How We Edit Your Wedding Photos

See how Arenas Foto edits your Costa Rica wedding photos.

An important component of producing high quality engagement and wedding photography lies in the photo-editing process. Taking a good photo start with is just as important. This article details our process of editing photos and is written for couples who are in the process of looking for a wedding photographer and who are considered to have minimal to no experience regarding editing photos. It is not written for aspiring or professional wedding photographers.

Long before we edit a client’s photos, we work with them to identify the style of engagement and wedding photos they want, which informs us of how we first need to take the photos and then lastly how to edit them to achieve the look they way they want. To find out how we do this, visit our Wedding Day & Wedding Portrait Shot Lists and Engagement & Wedding Photos MoodBoard pages.


The day after your wedding, we create an Adobe Lightroom catalog and then upload your photos to it. Next, we organize the photos by event by creating a folder for each wedding-day event. For example: 1. Preparation, 2. First Looks, 3. Ceremony, 4. Group Photos, etcetera. (Organization is essential when working with potential a 2-3 thousand photos for a complete wedding.) . Then, we cull the images, meaning we delete all the photos that are not acceptable. Afterwards, we select the best photos for each event taking into account the story, the total number of photos to deliver and the our client’s Wedding Day Shot List and other input. We then move the selected photos to a collection and start the next step.


At this point in the process, we make about 8 backups of the photos and Lightroom catalog on external HDDs, on and offsite. You can read all about our equipment on Our Wedding Photography Equipment page.


This step is rather time consuming, but it really makes a difference in the end result. We review each photo for what we refer to as “distractions”, which is anything that takes away from the photo, anything that would distract a viewer from the main purpose of the photo. We start by looking at the entire scene, the environment – there may be a beer can on the beach, a mark on the wall in the bridal suite, a yellow post in a tropical garden. We remove them. We then look at clothing for loose strings, stains, pronounced wrinkles – anything that is distracting. Lastly, we go look at skin for blemishes, scratches, bug bites, pimples, and rogue hair that isn’t where it looks best, as well as areas of emphasis, such as between teeth, around eyes, and ears. We think you should look fantastic in your wedding photos!


All the ladies get their skin softened just a bit. Our philosophy with regards to how skin should look is that should look great and natural, as if your makeup and hair were done perfectly. We avoid the “plastic” look. The great thing about today’s digital cameras is that they capture lots of detail. The bad thing about today’s digital cameras is that they capture lots of details. Some details are better left unseen. Some details are not seen when looking at someone with your eyes. So, we use skin softening to hide some of this details, which is particularly helpful depending on the quality and directions of lighting which can really make things like skin texture and wrinkles much more pronounced than they really are. If you want to make sure your makeup looks great before having your photo taken, visit our 4 Great Wedding Day Makeup Tips for Brides and Bridesmaids.


Based on our client’s input on their Wedding Photos Mood Board, we apply a unique stylization. to the photos which is also dependent on the wedding day event. We would not apply the same style to bridal preparation photos as we would to wedding reception photos. The former are generally softer and warmer to to evoke a certain emotional response, whereas the latter are generally high energy moments requiring a different style in order to evoke that feeling. Moreover, when applying a style, each photo has to be viewed to ensure they it is consistent with other photos in the group given that various factors can alter how each photo takes the stylization. This step also involves the use of filters and brushes to modify exposure locally so that a viewer’s eyes are taken naturally directed to the focus of a photo.


Exposure refers to how bright or dark a photo is. How we adjust the exposure is likewise dependent on the photography style a client chooses and the moment. A couple might want heir getting ready photos of the bride to have a bright and airy look, which requires a certain exposure, and the groom’s preparation photos to be more dark and moody, which requires a different exposure. These two styles also require the photos to be taken in a specific fashion. Photos taken as “bright and airy” can’t be converted to dark and moody photos, and vise versa.


A simple definition of white balance is how warm or cold a photo is (color temperature(, as well as how green or red it is (referring to tint). We adjust white balance after adjusting the exposure given that dramatic changes in exposure cause color shifts that can dramatically affect the color of skin, which is affected greatly by white balance. How we adjust white balance depends on how warm or cold a client indicates they want their photos give the example photos on their Wedding Photos Mood Board and verbal input. For us, the most important factor in adjusting white balance is how skin tones look and that they are consistent from photo to photo taken at the same scene in the same lighting.


For us, quality and consistent photography is fundamental.  One of the last steps is reviewing all the photos. We do this by category and style and pay attention to each of the aforementioned steps to ensure quality and consistency.  We do this group by group – photos of the same content and with the same photo-editing characteristics.  We generally start with the bridal preparation photos by looking at them on a grid to see if there are any photos that stand out with regards to exposure, white balance and stylization.  We then go photo by photo to ensure all noticeable distractions were removed and that each photo with the same distraction no longer has that distraction. 


At this point, we apply noise reduction, sharpening and grain. When we apply these setting, we do so based on certain criteria, such as how much noise does a group of photos have and how does it affect the overall look. A small amount of noise reduction can have a dramatic effect, especially on skin, making it much more soft that it is. The same amount of noise reduction can have no visible effect on other photos. The same applies to sharpening and adding grain. How much grain we apply is also dependent on the the final look a client wants.


The next step is selecting photos to convert to black and white. I love black and white photos!! Not all photos look good in black and white. Photos with lots of shadows and contrast look best in black and white, as well as those that capture emotional moments. Converting a photo to black and white and making it look good is not done with the click of a button. It’s a completely different stylization than what is applied to the color version. We also apply color grading to our black and white photos – adding a hue to the highlights and shadows to achieve a certain look and evoke a unique emotional response.


That’s it for the editing process. Once we’ve ensured quality and consistency, and that we’ve met our client’s stylistic and content requests, we export the photos. We export them as JPEGs, at 100% quality, and 300 PPI (Pixels Per Inch for printing). We do not apply any output sharpening. If a client has us do the prints, we then apply output sharpening based on the type of paper and the size of the print. We inform clients to have the professional printing lab that’s printing their photos set the output sharpening in accordance with the type of paper and size of the final print in mind.

We then upload the photos to a private online photo gallery. Read all about the photo galleries we use to deliver client photos on our How We Deliver Your Wedding Photos page.


After we deliver your photos, it’s not “goodbye”. A month or so after delivering your digital image files, we email you to make sure you’ve downloaded them all successfully, that you are happy with your photos, and see if there are any photos of any people, moments, or details you think are missing (if this is the case, we look for them and, if we have them, we edit and deliver them). Once you’ve made clear you love. your photos and you’ve downloaded them, we inform you we will delete all the photos we did not edit and move the photos we did edit and deliver to our long-term data storage for safe keeping in case something happens to yours. We store the original RAW image files we edited, not the JPEGs we delivered.


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