December 9, 2008
Last week I received an email from a bride who was feeling a little uneasy about the turn around time on her wedding photos. She had been in contact with her photographer but wanted to gain a little more perspective on the matter and asked me if I could help (she had wanted to hire me originally, but I was already booked.) She said that she loved her enagagement photos and even the preview photos that she had seen from her photographer, yet something was still bothering her to make her feel uneasy about the remaining images she hadn't seen yet. I don't feel comfortable sharing her email since it contains sensitive personal information, but she did mention that she had a friend who attended the wedding, took pictures, and put them online the next day- which added to her confusion as to why the remaining images from her professional photographer would take so long. I'm sharing my response here in hopes that it can help other brides understand some of the behind-the-scenes workings of a wedding photographer. (photos from some of my recent weddings, just for fun)
Here was my response...
"It sounds like it will be worth the wait! If you absolutely loved what your photographer did for your engagement photos, which are merely a fraction of what you'll receive on the wedding day, than I'm sure you'll love your wedding photos too!! Your friend's photos look great and I can see why he was able to turn them around quickly- because there were so few (44?) and he probably doesn't have a bunch of other weddings and holiday orders to process right now!
I know that when I photograph a wedding, I take somewhere in the area of 2500-4000 photos which I end up narrowing down to around 800 (I take lots of duplicates in an attempt to get the absolute perfect moment)!! That's a LOT to go through!! It takes time to find just the right ones, and then after I've found all the right ones, to go through and make sure all the skin tones look good, that all of the exposures are great, and that the colors and contrast are just right. It's pretty easy to whip out 100 photos or less in a day when there weren't many to begin with and they were all taken in similar lighting conditions, but weddings often include a much larger variety of lighting conditions, exposure challenges, and color balancing that needs to happen for them to look good. There are so many times when I long to be shooting film again so that I could just drop the film off at the lab and be done with it!! Now, as digital photographers, we have become the lab, and because we've become the lab, we've also become increasingly perfectionistic about our work and every single image! Just yesterday, I spent an hour and forty minutes to produce 18 images as a "quick preview" for a bride & groom. Can you imagine the time it takes to do 180? 1800?? I know that I spend way more time on my digital images than I ever did with film- but I also think that the quality of my work reflects that extra time versus just letting a machine do all the corrections for me.
I feel like sometimes it's hard to make a promise for a certain deadline, because it means I have to limit my creative process just to be finished by a certain time, rather than by when I feel like everything is the way I would want it to be. And on a personal note, every time I set a deadline, I then run into some kind of problem- as if fate is just mocking me for setting deadlines in the first place. It's quite ironic actually because it happens practically EVERY time, without fail, even if I try to compensate by giving a longer timeline. When things go wrong, all I can do is try to be as open and forthright as possible about what's happening and what I'm doing to remedy the situation. It would be nice if things always worked smoothly, the way we expect them to, but fate loves to make a fool of expectations.
It's a great sign that your photographer has been open with you about her process and how much she needs to accomplish before she can start working on your images. It definitely sounds like the pressure of the holidays, maybe some pressure from parents, paired with some unpleasant wedding day experiences have wreaked havoc on your emotions about the final outcome. After my wedding day, I know I was on pins and needles until I saw all of my wedding photos- and I didn't really even have anything go wrong!! There were so many what-ifs running around in my head - like, did they get this or that? Did I look OK? Did everything turn out? What could possibly be taking so long? Is there something I don't know about? And honestly- my anxiety just continued to grow until I was able to see everything!! Once I saw everything, I felt so much better and I realized that a lot of the anxieties I had were merely related to other things I was holding onto that weren't necessarily related to the photos themselves- most of it was just other stuff rattling around in my head and I wasn't really able to crystalize that until I saw that everything was OK with the photos.
So- I TOTALLY understand what you're going through and as maddening as it seems right now, it's actually a very common feeling which will likely dissipate once you get to see all of your photos. I think you did a great thing by talking to an objective third party about it because it can be disturbing to just let all of those thoughts fester without getting them out somewhere, and it's obvious that you care about your photographer and want to give her the benefit of the doubt! I wish all brides were as understanding as you!"
Are you ready for some post-wedding humor?? I just love this video because this is TOTALLY how I felt after my wedding.... (for the record - I don't think you represent any of these brides, but I think I was all of them wrapped up into one!!!)
Disclaimer: all photographers are different. We all have different processes, which is why we can't assume that everyone will have the same turn around time, or that there's even a "standard" turn around time. Some photographers put their proofs up as unfinished images, some finish all of their images first. Obviously unfinished images are much quicker and easier to get online than hundreds of images that have been tweaked and worked on. Some photographers give their clients 200 images while others give clients 1200 images. Some photographers blog a few images right after the wedding, some blog everything way after the clients have already seen their images (me!) Some photographers have a staff of employees who do all the work for them, while others operate as artisans- crafting each image from start to finish. Some photographers whip through their post production, while others take time on each image. Some photographers give unfinished digital images on disc, some give finished images on disc. Some photographers do all of their own album designs, some hire someone else to do it for them. No photographer is right or wrong, they just have different methods of creating their work, and whatever that process is, we should honor the process that goes into giving us the results we want and have paid for. However, if you're REALLY anxious, please talk to your photographer directly in order to get a sense of where they are in the overall process. It's better to have open communication than to let the mind wander in anxiety!
It's a delicate balance- trying to be an artist and a business person at the same time. The artist mentally is quite obsessive and perfectionistic. The artist hates being bothered in the middle of being intensely focused because it can ruin a creative streak. The artist wants to simply shut out the world around her so that she can enjoy every little creation as it's being made. The artist works on something until its done, not until the timer has run out. The artist has a lot of pride in her work and would be horrified if it were to be out there unfinished. Yet, we also have to be business people. We have to meet our clients needs and keep them happy, even if it doesn't always give us the freedom to do what makes us happy. We have to set deadlines and meet them no matter what happens or else we lose our client's trust. We have to answer emails and return phone calls in a timely manner so that our clients feel valued and respected. As a business person, we WANT to do all of these things because we care about our clients, and because without our clients support, we wouldn't be able to do what we do!! We love our clients and we want to give them the best of everything. It's just a delicate line we must walk every day, always trying to stay in balance- and sometimes we fall down, but we pick ourselves back up in the hopes that it is our accomplishments, not our failures, which will be the ultimate measure of our success.
Brides, if you have any more questions about wedding photography, please feel free to post them in the comments (you'll be donating food to my local food bank with each post!) Photographers, feel free to add your own thoughts and responses. I'd like this to be an open and friendly conversation about the topic!
What is Post-Production? Why would I want processed images?
Should I get digital negatives from my photographer?
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