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Your Digital Wedding Photos - What Should You REALLY Expect?

Do Wedding Photographers Give You The Negative Files

By Jeffrey House Photography


Do wedding photographers give you the negative files?

Do wedding photographers give you the unedited raw files?

Do wedding photographers give you every image they take on the wedding day?

Almost every wedding photographer is asked these three questions during the initial client meeting.  If you're a bride or groom, it's likely everyone is instructing you to hire a photographer that gives you the digital files from your wedding.  Over 50% of couples don't print a single photo and many couples admit they have no idea what to do with the images once they have them.

If you're like most couples, you probably have a lot of questions when it comes to the digital files from your wedding day.  You may even be wondering - "What is a digital file?"  In this article, we are going to take a closer look at digital files and answer these common questions.

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what is a digital file?

By definition, a digital file is a collection of data or software stored in a computer.  As professional photographers, we use "DSLR" cameras - this represents "Digital Single-Lens Reflex" camera.  For the purposes of this article, we won't dive into the full meaning of DSLR.  However, it's important to understand that every single photo captured on a DSLR camera is its own digital file.  

These digital files or photos are stored on a memory card that's in the camera, and is removable.  Photos can be uploaded from the memory card by placing it in a card reader and uploading the images to a computer.  Many cameras now allow this to be done using a wifi network. 

what is a copyright?

When it comes to wedding photography, you often hear the word "copyright."  What is a copyright?  What does it mean?  Photographers own the images they capture, but a copyright extends the exclusive legal right to reproduce your wedding photographs.  Generally speaking, they can only be reproduced for personal use.  If a magazine or other publication approached you to use one of your wedding photos in their magazine, you would need written permission from your photographer.  

do wedding photographers include the digital files with their packages?

This is definitely a question you'll want to ask as you interview photographers; however, most photographers these days do include digital files with their wedding collections.  

On average, you should expect to receive 50-75 professionally edited images per hour of coverage.  Therefore, an 8 hour wedding package will yield between 400-600 images.  Generally speaking, 400-600 images works really well for most couples.  Less than that and your photos feel incomplete - more and sifting through them becomes very overwhelming.  Some photographers try to "wow" you by the quantity and speed of the images.  For example, they deliver you over a 1,500 images in 3 weeks.  This is generally nothing more than a marketing ploy and I assure you their "editing technique" is very limited at best.  When it comes to your wedding photos, keep this one simple question in mind - 

Do I want more or do I want better?

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o wedding photographers give you every image they take?

How many images your wedding photographer captures on your wedding day is largely driven by their "shooting" style.  For example, some photographers will take between 2,000 - 4,000 images during an 8 hour wedding, while others capture between 4,000 - 6,000.  Many photographers take less photos, but each image is very purposeful.  Other photographers use a "machine gun" approach - they spray and pray or take photos very quickly, and bank on 1 or 2 being good enough to deliver.

At the end of the day, don't expect to receive every image a photographer takes on your wedding day.  While your photographer may take 3,000 images, there are many reasons why all 3,000 photos aren't "deliverable."  If you've ever watched a photographer in action during a wedding, you'll notice they rarely take just one photo of the subject they are capturing.  Photographers have to take multiple photos of each subject to account for closed eyes, unflattering facial expressions, missed focus, lighting issues, etc.  Because they capture multiple photos of each subject, there are often duplicate and triplicate photos which are reduced to the best image.  

Even though you're photographer doesn't give you all 3,000 or 4,000 images, it's key to remember they aren't withholding images or keeping that award winning image for themselves.  

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do wedding photographers give you the unedited raw files?

Most professional photographers are never going to agree to give you the unedited raw digital images from your wedding.  

This isn't an attempt to be difficult or inflexible.  The editing or post-production process is very personal for a photographer.  It's a part of their work that evolves over time and it plays a significant role in reflecting their style, and brand.  If you were to post unedited images or images you edited yourself, this could severely damage the photographer's reputation as the images won't accurately reflect their body of work.  

This actually leads us to another point.  You should never alter your photographer's images by adding "filters" or "special effects."  This too does not reflect their style and brand.  Be sure to read your contract carefully - if you do alter their images and post them online, it could ultimately result in a breach of contract and carry copyright infringements. 


do you have any other questions when it comes to your wedding images?  ask your question now!



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