Tips to keep you sane during wedding season, from four of Rangefinder’s stars of wedding photography.
Compiled by Jacqueline Tobin, Editor-in-Chief of Rangefinder Magazine
Photo by Jen Huang
The wedding is over, but the tough part has just begun. Do you feel overwhelmed by a massive amount of culling and editing in the days and weeks following the wedding?
Not to worry! As talented photographer (named a Rangefinder 2012 Rising Star of Wedding Photography) and loyal Richard Photo Lab customer Jen Huang states, “The thing to remember is that improving your workflow begins with improving the way that that you capture your images… Focus your time on one great photograph rather than ten mediocre ones.”
Of course a lot of the success of your final image also depends on how streamlined your workflow processes are. So, check out the tips and techniques of four talented wedding shooters from near and far.
Film Photography | Fresh, Clean, Luminous Weddings | New York, NY
Jen is a wedding photographer who shoots a clean, romantic look on film—Lightroom is her bread and butter for reviewing, exporting, displaying, and organizing her files. Being smart with workflow helps keep everything running smoothly.
STEP 1 - SHOOT ONLY WHAT YOU NEED
"Forgo opening up thousands of images in post; I tend to stick to 800 to 1,000 images per wedding and 80 to 100 for portrait sessions. Discipline is important in making sure your work has focus and clarity. Once you bring your work into Lightroom, you should already have a pretty good final set of images."
STEP 2 - EDITING (KEEP IT CONSISTENT!)
To maintain a consistent look, I edit all of my film scans at once. A full wedding edit takes about an hour or two to complete. I remove blurry shots, duplicates, or other photos deemed unnecessary for final delivery, and I adjust for exposure, color, and curves.
Running my film through Richard Photo Lab means I can bypass Photoshop and other corrections. I never use actions, and I outsource all requests for fashion retouching, like blemishes and airbrushing. This lets me focus more on how my work looks as a whole.
Go ahead, click that button! Much of Lightroom is designed in a very easy-to-use way, so go ahead and try out every feature without worrying about what might happen. Click on all the buttons, try all the shortcuts, and read through all the drop-down menus. I save my favorite black-and-white toning and light preferences as presets. Lightroom shows you the shortcuts in their menus, so you can start learning the ones you need immediately.
Photo by Jen Huang
STEP 3 - ONLINE UPLOADS
"Lightroom’s 'Quick Collection' feature makes it easy for me to group my photos when it comes time to export web-quality resolution for blogs and high-res edit selects for clients or magazines. I also love the ability to set up beautiful, branded online galleries that can be uploaded directly to my website."
STEP 4 - EXPORTING
"Edited images are exported at 300 dpi (large enough for an 11 x 14 print), as well as at 800 pixels wide for web use. I don’t watermark my images, but I do rename all images with my name as well as my client’s initials or the date (e.g. Jen Huang_XYZ010101.jpg). This is particularly important if these images are later uploaded online, or shared between clients or editors, since it allows your work to be traced back to you if necessary. "
STEP 5 - DELIVERY
"The final jpegs are saved in a folder labeled with the date of the shoot, and sorted into smaller folders. Grouped images are burned onto a disk or saved to a USB flash drive, packaged with proof prints and sent to the client. My turn around time for weddings is about four to six weeks, but longer during the busier part of the wedding season."
Digital and Film Photography | Documentary-Style Weddings | Orlando, Florida
For Gian Carlo, one of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of 2016, being primarily a digital wedding photographer makes his post-production workflow very meticulous in order to minimize any kind of loss of data. For him, the process begins during the wedding itself...
STEP 1 - SHOOTING
"The day of the wedding, I shoot with two cameras and utilize their double SD card abilities, which I use in 'Backup Mode' only. This means that identical RAW files are being recorded on each card. I use a 128GB SD card in one camera slot (it never leaves the camera and records the entire wedding day), and a 16GB SD Card in the other (I change this constantly during different parts of the wedding day).
"The reason to use 16GB cards that are constantly being swapped out is to basically avoid having all your eggs in one basket if the 128GB card happens to get corrupted during the wedding day. If that happens, I will have only lost 100 to 200+ photos rather than all the photos from the ENTIRE wedding day. The latter is a lot easier to explain to a client!"
STEP 2 - IMPORTING & ORGANIZING
"Immediately when I get home after the wedding, I download the 128GB card to two separate portable Seagate back-up drives. The 128GB SD card is then stored and labeled until the wedding is fully delivered to the client. I create a Lightroom catalogue for that wedding only, which usually stays running overnight, since this process can take a few hours.
"I create all Lightroom catalogues with 'Smart Previews'. This allows you to use that Lightroom catalogue remotely to edit and export files—no back-up hard drive with the original RAW files connected to your computer. I also build all Lightroom catalogues in my Dropbox account, because in combination with 'Smart Previews' (as I mentioned above), it basically creates a full backup of the wedding files up in the Cloud."
STEP 3 - CULLING & EDITING
"In the first three days following the wedding, I usually cull the RAW files in Photo Mechanic into sections. I also create folders for my 'Picks', 'Favorites', and 'Reject' photos, using color coding to further differentiate the first two. After culling is complete, I create a new Lightroom catalogue of only the 'Picks' and 'Favorites' folders.
"I begin my final editing steps in Lightroom by applying my custom-created color preset to the entire catalogue, followed by separating the different sections of the wedding day (getting ready, ceremony etc.) into individual collections in Lightroom. There are plug-ins you can use in Lightroom to export directly to many of the popular online gallery-hosting systems."
