A Guide to Post Processing in Wedding Photography
After winding up a busy day at your client’s wedding shoot, you might think it’s finally time to take a breath of relief, however what will come next will be a little more demanding than the wedding shoot itself. If you are thinking of starting your wedding photography business, you have to come to peace with the fact that post processing is an integral part of the entire wedding photography process. It’s the final icing on the cake.
Processing 200-300 images might seem like a monumental task, but like every big problem, processing your wedding shots can also be dealt with by handling one task at a time. Here’s a work flow that can help you get better control over post processing images in bulk.
What is post processing?
I cannot stress enough when I say that processing your images is the process of enhancing your images further. It’s not to be mistaken as a process where you correct the mistakes you made which you should have got right while shooting itself. It’s a creative process and it’s a lot of fun especially when you start noticing the difference it can make to your images.
Correcting mistakes in hundreds of images can become stressful.
Why learn post processing?
Apart from enhancing your images. Post processing is pretty much like a self-audit process that helps you show case your best to your clients. Instead of browsing through your images during the wedding shoot, you can review your images on a big screen. You are bound to end up with shots where you have people with their eyes closed, some inevitable camera shake here and there and you may also notice that there is some scope for improvement in terms of colour correction, adjusting highlights, shadows, saturation, exposure, etc., etc. These are some minor changes but can give a lot of aesthetic boost in your images.
Also, when you send your images to your clients to review and select, it is a not at all a good idea to send them a folder with bad images here and there. After all that hard work that you put during the shoot, this one slip up can cost you dearly in terms of future prospects. Always show case only your best work and nothing less and allow them to choose their own final images.
It is also important that you manage your post production effectively and efficiently. That sooner you deliver results, the happier you clients will be. Happy clients, means more referrals, which means more business and you know what that means.
Wedding photography post production workflow
This is the basic workflow that anyone starting off with their wedding photography business must follow. Every photographer has their own work flow and their own method of handling each step. As you gain experience in your business, you too will start developing your own workflow that suits your style. However, this will give you a starting point to deal with post production.
- Managing files
- Sorting out the best images and feature images
- Renaming the files
- Batch processing
The first step to managing all the images that you shot is to back up the images from your camera memory card to your hard drive. Ideally, this is the first thing that you should do once you come back home from the shoot. It gives a sense of relief knowing that all that hard work that you put in is safe and has a backup.
All storage devices have a shelf life. You never know when your hard disk might crash, or when your computer might give the blue screen error of death, or when your external storage devices may get infected with a virus which will force you to wipe out the data in it. Natural calamities might strike. There might be a fire which might damage your equipment. No matter what the cause, going back to your clients and telling them that you have lost their images is never an option. They entrusted you and paid you to capture the memories of their once in a life time event and there is no way on earth for you to blow it. That is why, it’s always safe to create a backup for you back up. You might want to consider investing in cloud storage services.
File structure: Since this is the year 2016, you might want to start by creating a folder named as “Weddings 2016”. Now to categories it as per your shoot. In this Weddings 2016 folder, you must create a dedicated folder for your client and name it as “ClientName_Date”. So, if your client’s name was smith and the shoot was done on 1st of may this year, you will name this as “Smith_01052016”. Why include date you ask? No name is unique. You are bound to encounter another smith in the future who is planning on hiring you as their wedding photographer. To avoid name clash, it’s best to include date when creating a dedicated folder to each of your clients.
In your client folder you must create one folder for all the raw files, one folder for processed images and one folder for all other derivatives like low res jpegs, web exports, etc.
Sorting out the best images for post processing
Photo editing softwares like light room come with a rating feature. Use such software to browse through your images. While browsing, rate your images between 1 and 5 stars, 5 being awesome and 1 being no-one-should-ever-see. Once you have done rating, sort them as per their score. These are the images that you will post process and send it to your clients to let them select their favourites, but before that you will have to do a little math.
Depending on how many images that you had promised to your client, you might want to select a number higher than that. If you had signed the contract for 300 images, you might want to give them 500. This makes them feel that they have enough options to choose from.
While you are choosing your best images, it’s a good idea to choose your feature images as well. Feature images are the best of the best of your images. These are the images on which you want to spend enough time processing and enhancing your images. Images where you have captured the reaction of the bride’s mom when she sees her daughter in the wedding dress for the first time, couple shots taken in a grand landscape, etc etc., basically the kind of images which will make your clients go “Aw…” and maybe shed a tear of joy. These images are your money makers.
Renaming the files
Since you have named the folder as “ClientName_date”, it only makes sense to rename the images as “ClientName_date_SerialNumer”.
When working on your wedding projects. Remember that your time is money. Apart from your feature images, you might not want to spend too much time working on each and every image that you have selected. Working on 500 individual images can literally take eternity.
Software like Lightroom and Photoshop camera RAW have the ability to batch process.
- There are many ways to opening your images as batch. You can select your images then click and drag them into the software. You can use light room’s file navigator to select all images and import them all at once. Or you can use Photoshop bridge to open them all in camera RAW.
- Once you have opened all the files you can start with making basic corrections to your images. Basic corrections include exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness, colour temperature, highlights and shadows. On some images you might want to go a bit further and add a vignette.
- When you come across images that have been shot in similar light conditions the changes that you made to the previous image might also work for the next image. In that case, you can use the copy option to copy the values of the previous image to the new image.
- Later on you can go to more complex steps of editing such as skin correction, HDR effect, dramatic black and white, vintage effect, etc.
You can add your copy right information in the metadata of your images. It can be easily done through Photoshop and light room. Copyrighting your images will ensure that no one steals your images to use them as stock or claim as their own. Not that your clients may do this, but what usually happens is, when you share your images with your clients, they will share it on their social media accounts. It’s safe to assume that once your images are on the internet, they are accessible to anyone, anywhere. Meta data is a good way to prove that your images are yours.
It’s also a good idea to add copyright watermarks to your images. Although, make sure that they are not too obvious. If you feel that someone will just crop the logo from the corners, you can place it right in the centre of the image but make sure you reduce its opacity so that it won’t cause intrusion while you show your images to your audience.
Ready to submit
So that’s about it, once you are done with processing your images, share it with your clients in low resolution first so they choose the images that they like. You might also get requests to alter your editing. For example, if you have edited an image in black and white, they might request that you restore the colour in it. Once you are done with sorting out images as per their selection and their suggested changes, you will be ready to submit your final images.