How to Edit A 700 Image Wedding In Under 3 Hours

Let's take a stroll back in time.  

Two years ago, I opened up this extraordinarily overwhelming program called Lightroom and I was in awe.  In just under two weeks, I learned how to add contrast, adjust white balance, deepen blacks - you get the picture.  I was on cloud 9.  

I was editing RAW files, my work looked better than ever, and I couldn't have been more excited to have a program that allowed me to pull up more than one image at a time and transfer edits across a group of photos.

But there was one tiny problem - I really had NO clue what ALL of those other buttons and fancy things in Lightroom really meant.  I could edit my images, export them, and I was happy.  I was missing out on the advanced features of a program that could change my life!

how to edit a wedding quickly and efficiently, education for wedding photographers

Fast forward to 2017 where I have already editing 100+ weddings in the first half of the year and I KNEW, I was going to need to learn this program like the back of my hand in order to have a semi-normal life as a photo editor for wedding photographers.  

Now, halfway through the year, I am ever so thankful for all of the new tips and tricks I have picked up in this beautiful program.  

BUT (there's always a but), I have also learned that editing with quality, consistency, and efficiency starts WAY before those images are ever imported into Lightroom.  There are so many other "little" things  that when all put together, create the perfect opportunity for editing a 700 image wedding in a relatively short amount of time.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways that allow me to edit weddings in under three hours, save my vision (and my back!) and still have a life!

Shoot with Consistency

Truth be told, I am no longer shooting weddings so I am not an expert in this area, but as someone who has professionaly edited 118 weddings thus far in 2017, I feel safe to say that THE first place to start would be without a doubt, changing how you shoot.  

Your images in camera, greatly affect your post-processing out of camera - to the point where it could even double your editing time if there is inconsistency throughout a full wedding catalog.

Shooting with consistency requires several things to take place - you must really get to know and understand your camera settings, you will start to slow down and think through your steps rather than just pressing the shutter button, and finally you need to have a firm grasp on different lighting situations and how to use each one to your advantage to create a consistent gallery. 

shoot With Similar Lenses

If you're just getting started on your photography journey this one may be a reach for you right now, but it is something you should aim for in the future.  While I do have one trick further down to work around this in the meantime, you should always try and shoot with similar lenses.

Having one Canon L series lens and one inexpensive Tamron lens may not seem like a big deal now, but when you pull that catalog into Lightroom you may start seeing a mix of beautiful, crisp images and soft, hazy images.

If you were JUST shooting with the Tamron lens, you probably wouldn't have noticed.  However, once they are paired with the quality of the Canon L series lens, you'll start to see a major shift in quality, sharpness, and contrast.  Not a big deal right now and you can always edit accordingly, but when it comes to consistency and speed - the lenses you use can play a big role.

Cull In Photo Mechanic

I know, I know.  Adobe told you that Lightroom is designed for culling, but if you're trying to increase your editing speed, it really isn't.  This is where PhotoMechanic can change the game.  Photo Mechanic is a browsing software that allows you to quickly ingest your cards, preview and cull RAW images, and add caption, keyword, and location data in a breeze.

This part may not be included in the "under 3 hour editing time," but it's a must.  Simply put, you need it.

Import and Edit Smart Previews

Now that you have gone through the process of improving your consistency in-camera, synchronizing your gear, and cutting your culling time in half - it's time to make some major changes within your Lightroom Workflow.

If you are not editing Smart Previews in Lightroom then you are REALLY missing out on a valuable feature that Lightroom offers.

You may or may not have heard this term before, so what on earth ARE smart previews?  Smart Previews are compressed DNG files that are 2% the size of the original RAW file that you brought into Lightroom.  I think you can see where I'm going with this... 2% of the size means that Lightroom can handle this file with ease.  The file itself looks like a carbon copy, but you are actually editing the data of the RAW file and then allowing the catalog's to SYNC.  Easy peasy and twice as fast.

Apply Preset On Import

This little trick is super simple and something you can get started with immediately.  The next time you import photos simply make your way over to the panel on the right in library mode - then Apply During Import > Develop Settings > "Your Primary Preset"

This will apply your "primary" preset to each of the images on import and all you need to do from there is make minor adjustments such as WB, contrast, highlights, etc.

Use NO More than Two Color Presets

Everyone edits differently, but if you are working towards improving your consistency and cutting your editing time in half, then one simple way to simplify your workflow is by using NO more than two color presets. 

Our brains are designed to not like decision making so why, oh why are we forcing ourselves to make so many decisions while editing a wedding?  By cutting your presets back to no more than two options, you create a workflow that becomes second nature.  Apply preset, make minor adjustments, sync and move on.  

I would actually recommend using no more than one color preset, but I personally use an indoor and outdoor color preset and find this works very well for me to achieve consistency.

Organize Your Wedding

Oh girl, if you are editing a mess of 700+ images by working your way through your camera roll, then I feel your pain.  I was once where you are, and then I learned a life changing solution - no seriously, it was the FIRST thing I started implementing as I increased my editing workflow and it rocked my world.

I started organizing my weddings using Collection Sets and Collections in Library mode.  This is not the only way to organize a wedding, you can also tag images and then filter accordingly, but this is a method that works best for me.

In a nutshell, you will create a new "Collection Set" for each wedding or session you shoot and then within that set, create a new "Collection" folder where you organize each wedding according to the portion of the day.  For example, Getting Ready, First Look, Wedding Party, Family Portraits, Ceremony Details, Etc.

Imagine, editing your next wedding and being able to remind your self that you only have 2 sections left, versus telling yourself you still have 300 images to go - glass half full, right?

Edit By Lens or by Camera

This handy little trick is a favorite of mine that I actually just learned this year!  Did you know you can further filter your images according to the camera and/or lens they were shot with?  It's seriously AMAZING and so helpful for any photographer using more than one camera or editing images from a second shooter. 

In library mode click > Camera Info (bottom right hand corner where you select filters) > make sure you're viewing your images in Grid mode > A bar will appear across the top of your grid and here you can select by Camera / Lens / Focal Length / Flash State

I find it very helpful for edit a few images from each lens or camera, turn the filter off and make sure they are consistent, then complete the edits for each camera/lens accordingly

Review Each Section & Completed Catalog in Library Mode

This part may seem like it is adding time, but it's an absolute must because it actually allows you to SAVE time from going back through the gallery right before you send it off to your couple and realizing there are some pretty big editing errors in the mix.

A little extra time now, means a LOT of time saved in the long run!

Simply, head back to Library mode once you have completed a section, view the photos in a grid and start scrolling to make sure they flow well.  I zoom in to view two images at a time and catch any big errors, and then zoom back out to view a larger amount and make sure everything still looks consistent.

Lay The Smackdown On Social Media

It's rough, I know.  But if you take nothing else from this entire blog post then please, please at least try this ONE thing!  STOP the phone scroll, turn off your wi-fi and get your editing done!  Did you know you can add as much as an extra 2-3 hours to your editing time by simply pulling up Facebook and Instagram on your phone or computer?

Three to Four "quick" social media checks at 10-20 minutes a piece has already consumed 30 minutes to an hour and a half of your day!  

Not too mention, the time it takes your brain to re-adjust to where you were at in your editing flow and make sure you are maintaining quality and consistency.  So say no my friend, just say no.

Micro changes bring macro results.  Take this post one step at a time (probably starting with number 10) and do what you can, when you can to improve your consistency, adjust your workflow, and ultimately create a system that saves you hours of time.