You don’t want all the digital files… trust me!
Imagine going to a nice restaurant. You and your dining partner each order a grilled salmon fillet with roasted vegetables, a nice bottle of wine and a couple crisp Romaine salads.
When your meal arrives, the waiter sets the beautifully-plated meal before you…and then hands you a dripping plastic bag.
You look inside. A fish head, some fins, carrot tops, lettuce stems and wilted outer leaves, and a mushy mess of crushed grapes. “What do I do with this?” You ask.
When you pay for a professionally-prepared meal, that premium pays for ingredients, preparation, and presentation. You may have paid for the whole fish, but that doesn’t mean you want the scraps. You want the end result of a trained chef’s efforts to bring out the best flavors and textures in your food for an exquisite culinary experience.
When you hire a professional photographer, it’s the same thing: I take the best images from a number of captured shots, enhance them and present to you the best part of your photo session.
Image capturing process
Every time I shoot, I set up each image for success though in-camera composition and exposure. This is easier to do with static studio portrait sessions, but when I’m shooting an event, there’s a lot more action and natural emotion. That means I’m taking more shots to ensure I capture the right moment.
Either way, I’m going to have a bunch of extra images from which to choose.
If we’re going to run with the restaurant analogy, think of it as selecting the best fresh ingredients to take back to the kitchen for that day’s menu special.
The editing process
When I edit images from our session, first I delete duplicate digital files, unflattering expressions, or images that don’t contain as much visual or emotional impact as one that’s similar. There are always some shots that aren’t properly exposed or focused, as well as some “test” images.
I’m essentially trimming the fat off a juicy steak, or removing the scruffy outer leaves from a gorgeous, crisp head of lettuce.
Once I’ve gone through my primary edit, I select the images that meet the objective of the shoot: If it’s a portrait session, I save the best images from each pose, setting, or clothing change for final post-production, allowing my clients plenty of options.
For event photography, when I tend to shoot hundreds if not thousands of images, I select the images that tell a complete story, the way a chef will artfully create a reduction sauce of concentrated ingredients and flavors.
I always include options, but I don’t overwhelm my clients with fluff or poor-quality images.
After I’ve selected my “keepers”, I work on each image to enhance color balance and contrast, as needed. I’ll also apply digital cosmetic retouching, and produce a set of “proofs” from which my clients can choose their favorites.
The post-production process “seasons” the images, bringing out their best attributes.
Quality vs. Quantity
There’s a difference between telling a complete story through a prime selection of carefully-crafted images and delivering a DVD of thousands of unedited digital files. Many photographers either don’t want to deal with the editing process, or aren’t capable of managing post-production steps necessary for preparing quality finished images and custom prints. There’s more to photography than having a nice camera and a love of taking pictures.
Be sure that the photographers you’re interviewing have good relationships with custom print and album producers. Many don’t, and they’re targeting customers who aren’t aware of the effort required to make unprocessed images look like the stunning finished photographs you find on online portfolios or in finished print products.
As a customer, you have options that will save you time, money, and effort, but it’s nearly impossible to get all three at once.
The wholesale approach: To save the most money, you can find an emerging photographer who offers “all digital files” on a disk with no follow-up or value-added services. This is common practice among start-up photographers who don’t have post-production computer skills and software, or relationships with quality custom print and album producers.
You’ll need to be prepared to sort through and retouch your images yourself, find a printing or album company that works with consumers, or resign yourself to be overwhelmed by the entire process. How many times have you said you were going to “do something” with the digital images already stored on your computer?
How many times have you hit the produce counter and simply let your produce wilt in your veggie drawer, simply because you couldn’t decide how to prepare them? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
The “boxed dinner” approach: Have you heard of those services that send you pre-measured and prepared ingredients for each meal, so you can cook your own gourmet dinners with little mess or fuss? In the photography business, this is akin to the photographer editing, retouching and delivering the best and most relevant images from the shoot, and allowing the client to create their own prints and albums as necessary.
The fine dining experience: Whether you select your photography services “a la carte” or choose inclusive print and album packages, you’re trusting your photographer’s experience in image capturing, post-production retouching and print and album creation. Professional photographers design their workflow with the end result in mind, whether the final presentation is a custom slideshow, hand-crafted album or high-quality archival prints.
Like most chefs, professional photographers want to present their best work. If we don’t present you with a bag of scraps, it doesn’t mean we’re trying to short you on value. It means we know you hired us because you’re interested in the quality of the final product.
Let me cater to you
Contact me to learn how my experience will enhance yours when it’s time for you to hire a professional photographer. I offer flexible packages designed to meet the needs of clients who want the best value and results in their imaging services, and I’m committed to providing continued customer care throughout the entire process.