How I Edit Photos and Which Ones Make the Final Cut
Segment 2 in My FAQ Series is how I approach editing, and what photos make the cut. If you missed it, check out the first post in the series “How Long Does It Take To Get Wedding Photos Back”.
It’s the evening, first dance is over, the party is started, and there you are huggin onto your new husband, happy as can be. Im packing up my bag to head out with about 3000 photos to sort through, and being the story telling process. Will you see them all? No; as you shouldnt.
Part of the magic of story telling, is highlighting the moments that define the day. Every good story has a beginning, a rising action, a climax, a falling action and resolution. Depending on your day, and the style/feel you have going on, that could look like this:
Beginning: Girl gets ready, guy gets ready.
Rising Action: First Look under the willow tree.
Climax: Ceremony, rings, kiss – YOU’RE MARRIED YO!
Falling Action: (sounds depressing but trust me): Family Photos, some down time where you can finally breathe..
Resolution: Two happy lovebirds escape into the night through a tunnel of guest holding mason jars full of blinking fireflies.
So when I get down to business I don’t want to tell the same part of the story in 5 different ways right?
What I want to do is enforce the story and make it stronger by actually choosing less. Less is more. You know this.
What Stays And What Goes?
My rough formula for how I decide what stays and what goes, and what photos to include over all is this (roughly… every event will be different)
Styled Detail Shots (if requested*) – 3 of each item. No need for more than 3 photos of your dress or rings. I sometimes will style things as a group as a flatlay (shot from over head) also – one shot. *More and more couples are preferring their details shot naturally, or “details with a heartbeat” – earrings on her ears, cuff links on his shirt etc...
The best of the similar moments or poses. I like a good portrait sequence or run in an album, but the subject in the photos needs to have varying expression, and so any dupes are out. Best of wins. With documentary sequences that involve motion such as processional or recessional, grand entrance or grand exit (so grand!) I keep enough to tell the story; usually 5-6 or so, taking out any awkward expressions, and keeping the strongest shots. Same goes for first dance, although I usually have a harder time cutting these down.
Family Photos – the goal is one from each grouping, and sometimes we have 2 different compositions such as full length and crop. I zoom right in to look at eye balls here. If everyone had their eyes open (and on me) then I’ll pick the one that the couple looks their best in. If no one single photo is great such as Bride looks amazing here but groom is looking at a guest off to the left, and someone else is looking off in the next few, I will deliver 2 options that you can pick to keep or print/post, and gives us a chance to do a head swap at album time.
Candids – You like your candids guys! Cocktail hour and reception are chalk full of opportunity, but in effort to not overwhelm you with a million of the same person, and because I am not sure who is a plus one, or a VIP, you’ll probably get a mixed bag of ones you might never print and ones that you will absolutely cherish because it is a great candid. Just like with portraits, I do remove award unflattering expressions and never photograph people eating. No one likes that.
The Techy Stuff: The post processing workflow
The first thing I do is make copies of all the cards I shot on, or my associate shot on. Once everything is backed up. I then use a program called Photomechanic to review the whole day and “write my first draft”. This is called culling in the photography inustry. Some photographers “cull out”; I “cull in”. This is just a fancy term for selecting the ones were going to keep (instead of rejecting the ones we wont ever use).
Photomechanic is great because it lets me see the image at full size in lightning speed. I can check that everyone eyes are open and sharp, or choose an expression that is the best in a sequence of shots. I tag and select the ones I want to use, and then drag them over to Lightroom – where 99% of the magic happens.
Here is where we do colour correction, and creative edits that you see that match my current editing style. With a correct white balance, I prefer to enhance with rich, warm skin tones, ever so slightly muted greens (but not minty, or frosty… nothing against that style, but here we like to keep it kinda real YKWIM?) and overall a slightly darker, moodier vibe. Every wedding is different and sometimes I do brighter images, depending on the feel of the wedding – but that is where I ask for your trust in my creative story telling.
I edit one photo from a set of similar photos and then copy the settings I used to the other ones in that set. This is referred to as batch editing. I do this for the whole wedding: working in batches throughout. Once the whole thing is done I can make small tweaks to ensure everything is cohesive as a whole.
When Im confident Ive done the best job I can do, with both editing and story telling, I export the images at high resolution as well as web resolution. High Res allows you to print full sized photos with no quality concerns at 300 dpi. Web res is sized best to share on facebook, instagram, or email to family members, and are not suitable for printing sized at just 72 dpi. For the high res images I have a plugin installed in Lightroom called Jpeg Mini – and its purpose is to resize a big file, without loss of quality – so final sizing takes up much less room on your USB and computer. Its rather genius, and any photographers reading this should definitely get it.
In the end, you will have a beautiful gallery to enjoy digitally, and whether you are choosing to have a custom album made by me, or print your own, you’re sure to have a cohesive, strong story to tell, with options – but not so many that you are overwhelmed by the multiple choices.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post in the FAQ series: Whats in My Bag – a Glimpse of The Tools and Gear I use at a wedding. You also might like my post on hiring a wedding photographer.