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The Power and Importance of editing Wedding Photographs

When you book a wedding photographer, you’re investing in someone that can “take” good pictures, right?

This could not be further from the case. Yes, as a wedding photographer you do need to be able to take good photographs, but it’s arguably more important to be able to edit them properly as well.

Photographs straight out of the camera are generally flat and somewhat boring. They certainly do not have the panache and storytelling ability that wedding photos should.

If you’re not sure what I mean by flat then look below. All the images on this page have sliders.  This is so that you can see for yourself what wedding photos look like “straight out the camera” totally unedited, and after I’ve done my magic with them.
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If I was simply to send out photographs straight out of the camera then I know my clients and friends would be so disappointed in what they see.  I would say rightly so, it is this attention to detail which separates a professional photographer and an Uncle Bob.

RAW versus JPEG’s

This is also why as a professional photographer I shoot in RAW. The majority of professional photographers will all state the importance of RAW images and the difference and depth that they bring. images that are of the widely known format of JPEG simply do not have the amount of data, and therefore the ability to be manipulated and “pull-out” the hidden details that RAW images do.

You can think of a RAW image as a digital negative. A JPEG image is a representation of what the camera sees at that exact moment and deletes away the information it does not think is important. A RAW image on the other hand records everything it sees across the whole frame.  It does not delete information at all, and has approximately 6 times the amount of detail and data that a JPEG image does.

It is this extra detail which makes such a massive difference. This is particularly true with photographs taken in low light (morning preparation time, evening and interior photos) and darkness (night photographs and dancefloor).

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What do you need to be able to use RAW images?

So, given it is fairly obvious RAW images are the way forward, what do you need to have in order to use them?  The main thing is editing software and the knowledge on how to use it.  With JPEG’s as you probably know you can just copy them over to your computer and use them.  Because RAW’s are negatives, without editing they are totally useless.

It is the power of editing which brings these extra details out and makes them visible as part of your wedding photographs. you will see below screenshots from Lightroom. This is my editing package of choice. There are many different editing packages such as capture One, Nik, Topaz, OnOneRaw to name only four!  For me, given that I use other Adobe products heavily (such as Premiere, Photoshop and audition) it makes sense to do all my working in one suite.

As you will see this looks a little complex, but to the trained eye it is in fact very easy to navigate and understand. The main point here is that you are not looking just for a photographer that can take photographs, but looking for a photographer who knows what to do with them afterwards.

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Realistically speaking, editing and culling generally will take 5 to 6 times the amount of time that you would actually spend working on a wedding day. because perfection does not occur quickly. I want you as my clients and my friends, to have the very best images you possibly can.

That means not rushing them out in a super fast time, but taking my time to appreciate the stories they tell, the hidden details that are not immediately visible, and more importantly making them compelling viewing.  More about why I take my time can be found here in “How I deliver and why”.

This is why editing is so important, and really does make the difference. If you have a look at some of the slider images on this page with the before and after, you will see for yourself how different photographs can be once they have been edited properly and sympathetically. If you were to simply look at the before photos as part of your collection, I feel you would be rightly disappointed. it is only with properly edited photos that the story of your wedding day can truly be told in epic and realistic fashion.

Making White actually look white

Another reason as photographers we use RAW images, is so that we can correct white balance.  With jpeg’s white balance cannot be properly adjusted, with RAW it can.  I agree white balance sounds technical: it is! The easiest way to explain white balance is amending what colour white is so the picture looks normal.

You may well be shouting back at me “white isn’t a colour”: well actually it’s a 50/50 and you probably need to phone a friend!  So white is a combination of all visible light, of every single colour merging to make white.  But the base of all these colours helps decide what “type” of white we get.

The human eye is a lot better at working this out for itself than cameras are, and it is for this reason that unless we control the white balance then pictures can look very strange indeed.  If you’ve ever looked at a picture and thought it looks unnaturally purple, green, blue or yellow that is exactly what I’m talking about.

