Options for bringing your wedding day photos off the screen and into your hands

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

The wedding has passed, the honeymoon is celebrated, and the gifts are put away. Now, the final bit of anticipation—seeing your photos from the big day—is over as well, and you’re faced with the inevitable decision: What do you do with all those photos?

These days, most couples get their photos digitally, either via thumb drive, online gallery or both. In an era where computers are more ubiquitous than bookstores and social media dominates downtime, this makes sense.

But what about the tangible stuff—the 8-by-10s, the photo albums, the canvas prints?

For many couples, this is where paralyzing indecision sets in. Not only is it a question of what to order—will that shot look better on a canvas or in a 5-by-7 frame?—but also of whom to order from. Fortunately, you have an expert on your side: the photographer who took the images. Several local professionals share their tips on choosing what to print and how; read on for their advice.

To Order or Not to Order

Let’s tackle the big one first. Should you even order any prints?

“I want [couples] to really focus on what are they going to look at in 10, 20 … years,” says Kimberly Potterf of Kimberly Potterf Photography. Whether it’s an album to bring out for family and friends or a framed picture hanging in your bedroom, the physical iterations of wedding photos are something couples can turn to throughout their marriage.

And while digital photos can live out their lifetime on various social media websites, as your phone background or simply as an online gallery to scroll through, there is something decidedly different about having the physical image.

“When you’re holding a beautiful print, I think there is an emotional connection to it,” muses Christopher Keels of Christopher Keels Photographer.

Another point to consider is technology. If history repeats itself, as it tends to do, the rapid tech evolution means a high risk of today’s media becoming obsolete tomorrow … or so say the floppy disks from their place in the landfill heap. And with Apple already on the forefront of the anti-USB movement—the brand’s newest laptops have ditched traditional USB ports for a slimmer USB-C option—it’s possible that those thumb drives may not be convenient storage solutions forever.

Options! Options! Options!

Erica Ott, wedding photographer for Rick Buchanan Photography, voices the thoughts of many couples trying to pick the ways they want to remember their wedding: “It’s a very overwhelming process, and I think that’s also a barrier for some people, too, just because there’s so much to choose from.”

So let’s break down your options. The three most popular are standard prints, custom-framed photos and photo albums, but the options hardly end there.

Starting with the basics, there’s the standard print. These are your 4-by-6s, 5-by-7s and 8-by-10s.

“I think it’s important to have a little bit of everything in print. Personally, I print my favorite images from my personal life that will tell the story of my life,” says Nicole Dixon of Nicole Dixon Photographic.

Think of these as a blank canvas for a host of possibilities.

One such possibility is framing your photos. Whether it’s an addition to your desk or your mantel, a framed image can be a beautifully simple reminder of that special day.

And if adorning your walls with a splash of color—as well as romance—is what you’re keen on, consider canvas prints. They will display your memories the same as a framed picture, but with added depth and texture.

Another option for your photos is the tried-and-true: the photo album—or, as Potterf calls it, a storybook of a couple’s day.

Artisanal and thoughtful, a wedding album is an artistic reminiscence on a couple’s wedding. More so than framed images or canvas prints, it is a relic for couples to really spend time with. For family members or close friends who couldn’t make it to the wedding itself, a photo album also can be the perfect way to share the highlights of your wedding.

Along those lines, couples can also opt for a photo book. Like an album, a photo book compiles many images from your wedding into a page-turner. But where a wedding album is a more artistic combination of elements—the type of paper, the layout of the photos, the fabric of the cover, with photos typically glued to a page or inserted into sleeves—a photo book takes the clean-cut route, mimicking the style of professional coffee table books by printing the images directly onto the paper.

Buyer Be Wary

Once couples decide what do with their photos, the next step is the “how.” Couples can go through their photographer or endeavor to do it on their own.

There are a bevy of budget options available: photo kiosks at convenience stores and big-box retailers, as well as online budget printers like Shutterfly and Snapfish. All of these are convenient and cheap, two things that probably sound appealing to a couple who have already spent a lot of effort and money on their wedding day.

But that convenience and price come with an expense of a different sort.

“A lot of times, some of those super easy and really affordable [options] are not done as intentionally,” says Jennifer Derkin, chief operations specialist for Derk’s Works Photography. When it comes to that magic photo destined to hang in your home, intentionality is pretty important.

As the adage goes, you get what you pay for. A lower-priced print often suffers from inferior appearance, whether that’s due to the teenager behind the one-hour photo counter not calibrating the printer’s colors correctly or the mass-production attitude of an online printer focusing on quantity of prints created, rather than their quality.

By contrast, most photographers have close relationships with professional printing companies that help them create tailor-made, high-quality pieces.

“All of our computers that we do all of our editing on are color-calibrated, and they are meant to match the [professional] printers we use,” says Ott.

When it comes to standard prints, there are a lot of perks for going through your photographer. On top of a photographer’s relationship with reputable, high-quality printers, there’s also the matter of the photos themselves.

“We can only really give each image a minute or two [of editing for digital output] … but, in general, we like to take the image the rest of the way when we’re actually printing and producing it,” says Keels. After all, your digital photo package will include hundreds of photos, and getting an image ready for digital sharing requires very few edits. More thorough care often is required for photos selected for print. Printing through your photographer—as opposed to taking those edited-for-digital-sharing files to a low-cost company or kiosk—ensures you’ll be receiving the most refined version of your photo.

If your photographer does not offer prints, Derkin recommends Artifact Uprising and Mpix as two quality options available to the public.

Crafted with Care

Albums and photo books, perhaps more so than any other product, may seem the most tempting to tackle DIY-style, but Dixon cautions against the impulse. “Usually after a wedding people are all wedding-ed out, and it’s just one of those things that never gets done,” she explains.

On top of lower-quality photos in the album itself, the process of making an album can be more arduous than couples are prepared for after the hustle and bustle of the wedding. From selecting the photos to deciding on the best placement to tell the story of the day, creating a beautiful album requires a lot of planning.

“My goal is to take as much of the work out of it for them,” says Potterf, who specializes in wedding albums.

And while budget printers like Shutterfly aim to make the process easy, the quality of the final product itself isn’t always up to snuff. “It’s mass-produced versus going to a craftsman, says Potterf. “It’s hiring someone to make a custom piece of furniture versus going to IKEA.” And, like IKEA furniture, DIY photo books and albums can lack the solid construction required for a sturdy product that will stand the test of time.

The sentiment is true of canvas prints and custom-framed pictures, too. There are easy budget routes for both, but going through your photographer can mean those wall ornamentations are thoughtfully constructed. After all, your photographer is invested in the final product’s quality, too. “No one is going to care about the quality of their photos more than that photographer,” says Potterf.

And, as Derkin reminds, it’s not just a picture that’s being displayed: “That’s a piece of art in their home that’s also a memory.”