Do wedding photographers edit all photos?

When you hire a wedding photographer you are not just hiring them to provide a service, yes they will be there all day taking photos, however for a wedding photographer that is just a small part of the job and what you are paying for. Once the day is over, your photographer will go away and edit your photos, over the course of the day they will have taken hundreds if not thousands of photos.


Do you really want your photographer just to go and print all these photos off and give them to you? Wedding photographers are not hiding anything from you; however, what they are doing is putting together a beautiful story.


If you go and watch a film you know it has been edited, on DVD's you can watch different ending sometimes and you can also see deleted scenes, some of the scenes are not needed for the film or the storyline when it comes to an end there are different scenes, however, there may be only one ending that truly reflects the story and that is what is used.


Again the same can be said to a book, it would be like asking a photographer to hand over a memory card, USB, or DVD of raw images is akin to asking an author to present you with their book in manuscript format, unedited, unformatted, and including the paragraphs and chapters that didn't make the cut.


As a photographer when I'm out shooting, because I've been shooting and editing for years, and I know my camera's capabilities, I know how to push my camera in different lighting situations where I can either lift details out of shadows or bring down bright sections. So often I am shooting for how I see I will edit the photo later – and why I don't like showing the back of my camera screen while shooting on the fly, because often it doesn't look great on the screen, but I know once it's been edited, it will look ah-mazing!


A photographer needs to know their camera equipment inside out, and that only comes from years of shooting and editing. Yep I know I said that in the last paragraph, but it is worth repeating because it is so important not for you guys I know, but Nikon cameras (which I shoot with) shoot differently to Canon cameras. Nikon's favour shadows whereas Canon's favour highlights – all this techno-babble basically means, you shoot differently depending on which brand of camera you use. Lenses also play a huge role, but I don't want to go giving you a photography lesson because that's what you hired me for :).


Just because a photographer can't capture a great photo in the camera, does not mean they aren't a professional by any means. Even though technology has come along way in terms of digital cameras, digital cameras do have some inadequacies, and they all differ depending on which camera body and lenses you are using. Most professional photographers would be using professional-grade camera equipment such as a DSLR, compared with the average person would be using a consumer-level camera like a point and shoot. A general rule is, the more expensive the camera and lens, the better the quality the camera and lens, and the better results you will get. That is true, but so long as you know how to use the equipment, right! Experience, skill and talent make up for the most part of being a good photographer, and not just the gear!.


The reason photographers edit photos, is because basically, the image that comes straight out of the camera isn't that great when you technically break it down. Especially photographing weddings where things change so quickly, you can't always get your exposure exactly spot on (lightness & darkness of image) when you are moving indoors and outdoors, between bright sun then move to the shade. This means you will have to inevitably do some minor tweaking or editing to the images once you load them on to the computer.


In a perfect world, a photographer and their client have the perfect weather conditions, a stylist and hair/makeup artist on hand, and all the time in the world to create a fabulous image.  


But we don't live in a perfect world. Let's say the photographer is taking pictures at a wedding. She gets to the wedding only to be advised by the minister that NO FLASH IS PERMITTED IN THE CHURCH. Fair enough - a flash popping is great for the red carpet but distracts from a religious ceremony. And the bride has chosen a lovely, old church for her wedding. Lovely, old churches are lovely and old but as is often the case - they are also quite dark. "But I can see just fine!" you think. Yes, so can I - but human eyes are more sensitive to light whereas even a top of the line, professional cameras are not. To a camera, it's dark.


The good news is that professional cameras are designed to handle low light situations, but never as well as when there is good light. Your photographer has to make several decisions with regard to their camera settings to capture the moment. Keep the shutter open for a longer time? More light comes in, but the chances of a blurry picture go up. Crank up the sensitivity of the camera's sensor? More light comes in, but weird stuff called digital noise starts to happen. Open wide the camera's aperture? More light comes in, but the depth of field gets shallow and things - and people - move out of focus.


So the photographer takes the shot and notes in her head that yes, it won't be in the best shape it can be in, but she will correct some of it in "editing."


Let's face it, and not every photo is going to come out perfectly. A photographer will take many, many photos during your session—hundreds of them in total. From there, she will cull the very best, the ones that are most flattering to you and have the most potential to be works of art. And then she will perfect them, editing them until they are the best they can be, balanced and natural. These edited photos will show the best possible for you, which is what you want out of your pictures, right? Wading through hundreds of unedited, unused photos, sometimes dozens of the same pose with only minute differences there is nothing to be gained from this when your professional photographer will hand you the very best shots, edited to the best possible standard.


The photos that aren't chosen to be edited were left behind for a reason. No one wants to think of themselves as unphotogenic, but sometimes a shot will be plain unflattering, or from a bad angle, or will unintentionally highlight flaws. No matter how much a customer assures a photographer that they will not be upset by the raw, unedited stack of hundreds of photos, this invariably turns out to be the case. The customer sees themselves portrayed in unflattering ways in these unused photos and becomes upset. They're left feeling doubtful about their photographer's abilities. If the photos are of a particularly momentous occasion, like commemorating an engagement or the birth of a child, the emotions attached to these photos can be very high. And no one wants to see a newly engaged woman burst into tears when she sees her photos for the first time!



