So, your wedding’s out of the way and you’re married, congrats by the way! Perhaps you’ve just got back from your honeymoon and you’re now both asking each other how long does it take to get our wedding photos back?
As wedding photographers with over 1000 weddings under our belt, we feel we are well-placed to answer this question. Our turnaround time is usually between 4-6 weeks for the full delivery.
We’ll send 1 or 2 photos the day of the wedding or the day after if we haven’t got another wedding. Additionally, we’ll send 10-20 photos within a week of the wedding, particularly of group shots to stop those pestering parents.
Everyone does things differently though so the time it takes will vary depending on who you’ve booked to capture your day. You might be sitting there thinking, blimey 4-6 weeks is a long time but for a wedding photographer that time flies by.
In this article, we aim to set the record straight letting you know industry secrets as to why it can take so long to get your photos back. We’ll also tell you how you can get your photos back quicker as well as some do’s and don’ts of communicating with your photographer.
Let’s be clear. A wedding photographer is never purposefully withholding photos from you unless you didn’t feed them on the wedding day of course…only joking!
No seriously, they’re usually super busy, particularly if you got married in peak season. They’ll want to do the best job possible so that you recommend them to all your family and friends. Unfortunately, this can take a bit of time.
Trust them. They’ll be working their ass’s off! So let’s dive in and find out what they’re up to.
What is the normal wait time for wedding photos?
We ran a pole in one of our local wedding photography groups and found that most photographers say their turnaround time is between 4-8 weeks.
The majority of photographers said they aim for the shorter end of that. The reason most add the 8 weeks is simply to avoid couples being disappointed.
Most photographers simply said that sometimes life can get in the way. Kids off school, chores as well as the daily running of their business. Having this safety zone of time means they can spend time with family if they need to when wedding season is at its most manic.
It can be hard to plan your calendar as a wedding photographer. You want to say yes to every couple that wants to book you. This means you can have a lot of weddings in a short period of time.
We once had 8 in a row, NEVER AGAIN! We were 20 at the time and it probably explains our bad backs now.
Some photographers will say 4-8 weeks is way too long and others will say it takes them even longer than this.
However, our survey was on a group of wedding photographers who consistently produce a high standard of work. Someone may say they can deliver their photos to a couple the next day but we’d really question the quality of their work if that were the case. How many weddings are they shooting? How much care and attention are they giving your photos?
What factors will affect the time you wait?
We know we know, your wedding was a big deal but what you’ve got to remember is you’re not unique. Sorry. What we mean is you’re not the only couple to get married this year.
Your photographer isn’t just sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. They’re also not putting off delivering your wedding because it wasn’t good or there’s nothing to promote.
Simply put, you’re joining a queue. Let’s say for example you got married in mid June, a wedding photographer may have 10 weddings to deliver before they can even begin to look at yours. They’ve also got weddings to shoot, meetings to attend, and a life to live. Yes, wedding photographers are human.
They’ll generally edit weddings in order of date and there are a lot of things involved that create that backlog for a photographer.
So what are they? Let’s take a look at some of the factors that affect the time you’ll have to wait.
Whether you’ve settled your invoice
Most photographers will have couples settle their invoice before even shooting the wedding.
However, when we first started out in the wedding industry we would send our invoice after the wedding. Once it was settled we’d then deliver the photos.
There were lots of instances where couples would take a long time to pay us for our services. Probably our fault for invoicing after the wedding we know.
However, this would in turn affect how quickly they’d receive their photos. They’d be ready to be delivered but would be sitting waiting for weeks on end for that invoice to be settled.
Needless to say, this happened one too many times and we changed to requesting funds before the wedding.
The time of year
This is a major factor in how long it takes to get your wedding photos back.
Summer and early fall are generally the most popular months for weddings in the U.S. According to The Knot 43% of weddings took place between September and November in 2022. They also found that 28% of couples got married between June and August.
In reality, couples can get married at any point in the year but these months are particularly busy times for wedding photographers.
If you’re getting married in these months expect to wait for your photos. Conversely, if you’re having a winter wedding you could have a super quick turnaround time.
That being said a wedding photographer could easily still be editing weddings from late November at the start of the next year. It really also depends on how busy your photographer is.
