Due to popular demand by clients these days most wedding photographers supply images in digital format. This allows couples to print their wedding photographs how and when they please (within the laws of copyright) and also, very sensibly, to have a copy of the full set of images in a flexible and easily stored format. However, printing your wedding photos and getting the results you want often isn’t as straight forward as you would imagine and I frequently both see and hear about results that are far from ideal! So, what are the main things to consider?
Firstly, sorting through several hundred wedding image files can be a bit of a headache! many photographers do seem to let couples just do this themselves and will supply up to a thousand pictures or more of the day and leave some of the editing to their couples. I personally feel this is a bit much and consider it part of my professional role to edit the set into manageable and coherent whole (an art into itself! – have a look at my post How Many Pictures Will We Get?)
You need to back up the original files before you do anything onto a separate hard drive or put them on cloud storage. I would recommend two back up copies and a working copy on your main hard drive. From this set you need to decide which images to print. You will need some software to help you with this or it will take for ever! On a PC Windows picture viewer is a bit rubbish and I would recommend Faststone Image Viewer.
Despite the rather dated looking website this is an awesome piece of free software that is easy to use and allows you to tag the pictures you want to print just by using the “/” key on your keyboard. You can use ViewPic on a Mac to do the same sort of thing but the key here is to tag the pictures you want to keep. Once you have done that view just the tagged images and copy them to another folder ie your “to print” folder. This is key in terms of organisation and time saving……COPY the files to be printed in another folder away from the main folder.
If this seems to be taking a long time then don’t aim to do it all in one go. It works very well if, on the first time through the set you make a quick yes or no decision on each image allowing yourself a gut reaction moment to decide only. Then, once you have got a smaller possible set go through this again in a similar way reducing down each time. You may well need to go through three or four times but this is much more time efficient, and will give you a much better balanced overview of the images than going through once and spending ages agonising over each picture.
What size to print?
So, the next thing is to decide on what sizes you need to print. This needs to be done before you start ordering. It takes an age to decide during the actual ordering process and the chances are you will get confused and make a mistake so make a written list beforehand and tick each image off as you order it.
Basically prints come in standard sizes l(and in inches) like 6×4 which is your standard small print, 7×5 which feels a bit bigger (really!) 8×6 which is bigger still and about half A4 size and 10/12×8 which is around A4 size. Any file that any photographer gives you should print absolutely fine up to round about A4 size. If you are wanting a bigger size then I would advise getting it done by the photographer as it will just be, well better all round!
You may also run into difficulties if you are wanting a print that isn’t a standard size to fit maybe a pre bought frame. There are ways around this but again often it’s just simpler to go back to your photographer and ask them to size and print the pictures exactly as you want them. In theory at least it’s possible to have any picture printed at any size (bearing in mind the print ratios as below) but it might need a bit of Photoshop wiggling to make it work!
Bear in mind that not all print sizes will print the whole of the picture! This will depend on the ratio that the photographer has supplied the pictures in but as a rule of thumb you will lose a little bit around the edges if you print 8×6 or 10×8. 9×6 and 12×8 and 6×4 tend to print full.
Ok, so you now have a file of the images you want printing and a list of numbers and sizes ready to be crossed off as you order. So, where’s the best place to get them printed? I’m going to be a bit awkward here and say that actually the best place to have them printed is at your photographer’s lab! During the editing process most photographers will process and edit the image files for optimum quality and their workflow will be calibrated to their lab to get the best results. The images simply won’t look as good when printed elsewhere.
(I’m tempted to rant on and say why on earth would I spend so much time beautifully editing pictures only for them to be printed in less than optimum conditions ( it’s a bit like putting the expensive super unleaded petrol in a lawnmower engine!) but there’s no point! In reality most decent labs will print out my files to look 90% as good as they potentially could do at least and, in honesty, most people seem to be happy with this. I can tell the difference when I see them, most people would be able to tell a difference if the images were side by side but this is just the way it is. I think, very reasonably, people are happy to save some money and also gain some convenience (maybe is it really worth it?) by printing themselves but I do think it’s a bit of a shame to go to the expense of hiring a photographer and then not to follow through and have the best quality prints you can.)
If you can, and this is a bit of a generalisation, I would avoid having pictures printed at small labs in supermarkets, shops and some high street printer as well. They generally tend to be cheap, produce average results and are run by non expert staff. Online printers tend to be more efficient and produce much better results purely by the fact that they are specialists, have better trained staff and are solely focussed on what they do. You can easily get some ideas of which ones are best by doing a quick online review. Many of the popular photography blogs often run comparison tests of the most popular online labs.
Finally, on a personal note I think that having your wedding images printed is vitally important. Over time you will, most probably, lose or be unable to access your digital files as technology develops. A print is there for ever, it has a tactility and an emotive connection with the past that will last for ever. It’s immediately accessible and has a value that hugely exceeds the cost of the paper it was printed on.
Good printing is a sensual experience which leads to an emotional response. There is pleasure in experiencing the visual depth and richness of a good print, the feel and smell, how it lays in your hand, who else has touched and gazed at it, the fingerprints of the past. Emotionally the content of the image is the kicker and the print itself just the means by which it is delivered. A beautiful delivery has countless lasting value. A digital file is a cold, heartless string of numbers.
If you are looking for a photographer for your wedding who is passionate about great printing but also gives you the digital files to do it yourself if you really want to then GET IN TOUCH – I would love to hear from you.