This question gets asked a lot, and it is a good question! If you hired a professional photographer, chances are they are earning most of or all of their money from their photography business. Like any business, there are things that must get done daily, weekly, monthly and annually to keep that business running smoothly and keep the clients coming back.
If a photographer only had one wedding, “your wedding” to look after, reasonably it should only take a week or two or maybe less to get your images back to you. In most instances, this would not be the norm for any photographer. Besides focusing on your beautiful wedding, they also have to focus on their business as well as several other clients they are producing photographs and products for.
If you hire a reputable photographer at your wedding, the ceremony can be a bit easy. The best way to have your wedding photographer deliver in good time is to have a signed contract. The contract will generally include the time that should be taken to prepare and provide you with the wedding photos. Many photographers would propose to have a period of 6 – 8 weeks, others request for more time so that they can prepare a complete album.
The couples are advised to be somehow patient because the photographer may be working under a tight schedule. If they are under pressure to deliver almost immediately, the quality of the photos may not be the best. But it is always fair as a photographer to produce them as soon as they are done. This will make the clients build confidence in you, and they usually refer your services to their friends’ in-case they wish to get married. To make delivery quite an easy task, the photographer should consider doing the following.
I am sure you have all heard this from your photographer. “you will get your images back after I edit them.” It’s a phrase you hear all the time, and you will nod your head, but do you really know what it means? The extent of knowledge most people have of editing is throwing an instagram filter on one of their cell phone pics. While I guess you could call this an edit, it’s not what your photographer will be doing to your photos (and if they are you should run in the other direction).
Your photographer should be able to advise when you are likely to get your photos, and they should also be able to advise before you book them, experienced photographers will know based on past experiences and the time f year your wedding is, if it is peak season then they will also be capturing lots of weddings meaning they are away from the computer for the day.
The time it takes to get your wedding photos will vary depending on the photographer, their schedule and also how many photos were taken on the day, if they were there all day from the moment you got ready all the way through to that first dance at 8 pm, then they will have a lot of photos to edit and go through.
Typically it can average anywhere between 2-6 weeks. Of course, photographers will try and get your photos to you as soon as possible, and many will send some sneak peek photos of a selection that have been edited for you to view. However, for the full album, it can take some time, but it is important that what they are doing does take time, and it is usually worth the wait.
Of course, the excitement of seeing your beautiful wedding photos makes us impatient and question what the hell we are waiting for. We have an in-depth article and wedding photography infographic that shows what a photographer does here, and the fact is wedding photographers spend more time editing photos then they do capture them! In summary, what you are waiting for is your photographer to go 100’s or maybe over a thousand photos binning those test shots, those awful shots; those shots where people have their eyes closed. Then there is the editing, cropping photos, adjusting the colour balance and creating that finished style you hired them for. There is a lot more work to be done once the photos are captured.
If you are having an album created too then, this will take additional time too, once the photos have been edited they then need to be ordered and edited down to fit into an album, telling a story of your day and highlighting key moments and have the best selection of photos in there, once done it then needs to be sent away for printing too.
How long you wait will depend on your specific pro and a few other factors, like how many photos they’re dealing with, how large their staff is and whether or not they outsource their editing.
If editing is outsourced and done right, the average turnaround could be four weeks for the full gallery—may be less if the photographer has a full staff. But some photographers prefer to handle everything themselves, which can take a bit more time.
See? Your shooter isn’t trying to torture you—promise! Good photographers want you to have the best-finished product possible. I’ve heard of [couples] getting photos back too quickly when the editing isn’t fully done.
And it’s not just the meticulous editing that takes time—the process of actually uploading the images can take up to several days, depending on the quality of the photos and your pro’s editing software. And remember, yours likely isn’t the only album they’re working hard to turn around, especially if your “I dos” are in peak wedding season. From beginning to end, each wedding takes me about 30 working hours to get through on the back end. Multiply that by the number of weddings per year, and you’ve got a ton of work on your hands.
