My Wedding Photography post-processing workflow
I thought I would write a short article which explains my my wedding photography workflow process for the weddings that we shoot in and around Kent. If you are thinking of becoming a full or part time wedding photographer it will give you an insight into what will be required and just how much time you will have to put aside for the post processing side of the business and how best to cost it into your wedding photography packages.
Firstly I think its only right that I should touch on the actual shoot itself and quickly mention that I ONLY shoot in camera Raw. It is non compressive, makes no camera adjustments for dynamic range or any other fangled get-out-of-jail-free pre-sets that may work for the odd image but reduce the control that a professional really wants to have over the images. It also produces the largest file sizes. So I take along a lot of high capacity and fast CF cards. I also use two camera bodies and so I make sure that they are synchronised to the second before the shoot, so that the images are all filed in the right order and sequence.
So after getting home at the end of a hard days photography, the first thing that I do while the kettle is on is start to back up my cards. Initially I will make 2 copies onto two separate hard drives. I do this using Adobe Lightroom 4, set it to import and then make a second copy to the other HDD, choose the tags that will make the images easier to manage later on, decide if I want to apply a pre-set (there’s that word again – but this time it is a pre-set that I built and saved for a specific type of shoot) during the download process and click go. I then repeat this process for each of the cards until they are all safely backed up. Once done the cards all go back into the card safe which is put to one side. Depending on the length of the shoot this process may take an hour or possibly two.
My Wedding Photography Workflow
Once the cards are downloaded I check the images in Lightroom to make sure that there were no problems and that the images are all there (hence the cards being in the card safe). I never use those cards again until I am sure that the images have all downloaded properly.
The next stage in my wedding photography workflow is the First Edit. This will usually take upwards of two or 3 hours depending on the length of the shoot. Using Lightroom again I copy the images over to a new ‘Collection’ and give it a unique name. Next using the ‘Library’ mode I look at each image checking for focus, content and expression and rate the images from 1 to 5 using the keypad. Once done I apply a library filter which just lets me see the 5’s. This will form the basis of the later edits.
The Second Edit in my wedding photography workflow is simply a process by which I look over all of the images again and remove any unnecessary duplicates or images of a very similar expression or composition and I do this quite simply by giving the unwanted files a lesser rating of 4 so that they disappear from my view.
The Third Edit in my wedding photography workflow is where I start to develop the shoot and to give it more variety and interest for my clients by deciding on whether the images would look better in black & white, full colour or if they would benefit from some special effects treatments. Again it means carefully looking at the images in Lightroom but using the grid view to provide context to them and to see where they would fit and how best to present them. A simple tap on the keypad for 6 if they are going to be specially processed and give them a red label or tap 9 for blue – (B&W). In total probably upwards of 4 hours taken so far.
The Fourth Edit in my wedding photography workflow is the time to look at each image in develop mode, remove any dustspots or blemishes, colour correct using the dropper tool, adjust the exposure if necessary and check for clipping using the histogram, adjust the white levels and apply any local adjustments to exposure as necessary such as darkening the sky to bring out the clouds etc using the auto mask feature to prevent any spill. I may also add some skin softening at this stage by painting in some reduced clarity using a brush and the auto mask. Bearing in mind that this can take a few minutes for each image and there may be 800+ images to look at then you will start to get the picture about how intensive this process is.
By now the majority of the post-processing is done and I may have let Lightroom save some time here and there by batch processing some of the global adjustments to images that are similar. We are now ready for the Fith Edit. This involves taking any of the images that need it into Photoshop CS6 for any other work that cannot be done within Lightroom. Once that is done and I am happy with the images its time to apply the colour filters starting with Blue. I can then apply the particular B&W pre-set that I have saved in Lightroom to the images and than make selective further adjustments for exposure etc depending on the overall effect. I do use more than one pre-set for this but LR allows me to apply them as a batch and so save a little time. Lastly I apply the Red filter and then either apply a special effects pre-set from within Lightroom following the same method or I export the images into Perfect Photosuite 7 and make the adjustments from within that software.
The last edit (Edit Six) that I do is to within Lightroom again and this is to apply sharpening to the images as a batch and to apply some post crop vignetting to images that have not already had it applied from with Perfect Photosuite.
Done. Now the images can be downloaded as full size JPEGs (with or without an embedded watermark) and uploaded to my proofing site on Zenfolio so that my clients can view them online and can purchase images as they wish.