What to Know About Going Digital With Your Wedding Photography

With all the buzz about digital photography, it's only a matter of time before digital goes mainstream -- here's what you need to know.
by The Knot

You're interviewing a potential photographer and she mentions that she only shoots digital. Huh? Digital for a wedding? Yes, ma'am. An estimated 30% of wedding photographers have taken the digital plunge. Why? Because today's professional digital cameras are incredibly advanced, resulting in crystal-clear pictures, and possibly faster turnaround times and more convenient sharing options than with conventional photography. Some of the industry's best photographers are shooting digitally -- and are even beginning to prefer it to 35mm. Here's what you need to know:

Get the Right Goods

You know a wedding photographer isn't going to pick up any old 35mm film camera to shoot your wedding. So of course she isn't going to use the point-and-shoot digital varieties that you know and may use. What makes a professional's high-end camera different are resolution and pixel count, and, like any other professional cameras, all the options and settings that allow a photographer to tweak the picture for the very best image possible. These are way beyond basic digital cameras, which means the quality of your pictures will be too.

Sneak a Peek

Photographers agree that one of the biggest advantages of shooting digitally is that you can see results as you go along, on the camera's LCD screen. This means the photographer will know right away if he or she needs to take a shot again, because, for example, the exposure was bad or a bridesmaid had her eyes closed. It also gives photographers more creative freedom, allowing them to compose pictures with different lighting, angles, and cropping, because they can tell instantly if the shot worked or not.

Compare & Contrast

Worried digital files won't produce nice pictures? Thanks to the quality now of both cameras and printers, your 11x14 digital prints may be just as good as 11x14 35mm prints. In fact, you probably won't even notice difference between side-by-side samples. If you're worried, ask your photographer to see a sample of an 11x14 image that they've taken. Make sure you like what you see.

Share the Love

As soon as two weeks after the wedding, it's possible that you'll be able to share your wedding pictures with everyone online. And since the images are digital, it's easy for photographers to offer the option of online viewing (often sooner than it would take to get conventional proofs). As soon as your photographer uploads the images to a password-protected site, you get to see hundreds of pictures from your wedding -- and share them with everyone, no matter how far away they are. Even better, everyone can order their own prints online: less hassle for you, instant gratification for your family.

Know Your Rights

When it comes to who owns the digital files, don't assume that they're automatically yours -- even if they are posted online for everyone to see. Some photographers might give you the files but maintain the copyright, while others might download lower-resolution copies of the images on a CD for you, but keep the original, high-res files that would be appropriate for enlargement. As always, make sure the contract terms are acceptable to you before signing on the dotted line.

Add Special Effects

Think of all the enhancements and techniques photographers use on "regular" photos. Now it's even easier to manipulate images because they're already in a digital format. She can greatly enhance a picture with computer software like Adobe Photoshop and Genuine Fractals (say, if you want a poster-size wedding portrait). A more artistic technique might be printing onto watercolor paper using an Iris printer, resulting in images that look like paintings. Check out photographers' portfolios to see what artistic techniques they might use.

Save Cash Elsewhere

Sure, your photographer saves on film and processing costs. But the actual time spent shooting at your wedding, equipment costs, and printing expenses remain. And because what you're really paying for is the skill of the photographer, no matter her medium, and a package with a set number of images, your cost benefit comes when you get to pick from a better selection of pictures.

Make it Last

Like any pictures printed on high-quality photographic paper, your digital prints are likely to last for decades, depending on which printing system your photographer uses. And instead of worrying about protecting fragile negatives that are easily scratched or lost, you can archive your digital files on DVD or CD -- technology that should last for many years to come -- at which point you (or your photographer) can convert the files to the Next Greatest Thing.

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