When to Expect Wedding Photos Back From Your Photographer

We promise it’s worth the wait (and then some).
by Maggie Seaver

They say patience is a virtue—but it’s just so darn hard to be patient when you’re waiting for something as exciting as wedding photos. But the good news is, the reason it takes time to get your snaps back is because your wedding photographer is busy making all of them (often thousands of them) look absolutely perfect. To avoid going crazy with anticipation, here’s everything you need to know to manage your expectations when it comes to receiving your wedding photos.

What’s the Typical Turnaround Time?

You could be waiting for your photos anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks after your wedding date, according to Connecticut-based wedding and portrait photographer Carolyn D'Andrea of Tesora Photography, whose turnaround time for a full gallery is usually about five weeks.

“I think the big misconception is that once the wedding day’s done, that was the big chunk of work for the photographer, and everything else is just easy,” she says. “In reality, your photographer is just getting started.”

What’s the Holdup?

How long you wait will depend on your pro and a few other factors, like how many photos they’re dealing with, how large their staff is and whether or not they outsource their editing. “If editing is outsourced and done right, the average turnaround could be four weeks for the full gallery—maybe less if the photographer has a full staff,” D’Andrea says. But some photographers, D’Andrea included, prefer to handle everything themselves, which can take a bit more time.

See, your shooter isn’t trying to torture you—promise! “Good photographers want you to have the best finished product possible. I've heard of [couples] getting photos back too quickly, and the editing isn't fully done,” D’Andrea says. “I painstakingly look at every single image twice.”

And it’s not just the meticulous editing that takes time—the process of actually uploading the images can take up to several days, depending on the quality of the photos and your pro’s editing software. And remember, yours likely isn’t the only album they’re working hard to turn around, especially if your “I dos” are in peak wedding season. “Each wedding takes me about 30 working hours to get through on the back end from beginning to end,” D’Andrea says. “Multiply that by the number of weddings per year, and you've got a ton of work on your hands.”

Get a Sense of Timing on the Front End

Before you hire a photographer (or any wedding vendor for that matter), hop on the phone or meet in person to ask them a bunch of questions, including what their usual turnaround time is. This will ensure there are (hopefully) no surprises down the line. Most important of all is to make sure it’s mentioned in your contract (aka please read through it!). If there’s no line specifying turnaround time, add it.

Ask for a Little Preview

Many shooters are happy to send you a few images within a week of your wedding. “I always send my couples a sneak peek within the wedding week to hold them over until my blog comes out or they receive the full gallery,” D’Andrea says. “It's a really nice touch and my couples love it.” You’ll be so psyched to see a preview of what’s to come and even share them on social (but ask your photographer before posting—that could be a point in your contract as well).

How Long Is Too Long?

If it’s been a week since your wedding and you haven’t gotten anything, that’s normal. But if the turnaround date in your contract has flown by without a peep from your photographer, that’s when you know it’s time to say something. “Be proactive in asking the photographer about the deliverables and timing,” D’Andrea says. “I wouldn't necessarily be worried if your photographer gets back to you and communicates clearly that the photos will be ready by X date, but if that day passes, it's time to take action.” Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but if you do have issues, a signed contract will be a lifesaver.

For more gorgeous wedding inspiration, follow @tesoraphotography on Instagram.

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