The importance of getting your images online early

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Last Saturday, I spent a wonderful afternoon and evening at a friend’s wedding.  As usual, I had my camera with me and, as usual, Mrs. Wilson understood when I kept dashing off to take yet another photo.

When I saw the official photographer pointing a camera in my direction, I joked that I take the pictures and don’t appear in them (at least not if I can help it) but I was totally unprepared for what came when she saw me using my medium telephoto (70-200mm f2.8) lens to take a shot of the Groom and Best Man - she rushed up and asked me about the gear I was using and, although I don’t remember it, others who were there later said she asked if I was a professional.  The daft thing is that gear doesn’t matter – so I was using a Nikon D700 and she was using a D90 - the D700 is weighty and, if you prefer a lighter camera (or want to shoot video) then the D90 might be quite a good choice.  I’m sure that she took much better photos than me because: a) I was shooting in Program mode with auto focus (so the camera was doing the work not me); b) I consumed a significant volume of wine during the course of the afternoon.

The best part of it though, was that I was there to enjoy myself, so I didn’t have any of the pressures of being an “official” photographer – organising people and needing to make sure that every shot was spot on, because there are no second chances at shooting a wedding.

This was the first wedding I’ve been to in a few years (pretty much since the switch from film to digital) and I thought it was brilliant to be given details on the day of where to go to view the official pictures.  I was surprised though to see that it said “images take approx 2 weeks” as that seems a long time to get some digital images online (even with post-processing) and others around me thought perhaps that was the time it takes for fulfillment of orders.  Well, it’s now more than 48 hours since the photographers left the venue and, the official site says that “photos have not been uploaded yet, please check back soon…” so I guess it really could be a while until the pictures go up there.

I remember from my own wedding how pleased we were to see a few prints before we went on honeymoon – the official ones took a while but that was because they were negatives: there were several hundred 35mm images and a load more medium format ones to be processed and printed.  Back then, the few digital images we had were not that great (over-sharpened JPEGs at around 3 megapixels with over-saturated colours) but even consumer cameras create 10 or 12 megapixel images today and the in-camera processing has got a lot better (as has the availability of affordable software for post-processing).  Maybe the official photographer is waiting for the Bride and Groom to return from honeymoon before releasing the images but, in these days of social networking, Facebook and Flickr have potentially taken away some of the her image sales because friends and family have already shared their pictures from the day.

I know that, technically, my shots were far from spot on: I should have paid more attention to the aperture I used on some of them, for example, and I should have used a longer lens for the wedding speeches (by then, the 70-200mm zoom was back in the car and I was using a 24-85mm zoom) but I was really, really pleased with a message I received tonight praising my pictures (from the Bride’s mother, no less).  As I said earlier, I didn’t have any of the pressures of being an “official” photographer - and I’m sure the official images will be fantastic when we see them.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m surprised that professional wedding photographers don’t try harder to get their images online before the amateurs get in there. Within 24 hours, I saw three online albums from friends and family – and there were some great images.  Professional photographers work hard to make a living – this one has a great portfolio on her website and some very reasonable prices too – it seems crazy to throw away image sales by missing out on the guests’ post-wedding excitement.

6 thoughts on “The importance of getting your images online early

  1. A client of mine does event photography, usually equestrian events. and has lab quality printers ( Copal dye sublimination), he takes these along when he does weddings and does a roaring trade in selling actual photos on the day!

    He also takes along a back cloth and takes photos at the evening do off groups of people who havent seen each other for years, very popular with older people who dont do computers, and later at night people buy more when they have had a few drinks……

  2. A friend of mine is a semi-pro photographer and will re-touch nearly all the photos before posting them online or handing them a DVD. Maybe she does the same, no doubt she would of had hundreds of photos to sift through.

    But i do agree, when I got married last year, I had seen loads of photos of the day well before seeing the official ones.

  3. Hi Umesh,
    I understand the point you make about hundreds of photos to sift through – that’s where a good photographic workflow helps. I didn’t have as many as that, but I did have a couple of hundred images to go through and they were still done (with minimal post processing) in an hour or so the next morning. Lightroom helped me a lot there – indeed uploading them to Flickr was the slowest part!

