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Post cover image: Why do photographers take so long to edit photos?

Why do photographers take so long to edit photos?

Date of publication: 02 Apr 2023 | Updated: 19 Mar 2024

As a photographer, I often hear this question from my customers:

"Why does your photo editing take so long?"
"How long does it take to get photos back?"
"What is the average wedding photo turnaround time?"
While my personal turnaround time is 3-4 weeks, some photographers might take longer or shorter, depending on their approach to editing.

I prefer to prioritize quality over speed, and my editing process involves not only color correction but also retouching skin, body shapes, clean background, surrounding, and other elements to ensure the best results for my customers.

How long do wedding photos take?

So, editing work of wedding photos is a complex and time-consuming process, influenced by several factors. Typically, a wedding shoot lasts anywhere from 5-6 hours to 12-14 hours, generating a vast number of photos. The primary challenge lies in culling these photos, a task that demands significant time and attention to detail. Key considerations for photographers during this process include:

  • Quality of the Outcome: It's essential to sift through the images meticulously, discarding those that are clearly not up to standard, and focusing on selecting high-quality images. This selection is based on both technical quality and emotional impact, aiming to choose photos that align with the project's objectives.
  • Storytelling: Capturing the essence of the day is paramount. The selected photos should weave together to tell the story of the event, encapsulating the atmosphere and significant moments.
  • Client Satisfaction: Presenting only the finest images ensures a professional demeanor and enhances client satisfaction. A carefully curated selection prevents clients from feeling overwhelmed and highlights the shoot's best moments.
  • Personal Branding: The chosen images significantly contribute to the photographer's portfolio and brand identity. The culling process is crucial in ensuring that only the work which accurately reflects their style and expertise is showcased to potential clients and the public.

Moreover, wedding photography often encompasses a wide range of lighting conditions, from the soft glow of early morning to the harsh light of midday and the low light of evening receptions. This variety presents additional challenges in editing, requiring more time and expertise to achieve a consistent and professional finish across all images.

I usually get wedding photos out in about 4-5 weeks. But get this, I know some photogs who stretch it to 3-5 months. And no joke, a few even take a whole year!

Photo Editing Time vs Delivery Time

Firstly, this isn't just the "editing time," but the time needed to deliver your finished photos. I usually work on each photoshoot's edit for two to five days, one at a time, in the sequence that the photographs were taken. And I have photoshoots almost every day.

Let's break it down. Say I do editing of each photoshoot for 3 days (just for example):

Date of photo shoot Term for editing Can deliver photo Total days after shooting
1 April 3 days after 1 April 4 April 3
2 April 3 days after 4 April 7 April 5
3 April 3 days after 7 April 10 April 7
4 April 3 days after 10 April 13 April 9
5 April 3 days after 13 April 16 April 11
6 April 3 days after 16 April 19 April 13
7 April 3 days after 19 April 22 April 15
8 April 3 days after 22 April 25 April 17
9 April 3 days after 25 April 28 April 19
10 April 3 days after 28 April 1 May 21

As you can see, after 10 days of every day shootings, I can only deliver photos in 3 weeks. Of course, not every shoot takes me 3 days to edit, but some take much longer. Imagine editing an entire day's worth of wedding photos, with all the different events and activities. For shoots like that, editing could take me a week!

Each day photoshoots, really?

I said “almost every day”. But yes, I have photoshoots on a regular basis, but I'm a real person with a family, not a robot, and I need to rest, spend time with people I love, and aslo do other business tasks besides editing. To be completely honest, I don't always shoot back-to-back days; sometimes I have breaks in between.

At the same time, I sometimes deliver photos earlier than expected.

So, actually my delivery term is dead-line, not a final and strict duration.
You might even receive your photos in just 2 weeks! It all depends on how busy I am.

Personal life and business approach

As a freelance photographer, I also dedicate a considerable amount of time to marketing, promoting my services on social media, speaking with new clients, handling accounting, and managing all aspects of my business. Balancing work and personal life is essential, and I strive to maintain that harmony while still delivering exceptional results for my clients.

Editing is easy, I can do it on my phone!

I get it! With the rise of advanced phone apps and AI-powered filters. Quick photo edits are now more accessible than ever, but there are hidden complexities that aren't immediately visible.

I've spent years perfecting my craft, learning how to create natural-looking skin tones, skies, and greenery. While it's true that many apps can apply filters and adjustments automatically, they often fall short when it comes to fine details.

At first glance, these edited photos might look great on your phone's screen. But when you zoom in or view them on a larger display – or even print them out – you'll likely notice artifacts and imperfections that can be disappointing.

That's why, as a professional photographer, I dedicate time and effort to ensure every photo I deliver meets the highest quality standards. It might take longer than a quick filter on your phone, but the results are worth it.

Why do photographers take so long to edit photos?. photographer Dimas Frolov photo 436
Photo by Samui Photographer - Dimas Frolov

But it looks like you didn't do anything with the photos!

Haha, thank you! That's actually the goal. My editing style is light and natural, which is the most challenging part – making sure you can't even tell the photos have been edited. The result is that everyone who looks at the photo thinks it's natural and untouched by Photoshop. Or would you prefer something more obvious?

High-end retouch like for magazine

I can do magazine-style retouching if that's what you need. But you have to understand that this type of editing is more visible. It will give your images a polished, advertisement-like appearance.

Keep in mind that while magazine-style retouching can make your pictures looks amazing, but in same time it may also cause an a less truthful impression. The approach may be ideal for professional portfolios, modeling shoots, or advertising materials, but it may not be acceptable for every situation.

Let’s do it!

If you choose magazine-style retouching, just let me know. I'm here to help you achieve the desired look for your photos. No problem at all!

photo: Dimas Frolov
About the Author

Portrait photographer based on Samui, Thailand.
Originally from Ukraine, he has over 15 years of photography experience taking pictures around Europe and Asia. Multi-Award winner and author of many articles about photography.
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