woman holding physical copies of wedding photos in her hands

How Long Does It Take to Get Wedding Photos Back?

Jun 1, 2021
By Wedding Spot

When figuring out how to choose a wedding photographer, one of the most common things couples wonder is how long it takes to get the photos back. Your friends, family, and Instagram followers are waiting, after all.

While every photographer and their timeline is different, we took a deep dive into this topic to find out. Getting your wedding photos back depends on three key elements: the complexity of your order, the photographer’s process, and what time of year it is.

If your wedding photos include editing, video, and any type of print order, then you can reasonably expect there to be a longer turnaround time. Similarly, a detailed photographer who offers the full package of services may have a longer process than one who sticks to the basics.

And finally, don’t expect to get your wedding photos back quickly if you get married at the height of wedding season. Photographers have multiple clients and will typically deliver work in order based on wedding date.

So, how long does it take to get wedding photos back?

Wedding Spot interviewed a handful of experienced wedding photographers to get a better idea of how long it takes to get wedding photos back. Here are their responses:

  • 4-6 weeks depending on the season

  • 4-6 weeks for fully-edited photos

  • 6-8 weeks during wedding season but less during winter months

  • Between 2 weeks and 2 months, with an average of 4 weeks

  • 4-6 weeks depending on what you’ve ordered

  • 4-6 weeks on average in the U.S.

  • 1-2 weeks for amateur photographers or 4+ months for luxury photographers

  • 4-12 weeks

  • 3-5 weeks or longer if you had a lot of guests

  • 2 weeks for an elopement, 4-10 weeks for a full wedding

So as you can see, there is a lot of variety in turnaround times. The industry standard is 4-6 weeks, but there are tons of factors that go into it.

Wondering what you may get while waiting for all of your wedding photos?

In an email to Wedding Spot, Stacie Dennis of OM Engagements said “in most cases, you’ll receive a handful of images (5-10) within a couple days — some even the next day — as a ‘sneak peek.’”

Sean Oblizalo of Vows and Peaks echoed Dennis, saying, “I send next day sneak peeks to hold the couple over and for them to share on social media and with family members.”

He added, “I also send a thank you email the day after where I go over the highlights of the day and tell them that they can expect their photos in 6-8 weeks. This helps set expectations of deadlines and the sneak peek photos give them something to be excited about leading up to the big reveal!”

Steven Inge of Wed Match agreed with all of the above. “Many photographers provide a sneak peek of a small set of wedding photos within a week,” said Inge. “This could include anything from the photographer posting 1-2 photos on social media, to emailing a small gallery of 10-15 favorite photos.”

So even if you have to wait a little longer to receive the entire wedding photo package, chances are your photographer will have a few ready sooner than later for you to enjoy.

Why does it take so long to get wedding photos back?

The wedding photography process is a lot more complicated than photographers let on. Here’s a glimpse into some of the key steps that are taken from start to finish.

Step 1: Curating raw images

Wedding photographer Ivana Leko of Artful Haven told Wedding Spot that the first step of the process is curating hundreds, or even thousands, of shots for clients.

“First of all, after a wedding, I need to take a lot of time to filter the photos for editing. This is a longer process because you need to be super focused to select photos that are of great quality and that tell the story of a wedding,” said Leko.

Step 2: Telling the story

Leko went on to say that there are levels to the initial weeding out period. “You need to choose the photos that best describe that particular wedding and its unique story and bride and groom's character.”

Step 3: Editing photos

Then comes the photo editing, which is commonly considered the longest part of the process. “You need to make sure all photos have a coherent look and the mood,” shared Leko. “On the technical side, it sometimes takes long to do that because of different lighting situations you took the photos in.”

For example, an indoor ceremony with photos of the couple exiting in broad daylight and later under the stars will require a bit of editing to make it all look cohesive.

Step 4: Curating edited images

After the editing process, the wedding photographer curates again. Leko will “filter out any photos that don't agree with the wedding story or lack quality.”

Step 5: Preparing the book

“Finally, you need to prepare photos for print and design a wedding book (if that’s part of the package),” said Leko.” During this process, I'm in constant contact with my clients so they can filter out any photos they don't want in the photobook. It's their wedding after all, and they have a say in this.”

Step 6: Printing and packaging

The final step can be excruciating for couples eager to receive their wedding photos. However, photographers have little say in how quickly the photobook gets to them.

“After we agree on the photobook design, it goes into printing. Depending on the amount of photobook orders, printing can take up to 2 months,” said Leko.

“The final stage is dealing with the packaging of the printed photos and the photobook, as well as the USB with the digital photos. I always make sure this is on brand and that the packaging looks beautiful.”

Extra touches from professionals with a vision and talented eye like Leko are really worth the wait. After all, once they’re complete you’ll have them for life. Like Leko says, “it takes a lot more than just showing up on the wedding day and taking photos.”

Follow these expert tips if you want to get your wedding photos back faster:

1. Speak up

In an email to Wedding Spot, veteran wedding photographer Jared Bauman of INF Photo said that editing is to blame for the lengthy process. But if you’re itching to get your photos back sooner than later, Bauman suggests saying so when booking. “Just expressing to your photographer that you are interested in getting your images sooner rather than later can help decrease your turnaround time.”

He also says to make sure you have it all in writing. “Ask your photographer about their typical turnaround time, and make sure that you have something in your contract that holds the photographer accountable,” advises Bauman.

2. Check email regularly

Wanda Thomas of Wanda Thomas Photography told Wedding Spot that fast communication is key. “Please keep an eye out for any emails from your photographer and respond accordingly. Even if you're on your honeymoon, respond!”

Thomas also said, “if you're going to a location where you know phone reception may be an issue, communicate that when you sign your contract.” Doing so will help your photographer with decision-making and time management.

3. Have a specific vision

Thomas also mentioned that couples knowing what they want upfront is critical.

“Providing your wedding photographer with as much information about what your photo needs are (i.e special photos of decor, guest, possible photo products, location for first look pictures, etc.) will all help the photographer know what you want, thereby making the process easier and possibly giving you a faster turnaround time.”

In other words, the more direction you give ahead of time, the more time you’ll save later.

Now you know all about the wedding photo timeline!

Now you know what to expect and how to work with a wedding photographer in a way that gets your photos back faster. Up next, learn how to choose a wedding photographer who is right for your vision and budget, and learn a little bit more about all the different types of wedding photo styles.

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.