    As your freind is a semi-pro, they probably don’t have the advantage of an assistant, but if a pro with an assistant is spending their time on post-processing rather than image capture, it suggests something is not quite right…

    In this case, as the images are still not online 5 days after they were taken, I would guess that the photographer wants to work with the Bride and Groom before making the images available to guests.


  4. I feel the same. When I got married I had to wait ages before my photos were put online and in the meantime had already seen two sets of friends’ photos on facebook which kind of ruined it a bit for me. Photographers should get them on asap otherwise they kind of lose impact.

  5. The pro snapper’s role at (and after) a wedding is an unenviable one and unless you’ve done it you won’t have a clear idea of what is required. The work done before and after isn’t restricted to tweaking some jpegs and so on, and there is much more to presenting an album than the average bod might expect. And bear in mind they have a business to run and maybe a life too.

    Apart from the additional hassle and expense of decent website management there is potential for loss of sales through cheapskates making their own prints from compressed online jpegs. They do, and the results are awful and do the photographer no credit. When my wife and I were married our photographer, using rollfilm, had printed all the proofs for us to collect in an album after our honeymoon, 10 days after the wedding. We were more excited by the previous day’s events and the prospect of our first holiday together rather than seeing a few photos before we left. I scanned a few and put them online for friends and relatives to see (this was 9 years ago) before they got to see the album for themselves.

    What is the issue with seeing friends’ photos online while waiting for the official images? Why does that devalue the hired photographer’s work? I don’t understand. Surely they provide an alternative view of the day’s events. As it is, most people snap away over the official photographer’s shoulder so capture something idea of the groups and poses anway. Why not do away with the pro completely and give your friends a memory card and ask for it back after the reception? If people are so impatient to see their photos online then perhaps the time to online availability is one of the questions they should ask beforehand.

    Regarding equipment, my philosophy is a combination of (1) less is more and (2) it’s not what you’ve got it’s what you do with it. Feet are the best zoom lens, and I would have thought that a 24-85mm lens on full frame can cover most subjects.

  6. Simon – thanks for taking the time to leave your comments here – I get the impression that you may have more experience than me in this area, but I did want to reply, if only to clarify some of the points I made in the original post!

    On equipment, I totally agree that less is more – I was, frankly, very surprised at the defensive position that the professional photographer took and I was even pointing out the positives of her kit (less weight, ability to shoot video) when she was asking about mine. And you’re right, the 24-85mm can cover most subjects… but, not being the pro at the wedding, I was not always in prime position, hence the use of the 80-200mm at times (it’s a much sharper lens too).

    I appreciate there is a lot of work to be done during, before, and after the wedding – which is why I have never been entirely comfortable with the weddings I have shot. My point is not really unique to photography though – in many lines of work, if you want to stay ahead then you need to act fast, and deliver great service. I can’t comment on the service that the bride and groom received (I haven’t caught up with them since they got home) but, I can comment on a couple of points from the guest perspective: At least one of the guests has decided not to use the photographer in question (for a family group photograph) because of her attitude on the day; and giving out cards that say images can take up to 2 weeks to go online, and then taking 3 is just sloppy. If anything, set expectations low (by all means say it might take a couple of weeks) and overdeliver (e.g. take 3-4 days)! As for time constraints, that’s what an assistant is for – the photographer can concentrate on creating great images and growing the business, whilst the assistant handles the digital workflow…

    Of course there is no issue in seeing friends photos – I was pleased to have some available within hours of my own wedding and they do provide an alternative view but, back then, I expected to have to wait for the official ones due to lab processing etc. You’re absolutely right that downloading low-res JPEG images from Facebook is no real threat to the professional (although, that may be changing as, typically low-res, digital photo frames start to take over from hard prints) but I’m sure a professional who gets in there quickly is likely to make more sales than one who puts the pictures up whenever they get around to it.

    It’s a difficult job – I thought I’d been clear in the original post that there are many pressures involved in being an “official” photographer (and I didn’t name the photographer because I don’t think that would be fair) but I stand by my original point: professional photographers work hard to make a living and it seems a shame to devalue that by missing some of the little things that make a difference.

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