If you’ve requested photoshopping or just color correction
Each wedding photographer will have their own personal belief on what the term editing actually means. For some, it will be a basic color correction and for others, it will be photoshopping every photo.
For us, we always try to get our photos as good in camera as possible. We then go through and color-correct them to ensure they all match and look cohesive as an album.
However, there have been times when we’ve been asked to photoshop. One request that particularly stands out was the removal of a tattoo from the bride’s arm. This obviously adds another layer to the editing process and can therefore increase the wait time. It also has a knock on effect on the other weddings in the queue.
If you make a request to have something removed from your photos just bear this in mind.
How popular or busy is your photographer?
Simply put if your photographer is good they’ll likely be very busy. If they’re very busy the wait time to get your photos back will be extended.
However, what’s the alternative? Book someone who isn’t popular? Isn’t busy? But you get your photos back quicker. You’ve got to weigh up what’s important to you, the speed or the quality.
Whether you’ve booked a full-timer or a hobbyist
This leads us on nicely from our previous point. A full-time wedding photographer is exactly that, full-time.
When they’re not shooting they’re editing, marketing, meeting future couples, going on photography workshops heck maybe even hosting them.
They might be shooting 100 weddings per year. So it goes without saying of course it’s going to take time to deliver your photos.
On the flip side perhaps you ask your friend Scott who had a camera for Christmas to shoot your wedding (not a good idea by the way). Scott has plenty of free time to edit your photos (if he does) and get them back to you.
How many photos have been agreed
The number of photos a photographer aims to deliver to you will usually be discussed before you book them. This can impact how long it takes to get your wedding photos back.
When we first started out we’d aim to deliver about 350 photos. Nowadays that figure is 1000+.
However, if we were still delivering 350+ photos at our same editing speed it would inevitably take us around 1/3rd of the editing time. You’d therefore get your photos much quicker.
But what do you want? More photos and a longer wait time? Or fewer photos and a shorter turnaround?
They’ll have other business activities
As we’ve already touched on, a professional wedding photographer is running a business and this will affect how long it takes to get your photos.
Here are just some of the business-related jobs a wedding photographer will have in a typical week:
- Replying to inquiries
- Delivering weddings to couples
- Arranging meetings with future couples
- Submitting weddings to blogs
- Shooting engagement sessions
- Backing up all their photos in multiple locations
- Shooting weddings
- Editing photos
- Designing albums
- Maintaining their gear
- Attending or hosting workshops
- Networking with other wedding photographers
- Sending photos to other vendors such as florists and venues
They have lives as well
A wedding photographer is human. We know you may find it hard to believe. Yes, they’ll probably answer your email at 12:01 am but they do have lives as well. You can’t expect them to be editing weddings 24/7.
Most wedding photographers will be working on their business more than the average 9-5. As we’ve already touched on though there’s a lot more that goes into a wedding photography business than most people think.
However, they’ve also got to factor in family time, general day-to-day chores, and holidays.
Just those normal things that everyone does. This will again impact how long it takes to deliver your wedding photos within the timeframe they’ve told you.
Trust your wedding photographer
We think it’s important that you trust your photographer and their process. They’ll have done this process hundreds of times and in our case thousands of times over.
They know how long it’s going to take to get to your wedding in the queue and deliver your photos.
If you fell in love with your photographer’s images on their website there’s no reason to doubt you’ll receive the same.
If they’ve said it’ll be between 4-8 weeks that is because they know that’s how long it could take to deliver that quality of work.
Why does it take so long to get the photos back? A typical photographer’s process
So, now that you know some of the factors that will affect your wait time, let’s give you an insight into the wedding photographer’s process.
This will help you to understand what in particular is involved from the day of your wedding right through to the final delivery.
On the wedding day
Attend your wedding (10-12 hours)
What all your planning has come down to, the day of your wedding. Your photographer will have already checked their gear the night before, gone through the plan of your day, and ensured their in tip top condition to photograph your wedding.
A typical day for us is usually 10-12 hours but this can easily stretch to 15 hours depending on travel. A wedding photographer needs to be alert all day to capture your precious moments.
