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Getting burned on your wedding day...
some first aid
Article submitted by James Roberts Photography

You don't want to get burned with your wedding photography.

"Shoot and burn" is what a lot of photographers today are doing for their clients: shooting digital images and simply turning over a disc of images to the bride.

Many brides love this when they sign a photo contract, because they think it's more economical, or because they think they're going to "do it themselves" making a wonderful scrapbook, or they're going to have a friend print for them.

At its very worst, wedding "photographers" (who are often just someone with a digital camera and no experience printing at all) simply pass on a CD of barely colour corrected (or completely uncorrected) images. That's the last you'll hear of them, and you're left holding onto images that are much, much less than what you'd like. 

So the final results in your hands, after paying for photography, can be just awful.

At its very best, a professional photographer will colour correct, crop and work with the files before they get handed over to a bride on a CD or DVD.
But even then, at its very best, it's still difficult for someone who isn't a professional to finish the files properly for print, let alone design an archival album that will protect your prints for years to come. For example, skin tones should be individually tweaked on each shot for optimum printing. Depending on how--and to what device-- you're printing (the actual print technology), what you get on the CD and what you need to print well can be very different things, even when the files are delivered in good faith by the photographer. Sharpening of digital files, too, needs to be handled on a per-shot basis for best results. A good photographer also sends back less than stellar results to the lab; you never see those mistakes, unless, of course, you're trying to print yourself!

So In fact, one significant way of telling good photographers from trouble all around is to look at their prints, not just their shots online.

Exceptional photography, after all, has always gone beyond just a good "negative:" you need a breathtaking print--and that takes as much work now as it used to in the days of film and darkroom. But even if the final output is meant for the Web or for a DVD, colour correction and other work on the final image is essential for great results.

So the "final end-cost" in terms of time and quality from many "shoot and burn" simply isn't worth it. Ending up with a CD of 1000 mediocre shots--all of which need fixing just to get decent prints--is not very good value, and it can cost you a lot in terms of enjoyment, time and money afterwards. Not having great prints, books and albums from your wedding day and photographer is simply false economy.

After all, you wouldn't ask a contractor to do half a job and then leave the rest for you to finish, would you? More to the point, imagine if your wedding caterer said to you, "well, you paid me for the recipes, here they are! Enjoy cooking and presenting the food yourself!" That's a lot like paying someone money and letting them off not producing great prints for you. Let's say, though, you want to do this after the fact. You made a mistake, and now you want some good prints.

So what's a poor bride to do who has made this frustrating choice and is now looking at a CD instead of an album?

I'm afraid most of them struggle to find someone who will give them mediocre results from (all too often) mediocre files! You can always go to another photographer to get some good prints. But believe me, most of the ones who make great albums will charge you a premium to work with someone else's photography, and some won't touch it at all! For some photographers, if they can't guarantee quality to begin with (by taking the originals themselves), then they won't print them after-the-fact.

The many problems involved in creating high-quality printing is one reason many professional photographers won't supply digital files for printing to clients unless they're working under a commercial advertising contract. In that case, the photographer can be pretty sure the ad agency or client  company has graphic designers and their own ways of printing high quality output. 

Ironically, people's wedding photographs are much more emotionally and historically important than any commercial photography, and yet many people  don't treat their photography with anything like the same care lavished on "throw-away" advertising!

But now that you're warned about this, you can guard against falling into this trap, even if having all your pictures seems like such a good idea! And there is some middle ground, and most photographers these days are aware of it. Certainly ask your photographer for email versions of your photos, and certainly ask them if they can give you DVDs or CD slideshows of your day. Some photographers will even agree to sell you the digital negatives of your files for a modest fee sometime after your wedding and after you've ordered your albums.

But the big lesson in this is to make sure you see your photographer's very own printing, because how they present your day is one of the biggest  and most complex parts of the professional photographer's job these days. After the wedding day has long passed, if you have wonderful prints presented and preserved exceptionally well, the value of looking ahead will be crystal clear to you, and your family, for many years to come. You will have saved a lot of money, too, in the long run!

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