In case you think we photographers lead a glamorous life I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve been editing my remaining two sessions of edits for 2016 tirelessly. So much so that my home is yet to be decorated, no holiday cookies are made and my holiday card is not even near being started. My house is a disaster zone, I have five loads of laundry to do and about six to fold. I have dog fur tumbling like tumbleweeds in my hallway because I haven’t had time to do much else but blog and edit (mostly edit). I’ve been typing this as I eat my lunch of a prepackaged salad and a bottle of water and I’m pretty sure I’m on day 3 of no showering. I’m about an inch away from having an all out meltdown but it’s being handled and I’m closer to being done for the season than not…I am almost to the point of coasting, so really truly YAY ME!! GO Mare!! But I have been reading some of my photography friends’ posts and I am concerned. And I propose a National holiday…well maybe I’m joking…but maybe not 🙂
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La
Let’s make the first and second weeks in December (aka “crunch time”) as “National Be Kind to Your Portrait Photographer” weeks.
To the client it may seem that the job seems simple: we show up at your shoot, we click a button a few times, and poof, we are done!
Now you may be thinking: “What?” and you may be saying: “Why?” and I agree that what we do is fun and exciting. Some of it anyway, you know the 5-10% of the time I spend on your session with you, during your shoot. But you must know that while we professional photographers operate our businesses kind of low key and make it LOOK easy, there are a few misconceptions about what we do and how we create. To the client it may seem that the job seems simple: we show up at your shoot, we click a button a few times, and poof, we are done! And for some photographers that may be the case but for many others this is not true. Our desire to give our clients the best of what we can offer necessitates certain steps are taken in our artisanal processes.
Many photographers have a set workflow that keeps our businesses fine tuned. As an example: after a session I upload my compact flash card to my computer and then start the selection and purge process of which images I will be editing (or not). This may take up to an hour or two depending on the session and the number of images shot (sometimes it is about half that time). During this process I select a few images for blog preview – this usually takes a few moments since I am just skimming the overall session and picking those images that seem eyecatching to me. I typically post a preview image to Facebook and then type up an search engine (SEO) friendly blog post with a few preview images to my blog. At this point I often set aside the session for a few days, or up to a week, to work on other client related business that may need immediate attention. Things like: client orders, client wall display mock ups, client packaging, client delivery & shipping, any issues with prints that have come up/issues with the lab, design issues with custom products…the list is actually endless so let me just add a great big “etcetera” here.
I also like to take time from a session to sort of let it settle in. Sort of like letting a fine wine that you have uncorked breathe. Taking a break for a few days away from a session I just photographed allows me to approach the session with a clear view. Those times I haven’t done this and when I’ve started editing immediately post-session I end up editing on emotion and less on what my client ends up loving…it truly to everyone’s benefit when sessions are allowed to “breathe” for a few days exactly like fine wine.
After the few days of “settling” is up I then proceed to select, correct color, contrast, exposure, etc., touch up all those little details & edit tirelessly until your gallery is ready. For most Signature Sessions my clients end up with about 30-35 unique images for viewing. For mini sessions I aim for about 12-15 unique images. Editing time is session dependent: the number of people photographed as well as the amount of touch up work often dictates the time it takes from start to finish of editing.
Once editing is complete I rename & duplicate the images by transitioning the session image files to the color profile that most of my professional labs use. I also do a resize the images for an online presentation & create a custom password protected gallery for my clients. At this point I contact my clients and tell them we’re almost ready for preview and set up a date & time to order. A couple days after the start of viewing we do our ordering session over the phone utilizing email for crop and storyboard previews as needed.
Once the client orders I prepare the files for printing – yes once again I’m in Photoshop messing with images. Sometimes a client will ask for additional retouching and that is time spent back in with the images trying to get them ready for presentation. If a client purchases digital images, be it one or one hundred I go through a process of sharpening, preparing them for printing (in hopes that the lab that the client will be using is equipped to deal with a professional photographer level of imagery, many are not and this is why a MAJORITY of my clients opt for me to reproduce the work for them with my trusted labs). I then prepare a customized print release AS WELL as creating web sized files (smaller resolution, appropriate for sharing online only). If a client opts to have me send their digital files via the internet I upload all the purchased images to an online storage program, send my client the link, answer any and all (inevitable) questions. I also burn the images to one of my adorable custom USB sticks for delivery with their prints (my clients purchase prints about 95% of the time in conjunction with their digital images).
If a client orders prints I spend some time tweaking the image for print as well as a significant amount of time dealing with my labs’ software, I have a vast product line and use several labs for various products that make up my offerings. I also use a separate album company and utilize album software to design digital albums OR I do album assembly for another of my album offerings.
SOUNDS EXHAUSTING, doesn’t it? I hate to say it but this isn’t even the HALF of what I/we do. But in the end my clients (many who are repeat clients) are thankful for what I create for them – thank you clients! For me this work, and it is work, feels good to create & deliver. The custom art work my clients commission from me is often displayed in prominent areas of my client’s home or work place. I take great pride in creating this custom artwork, as do many of my fellow custom photographers, HOWEVER it takes time to create images worth having. Yes…EVEN those “digital image files” take quite a bit of time to look perfect for you, the “simplicity” of digital is not so simple after all.
So why should we make these first two weeks of December into: “Be Kind to Your Portrait Photographer” weeks? As you already know: we live in a society obsessed with quick & easy and most of us find it difficult to wait. We are living in the digital age, after all, we are at the ready to place on our photo filters in our smart phone apps as they are just a click away. Poof! Like magic, we’ve just uploaded our image to Instagram! And I agree, it’d be great to have that immediate gratification after a session with a professional photographer. The truth is it isn’t quite like that for a majority of us professionals who take pride in creating art pieces for client’s homes, remember those of us that are committed to helping YOU look your very best on that Christmas card photo. You know the one that you are oh-so-anxious to get ordered because “XYZ cards has a 30% off discount code I want to use!*” I get the why of that thinking, maybe more so than you can imagine, but please be understanding…photography at this level is a process. And because this isn’t my first “crunch time” I know that many of my fellow photographer friends are stressed right now – they have spoken! They’ve maybe taken on some last minute bookings with clients already anxious about deadline and those wanting to use their 30% discount codes but be kind because said photographer may be on the verge of their own nervous breakdown; they are aware you’re waiting and wanting and they feel it. I promise you they’re full on in “crunch mode” operating at full steam to get your images to you, on time, and why? Because it benefits them…they may be just like me and not quite there with the holiday decor and cookie and candy making and they’re anxious too…a part of their business is image and their holiday cards are NOWHERE near being done because, as you may have sensed: clients first.
…photography at this level is a process…
Myself, thankfully I’m sitting pretty this year. While this year has been busy I’ve also been lucky to be a bit ahead of the game. God bless! Maybe this means I’ve become more efficient in the past 11 years?? Well let’s hope! To my clients who all are patiently waiting, I’m getting to it as well. I’m almost done! And I swear you guys are the best clients in the world: I love you and your patience. But this post really isn’t geared towards you because you’ll be hearing from me soon.
Photographers: hang in there. Clients: I promise you they’re working their hardest, like Santa’s little elves…well sorta because the LAST thing I want to implement for my fellow photographers is a uniform code! Especially if we all have to wear pointy green shoes with bells, a big NOPE.
And if none of these reasons compels you to be kind to your portrait photographer than perhaps the realization that your photographer knows Photoshop inside and out, with that knowledge comes great power to make you look fabulous (or not-so-much). 😉
Much love to you all!! xoxo, Mare
* a real statement uttered by a photographer’s friend client