Backup your photos
Backing up wedding photos can take a long time but is an essential part of a wedding photographer’s process.
Losing a couple’s photos would be a nightmare for not only the couple but also the wedding photographer. A photographer could easily shoot ten thousand images at a wedding so ensuring these are all safe with multiple back ups is essential.
Just take a look at the lengths well known wedding photographer Sam Hurd goes to in order to safely store his couple’s photos.
Most photographers will have a similar process but this all adds time to the process unless they have multiple computers.
We usually leave photos backing up whilst we’re sleeping and check everything is where it needs to be the day after the wedding.
Your photographer might provide you with a preview of 10-20 images to tide you over.
It’s a very useful technique to keep couples happy particularly if there will be a long wait to receive their final set of images. It can also stop parents from pestering who might not understand why it’s taking so long.
We usually choose key moments for this preview such as the bride walking down the aisle, the signing of the registrar, some group photos with parents, some epic bride and groom portraits, and venue shots. Just to give a quick snapshot of the day.
Couples will likely share these on social media so it’s great for business as well!
A few weeks later…
Cull your wedding photos
Once the photographer has reached your wedding in the queue it’s time to start looking at the photos.
The first job is to reduce the number of photos otherwise known as culling.
A photographer might take around 10k images at your wedding. In order to get that number down to say 1k they’re got to choose 1 in every 10 as a keeper.
This can be a laborious process and the only way we’ve found to speed this up is to be less trigger happy on the wedding day itself. However, it’s easier said than done!
Color your photos
Now that a selection of images has been made it’s time to edit your wedding photos.
This usually involves opening them in an editing program like Lightroom and applying a wedding photographer’s secret recipe.
These are the editing techniques that will make their photos look exactly the same as the type of photos you were drawn to in your initial inquiry.
This process can take some photographers just 1 day but can take others a week. Some wedding photographers outsource this process and then add minor tweaks when they receive the photos back from the editors.
Create a slideshow and online gallery
This can be a relatively quick job for a professional photographer.
What we do is choose around 100 of the best photos from various sections of the day. Set them to music and try to tell the story of your wedding from start to finish.
We think this is a great way for a couple to first see their images before their final gallery.
Send photos to the couple
One of the final jobs is to export all the deliverable images in hi resolution and upload them to an online gallery.
The time this all takes varies with things like computer and internet speed but the whole process probably takes around 5 hours for us. Again this is something we try to do when we’re not using the computer for other business activities.
The number of photos being delivered will also have a big impact on how long this takes.
Design a wedding album
Depending if you’ve also booked this from your photographer they might have to design your wedding album.
This will usually be an ongoing process after you’ve received your online gallery. We say to the couple we can either choose the 100 photos from the slideshow or you can select 100 of your own.
Obviously, if a couple selects their own we’re relying on them and their schedule for them to get back to us.
It doesn’t sound like that long of a process
And that’s it! Yeh we know it doesn’t sound that long does it?
But now imagine you’re shooting 100 weddings in the space of 6 months.
The backlog gets crazy. One single wedding can be backed up, culled, colored, and delivered in just a couple of days.
However, that’s not the reality of being a busy professional wedding photographer.
How can you get your photos quicker?
It’s important to be patient after your wedding and understand that your photographer is busy.
That being said, we do believe there are ways of getting your photos quicker with some of these hacks.
Communicate with your photographer about the timescale
This is best done before you actually book your photographer.
If you require the photos before a specific date let them know. They might say it’s not possible but if you never ask you’ll never know.
See if your photographer has a fast track option
There are some photographers, us included who offer a fast track option.
This comes at an additional cost to the couple and means we can work extra hours in order to get their photos delivered.
Other couples aren’t missing out because these are hours we’d otherwise be spending with family or watching Netflix (like we’ve said we are human) but we do think we should be paid for these additional hours.
You’ll have to weigh up for yourself whether the added expense is worth it for a quicker turnaround time.
Ask for a preview in advance
As we’ve said we already provide a preview of around 10-20 images. However, if you don’t see that your photographer offers this as part of their package you should ask the question.
These small snapshots of the day are a great way to keep you happy until you receive the final delivered album.
