west elm, west elm bridge, liberty village wedding, liberty village at night, silhouette photography

What is a “Shoot and Burn” Photographer?

The term “shoot and burn” photographer is used quite extenvisely in the wedding industry but what is a shoot and burn photographer exactly and is it a good or bad thing?

In order to understand the concept of a shoot and burn photographer, it’s important to first understand what the heck happens after a photographer presses the shutter button.

west elm, west elm bridge, liberty village wedding, liberty village at night, silhouette photography

How a high quality wedding photographer takes photos:

1.  Have their camera programmed to shoot in ‘RAW’.  Raw images are unprocessed files – blank canvases that contain an immense amount of data.  A raw file, like film, needs to be “developed” in order to look it’s best.

2. Take a photo

3. Transfer that photo into an editing program such as Lightroom.

4. Adjusts aspects of the image to help add that ‘wow-factor’ to it.  Exposure, contrast, temperature, fill, highlights/shadows, clarity, sharpness, vibrancy, saturation, and most importantly – calibration!  These are all things a high caliber photographer factors into their editing procress.  Editing takes time; it often takes 2-3 times longer to edit photos than it does to shoot them.  Even though editing takes time, it’s a crucial step for any high caliber photographer.

5. Images are exported from the editing program and programmed with characteristics for optimum viewing across a variety of devices.

6. Images are then given to client via USB/DVD:  if your package contains such

A shoot and burn photographer does not shoot in raw, rather, they shoot in JPEGs.  When a photographer shoots in JPEG they are allowing the camera to make the adjustments to exposure/contract/tone, etc. and those adjustments always look “just okay”.  There’s no personal flare, distinct style or even individualized perfection of the images.  Then, that photographer burns all the JPEGs to a DVD and gives it to the clients.  So basically, a shoot and burn photographer somewhat completes step 1 and then skips steps 2 through 5 in the process.

I don’t want to say that there isn’t a place for such a product in the wedding industry because I know for a fact that not all couples have a budget for professional photography nor do all couples even want a photographer.  What I will say, though, is that it’s important for clients to understand the type of product they are getting and, when researching various photographers, understand that a variety of price points often reflects a variety of different services, skill levels and overall quality of the finished product.



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  1. Hello there,

    I have a question about shoot and burn photography as I suspect my photographer may have been one but did not disclose this to me. I chose the photographer for my wedding based on the fact that the photos on his blog were full of vibrancy and colour and just the style i love! After our wedding, he posted a sneak peak of our wedding to his blog, and the photos on this post looked just as i had imagined and i was very happy with the results! We got our photos a few weeks later through dropbox (there were over a thousand files) and as i was going through the files, i couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. The files lacked the vibrancy and colour and life that the photos on the blog showed. He included those blog edits in the files that were sent and it is so glaringly obvious that the ones on the blog were so much more ‘edited’ than all the rest of the photos. (there were about 30 of the edited ones in total). Now maybe i’m just not as well informed about the wedding photo industry as i should be, but i expected a level of post processing to be similar to what you see on the websites, otherwise isn’t that false advertising? This photographer wasn’t cheap either..we paid $6000 USD….
    Does this sound like a “burn and shoot” photographer to you?

    1. Hello! Thanks a million for your comment and let me say that I am so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with your wedding photos. It’s always heartbreaking to hear this and hopefully I can provide you with some information that helps you get a solution to the problem.

      I want to start by saying that this is NOT the first time I’ve been asked this very same question. I’ve known a few couples who have come to me to inquire about this same thing; when the images they receive don’t look like the images in the photographers portfolio. While I can’t speak for the photographer, I can let you know that there may be a few possibilities to help explain this mystery. More than likely, I would assume that your photographer outsources their edits. They may have edited the sneak peek images themselves but hired an assistant or a third party company to finish the rest of the edits. This may explain the different style of images. It may be possible that the remaining images simply weren’t given the TLC they deserve but I certainly hope that wouldn’t be the case. The reason I wouldn’t suspect a shoot and burn photographer would be that most people who charge upwards of $6,000 wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) have the guts to give out sub standard product… shoot and burn photographer typically sit at the $500-$1,000 price range – at least from my experience with them. (…but hey, anything’s possible *cringe*) There are also times when some types of lighting or backgrounds just don’t work with a vibrant “pop” and are actually more flattering when edited to be more natural or subdued. I also know some photographers who only do a very basic, almost non-existent edit on their photos and only do the big fancy edits for portfolio images OR images that you have to purchase in addition to your DVD (ie: they’ll do more if you pay more). Although I don’t personally agree with this last approach it is, alas, a fact that some people operate like that. Can I ask, did you have a chance to view an entire wedding gallery from your photographer before hiring them or did you only see the vibrant portfolio images?

      Although there can be a million reasons why this happened, the fact of the matter is that you’re a paying customer and you weren’t satisfied with your product and would like either assistance in solving or closure on the matter. I would recommend contacting your photographer (ideally by email) and explaining your observations, thoughts and feelings and asking how they can help resolve your problem. Opening up a dialogue with your vendor is the best way to have the matter resolved.

      Best of luck.

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