The internet and digital photography mean that delivery of your wedding photographs will usually now include the electronic files and some form of an online gallery. Add to this Facebook and other social media, and there are a lot of options when it comes to displaying the photographs from your wedding day.
Despite the plethora of electronic presentation methods, couples are still keen to invest in the ‘hard copy’ display options of print – more specifically, wedding albums. I believe this is because, for all the benefits that come with digital imagery, you just can’t beat the impact and tactile qualities of a well designed and constructed traditional wedding album. Digital photographs can be quickly emailed or posted online, but how long will it take to get a printed wedding album?
From first seeing your images to holding the finished album in your hands usually takes around three months. This process has three main stages, detailed below. I don’t recommend rushing this process because it takes some time for you to get to know the images and for me to find the best sequence and flow to bring the story to life. Bearing in mind that your wedding album will become a family heirloom, it is important to spend that bit of extra time now to get it just right before committing your images to immortality.
Recently I heard of a couple who waited A YEAR for their wedding album to be ready! A whole year 365 days. Now that is just completely and utterly ridiculous.
On the flip side, we live in a digital, technological age where people expect instant results, and often clients are disappointed about having to wait a couple of months for their wedding album. I mean if you are shooting on digital the results should be instant right? WRONG!
I learnt photography back in the days of film. One would shoot off rolls of film, and unless you had a darkroom at home, the film would be delivered to a lab who would take care of everything. They would process the film and print a contact sheet for you. You would then make your selects, and the lab would print everything while fixing any colour or tonal issues. Easy peasy! It was quite a quick process, and there wasn’t too much post-production work for a photographer. Shooting on film did mean that your technical ability had to be spot on though!
Digital photography has changed the whole game! Digital pics are instant in a sense you can view them immediately there is a whole load of work that goes on behind the scenes from the shoot to the delivery of the album.
Your wedding day is over, you have been on your honeymoon band your dress is already stored away in the loft for unsafe keeping, the one thing left is those wedding photos that you are excited to get back, to relive your day and see moments you missed.
A common question that quickly follows the wedding day is an email to your photographer asking where your photos are and when will you get to see them. When a photographer attends your wedding and captures your day they are only just starting the job you are paying them for, the taking of the photos is just a small part of what it is they do, and because of that, there will be a wait till you get your photos while they are edited.
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Average Wait Time For Wedding Photos
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.
Why Do Wedding Photos Take So Long To Get Back?
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.
Stage 1. Selecting images for your album (4 weeks):
The first part of the album process is for couples to choose the images for their album. The time it takes to do this has ranged from 1 week to 6 months but is usually completed in around a month. An Image Selection gallery is created for every couple to enable them to choose their favourite images for their album. The Image Selection gallery has many features, the most useful of which is ‘Save Selection’. This means that you won’t have to make your final choices in one sitting and you won’t even have to sit down together for you both to choose your favourites, although you may well want to sit down together for the final decisions. You also don’t have to worry too much about getting your selection entirely right because you will be able to make changes after the initial design if required, see next stage.
There are a variety of wedding album styles available that you can discuss with your wedding photographer. It’s important to remember that the best albums are custom designed for each couple, and probably handmade. This means you will need a little patience when ordering your wedding album.
When we photographers get back from a wedding or any kind of shoot for that matter, we have to download all of the photos from the cards to the computer. From there we will back them up onto at least two other hard drives. I always keep a hard drive off-site in case of anything nasty happening. This whole process takes some time.
Shooting digitally means that there is no longer a direct expense every time we click the shutter, this means that we tend to shoot A LOT. Before we even start working on images, we have to go through hundreds or in some cases, thousands of images to get rid of all the nasty ones or the repeats. We have to cull all the extras and get the job down to a workable amount. This process takes a while and is a BIG part of the job.
The majority of professional photographers shoot in RAW. I am sure most people would have heard of jpegs, PDFS, etc., well, a RAW file is just another type of file. The advantage of shooting in this type of file is that they can store a lot more colour and tonal information than a jpeg. One needs special software to read these files. For a photographer to present these files to the ‘man on the street’, they need to be converted into jpegs.