Have a photo booth
A photo booth at your wedding is a great addition to keep your guests entertained throughout the reception.
However, it’s also a great way to get lots and lots of photos of your guests that you can look at right away.
Don’t say your friend received theirs quicker
This is a really bad move and will only serve to anger your wedding photographer.
You’ve chosen your wedding photographer because you love their photos. If it takes them 8 weeks to get them to you then so be it.
To put it bluntly, a friend might have received their photos much quicker but they might not be as good.
Don’t be aggressive
By being aggressive you just run the risk of a photographer placing you further down the queue. Not that we’ve ever done that of course…
It ties in nicely with the point above. Don’t say something like “why’s it taking you so long to deliver our photos, can’t you just send us the link to download them all”
These kinds of comments just devalue the whole process and will also make your photographer unhappy. Not a good recipe for someone handling your most precious memories.
Don’t just ask for the raws
This is a big no no. First of all raw files are massive. The latest wedding we shot totaled 240GB.
Secondly, RAW files require special software to work with.
Thirdly, they’re likely to look nothing like the images you see on a photographer’s website.
Each photographer will shoot differently whether that’s exposing for the highlights, the shadows, or somewhere in the middle.
If they did deliver them to you you’d likely be very disappointed unless you have knowledge of photo editing and its complexities.
The rise of the smartphone (a blessing and a curse)
When guests started taking their own photos at weddings with their phones it had a profound impact on wedding photography. We even had one guest step into the aisle whilst a bride was walking down, completely blocking the view of the groom.
That being said one thing smartphones have done is allow us to deliver sneak previews with immediacy. We can either snap a couple’s portrait on our iPhone, edit it a little and AirDrop it to our couple at the wedding. Or we can send photos from our cameras to our phones. Either way, we can get these little previews off to our couples in no time at all.
The downside of smartphones at weddings is that everyone thinks they’re a photographer. They’ll be uploading all their shots to social media and it can take some of the excitement away from a wedding photographer’s final delivery.
That being said, we strongly believe that a professional wedding photographer’s photos will blow the guest’s photos out of the water.
Not just because they’re been taken using a proper camera but because the wedding photographer will have an eye for details and moments that the average guest just won’t anticipate.
How long does it take in other cultures?
Various cultures have different ways of doing things when it comes to delivering your wedding photos. To be honest some put us to shame in how quickly they deliver their photos.
In Hong Kong for example they have something called a Same Day Edit. This will usually be a selection of around 100 images that are shown at the wedding reception in front of all the guests. It will usually be a slideshow set to music that’s shown on a projector screen.
The couple will then receive those photos either the day of the wedding or the day after. The delivery time for the 1000+ that Hong Kong photographers generally deliver is 6 weeks.
We have found that this trend has snuck into western weddings and we’ve even done a few Same Day Edits ourselves.
How long is too long to wait for wedding photos? When to worry
The only time to worry about how long your wedding photos are taking is if they’ve taken longer than what has been discussed.
Obviously, if this time has passed and your photographer is uncontactable that could be a time to worry.
However, there will usually be an explanation and you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that they’ve lost your photos.
Chances are that your photographer will be a true professional and keep you updated on the whole process.
They’ll probably be proactive and let you know when your photos are likely to be ready so that you can organize a viewing with your nearest and dearest.
That’s what we’ve always done anyway!
FAQs about how long it takes to get your wedding photos back
Will my photographer give me all the photos they took?
No, and you wouldn’t want them either. For every photo a photographer delivers they probably took 10. In 9 of those, you might be blinking or pulling a strange face. Do you really want to see those?
Equally, there will be out of focus shots, blurry shots, and lots of test shots. You don’t want to be looking through ten thousand photos. Trust us!
How long will it take if you book photos and videos?
We actually used to shoot photos and videos so we can tell you our process.
We would aim to deliver them both at the same time even though we had a longer editing time for the video of 8-10 weeks.
However, in peak season we’d always end up delivering the photos in our 4-6 week time scale followed by the video at a later date.
How long does it take to get engagement photos back?
We often shoot engagement sessions at less busy times of the year.
In addition to that the lighting and type of photo taken are generally more consistent. There are also fewer photos to deliver, we deliver between 50-80.
