A lot of couples I meet with ask me questions about some of the more technical aspects of photography. Some are aspiring photographers or technology nerds, and we get to “geek out” over different things like megapixels, my favorite lenses (35mm f/1.2 and 135mm f/2.0, if you were curious), and the RAM needed to run Photoshop smoothly (a lot). But most of them are asking me questions because to them, “photographer speak” is similar to “legal speak”. It’s a foreign language that they don’t understand.
So today, I’ve got the first part of my series on understand the language of wedding photography. It’s my hope that this will give my clients more confidence, and more understanding of this “photography” business. And maybe you’ll learn something you can show off at a party, too. Some of the terms I’ll be going over include: photography packages, print releases, RAW files, digital negatives, high (and low) resolution images, proofs, editing, and retouching. Today, I’ll be explaining the mystery of photography packages, proofs, and the difference between editing and retouching. Remember that every photographer is different, so things may be different when you look at others’ packages and policies. This is my own experience, my own reasoning, and my own style of work. As the saying goes, “your mileage may vary.” :)
A lot of times, I’m asked about my photography packages. For my business, I choose to have packages because it’s easier for my couples. You’re already making dozens of decisions about what you like and who you should book, why should you have to make a decision about the details of your photography coverage? That said, I currently have four different photography packages that range from the 5 hours to 12 hours. They’re designed to hit all the sweet spots that most couples need to cover their wedding, from intimate weddings of 30 guests to all days coverage, I know that these packages are perfect for most couples. Because of my experience in the wedding industry, I know these packages will work best for most people. Which is why, once I’ve created my coverage packages, I discount them. I know that I’m going to have happy clients because I can recommend the perfect package for them. I know these packages work. And sometimes, especially with destination weddings, I end up creating custom packages.
Pro tip: Like a photographer but don’t they don’t offer a package that sparks you? Ask what it would cost to change things. I’m always up for adding to or adjusting a package to fit your needs. Weddings aren’t one-size-fits-all and I don’t intend my wedding packages to be either. They’re more like suggestions that help you get started. Most likely, this is the first time you’ve planned a wedding, whereas I’ve shot more than I can count. :)
One of the “vintage” terms you still come across in wedding photography is proofs. When photographers shot on film, they’d give their clients proof images. These images were sometimes all on one page in small images, or sometimes slightly larger, individual, but they were basic proofs. They’d had no retouching or editing, and when all on one page, were processed the same. It’s complicated to understand, but there was a dark room equivalent to Photoshop. It’s true! From those proofs, you’d pick the few dozen photos you wanted to have printed. The photographer would keep the negatives, you’d get a few enlargements and that’d be in. These days, with digital photography it’s a lot different. I shoot a lot more on my digital camera than on my film, which means I’ve got sometimes three or five images that are very similar, especially when I’m doing family photos because there is always someone about to blink. From those, I pick the best images and pull them together to tell the story of your day. Instead of wasting time by showing you a bunch of unedited images and having you pick them, I edit up all the good images, discarding all the blurry, out of focus, duplicate, or just bad (hello, that shot of my own feet doesn’t need to be in there) photos. Which means I’m not delivering proofs to my clients. I’m delivering hundreds of edited images and you can print those through me, and my professional lab, or at home, or at any store of your choosing.
Pro tip: While some photographers offer proof prints, most don’t. If it’s something you’re interested in having, ask your photographer about getting a set of 4×6 prints of all your wedding images. If one of my couples asked for this, I’d be on board and make sure it wasn’t too expensive! Because you should still be printing your photos ;)
The last thing I want to talk about today is what happens after your wedding. I’ve gotten home, backed up your images in a couple different spots, and now I’m getting to work on the photos you’re going to receive. At this point, I start editing your images. What that means to me is that I’m doing the kind of things I could do in a darkroom. In college, I shot film and developed it in a darkroom, and I try to stay true to those roots. This means I’m adjusting the exposure, correcting little things like dark and bright spots, and making sure the image is polished and in focus. I’m not retouching the images, for the most part. That means I’m not going to make your arms skinnier, or smooth out the wrinkles on your face. Wake up on your wedding day with a big zit on your nose? Yes, I’ll fix that, because no one wants to remember that zit on their wedding day. But I’m not going to polish you to look like a magazine cover. Why? I believe that, while I could make you look like a model, I’m not going to. I don’t think it’s good for you or your friends and family to see a fake version of yourselves. It only makes me feel more insecure in the everyday, when I see highly photoshopped versions of myself. And I believe that, on your wedding day, you’re already so beautiful because you are marrying the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. You don’t need smoother skin or skinnier arms.
Pro tip: If you’re not sure about how you feel about the editing level of your photos, ask your photographer. A photographer who has an established style and brand is going to be able to tell you exactly what they do (and don’t do) and can show you that in an album or proofing gallery.
Are there other photography terms you’d like explained? Let me know what they are in the comments, and I’ll add them to my list!