Full Wedding Photography Editing Tutorial Video (Start To Finish in 4hrs!)
Full Wedding Photo Editing Workflow Video Tutorial
How to edit a full day of wedding photography in 4hrs
Improving your editing workflow is an important part of improving your photography. In this tutorial you’ll learn how I edit a full wedding (1200+ images) in under 4 hrs.
Don’t have 4 hrs? Don’t worry, use the time stamps below to skip to the parts you’re most interested in!
Here is a breakdown of my wedding photography editing workflow from start to finish:
0:00 Wedding Photography Editing Intro
If you’re new to Lightroom and working on wedding photography, learning the right photo editing workflow will make a huge difference in your photos and your turnaround times. In this wedding photography editing tutorial you’ll learn how to set up an efficient photo editing workflow to stay organized, edit faster, and produce better wedding photography all while saving precious time that can be spent on your business.
0:57 Culling all the wedding photos
Properly culling your wedding photos is probably the most important step to improving your wedding photography editing workflow.
Every photo you eliminate from your keepers is going to save you time. Say you spend on average 30 seconds editing each photo. If you had 1200 photos, editing would take you about 10 hours. But if you can cull those down to say 400 keepers, you’d only need 3hrs and 20 minutes! Less time editing, and more time to spend on each photo to make them really shine.
I personally use PhotoMechanic to cull my photos as it’s WAY faster than Lightroom, but if you don’t want to spend extra $$ you can use the free photo culling software xnview (download xnview here) It works great on both mac and PC. Given the choice I still use photo mechanic as I think it’s a little more user friendly.
Culling the wedding photos normally takes me about 30 mins to an hour, depending on whether the wedding had 1 or 2 photographers. But that 30 extra minutes of culling photos saves me many more hours of wedding photography editing!
Once I’ve culled the photos down to about 400-600, I organize the raw photos in folders marked “selects” and “rejects” – This way I know where to find the original raw files if I ever need them. Then it’s time to import into Lightroom
38:02 Importing into Lightroom
The next step in my wedding photography editing workflow is importing the selected keeper photos. There are lot’s of ways to import photos and organize wedding photos in Lightroom, but I personally like to keep things simple as possible.
- I create a new Lightroom Catalogue for every photoshoot I do so that all my shoots are separated and organized.
- I apply basic copyright info and a develop preset during import from the Build Your Own Preset Pack by Signature Edits. This saves my computer a little extra time not having to apply the presets one at a time while I’m editing.
- If I’m working on my older laptop, I’ll build smart previews during import. Smart previews are like little mini versions of your raw files that Lightroom can create so that your computer has an easier time editing them vs full res files. During export Lightroom will still use your full res raw files though, don’t worry 🙂 If you’re using smart previews, make sure you turn smart previews on by going to Lightroom menu –> Preferences –> Performance –> Check “use smart previews”
39:18 Applying a base preset to the entire photoshoot
As I mentioned, I like to apply a base preset during import to all the photos. Once importing is complete, I’ll see how that base preset looks across photos from different times during the day. If it looks great, I keep going. If I think a different preset might work better, I experiment with applying a few of my pre made editing presets to find the one that works best overall across multiple photos, then I sync that preset across the entire photoshoot.
42:26 Matching different camera colors
One of the most important things for me about editing a wedding day (or any photoshoot) is making sure that the images are consistent in the way they look and feel. This can be especially tricky when you have multiple cameras photographing the wedding. The most important part of an effective wedding photography editing workflow is starting with the big, broad changes and then slowly working your way towards more detailed adjustments. If you get the big stuff right across all your images, then all that you’ll need to do individually is small stylistic tweaks. This is my top editing tip for anyone wondering how to edit photos faster: Get more efficient by batch editing as much as possible.
So back to our point: Matching camera colors from different cameras.
The easiest way to do this is with the camera calibration tool. Using the Library view in Lightroom you can sort your photos according to camera. Find a photo taken with each camera at aproximately the same time / location / lighting. Adjust the one you think is less accurate until the colors match. Once you think you’ve got this right, you can test it by pasting those settings on a different set of photos and comparing. After you’re happy, simply sync those settings across all the photos taken with that camera.
It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. Getting this right from the start and applying these settings across ALL the photos right away will save you hours of tinkering and trying to match photos one at a time! Absolutely essential for effective wedding photo editing.
45:30 Syncing camera capture times
Syncing different camera times in Lightroom is very similar to syncing up colors between different cameras.
- Start by finding a moment during the day that both cameras captured. Most of the time I use the first kiss during the wedding ceremony, as that’s a pretty sure thing both cameras would have captured it!
- Once you have both of those photos, go to the library module and select Metadata –> Edit capture times.
