After you’ve traded vows, cut the cake, and hit the dance floor with your favorite people, the best way to relive your wedding day is by taking a look back at the snapshots. Your wedding photos function as a time capsule that preserves every wonderful moment from your nuptials, whether it’s getting glam with your bridal party or sharing the first dance with your significant other. “I look at photography as a vehicle to transport you back in time, helping you to relive memories that otherwise may have faded over time,” photographer Laura Murray says.
Since taking a look back at the wedding pictures is the closest you’ll get to experiencing your wedding day all over again, you’re probably wondering when you’ll be able to get your hands on them. If you’re eager with anticipation, don't fret! Here, we go straight to the source and ask wedding photographers to share their best timing estimate, so you have a general sense of when to expect the images to arrive in your inbox. Although it depends on the photographer, this is how long it usually takes to get your wedding photos back.
Meet the Expert
- Laura Murray is a Denver-based wedding photographer who has been shooting couples’ big days since 2011.
- Kiyah Crittendon is the owner of Kiyah C Photography, which covers weddings in Atlanta and Washington D.C. She’s been working as a wedding photographer since 2014.
- Larissa Cleveland is a wedding photographer located in San Francisco with 15 years of experience in the industry.
When Is the Typical Turnaround Time for Wedding Photos?
Every photographer outlines a different turnaround time in their contract, but it usually takes anywhere from four to 12 weeks to receive your full set of wedding photos, according to Kiyah Crittendon of Kiyah C Photography. Photographer Laura Murray says her average timeframe is around five to six weeks (although she outlines a 10-week deliverable in her contract). Meanwhile, Cleveland shares that her clients’ full galleries usually arrive eight weeks after the wedding.
That being said, this timeline varies depending on the time of year you host your nuptials. If you’re tying the knot during peak wedding season, which is anywhere from May to October, the average wait time will take longer since your photographer will be busy editing several collections of wedding photos at once. For those who are saying “I do” in the off-season, Murray says you’ll get your photos back in a couple of weeks. Regardless of the month you get married, your photographer should keep you up to date by communicating the status of your photos throughout the editing process.
Within the first week after your wedding, most photographers will send you a preview of around 40 to 50 sneak peeks. Even if you’re waiting a little while longer to see the full set of photos, you’ll have plenty of images to share with your friends and family or post on social media before the full gallery is ready for you.
Why Does It Usually Take This Long?
Many people assume wedding photographers do the bulk of their work during the event, but they’re only getting started. Once they’ve taken the snapshots, these professionals spend a long time perfecting their craft during the post-production process. “The decisive moment of creating a beautiful image always happens on camera, but no digital photo comes straight out of the camera looking perfect, no matter how talented the photographer is,” Cleveland admits.
Since your vendor shoots thousands of photos on the big day (and even more if you’re hosting a weekend of festivities), they spend a big chunk of time narrowing down the images and choosing the top selects. Murray says she often photographs weddings with a second shooter, which adds more shots to the collection that she needs to sort through.
Next, your photographer does multiple rounds of edits to each individual image. “It takes a long time because we put our eyes on each of the hundreds of photos and make artistic edits to them all,” Crittendon reveals. This includes adjusting for color, sharpness, contrast, exposure, lighting, and white balance, plus straightening and cropping. Murray shares that she retouches the photos if there’s a distracting sign in the background or a flyaway hair on the bride’s face. She’ll also convert some of the final picks to black and white.
Finally, these experts organize the snaps in chronological order to accurately depict the day, and they convert them to JPG files. While this is happening, your photographer is managing additional business responsibilities, traveling to and from weddings, and shooting multiple events at the same time, so they don’t always have instant access to their computer or ample time to edit.
Tips to Follow While You’re Waiting for Your Photos
Although you’re probably itching to review your wedding photos as soon as possible, trust that it will be well worth the wait. “I think it’s nice to have a bit of separation from the event and then get to relive it all over again weeks or months later when full galleries arrive,” Murray mentions. Instead of letting the anticipation consume you, enjoy these first few weeks as a newly married couple.
If you really want to reminisce about your special day, Crittendon suggests asking your friends and family to send pictures and videos that they took on their cell phones. You can also take a moment to jot down your favorite memories in a journal. Murray recommends asking your guests to share memorable moments from the affair and then recording them, so you’ll always remember the details. If all else fails, you have the wedding previews to fall back on.
How Will Your Photographer Send the Photos?
Once your photos are fully edited, your photographer will send you a digital gallery via email. They’ll usually include a link to an online gallery platform, such as PicTime or Pixiset, where your photos will live, so you can easily download and share them from that hub. Murray’s package also includes print imagery, and Cleveland says she sends a printed gift to her clients in the mail in addition to the digital copies. “I love for my clients to have something tangible as digital is never quite as good as the feeling of opening a box of printed photographs,” Murray notes.
What Should You Do With Your Wedding Photos After You Get Them?
Once you receive the link with your digital photos, Crittendon advises downloading all of them and storing the file in multiple places, such as a hard drive, Dropbox, and your desktop. Having several copies of these keepsakes will guarantee that you won’t lose them. Of course, make sure to set aside an uninterrupted stretch of time to savor examining every photo with your spouse. You’ll also probably want to share the gallery link with your friends and family members, so they can check out the snaps and purchase prints.
These photographers also highly recommend preserving your favorite memories in a photo album and printing smaller copies to display in picture frames around your home. “There’s something special and precious about actually holding the physical photo, especially in an age when we can so easily have thousands of photos digitally,” Cleveland mentions.