For these reasons, we usually deliver them within a couple of days of the shoot. Obviously, if you’re having your engagement session in the middle of the wedding season this won’t be the case!
How can I stop my parents and friends from pestering me?
We know you can tell your parents something time and time again and they just don’t get it. Brides always start their emails with “I’m sorry but my mum keeps asking”.
In our experience delivering a preview with group shots including the parents cured this constant questioning of when the photos will be ready.
You can obviously ask your photographer for an update that you can pass on. However, the real answer will almost always be in your contract.
What to do once you receive your wedding photos
Now that you’ve finally received your treasured memories it can be a bit overwhelming to know what you should do next. Don’t panic though, here are some suggestions for you.
Backup your photos for goodness sake
We can’t stress this enough, download your photos and put them on 1,2, maybe 3 hard drives. Your photographer won’t keep your photos forever so should you ever lose them you’ll never forgive yourself.
Share them with your nearest and dearest
Your photographer will probably have sent you a link to an online gallery. Share this with your friends and family who have been dying to see what was captured at your wedding.
Your photographer will usually tell you that this link will expire after a certain amount of time so it’s also worth thinking about some online storage just for easy access and browsing.
Print your favorite photos
This one gets a big thumbs up from us.
No one prints photos anymore! They’re so much better when you’ve got the physical copy in your hand. You don’t have to go mad and print all 1000 of your photos. Instead, choose some of your favorites. Get them framed and pop them up around your house.
We always love seeing our photos framed up and shown off in people’s houses.
Create a wedding album
This is one of the best ways to show off your wedding to guests in your home. You can make one yourself but we’d recommend letting your photographer handle this. They’ll be experienced in creating albums that best tell the story of your day.
Equally, they have access to suppliers that the general public won’t. We deliver albums with gorgeous paper, thick leather covers, and a neat bamboo presentation box. They’re simply divine!
Submit them to wedding blogs
If you’re really proud of your wedding, why not try submitting it to a wedding blog? We created a step by step guide to show you how it’s done .
Maybe you’ve got some money saving tips or just general advice for future couples. Blogs are always on the lookout for content so don’t be shy and show everyone what a killer day you had!
Related Reading: How To Get Your Wedding Featured
Tips for couples and wedding photographers
For wedding photographers
If you’re a wedding photographer our advice is very simple. Communication is key at all points throughout a couple’s journey.
Be upfront with your couple from the very start about the wait time for photos to be delivered.
This is especially true if they’re getting married in peak season.
What we always do is send a friendly email or text the day after the wedding. This can either be a template or a spontaneous one, whichever suits you best.
Just say something like “Hi Charlie and Brian, I had so much fun shooting your wedding day. There were so many beautiful moments to capture and I can’t wait to start editing it. Just to let you know that the photos are now all backed up on multiple hard drives and I’ll get to looking at them in the next couple of weeks. Enjoy your honeymoon in Hawaii. I’m sooooo jealous. Oh and btw here are some sneak peeks from yesterday to tide you over until the final delivery”
If your photographer hasn’t taken our wonderful advice from above you can always take the initiative.
Remember that they’re probably out shooting another wedding so might not have had time to email you yet.
Just drop them a message thanking them for attending your wedding and saying you can’t wait to see what they created. You could simply ask them for an estimate of when they think the photos will be ready.
They won’t be offended and will really appreciate you taking the time to thank them for their hard work.
We get it, honestly, we do. In an ideal world, everyone would get a nicely culled, perfectly colored set of images the day after the wedding.
Photographers want that as much as the couples they photograph, trust us! It would save us so much time that we could finally finish watching The Last Of Us on TV.
However, it’s simply not that way yet. Sorry, but you’ll just have to be patient with them.
Your photographer will be doing their utmost to get your photos to you. However, you do have to appreciate that they’re only human and they have a life too beyond weddings.
Hopefully, this article has enlightened you as to why it can take a long time to get your photos back.
Once you receive your beautifully crafted photos you’ll wonder what you were even stressing about.
Our last piece of advice is to embrace that waiting time like a child waiting for Christmas day.
The anticipation may be killing you but it’s something that is well worth the wait!