Below are examples of where I’ve corrected the white balance to make things look normal again.  If you look at the unedited photo you’ll notice it looks strange, and it is!  That’s because our human eyes and brain look at it, and because it is not what our brain expects, we struggle to process it correctly.  That’s why an unbalanced white is so distracting, and why it is difficult to enjoy the image and the story it tells.

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Under exposing

You may also be thinking that on the whole these pictures look a little bit dark before they are edited. This is TOTALLY deliberate. It is much easier to recover detail from dark or shadowed areas than from bright, overexposed areas. Realistically speaking, overly bright areas lose all the detail and it is nigh on impossible to bring back what is lost here.

it is for this reason that the majority of professional photographers, if not all, will deliberately shoot slightly darker than you might consider as normal. We generally will shoot about 20% darker than the camera thinks that we should. We do this knowing that we will be able to bring the balance back in the editing process, and it is this approach which ensures that we do not lose the details in the sky, the background, or very importantly your wedding dress.

Let me explain that a little further. In the majority of wedding photographs, what is the brightest whitest thing?   Well of course, it’s a wedding dress! It is really very important that we do not lose the detail of the dress that you’ve taken hours over deciding on!  By shooting slightly darker, or underexposing, we know that we can ensure that all the detail will be retained.  This means that the gems, diamante, gorgeous piping, the elegant stitching, the detail in your veil and so on will not be lost forever.

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Over exposing

In certain circumstances the reverse is true. We very deliberately want to over expose, or at a higher brightness than the camera and the human eye would think would be correct. This is particularly true with night shots, and when we are using Flash guns in order to bolster the amount of available light.

The key focus of any wedding photograph is the people contained within them.  Most of the time this of course will be the couple getting married.  Therefore, we are deliberately balancing the amount of light that the flash gives us, against the natural light, or ambient light.

We need to make sure that we do not lose details in either the couples faces all the background. To do this, we will often find that the best course of action is to boost the light on the couples face so that we do not lose the background details.

One very good example of this is the example below from Don and Alex’s wedding at Allerton Castle. The background here is truly stunning and it was important that this was retained. However, in order to do this I needed to use some flashlight so that Alex and Don’s facial expressions were not lost in shadow and darkness. Additionally, this created a lovely contrast between Don and Alex and the background and detailing in the castle venue room.

Another great example is from Tim and Hannah’s wedding at The Talbot Oundle.  Here the bridal party did a group flashdance and I knew that this would be amazing.  But I also knew I needed to balance the colour of the beams and ceiling and make sure their faces did disappear into darkness,

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What does this mean?

If somebody says to you that your photographer can take great photos, then it’s at that point that you should probably remind them that there is more to photography than simply taking a photograph.

It is for this reason that as professional photographers we invest a lot of our time and frankly money in training and developing ourselves in both the power of editing and also the power of composition.

So here’s the thing. yes you may just wish to book a photographer that takes great pictures. but realistically you should look more and what they do with those photographs, and the stories that they bring to life.

This is why to me the photo films that I do are also very important. If you have not already seen the photo films that I offer please do click the link below to see them for yourself. They really are a compelling memory and something which brings all the elements of your wedding day together in one beautiful package.

If the photos that these are based on were not edited properly or sympathetivcally, then they would serve no purpose at all.  But given they are, then it begs the question about how to make them even better and tell the whole story of your wedding day.

Without the power of voice, I feel that standard photo slide shows are lacking that magic ingredient.  The voices of those people with you on your wedding day saying the magical things that they do including your other half staying there I do our things to treasure.

if I don’t record them you won’t have them. and if I don’t edit your photos correctly sympathetically and professionally and do AMAZING things with them, then I would not be any better than an Uncle Bob or an Aunty Mildred.

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What makes a photographer great?

As you’ve probably gathered from this page, a great photographer is not one that knows how to take photos. A great photographer is one that knows how to edit photos as well.  An epic photographer is one who knows how to put all the elements together to tell your story in its fullest.