wedding in church, bride walking down stairs

Wedding Photography! You can Photoshop that, right?

Some of the most mysterious and unimaginable things photographers do is after the wedding day image post processing fest. Their are many ways to shoot and process wedding day photos, some more time consuming than others, but the first step is copying the cards from the cameras to back up drives. Yes that’s plural. I prefer to do this as soon as I get home from a wedding for two reasons. The first is I really want to look at the results from the day and the second is to protect my clients images. After the images are copied from their cards, those cards are squirreled away as additional back up. After creating 3 back ups of the original files, it’s time to cull through the images and rate them. I use Adobe software to do this since I have had a very long and close relationship with this company and firmly believe they produce the best products. The culling stage is quite time consuming and usually reduces the image processing load by 1/2 to 2/3’s. So I go through and look for all of those things artists look for, composition, exposure, focus, subject issues like are everyones eyes open, and is this the best expression out of the 4 or 5 shots taken of this subject. Depending on the wedding this process can take many hours to do.

After culling I quickly choose which of the images should be processed first to post to social media for my couple so they can get a quick look as a few images from their day right away. These first images are quickly processed, watermarked and posted. Then comes the heavy lifting. Now some photographers prefer to use Adobe Lightroom for this task, but I have found it a bit too limiting for my style of image. Since like most professional photographers I shoot raw files, these files are not images yet. They require special processing to convert them from raw to the Jpeg file that’s delivered. I do use Adobe Lightroom for quick color correction work where there isn’t any particular artistic style I’m attempting to convey in the images, but I do most of the heavy lifting in Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, and Adobe Photoshop. One of the advantages to being an Adobe community Professional is that I get all the Adobe software for free (and have for many years) but the other is I also have an inside look at most of the beta software long before the public can purchase it and get to provide input and tease out the bugs. So having worked in Photoshop since 1981 and keeping these tools readily at hand is a great advantage for creating amazing images. I tell my couples, it doesn’t matter at all what the camera see’s, the art starts in image processing! That’s more true than my brides and grooms can grasp if their only exposure to photography is the Jpeg images they got from their smart phones or compact cameras and the image processing is no more than filters applied by another app.

Now the fun starts! This is where all of the prep and lighting and artistic vision come together to create art for my couples. I identify those images that will receive signature edits. These are special for my couples that purchased black label packages, and really produce an artistic rendition of an image based on what I have learned about my couples in the months leading up to the wedding. I show before and after images to couples when we first meet to show them what they can expect and in every case the reactions go from wow to complete disbelief that the after image is ever even the same image I started with. Many photographers charge for extensive editing in Photoshop, because it can be very time-consuming. I do as well, but include it in many of my package prices. This includes any “non-permanent” blemishes and photo distractions. These days the issue of guests photographing with their cell phones comes up in many wedding day images. Sometimes I take them out (the phones not the guests) and sometimes I leave them as a record of the times, depending on the image and the potential distraction from the main subject of the image.


So here’s an example of the time consuming post processing things that happen between the time the images are copied to their specific back ups and when the images are ready to be delivered.   One of the craziest things I noticed when delivering heavily edited images to couples is that they loved the images and preferred larger prints, but when they weren’t told the images were edited, they didn’t even notice!  That was a revelation!

Although I have been told “I must have a really good camera” because I take such good pictures, I think most people anyway just don’t have any concept of what image editing can and does do beyond those pesky Instagram filters. Since I’ve spent many years training retouchers for some national brands like Victoria’s Secret, and Max Factor, image retouching is and has been a normal part

Tara & Preston - Chicago Engagement Before retouchingThis is the same image after editing.  As you can see the difference is dramatic.













As you can see now this is a very significant change, but seeing it beforehand requires artistic vision and a deep understanding of the limitations of both cameras and lighting as well as what’s best to be done beforehand and in post processing to get the best results.

So when your photographer tells you it’s going to take a couple weeks before you see your images, please understand that what’s being done is more than likely much more than just making prints or posting them to your online gallery.