work to a unique brief or parameters per each client’s request. The sneak peek is a yes/no binary and not usually something that can be customized, whether by choice of images, number of images, speed of delivery or any other aspects.

However, if you have a specific request you can ask and especially during weeks that happen to be less busy, may be able to help. What we love is letting us do what we do best and ensuring you ask any questions first <3 All of these resources exist to help to figure out what works for your preferences and priorities.

Why can we not add on a sneak peek after the wedding?

Our editing process is the result of years of hard work and finding the right team to edit and retouch our client work. It’s something that needs to fit into my busy schedule of shooting a high volume of weddings, running a sustainable business and also finding time to step away from my desk (rarely).

You can read more about our editing process here.

Due to how tight and difficult my schedule is, the process of getting catalogs of folders prepped and ready for the two sets of editing teams sometimes has to happen immediately I come home from your wedding (or receive it from your associate photographer, which takes extra time).

Once the catalogs have been created and exported, I can’t make more time to redo them reflecting the images I’ve chosen for your sneak peek (so that these are in your final gallery).

Therefore, to cut to the chase, you should let me know during the planning stage if you’d like one – there is a place on your Photography Planning Document for you to read this very article and if you want one, it will be added to your contract package.

If you changed your mind and, after the wedding, are interested in getting one, please let me know as soon as possible. I’ll let you know if it’s possible, for example if I haven’t been able to send off your wedding to the editing team yet. This will be invoiced separately.

What kinds of photos are usually in a sneak peek?

A key component of the sneak is to ensure that there’s a wide variety of shots from different parts of the wedding day. These could be getting ready, candids, family formals, reception and details shots – not solely photos of the couple!

One thing I tend to avoid is showcasing too many of one particular guest or side of the family. Yes, oftentimes there’s one person who likes to get in front of the camera and creates some great moments!

But sometimes there’s no way of knowing who the most important people are to you – so I don’t tend to provide sneak-peek shots of ‘random’ guests where I don’t know the closeness of the relationship. I try to include parent shots from both sides (if applicable), which is more doable with longer coverage with more emphasis on candids.

Sneak peeks in wedding photography – what is it exactly? | Photography by Zoe Larkin Photography

Is a sneak peek the same as an Instagram post?

Not at all! A sneak peek is a separate gallery which is set up especially for your wedding photos. The software is only available to photographers. From the gallery software, you can view your images in a visually pleasing way and download full-resolution versions.

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Instagram posts are native to that platform and the files cannot be downloaded or reuploaded, except to repost to your own Instagram account using a free Instagram repost app. The same goes for any social media platform.

A typical Instagram carousel post contains up to 10 photos on a carousel post, but my sneak peeks frequently number over 20 edited shots.

Also an Instagram post might end up being a reel or a story, which is not a type of content that you can ‘use’ for anything except just to view it within the Instagram app or perhaps download the video with a third-party app. A sneak peek gallery allows you to download, print, distribute and view all the files in high resolution.

What can you do with a sneak peek?

Here are some of the things people do with their sneak peek images:

  • Post them on Instagram
  • Present them at a reception event (providing it takes place at least a week after your wedding)
  • Create an announcement email
  • Print thank-you cards or email
  • Design a video slideshow
  • Share the sneak peek gallery with friends and family so they can share in the excitement
  • Save them to your device so you can look at them anytime! Set as your screensaver, profile pic on socials, and more…

What are the benefits of a sneak peek?

A sneak peek has a few different benefits for both the client and photographer. Here’s a few of them:

  • Sneak peek images are often used for wedding announcements (‘we eloped!’) and/ or thank you cards or emails. I deliver sneaks in full, print resolution to make this easy!
  • It introduces the client to the gallery software where the full gallery will be hosted. You’ll be able to navigate around it easily, 
  • The couple can put their mind at ease, knowing the photographer captured beautiful images. It’s easier to wait the weeks/months it takes for final delivery, knowing that you are thrilled with the small sampler. 
  • The hope is that these images will get shared and enjoyed while the wedding is still fresh. Clients will circulate them on social media and tag the photographer, thus allowing the photographer to get exposure to a new audience.
  • Any major, unexpected issues with the editing can be addressed. If your photographer suddenly changed their style from light and airy to dark and moody on your gallery, now’s the time to speak up!

It’s a good idea to get a sneak peek because you may end up feeling weirdly anxious if you don’t get at least a glimpse of the wedding photos! 