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Stage one of the editing process is the culling of unwanted images. This can sometimes be a difficult decision. A photographer may take several images of the same poses or slight variations to get the best angle, focus etc. Sometimes they are similar and all equally as good, so photographers have to decide on the best image out of the bunch. Of course, it is easy to cull those out of focus or shots with funny faces or closed eyes, remember that not every image of you will be a masterpiece, that shutter snaps quick and can catch you mid-blink or mid-speech.
Stage two is adjusting the RAW files to produce the best colour, contrast, sharpness and exposure. Most (but not all ) photographers shoot in RAW to maximize their ability to create an edit that matches their vision. What is a RAW file? A RAW file is a collection of unprocessed data.
This means the file has not been altered, compressed, or manipulated in any way by the camera or computer. Most people, when using a camera, will shoot in jpeg mode and the camera compresses the file size and adds colour and contrast, so it generally looks great right out of the camera. This does not happen with a RAW file, and all the data is left intact so that we can manipulate it to its full potential later. You need photo processing software (such as Photoshop or Lightroom) to be able to do this. Once your photographer has chosen the images, they want to edit and put them through the RAW conversion process, and the next step is to style your images.
Stage three, adding the magic. Every photographer eventually develops a certain style of shooting and post-processing. It’s what draws you to their work. Consistency in editing is usually the photographers calling card and everyone has a slightly different take on it. I personally use Photoshop for all of my editing purposes. Some photographers deem this a longer process and more difficult than using a program like a lightroom, but I like it because everything is in one place and I don’t have to switch back and forth between programs. Lightroom cannot do certain tasks that can be done in Photoshop.
My edits are usually “clean” meaning they are not too far of a stretch from what comes out of the camera. I like my images to be a little higher contrast and polished. I take care to touch up skin and under-eye circles, soften wrinkles etc. These types of edits are usually done on portrait close-ups, and they take longer. Sometimes unwanted objects will need to be removed from a shot also.
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Get a Sense of Timing on the Front End
Before you hire a photographer (or any wedding vendor for that matter), hop on the phone or meet in person to ask them a bunch of questions, including what their usual turnaround time is. This will ensure there are (hopefully) no surprises down the line. Most important of all is to make sure it’s mentioned in your contract (aka please read through it!). If there’s no line specifying turnaround time, add it.
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Ask for a Little Preview
Many shooters are happy to send you a few finished images within a week of your wedding. “I always send my couples a sneak peek within the wedding week to hold them over until my blog comes out or they receive the full gallery,” D’Andrea says. “It’s a nice touch, and my couples love it.” You’ll be so psyched to see a preview of what’s to come and even share them on social (but ask your photographer before posting—that could be a point in your contract as well).
How Long Is Too Long?
If it’s been a week since your wedding and you haven’t gotten anything, that’s normal. But if the turnaround date in your contract has flown by without a peep from your photographer, that’s when you know it’s time to speak up. “Be proactive in asking the photographer about the deliverables and timing,” D’Andrea says. “I wouldn’t necessarily be worried if your photographer gets back to you and communicates clearly that the photos will be ready by X date, but if that day passes, it’s time to take action.” Hopefully, this won’t happen to you, but if you do have issues, a signed contract will be a lifesaver.
How Long is reasonable to expect before I get my images back?
I often see posts on Facebook from brides in wedding groups saying something like this, “It’s been eight months, and I still have not received my wedding photos, is this normal?” I am going to go out on a limb here and say no, it is not. There is no good reason for your photos to take that long unless your photographer has run into some serious health or other issues that prevent them from working. A reasonable time frame to expect your photos back is anywhere from 1 week to 3 months. It will often take longer to get your pics back during the high season (May to October), but your photographer should be in contact with you and have no issues answering your questions about deadlines. I know my busiest time is always August to October. I also shoot families and mini sessions in the fall, so I am often furiously editing like a mad woman! Bottom line, communication is key, so if your photographer is dodging your questions or not returning your emails, there may be cause for concern. However, it is never good to harass your photographer daily either asking when your pics will be done if they have communicated with you about it.
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Hours spent behind the computer perfecting your images and getting them to you is a long process, remember that most of the work comes after your wedding day and not the day of. We know it’s hard to wait for those wedding images to be delivered to you, you want to reminisce about the fun and beauty of the day, but like many things in life, good things come to those who wait and having those memories perfect is worth it.