- Compare the 2 photos to see how far off the cameras are from one another in time. I like to write this down on a piece of paper. Ex: “Canon 5D is 24 mins 12 sec behind Sony A7”
- Select ALL the photos from the camera that needs the time changed. Which camera you change the time doesn’t matter so much, just pick one.
- Go back to Metadata–> Edit capture times
- Enter the amount of time you need to adjust by.. In the above example, I would adjust the Canon images forward by 24 mins 12 sec
- Lightroom will change the capture times. Voila! Now just double check that everything is correct. If not, follow the same process a second time to try to figure out where you went wrong.
After these main adjustments have been made to the overall edits, colors and capture time, it is FINALLY time to head into the develop module and start editing!
49:13 Editing bride & groom preps
At this stage you already have a basic preset applied to your photos, so editing the bride and groom preps comes down to making the individual adjustments necessary for each photo. Mainly this is going to be exposure and white balance, as well as cropping.
I’ll also take this time to remove any distracting objects in the background with the spot removal tool where possible, and add local adjustments to smooth out any lighting or color issues.
My goal is to make my wedding photography edits as simple and transparent as possible. For me it is more about removing distractions and correcting imbalances than it is about ADDING to the photo. If the photo was good to begin with, I’ve found I get better results by taking away and sculpting the light and color to be as flattering as possible… a little like a sculptor starts with a big block of marble and simply removes the parts that don’t belong there!
1:14:08 Removing / editing objects in photoshop
Occasionally I’ll need to hop over into photoshop if an important photo needs any major corrections. In general, I try to avoid this as much as possible. This is because A) I’m not a photoshop guru and B) Going into photoshop slows me down and takes a lot of extra time.
If I can’t avoid it however, I’ll use photoshop to remove extra distracting objects, fix a partially closed eye etc where necessary.
1:30:00 Editing the wedding ceremony photos
My workflow process for editing the wedding ceremony photos is very similar to the bride & groom preps. I focus on removing distractions, dialing in white balance and exposure, and where necessary / beneficial, adding the occasional radial filter or graduated filter to provide selective edits.
Hands down my favorite Lightroom wedding editing technique is to use a radial filter with the feather up all the way, the contrast down around -20 and the whites pushed up maybe +10. This combination of effects makes for an exceptionally subtle “spot light” that I can use to place emphasis on the subject or make a certain part of the image brighter without looking edited. Lowering the contrast also evens out any harsh lighting / shadows / highlights at the same time!
2:11:38 Editing family photos
I’m going to be honest: I never really appreciated family photos until after I got married. The funny thing is that now that I have photos of my own wedding, the photos of the guests, friends and family are far more important to me than almost all the other photos. Because of this experience I now try to take way more photos of guests and family, and spend a little extra time on them.
The most important part of getting great group wedding photos and family photos is setting it up right in the first place. Family photos almost ALWAYS happen after the ceremony at the brightest, least flattering lighting of the day. Because of this, it’s important to look for the best lighting possible given the situation.
For me, I’ve found taking good family photos comes down to 3 things:
- Putting my subjects IN FRONT of the sun. Having them backlit makes for more even light and minimizes squinting / raccoon eyes / harsh lighting.
- Find a dark background to put my subjects in front of. This isn’t always possible, but if I can manage it, a dark background will be far more flattering as it won’t be blown out in order to properly expose for my backlit subjects
- Take 8-10 photos of EVERY group. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had family members who somehow managed to keep their eyes closed in EVERY. SINGLE. PHOTO. Now I avoid having to deal with that by just taking about 3X more family photos than I think I need of each group, that way odds are good I’ll have at least ONE that everyone is looking at the camera at the same time!
2:31:34 Editing the wedding photoshoot
Once family photos are done, it’s FINALLY time to start the fun stuff! I enjoy editing photos in general, but the photoshoot is most often where I get to be the most creative / have the most fun editing.
Again, my approach is to do my best to remove distracting and unflattering elements from the photo – In my experience this makes for the most organic, least “edited” looking results. After I’ve done that I might place some subtle emphasis on different parts of the photo… Making certain elements lighter or darker, bringing out the texture in the brides hair with some sharpening, smoothing out skin tones by reducing the clarity etc.
Here are my 3 top tips for getting better photoshoot photos:
#1 Incorporate prompts / action shots into your posing repertoire.
You’ll wind up with much more organic moments and the couple will enjoy the process so much more if they’re actually interacting & being real! For some tips, check out our candid posing guide sample pack
#2 Where possible, aim to put the sun behind the couple & look for a dark background.
