O.M.G! My wedding photographer lost all my pictures!!!!!!! If you are planning a wedding or know someone who has recently planned a wedding [and even if neither one of those applies to you], you've likely heard a story like this somewhere in recent months. All you have to do is talk to people you know, turn on the local news, or search Google, to find [way too much] info on this growing trend. With the wedding photography market becoming extremely saturated in recent years, we are, sadly, hearing more and more of these stories every day. It became such a huge problem a little while back, that we even had to come up with special pricing just to help out all of the couples who were calling and emailing us asking if we could do an "after wedding" session because they ended up with nothing from the photographers they had originally booked. Seriously?!? Yep.
So, why is this happening, and what should you do about it if you are currently looking at photographers for your upcoming wedding? Well, the #1 reason this happens is...inexperience. Plain and simple. Now, don't get me wrong. We all started somewhere, and many years ago, we were the new photographers on the block. And my oh my. Some of those earliest photos are "interesting" enough that we could have a few friends over, pour some drinks, put on a slideshow, and provide a full evening of pretty sweet entertainment. Heck...we could probably even charge admission. How much would YOU pay? But all kidding aside, even though our skill has become so much more refined over the years [as it should], there is one thing that we have always had in place....right from that very first wedding. And that is a SOLID BACKUP PROCESS.
Weddings are the one thing that never give any of us the opportunity for a do-over, and your wedding photos are the one and only thing that will be left when your day is over. Your cake will be eaten, your flowers will die, your dress will be packed away. But your photos will remain...or at least they should. So it is absolutely imperative that you KNOW that the person [or people] you are entrusting to document your day, knows what they are doing with your photos after the wedding. Yes. After the wedding. Even though when the day comes to a close, for you and your guests, it feels like it is over, for your photographer, it is just beginning. After your big day is when the huge and oh so detailed process, that is called post production, is just getting started.
Here is an example of how it SHOULD look [this is our full process, in case you hadn't already guessed]:
~On the wedding day, your photographer uses many different compact flash cards to store your wedding photos [rather than one card with a large amount of storage space]. This spreads all the photos from the day onto multiple cards, so even if one card goes down, the entire wedding isn't lost. *These cards should also be formatted several times prior to your photographer using them at your wedding in case there is a defective card. By formatting them, your photographer will be able to spot any problems in advance.
~Your photographer brings adequate equipment to your wedding [multiple camera bodies, multiple lenses] in the case of equipment failure. We like to call ours the "Oh shit! bag". We've never had to use it, but it's always there in case we do.
~Your photographer will keep all cards ON HIS PERSON throughout your wedding day. Not in his camera bag over in the corner, not in his car. On. His. Body. Theft of photography equipment at weddings is also becoming a huge problem, and even though cameras can be replaced, your images cannot.
~Immediately after the wedding, all raw photos are loaded into main backup system [which should be a system of multiple hard drives...we have 8...that mirror each other]. If one hard drive crashes [photographers have hard drive crashes all the time due to the massive amounts of information we are processing], we can just pull out the bad one, insert a new one, and it will automatically write onto it from the other 7. Pretty cool, huh?
~Raw photos are culled down to all the "keepers". Those are then converted to JPEG and loaded again into the main system.
~JPEG files are then loaded onto an external hard drive that is cycled [with others] between multiple locations. In our case, our studio, our home, and a safe deposit box at the bank. This offers an extra layer of protection in case of theft or fire.
~Final images are edited, and then loaded AGAIN to all hard drives.
~Your beautiful wooden flash drive is loaded with your awesome edited images, and it is sent on it's merry way! Oh happy day when you get your photos!!!
How it SHOULD NOT look:
~Photographer shows up at wedding with a camera or two and one card to store all your images on ["But it makes so much more sense to keep everything organized on this one little card! "...said no knowledgeable photographer ever].
~Photographer leaves your wedding and goes about his life, leaving his camera [and the card containing your images] in his car, only to have it all stolen while he's in the store [or the restaurant or the bar or wherever].
~OR photographer loads your images onto her laptop [only], and the laptop gets stolen, dropped, stops working, etc. Poof. Images gone.
~OR photographer is kind of on the right path, and loads your images into his main computer, but doesn't have an adequate system to back up your images several times. Hard drive crashes [it's happened to every single person at some time or another], and bye bye pretty pictures.
~Photographer calls/emails you [if she doesn't just disappear, never to be heard from again], and breaks the bad news to you that you will have to relive your day only from the memories in your head.
Long story short, there are a MILLION ways things can go wrong and images can be destroyed or lost, and there are also a MILLION little things your photographer SHOULD be doing to ensure that doesn't happen. We always share this info with our couples during consultations. Not to scare them [and 99% of them tell us this is something they never even thought of], but rather to let them know that it is OUR job to know how to not only take great photos for them, but also how to properly handle those photos throughout the entire process. And we want them to know that they can rest easy knowing that we have these measures already in place to prevent disaster from striking.
There are lots of great photographers out there. But the ones that truly know how to manage your wedding day to make it a seamless and stress free experience, as well as how to properly load, back up, and archive your images AFTER your wedding, are the only ones you should put on your short list. Even if it costs a little more. Paying for something to be done right once is always cheaper than paying for something to be done mediocre twice.
Look at lots of photos, meet photographers in person to make sure you "click", and for goodness sake, ask about the backup process. If you get a detailed and solid answer, you should be good to go. If you get a blank stare and lots of "Um, well....it's very complicated. But I promise I know what I'm doing", move it right along. After all, this is your wedding. Your one and only wedding. So put a seatbelt on it, and then go for the ride of your life.