During the whole conversion process, the photographer will go through all the images and adjust the colour, the tonal range, contrast, exposure and, if necessary, crop the images. Back in the days of film, these things would have been done by the lab. Most wedding photographers use Adobe Lightroom to do this, and this process is called “processing your images”. One can also convert images to black and white or add filters during this stage.
After processing the bulk of images, I will go in and retouch and tweak the images that I have selected for the album in Photoshop. If there is an absolutely marvellous pic of the bride, but she has an ugly double chin I will go in there and sort that out (because I can, and because I am a woman who wouldn’t want a photo of me with a double chin in my album!), I will also get rid of any pimples, and I will smooth out the skin. Digital photography is really unforgiving on the skin (you can just about see every pore in some cases). The film has a lovely softness to it which digital doesn’t.
Sometimes there will be ugly things in the images to get rid of or clone out (like telephone poles or toilet signs). It really depends on the image. Not all photographers retouch images, and the price of your photographer may vary hugely because of this. I know that when I choose a wedding photographer, I will want someone who edits and processes as well as they shoot. In saying that I strongly believe that photographers need to shoot well, so their images are about photography, not the editing.
Stage 2. Design and Approval (4 weeks):
The second part of album creation is for design, amendments and Approval. Every album is individually designed around the images selected and the general requirements of the couple. Design and client approval can be broken down into the following stages:
1. One to two week lead time for work to begin
2. One week for design time and proof to be uploaded for a couple to view
3. One week for a couple to approve the proof or request small changes
4. Sometimes a further week is required to make changes and provide new proofs
[Notes on several changes permitted – For albums under 50 images up to two rounds of 5 changes can be made free of charge, i.e. providing up to 10 changes over three proofs. For albums over 50 images up to two rounds of up to 10 changes can be made free of charge, i.e. providing up to 20 changes over three proofs. In practice, these allowances have never been exceeded so they are meant to encompass creating an album that you will be thrilled with. If however further changes or digital work is required it will be charged at the standard Design Rate which is currently £40 per hour]
When all of the images are ready Tash, and I design the album using our own layouts. I am not a photographer who has a set formula for every wedding I do and believe in making a unique album to suit every individual client.
Once the album is designed, it will then be sent off to the lab where it will be printed. Once it is printed, I go into the lab to prove the prints, and once that has happened the album is then bound. If the clients want their names embossed onto the album a metal stamp is made and the album is embossed. This is a process in itself. Once the album is collected from the lab, we will package it up all nicely, burn sticks, upload images to the web and finish off the job.
Stage 3. Album Construction and Transit (5 weeks):
Once the couple has approved, the final files are generated and uploaded to the album supplier. The album usually takes four weeks for construction which itself has around 50 stages from initial printing and binding through to finishing touches such as name embossment on the cover.
Once received back from my supplier, your album will be forwarded to you on a tracked postal service.
In between all of this I would be doing a million and one other things that it takes to run a business – like answering emails, invoicing, chatting to potential clients, working with current clients, working on branding, having meetings with next years couples, working on schedules, looking at figures, marketing, blogging and so on and so forth.
In an ideal world, a photographer would shoot a wedding on a Saturday, download and back up all the cards that night or the next day. The next week would be spent editing the wedding and designing the album so that it would all be done by the following Friday. The reality of the situation is that most wedding photographers shoot every weekend and sometimes they do more than one wedding a week. There are also other shoots that get slotted into the schedule, like engagement shoots, commercial work and portrait shoots, plus the normal business things to attend to during the week. We also need a day off every now and again! The result of all of this is that wedding photographers can often get very behind with their editing. Sometimes, if I have been shooting back-to-back weddings, I may have 3 or 4 weddings to edit before I even get to the one I have just shot. This really adds on a lot of time.
I always tell my clients that it will be about six weeks until their pics are blogged and three months until the album is ready. If I manage to get everything done before that everyone is happy, however, if I take longer than promised, everyone hates me! By over-exaggerating the time it takes to get a job out it means that if there are any errors along the way like a week where I just cannot get into the lab to proof prints or if there are prints that need to be redone, there is time to play with. I find this works for me.
BE PATIENT, and IT WILL BE WORTH THE WAIT
You have hired a fantastic wedding photographer, be patient, it will be worth the wait, and when you see your photos I am sure there will be smiles, joy, happiness, and even some happy tears as all those emotions come back as you relive the best day of your life.