Photo by Gian Carlo
STEP 4 - FINAL TOUCHES, EXPORTING, & DELIVERY
"By Thursday, I begin to adjust the images for color and exposure as needed, plus do some additional culling on the fly as I compare similar images together. It is during this process that I choose the images that I will change to black & white as I see fit. I also use the star rating system in Lightroom to choose the best images to use for social media, blog, and submission to publications. After each section is fully edited, I export the images as high-resolution jpegs to a folder on my desktop (which is then uploaded to an online gallery for the client).
"The process described above can be combined into a daily individualized process as well, in which case you can cull a section or two per day in Photo Mechanic, and then import and edit in Lightroom. The benefits to this would be to edit a wedding in two to three hour sections each day. That would open up the remainder of the day to run your business and life. It would also provide plenty of new images to share on social media every day!"
Gian Carlo says that his goal is to be done with this entire process before the next wedding or job. "The benefits go far beyond business and social media with this process. You can also catch technical issues with your equipment before the next job, such as a lens not focusing properly."
While Gian Carlo is primarily a digital photographer, he started using a WideLux F8 Panoramic film camera last year. While he is still considering how to best incorporate film into his wedding workflow, Gian Carlo appreciates the versatility of film and how it offers a different perspective of the wedding day.
"Last month, I sent quite a few test rolls to Richard Photo Lab that I shot over a period of months," Gian Carlo explains. "When I got them back, I was excited and impressed at the possibilities. The people at Richard Photo Lab not only did an incredible job but they were incredibly helpful. I know as I move forward into adding film into my workflow, they are going to be a vital part in its success."
Digital Photography | Bold & Beautiful Weddings (with a hint of humor!) | Bath, England
STEP 1 - BACKING UP & ORGANIZING
"Immediately after the wedding, I back up my cards to my main external hard drive. I back up each card individually and they're all numbered. Then, I make a note of the card number, the number of images on each card, and the file names on a spreadsheet. I then file each main card (I shoot on duel slots) away in a folder and I don't use the cards from any given wedding until I have delivered images to my couple. My images back up to other external hard drives via ChronoSync and Time Machine, and I also use Backblaze."
STEP 2 - PREVIEWS
"During the week following the wedding, I edit up to ten previews, and I add these to a hidden page on my website, which I send to the couple. I also congratulate them and let them know when they can expect their full set of images. I usually tell them the maximum time stated in my contract, which is 10 weeks, and aim to get them back a week or so earlier. I also send a hand-written congratulatory card at this point.
"If I'm going to blog the wedding, I send out my blog info form, which I ask them to fill out in exchange for some print credit."
Photo by Laura Babb
STEP 3 - CULLING & EDITING
"Historically, I've usually culled a wedding around the six- or seven-week mark, but I am aiming to do it the week after the wedding this year. I know I feel less weighed down by my editing pile if I can keep on top of it, so that's the goal for 2017! I then send images over to my editor."
STEP 4 - TWEAKING & FILE DELIVERY
"When I get the files back from my editor, I go through and tweak them. Then I upload them to ShootProof and deliver them to my couple. I ask them to sit down together and go through the set with a bottle of something sparkling (or a cup of tea!). I used to deliver a slideshow, but I have stopped doing this now and instead I send out a surprise print box as a gift. I would much rather my couples have something tangible.
"After delivery, I send a follow up to my clients, requesting any feedback and asking them to leave a Google review."
STEP 5 - BLOGGING
"My final step in the process is blogging the wedding. My blog info form means that I don't have to think of copy myself, as my couples write about the wedding from their own experience. It's been a game changer for me—I'm not a natural writer and, of course, hearing from my couples directly is way more interesting than hearing from me as the photographer!
Digital and Film Photography | Contemporary Fine Art/Documentary | London, England
STEP 1 - SHOOTING & IMPORTING
"I shoot on two digital cameras, both onto dual cards simultaneously. I import everything into Lightroom and leave them importing while I do other jobs, overnight etc. I have used Lightroom since it was first released.
"My machine is set up as a RAID with an external drive set up for TIME MACHINE. Plus, I have an additional 8TB drive that I periodically clone to that is located offsite. There should be two of these, really, that rotate. This way, there is always a copy of the files offsite."
STEP 2 - CULLING
"In Lightroom, I generally go through a wedding and flag the images I will edit; my initial quick selection is around 600 to 800 images. I shoot around 1,200 to 1,500 photos per wedding. Then I will usually lose a further ten or twenty percent when images are similar or have imperfections. I don’t use Photo Mechanic—I purchased it and used it once when a second shooter presented me with 5,000 files!!! But, I just got in a bit of a muddle with it. It is something I may need to incorporate again as the Mark IV files are so much larger."
Photo by Heather Shuker
STEP 3 - EDITING
"Next, I apply VSCO Portra 160 to everything. Then, I work my way through with exposure and colour temperature and a bit of crop/level, and maybe a bit of the adjustment brush in Lightroom. I use Photoshop to clone out things like unsightly signs, etc. Then I sharpen and reduce noise. I don’t do any retouching, manipulation, etc.—maybe I should do more, but I like things as they are, 'beauty with realism'...
STEP 4 - FILE DELIVERY & ARCHIVING
"After each wedding, I hold back the SD cards as a further copy of the wedding until the final images have been published to ShootProof. Once published, these SD cards are formatted and used again. Once the client has seen their full album and there are no 'have you got a photo of X' inquiries, I delete all of the unflagged photographs.
"It’s helpful to organize your Lightroom catalogues by years and folders organized by date (for example, '170130 – wedding of X & Y'). My disk space runs low, so I create two archives of each Lightroom catalogue onto external hard drives. I am looking at cold storage for old weddings, but it’s not set up yet."
* Read more on workflow, compositing like a pro, achieving cohesive black and whites, fine-tuning different editing styles, discovering the software standouts that will change your life, and more at Rangefinder's new and improved website, rangefinderonline.com