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After Photography

September 23, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

What Happens After the Pictures are Taken?

There is much more to photography than posing the subject, pointing the camera, and pressing the shutter release. So what happens after the pictures are taken?

In the film days, the photographer took exposed rolls of film to the photo lab and had proofs made, or went to the darkroom to develop the film. The benefit of the darkroom was that it gave the photographer the opportunity to make exposure adjustments that may not have been possible directly in the camera. Aft  er the film was developed, it was time to review the results and select only t he best pictures to present to the client. The same was also true when film was sent to the lab. After the initial proofs were delivered from the lab, the photographer spent time sorting through and screening the proofs to ensure that only the best were presented to the client. It was a time-consuming process and usually meant that the client had to wait several weeks or months before having the chance to see any results. 

It's a different story today with digital cameras, but there are still some similarities. Instead of sending the exposed film to  the photo lab or developing it in the darkroom, digital photos are downloaded from the cameras memory card to a computer, and that’s when most of the work REALLY starts. Since film is no longer a factor influencing the cost of photography, the number of pictures taken is only limited by time and by the capacity of the memory card (or cards) in the camera. The result is that photographers can and often do take more photos than they really need. After the photo session or event is over is when most of the work of the photographer begins.

Here some things to consider about what a photographer does after the pictures are taken...

PostProcessingPostProcessingBefore and after post processing When the event or session is over and we get home or to the studio (for many photographers it's the same), it's time to transfer the pictures from  the camera (or memory card) to a PC (or Mac). The pictures are organized into the library of a software editing program, for example Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. These software tools are the modern photographers "darkroom." After all of the pictures have been transferred, it is time to sort through them and select only the ones “worthy” of further consideration. The time it takes to do this is directly related to the number of pictures taken; this can easily turn into a very long, time-consuming procedure. We are not only evaluating poses, but also the exposure and cropping possibilities. It is amazing what corrections can be applied with the right software... and more importantly the knowledge of how to use it.

Once the number of photos has been reduced it is time to look at each one and determine whether or not any exposure corrections should be applied (brightness, contrast, white balance, etc.). This step is commonly referred to as "post-processing." Photographic experience really helps here because if the photographer knows the concepts of proper exposure, then little if any further adjustments to exposure may be required. In this step, we can also add sharpness, convert photos to black and white, sepia tone, cream tone, etc. and add a variety other special effects. We can soften the image, add a circular vignette, smooth skin tones and remove blemishes, and even place the subject in a completely different setting or remove unwanted objects from the pictures. Other very useful tools in post-processing are cropping and rotating the picture, which can result in dramatic effects.

After all of the post processing is completed it is time to upload the finished pictures to the web site, where the client can proof and purchase pictures of choice. This also gives the client the opportunity to make any requests for the application of special effects to specific pictures. Depending on the individual agreement, the pictures may optionally be "burned" to a CD or DVD fo  r delivery. Uploading the photos to the web site is the best option for the sake of convenience, cost, and efficiency. Once they have been uploaded the client has access and can download "Facebook resolution" versions and purchase prints or books directly from the site, and can use the photographers web site for sharing pictures on-line with friends and family (if enabled – this is standard on our site).

Depending on the number of pictures taken, the post-processing step can be one that takes as much time as, or even more than the photo session itself. If you consider the photography of a wedding taking six hours, you can easily a  dd another six hours of "behind the scenes" work by the photographer. This can easily double if there are special requests by the client to do add effects like combining color and black and white in the same photo, or special retouching. The amount of time spent on each photo depends on what is being done to it. The simplest modifications are straightening, cropping and lighting adjustments. These take on the average about 90 seconds per photo (open – modify – save). If special effects are also applied, especially those requiring advanced use of Photoshop (changing colors, smoothing skin tones, eliminating unwanted elements), then the time spent on those pictures can easily accumulate to twenty or more minutes – per picture.

To keep it simple, we will assume that the average amount of time spent on each photo is only 90 seconds. Let’s also use a wedding an example, and that 700 photos were taken over a 6 hour period (that is VERY easily done). We will also assume that from the 700 photos only 500 of them will be selected. Not including the amount of time that it takes to transfer the pictures and sort through all 700 to get to 500, we are now looking at 750 minutes of post processing time. Simple math tells us that 750 minutes is 8  .3 hours, or 12 hours and 30 minutes. Then after all that, the photos have to be either uploaded to the hosting site or burned onto a CD or DVD. In this case, you can see how the original 6 hours of photography easily turns into 18 – 20 hours of total time dedicated to the photo project.

Let’s also use a simpler example of a family portrait session lasting 90 minutes and resulting in 30 pictures. Then let’s consider that the 30 pictures is narrowed down to 15 which will be presented to the family for proofing and printing. Using the same time assumptions as above, we are adding about 23 minutes (minimum) for post-processing. So even though the total amount of time required is far less than that of a wedding, you can see how 90 minutes worth of photography can easily turn into over two hours of time dedicated to the family portrait. On top of that, add some special affects as mentioned earlier and you can see how the time rapidly adds up.

So when you consider hiring a photographer, remember that it’s not only him or her showing up and taking some nice pictures. There is a lot of time and work spent after your photo session to make sure that you get pictures that you will be delighted with and want to show off to your friends and family.

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