Many couples think they’ll be fine waiting. Once the flurry of the day is over, they realize they can’t contain their excitement. 

Our delivery time is up to 6 weeks, which is a long time to wait when you’re dying to see your wedding photos and relive the day!

can you see your wedding photos immediately after the wedding?
Several weeks or months is a long time to wait to see your wedding memories! | Photography by Zoe Larkin Photography

Do you always get a sneak peek?

It’s best to check with your photographer because everyone works differently. The most common options are:

  1. Sneaks are provided and are complimentary 
  2. Sneaks are not provided and you’ll see your images only on Instagram or with your final delivery 
  3. Sneaks are provided by advance request, and for an additional fee

If you’re here because you’re prospective clients of Zoe Larkin Photography, here’s how it works with me! 

I do charge a small fee if clients would like sneak previews. This is no surprise to anyone who’s decided to use my services as this is explained prior to onboarding, during the sales consultation. 

The reason for this is that putting together a sneak peek is time-consuming. 

I had countless experiences of spending hours creating sneaks for clients –  sometimes when totally frazzled from shooting their weddings – only for the email never to be opened. 

Maybe they’re on honeymoon, or too busy, or just not in the mood to think about wedding stuff so soon after it’s all over. 

Therefore, the addition of a fee is a way of making sure a sneak peek is something the client values, and is going to be worth my valuable time as a solo business owner to lovingly create. 

how do wedding photographers put together a sneak peek of wedding photos
Sneak peeks take time to put together in the busy times immediately post-wedding | Photography by Zoe Larkin Photography

How is a sneak peek put together?

First, we have to ingest and sort all the image files.

Next, we pick out or ‘star’ some favorite ones, making sure to select a representative sample from the whole day (that also highlights other vendors’ work and can be shared via social media. 

Then, import into Lightroom and edit the images. I offer fully-edited images for the sneak peek, which means not only global adjustments (Lightroom) but also some retouching/ fine-image editing (Photoshop).

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As our intensive Photoshop work is outsourced to a professional retoucher, the only Photoshopping that’s done is what I can do myself. Therefore, only images I can edit myself are part of your sneak peek. You won’t find retouched images of a crowded City Hall. These however you can expect to find in your final gallery, delivered after a maximum of 6 weeks.

After the edited images are ready and look consistent, they’ll need to be exported and loaded up into the newly-created client gallery that I mentioned above.  

Certain options are turned off there (such as the download PIN, ability to favorite, preset lists, and the store). You’ll want those options only when you have the full collection. 

Once everything looks good, it can finally be shared with the client! It’s lovely and very gratifying to hear a word or two from you that you’re happy with the images you’re seeing! 

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What if we have opted for privacy around our wedding images? Does that change anything?

If you have paid the privacy fee, or do not wish to be tagged on Instagram, it’s highly recommended to purchase the sneak peek.

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This is because the only images that couples see when they have not opted for the sneak peek is the Instagram post that’s typically posted a few days or week or so after the wedding.

If there is no Instagram post due to privacy (or you are not tagged), you will not see your images until a maximum of 6 weeks past your wedding date.

As that’s a super long time to wait to see a single photo, it’s highly recommended to request a sneak peek both to set your mind at ease and to revel in the excitement!

To sum up 

I hope that was helpful to get some insight into the new lingo of the ‘sneak peek’ or ‘sneak preview’. 

I’ve also explained why it’s necessary for me to charge extra for this, which goes along with our a la carte pricing structure where you only pay for what you actually want. 

A sneak peek is a great way of setting your mind at ease – and getting your hands on your wedding photos for sharing and announcement purposes. 

It’s definitely a worthwhile add-on if budget allows, especially as it’ll be a long while usually before you’ll see the final gallery delivery that you’ll be able to enjoy for the rest of your lives. 

if you have heard the team 'sneak peek' thrown about by wedding photographers, but you've no idea what that means, you're not alone! In this blog post, I help you understand what a sneak peek is,, why you'd want one, whether it costs extra and what you can expect from your sneak peek or sneak preview of your wedding photos.
Breaking down what a sneak peek is – from a wedding photographer’s perspective

Zoe Larkin

I’m Zoe, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco! My style is candid, capturing authentic moments for my couples all over the Bay Area and Northern California. Creating content is my passion! Follow along the blog and Insta!

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What is a sneak peek in wedding photography?

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