I don't want to tell you what you want... but you really don't want these.
"Do we get every picture back?" is a question that is not uncommon for photographers to hear.
Technically speaking, you do and you don't. You should, in theory, get every photo on your shot list back to you. What I'm actually talking about here, however, is that most photographers aren't keen to give you back every. single. photo. they. took. during your event.
We take... a lot of photos
That's just to say the least. If I take 4,000 photos in a day, I would genuinely consider it a disservice to you to send every single one of those back to you. That is 4,000 photos for you to sort through and determine which ones are best. In my eyes, I'm hired not only for my charming personality and unbeatable knowledge of Harry Potter trivia, but also for my storytelling ability and skills with culling and editing a large gallery of photos into a concise, gorgeous, manageable group that you feel comfortable maneuvering and sharing with your friends and families.
There will be duplicates.
I bust my butt to make sure EVERY shot you want is taken to the best of my ability. If that means taking 105 pictures of you cutting the cake for a whopping 5 minutes, so be it. Trust me that I will choose the best of the best photos of you and your guests. I will also be on the look out for those special moments and special people to you. I am not going to just send you a gallery that misses photos of your MOH, grandparents, cousins, etc. In other words... I gotchu.
Along with duplicates come...
Eye-blinks and blurry photos. People moving, adjusting their outfits at the last seconds. People calling out to one another. Kids crying or looking in another direction. Dogs jumping through a shot (honestly I usually include those because I'm a huge nut for animals). I'm not going to post it here and disrespect the queen but... you know that super unflattering picture of Beyonce performing at the Super Bowl that basically became a meme? We don't want that. She looked absolutely stunning in the picture before and after that image. That is why photographers cull their photos down to the best-looking ones. It's kind of messed up that that photo was published.
These are just... shots I feel like you don't need unless they are funny, cool, or contribute to the story of your special day. I'm a very humor-driven person, so I will include some photos that have funny faces or surprising events... I just know in my heart that at the end of the day yours won't be broken by not having the eleven photos I got of your friends blinking their way through a group photo we got right on the second shutter-click.
Our culling process is pretty thoughtful.
Not only am I looking for the best photos of you and everyone involved, I'm also scouring the background and candid photos to make sure your guests are well-represented. Of course I want to make sure you get those photos of your mom getting emotional, of grandpa and grandma swing-dancing on the floor, of your kids playing with the dog in a corner or eyeballing the cake. Most photographers will be on the lookout for these things both while shooting and editing.
These photos don't represent our finished product.
In addition to a photographer's style of shooting being signature, our editing and storytelling is just as much a part of our work. It is what you, the client, receives after the event, and what the world sees as our "portfolio". After the hour of planning your wedding timeline, meeting with you to discuss desired shots, and then 8 hours of actual photo time on the day of... I probably spend 20-30 hours editing your photos. This is where I work on all the raw (or, RAWs, lol do my photographer friends get this???) material we produced on the wedding day to come up with a refined collection of images that tell a story, are perfect in their own way, and all edited just right.
Giving you every single photo does not accurately reflect the finished product, and giving you any unedited shots (the "RAW files" / unedited images) certainly does not reflect the finished product. Not only will seeing unedited outtakes floating around with my name on it make me seem like a bad photographer to the world, I know for a fact that you will probably be unhappy with those photos since they didn't get the full treatment with an expert eye - remember our carefully developed editing skill is something included in the final price of your package!
HANNAH - HOW DO I MAKE SURE MY PHOTOGRAPHER WON'T MISS ALL THESE MOMENTS I WANT TO CHERISH FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?
Interview your photographer thoroughly.
Never make assumptions: especially if you're reading this and think the way I describe my approach is true for everyone - everyone is different in their approach and that is okay! Just get it all laid out in black and white before the big day.
Set expectations before your event.
This is why your wedding photographer (or event photographer) should develop a shot list with you beforehand. I always go through who all the family members are by name, their relationships to each other, and which pictures everyone is showing up in. I keep a list with me on a clip board, a list with my second photographer, a list sent to the bride beforehand, and a list on my phone just in case. We cross photos off once we take them. If there is something going on the day-of that you want photos of, tell your photographer what it is, and when/where it will be. They will, if they are listening, take note and make sure to be there.
If you feel like a photo is missing...
Ask to sit down with your photographer and go through the photos you want to see. Shouldn't be a big deal so long as you ask nicely. This may not be true with every photographer, but I see it as a good middle ground between receiving a huge photo-dump of 4k images vs. specifically going through your gallery with your photographer at your side. We just want you to be happy, after all.
The bottom line here? No, your photographer won't send you every single photo they took on your wedding day, but that's a good thing. You're paying a professional to document AND tell a story for you - which is a magical thing to receive back. If you're afraid of something being missed, make sure you hire a photographer who seems organized and trustworthy, and be sure to communicate clearly with your photographer leading up to your wedding.
Good luck & happy planning!