Our next post is from Tim Halberg of Halberg Photographers:

Read the wedding magazines and they will give you check lists of things to ask your photographer: do you shoot digital or film, who will actually photograph my wedding, do you offer the digital negatives…

What the magazines don’t tell you to ask is how your digital negatives will compare to the photos you saw on your photographer’s website, the photos which drew you to their work in the first place. You need to know what the difference is between a print you will receive from the digital negatives when you upload them to your local lab vs. a finished print you will receive when ordering directly from your photographer.

Photographers prepare files for several different uses: marketing ie: their website and ads, proofing for brides/grooms to first view their images, album images and finished prints are among the most common.

Photos used for finished prints, albums and marketing have usually been processed through Photoshop to ensure the images look their VERY best. Depending on the photographer this may include adjustments that can take anywhere from a minute to an hour.

Usually printed proofs and online proofs have simply been adjusted in a digital workflow program such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture. Most photographers utilize this software to adjust brightness/exposure as well as color balance. The process is much more involved than this – but to go into detail would require an entirely separate and fairly technical article, but the end result is a photo which is close to correct for exposure and color.

With all of this in mind, there are some additional questions you may want to ask your photographer before hiring them:
*Can I see a complete wedding as delivered to a previous client for proofing (ask for more than one) – this will give you an idea of what to expect in your proof images vs. what you see on the photographer’s website.
*What does a final print look like when delivered from the photographer? – hopefully this will look very similar to what you have seen on the photographer’s website.
*What type of retouching is included in the cost of a print, and what does additional retouching cost?
*What type of adjustments/retouching will be included with the images delivered as digital negatives?
*Why should I order prints from you vs. using the digital negatives to have prints made down the street?

Your digital negatives will usually be a match to your proof images. This means if you order prints from your digital negatives from a lab down the street such as Walgreens/Walmart/Snapfish/Costco/Kodak.com your prints will not come close to the quality of what the photographer would deliver as a final print if you were to order from them (that is if the photographer does retouching when you order your prints).

Some photographers use an online lab such as Pictage or Collages.net for their print fulfillment, and often with these types of proofing solutions, what you see online as your proofs will be what you receive after ordering a print because the lab takes your order and immediately prints it with no step in-between for your photographer to make any final adjustments.

Other photographers who do their own print fulfillment may still have online print ordering, but the photographer receives the order before it goes to print and then is able to retouch the images before sending the photos to a professional lab for printing.

In either case, be sure to clarify with your photographer as to whether the pictures you see online for proofing will be retouched more before being printed, or if what you see is what you get.

You want to be sure that if you are spending money ordering prints directly from your photographer that all of your final prints match the quality of what you see on the photographer’s website galleries (the same images which convinced you to hire this photographer).

If you are not interested in purchasing digital negatives from the photographer and prefer to have them printed on your own, definitely ask the photographer where they suggest having prints made.

As much as I hate to ever push a client away from purchasing their prints directly from us for completely custom prints, we always suggest Costco when a bride/groom asks where to have their digital negatives printed. Costco is known for consistently putting out “decent” quality prints (not professional quality), whereas other labs such as Walgreens, Walmart, Longs and so on are very hit and miss on quality (or so I hear as I’ve never ventured to use them myself).

For those who do want to utilize their photographer for custom/retouched prints, be aware that all re-touching is not offered on the same level (even if it is called by the same name).

Custom re-touching from one photographer might simply mean brightening the photo up, while re-touching from another photographer might include anything you could ever dream of (switching backgrounds, removing fly-away hairs, opening closed eyes, removing distracting elements from the background and so on) and anywhere in-between.

Be sure to get a clear understanding of what your photographer does and does not offer when they tell you their prints are “completely” retouched. Ask for specifically what retouching is included in their prints and how much additional retouching will cost.

If your photographer is leery of giving/selling you the digital negatives, it is usually not because they do not want you to have a copy of all of your images to hold onto for the rest of your life, but because photographers know that the prints you have made on your own will not come anywhere close to the quality of the prints you will receive directly from them.

It is very tough as an artist to give up control of something so vital to the final look/quality of their art/your photos, but in the changing world of digital imaging, it’s a reality most have been forced to face.

Hopefully this article helps you better understand what you need to know before making the decision to have your photos printed by the lab down the street from your house vs. paying your photographer for their custom prints.



Great tips!!! Thanks for writing these for brides. Love this post!