Updated: Jan 29
I've been asked many times why it takes so long from the wedding day to get your photos from the photographer. The reason people ask is because nearly everykne has a camera phone they can snap a photo, add some filters, make some edit and upload to Facebook before anyone left the room.
So why should it take longer on a camera that's easily triple the price of a phone and must have more features, right? The answer is that it comes down to volume of photos and that professional photos aren't solely filters and often hand-crafted to some degree.
When you see wedding photos, what you're viewing is the final image, not the image directly from the camera. To get to that point there's a lengthy process (admittedly the more you do the quicker it gets). A rough idea of my 'quick' process is as follows:
You take anywhere from 500 to 2000 photos at the wedding. It would depend on the size of the wedding and the wedding package you chose, but even the very first wedding I shot I got to 1,500 photos from setup to last orders. Looking back I wasn't all that selective and wanted to capture everything.
You get all those photos off the memory cards, backed up and get ready to go through them. Even the super fast memory cards will take some time to transfer to your hard drive, then backed up to whatever backup option you choose.
You go through all those photos and cull any that are not worth keeping (usually blurred, blinking, inappropriate or you just don't like). This is quite a long part of the process and can take more than one day (try yourself and look at 2000 photos one by one deciding which are worth keeping). Bear in mind also if you're a busy wedding photographer you are doing this around all your other photo shoots. You might even then go through the ones you picked and grade them or sort into moments like 'Ceremony', 'Cake' and so on to make editing a bit easier later
You then start editing. Again, this can take a long time and depends on the final number of images. I've started going through a shoot and realised I didn't like the look I was going for and started over. Editing includes cropping, sharpening, adjusting the light, colour and other artistic effects. There's a workflow you can find, but I'm not going into it now. Suffice it to say that even with a few 'batch tricks and a slick workflow, it still takes time. You might want to get 300-500 photos out of 2000 to show the couple (again, depends on the packages and products you offer).
Review the work. Of course you would do this as you go along, but I find that taking a step back, then coming back to your edit and looking again really helps get the best final edit. I've even started looking at really old shoots I did and seeing if I approach them differently (which I do).
So as you can see, all the above work is if you were only working on one shoot. If you were doing 2 or 3 a week in Summer months, then you'd even need to add in some break time to give your eyes and fingers a rest. If you're more of a generalist photographer, then you're also switching your brain to other styles and workflows.
Asking guests not to post their photos to social media until you do has become pretty common.
One thing I and lots of photographers do is to use phones or mobile apps like Adobe Lightroom Mobile to do a quick edit and send a few 'teasers' to the client so they know you're working on them, but also to stop them asking "Why is it taking so long to get my photos? Everyone has posted theirs on Facebook already! :(". If you're booking a photographer, then you can discuss the timescale at that point, you could even ask your guests not to post any photos until you post yours. The photographer hasn't forgotten you, they just want to make sure you get the best product!
Ask you photographer to send you some 'work in progress' rather than ask when you get to see them all