Behind The Scenes – How Your Wedding Photos Are Edited

For some reason there’s some big aura of mystery and myth around the editing of wedding photos, so I thought I’d do a little post on what is involved when I edit a wedding.

Let’s start right from the wedding day, so you can see the whole process from start to finish.

When I photograph a wedding, I have 2 memory cards in each of my cameras. Both record raw files simultaneously, so that if one card fails, I still have a second one in the camera to make sure that a shot is not missed. What is a raw file, you might ask? A raw file a special type of file, a bit like a negative in film days, that contains all sorts of information about the image. Unlike a jpeg, which is what most consumer cameras and mobile phones save images as, a raw file contains more information allowing you much more control and more options in the post processing stages. When I get home from a wedding I’ll copy the files over to my work computer and also an external hard drive. Once copied, the memory card and the hard drive are stored away as a backup.

I’ll start editing by going through every single image and rating it. I’ll look at each image and give it a rating out of 5. Images where eyes are closed, it’s not quite in focus or it’s too bright or too dark will get taken out now. Every image that gets three stars or higher will make it to round two, where I’ll then look at each one in more detail and decide if it’s good enough for the final selection. I don’t limit myself to specific number of images for each wedding, so you don’t need to worry that you’re going to miss out on any good pictures. Even if it says 200 images in the contract, I don’t pick 200 and then stop there. If there are more than 200 beautiful images, then you’ll get more.

So now that I’ve selected the best images and taken out the unusable ones, I’ll start to optimize the images.

I do 90% of my editing in one program, called Adobe Lightroom, which as the name suggests, is like a digital equivalent of an old film photography darkroom. I pay a monthly subscription for this service so I that have all of the latest updates. Within Lightroom I can make a lot of adjustments to an image, as long as it is a raw file.

Firstly I’ll go ahead and correct things such as “lens distortion” where the curve of the lens stretches the edges of image. After I’ve done some minor corrections, I’ll go ahead an apply one of my many presets, some of which I have purchased, and some of which I have developed myself. A “preset” is essentially a shortcut button that lets you change multiple aspects of an image at once in order to achieve a certain desired look. It might change the brightness or contrast levels of an image, it might make the image warmer or cooler or it might convert it to black and white. Unfortunately it’s never just as simple as clicking on a preset. There’ll still be some more tweaks that need doing before the image is how I want it, including boosting colours, brightening or smoothing skin, straightening or cropping. Occasionally I may also need to remove the odd object from the background if I think it’s too distracting, which I may be able to do in Lightroom if it’s something minor or I’ll take over to Photoshop if it’s something more complicated. I do try not to do too much altering or removing of objects, and I won’t photoshop a whole load of clutter out of a room if that’s how it looked. My goal is to tell an authentic story, but as in the example below of the beautiful Michelle getting ready, removing the TV from behind her made the image so much more striking. But I will never photoshop you to look thinner/taller/blonde instead of brunette so please don’t even ask. You’re gorgeous just as you are!

Here you can see a few before and after images from Michelle and Wayne’s incredible igloo wedding, with the original raw files on the left and the final images on the right.

screen shot of a before and after photo of a bride getting readyscreenshot of a before and after photo of a darker and lighter imagebefore and after shot of edited wedding portrait

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