You have looked through your proofs, and you see an image that you think is the. Greatest. Picture. Of. Your. Child. Ever! And one that you want to have printed in a 16 x 20 print to be framed and gazed at - adoringly - front and centre in our family room.


Who wouldn't want that? Okay, depending on their age, maybe the child, but too bad - you're the one paying for it.


You could take the edited image and print that. And sometimes that is just fine. But with many pictures, and especially with formal portraits, some retouching enhances the image.


Retouching a photograph involves editing and can require much more work, such as:


It is brightening the eyes of the subject.


Fixing discoloured or damaged teeth in a smile. Minimising acne or scars.


"Swapping out" a feature from another picture, such as when everyone in the group has their eyes open except for Uncle Harry.


Softening the bags under eyes and wrinkles.


Enhancing face shapes, waistlines, upper arms, and other body parts.


Removing distractions, such as the gum wrapper someone carelessly dropped in front of the bride or that power line in the background.

So why would I have the photographer do the printing for me?

Honestly, it rarely makes a big difference for smaller prints - those less than 5x7 - to have to do retouching and preparation. That is why I provide for weddings the edited digital images for small prints. This allows my customer to share images with friends and family - maybe they will never be printed, but at least everyone gets the chance to view them without breaking the bank of the customer.


But when it comes to larger prints or prints that may be displayed, a professional photographer does more than send them out for printing. To take a great image and make it into a great print, a photographer:


  • Retouches the image, not only for people in the picture but the surroundings as well.  
  • Properly crops the picture, if needed. Have you ever ordered a 5x7 from Sams Club and it comes back missing half a face? The reason is that professional cameras take a picture at a 2:3 ratio. So when you see your image, nothing will be cropped out if you print it at a size of 4x6, 8x12, 12x18, etc. Unfortunately, frame manufacturers tend to sell frames at sizes such as 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, or 16x20. This means that some of the images have to be cropped. A photographer will see if the image can be cropped without losing the qualities that make it a good composition and be able to show you what it will look like before you commit to buying the print.
  • Sizes the image based upon the dimensions chosen. The quality of a print is determined by the number of pixels per inch (ppi) going to the printer. For social media like Facebook, 72 ppi is just fine. For a larger print, at least 300 ppi is needed. Let's say you want a professional headshot for your portfolio at 8x10. The photographer must take the original image and ensure its dimensions are reduced not by inches, but by pixels - in this case, 2400x3000 - to produce a quality image.
  • Sharpens the image for the printer depending on the surface on which the image will be printed. An image sharpened for printing on photographic paper may look too "crunchy" if printed on metal. Likewise, an image printed on wood may need more sharpening.
  • Works with professional colour labs. If you are ordering a large canvas gallery wrap that may cost in excess of $500, this is a job properly handled by a company that is known for its quality product and attention to detail. In addition, a professional photographer will work with a lab to ensure the colour reproduction is true, whether that means calibrating their monitor or working with what are called ICC profiles provided by the lab.  
  • We have ideas. I am always looking for new and imaginative ways to display your images. Prints are great, but how about iPhone cases? Or USB drives? If we did a photoshoot for your sweet baby, why not a professionally printed "brag book" for Grandma to show off to her friends? Can you get a shower curtain made for your image? You bet!


We photographers do more than push a shutter - behind every image are hours of practice, expensive gear and software, attending conferences, long conversations with our colleagues, membership in professional guilds, etc. I put a lot of myself in the pictures I take - why wouldn't I want them to look their best for the people that will see them?


I hope this clears up any confusion for people. Got a question? It's free to ask - send me an email, and I will be glad to answer it.


Trust The Professional

If you still want to see all of the photos, ask yourself why. Is it possible there might be a really great shot hiding amongst all of those discards—something that you might be missing out on? Your photographer has carefully combed through all of the photographs and has just as carefully chosen the very best to be edited and presented to you for your album or framing. Trust that s/he has created these for you from the very best shots of your session together. S/he is just as interested as you are in having those photos be beautiful and memorable, highlighting the photographer's talent and hard work. Your photographer knows his art, and you chose him for a reason, trusting him to capture your image and your essence. Now trust him to complete his work, to find the true gems among the photos, and to make them shine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Any professional photographer will edit their photos. Although each will have a different style of editing, it's common practice in the photography industry. Photo editing allows photographers to enhance the image and stylize it in ways that would not be possible in-camera.

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 you see in your online gallery. That involves a few steps, broken down for you here.

The short and simple answer is ~100 per hour of shooting or roughly 800 photos for 8 hour wedding day coverage. As we explained, this figure is not some industry standard that all wedding photographers have to stick to.

Most professional photographers don't give out their unedited photos. ... The unedited photos are quite useless before they go through my process. I work very hard to keep all of my professional “products” visually consistent. Every photo shoot that comes through my editing lab gets the same quality treatment.

Editing your photos is not cheating. The simple fact is that all images need post production work using some form of photo editor, whether that is Photoshop, Lightroom or even a free photo editor like GIMP. ... The truth of the matter is that if you shoot in JPEG only, then your camera does the “photoshopping” for you.

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