Follow the same lighting tips as with family photos during an afternoon photoshoot. This will give you the most flattering results with mid-day sun
#3 In advance, ask the couple if they’re alright with sneaking out for a few sunset photos during the reception
Honestly, this is the best tip someone ever gave me. Why should the most important photos of the couple happen at the worst possible time of day?! They don’t have to if you plan in advance to sneak the couple away for 10-20 minutes during dinner. Do it after they’ve eaten and while everyone else is being served and nobody will even miss them!
3:18:51 Editing the wedding reception & editing night wedding photos
Editing wedding photos of the reception or nighttime wedding photos is often the trickiest part of the process. If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor reception with good natural light then the process is pretty simple. If however you’re taking photos in a situation when white balance is constantly changing and you have to crank up your ISO, editing night photos can get a little tricky.
The top tip for editing night photos or high iso wedding photos is to focus on getting it as clean as possible in camera in the first place. Yes, not exactly an editing tip… But it will make life much easier for you if you follow these tips in the future:
#1 Only shoot with the absolute minimum amount of ISO necessary to reduce noise.
#2 Make sure you expose your images properly in camera (DO NOT underexpose – It will make life much harder)
#3 Bring lighting equipment to the event so you’re prepared. A simple bounce flash is often all it takes to get great results. Personally I’ve been bringing battery powered videolights to weddings recently and they’re SUPER handy.
Once I’ve got the photos and I’m editing the reception, I’ll often check and see if one of the night time presets I have work better for the lighting conditions. These presets have been optimized with some added noise reduction and desaturation in the skin tones, as often a reception is dark and the lighting is tungsten and makes everything look too orange.
From there it’s really a one photo at a time process. Because lighting can vary so drastically around the reception room, getting white balance and exposure properly dialed in is the most important (and trickiest) part. After that you can minimize noise with some noise reduction, as well as dropping the shadows a little bit or adding a radial filter to darken the background while leaving your subject properly exposed.
3:55:52 Wedding Photography Editing Final steps
After the edits are complete it’s time for me to take a break! My eyes have been looking at the same photos for hours, and over time you can go a little crazy / lose the ability to see when things no longer look the way they’re supposed to. I’ll normally end editing a wedding in the afternoon or evening and then wait until the next morning to go through the photos again and make any corrections necessary.
To do my second editing pass, I’ll use the loupe view of the library module. This is because the loupe view lets you switch between photos MUCH faster than in the develop module, and I’m only scrolling through quickly to see if any photos stand out as needing last minute adjustments.
When I see a photo that need some tweaking, I’ll do it in the quick develop panel of the library if I can in order to stay as fast and efficient as possible If a more detailed adjustment is needed, I’ll head back into the develop module to touch up that photo, then resume my scrolling in the library again once I’m done.
3:56:55 Export settings
After I’ve done my 2nd editing pass and made sure everything is good to go, it’s time to export the photos! I used to create several copies of different image sizes for the client… One for prints, one for social media etc. But these days I upload all my photoshoots to an online gallery through Pixieset, and they create all the different file size options for me! Super convenient and easy.
So for exporting, all I have to do is export the full res files. I typically set my export quality settings to around 80% and my sharpening to “matte paper” and amount to “low”
I used to rename the files to the couples name, but these days I’ve found it’s better just to keep the original file name. Why? Because then if the couple comes to me with a request to tweak one of the images, I know EXACTLY which photo they’re talking about, and don’t have to dig through all their shots to figure out that “STACY PETER 331” is actually “184893784.cr2”
3:59:12 Uploading & sharing online
Once I’ve exported all my wedding photos, I create an online gallery using my account at pixieset.com. This lets me instantly share a professional, custom gallery with my clients and any fellow vendors from the wedding day.
The best part? They can order prints directly from the site, and all the fulfilment, processing, shipping and delivery is handled without me having to do ANYTHING.
For me this is perfect, because I just don’t want to have to handle one more thing. My print sales aren’t very high however, so for photographers who rely on prints for their $$$ I would probably recommend doing an in-person meeting when your clients first see their photos so you can sell them on prints in person. This seems to be much more effective from what I’ve seen other photographers doing.
And there you have it – My entire photography process for editing a wedding from start to finish! The only bonus step would be submitting the photos for publication – For which I highly recommend using twobrightlights.com – Simply upload your fav 50ish photos to a gallery on twobrightlights and you can select multiple publications for submitting with the click of a button. The whole thing takes like 10 minutes and 90% of the time you can get your wedding published by at least 1-2 blogs or magazines, which is a must-do for gathering social proof for your marketing 🙂
If you’re interested in purchasing the presets featured in this video, you can grab them here
What is your wedding workflow like? I’d love to hear your top tips!