How to Reduce Your Photo Post-Production Time in 3 Simple Steps

reduce-your-photo-post-production-timeA career in wedding photography doesn’t have to mean a you only do one job, i.e. shoot weddings. Of course, perhaps your business strategy is that of a one-person army, a single-engine machine. That is, you shoot and edit your own photos, without the aid of an assistant or second shooter. However, perhaps your current level of career development has brought you to a less stable position and you alternate between post-production work in the studio, second shooting with various main photographers, and running your own photography operation. The advantage of doing all these things is that you develop a lot of diverse and useful skills, not the least important of which is that of knowing how to reduce your photo post-production time. We’ll tell you all about it today – though the truth is that it all boils down to a single strategy: knowing how to shoot like an editor.

1) Tell your clients’ story

As a wedding photographer, what’s your main goal? Putting together a portfolio of photos that look amazing on your blog, that have a ton of editorial appeal, that could, after all is said and done, end up in a wedding magazine? Or do you rather want to please your clients? Ideally, you should strike a balance between the two goals, but, at the end of the day, your clients are always the most important members of your audience as a photographer. They’re the ones whose needs you want to satisfy and whose story you want to tell. And they won’t always care as much as you do about super-edited photos with editorial value. They’ll want the candid smiles and the group photos, so focus on those if you want to keep them happy and reduce your photo post-production time.

2) Shoot for film

In the day and age of digital photography supremacy, it’s all too easy to overshoot. When there’s a 16GB memory card inside your camera, you might find yourself unable to stop shooting – but ending the event with tens of thousands of photos on your camera won’t help reduce your photo post-production time. Instead of falling into this entrapment, try to shoot with the eye of an editor. Try to think ahead and anticipate the necessary edits with each photo you take. You don’t want to be stuck in the studio for days, culling out your photos before you get to do anything else. The general rule of thumb here is to forget that the camera you hold in your hands is digital – think of it as an old-school film camera with no more than 36 exposures on a roll of film. This might just teach you to appreciate each shot and determine you to try and make it count.

3) Let your mistakes teach you

Irrespective of whether you work with an editor or edit all your own photos, you can always learn from your mistakes, especially if you want to reduce your photo post-production time. If you do work with an editor, try to spend some time with them as they work on your photos (and, ideally, on the work of other photographers, too). Perhaps you chose to use a 50mm lens in a small, crowded space and ended up with pictures that had to be massively cropped, in order for the guests’ expressions to become visible. Perhaps you selected an exposure time that worked for one part of the photo, but completely obliterated the side of it that would have actually been relevant. Until you shoot (and then shoot some more), it’s going to be difficult for you to understand what techniques and methods work in which particular contexts – but when you do, do pay heed to your errors.

The Brief Guide to Golden Light Wedding Photos

They don’t call the golden hour ‘the magic hour’ for no reason. There’s a certain soft, joyous quality to images taken in that kind of light that makes it ideal for the most wonderful portraits, be they for glam shoots or wedding shoots – or just about any other type of photography that involves human subjects. Of course, there’s something to be said about shooting in window light, shade, backlight, and even in direct sunlight. But there’s nothing quite like shooting portraits at magic hour, which is why today we bring you our very own version of a quick guide to golden light wedding photos. There is simply no match for it, neither in terms of artificial lighting or post-production. You can’t replicate it no matter how hard you try and how many filters and actions you try. So let’s delve right into it, then:

The unmatched qualities of golden light wedding photos

Christina McNeillSoftness

The thing about golden light wedding photos is that they can actually be taken with the subjects staring straight into the sun without so much of a squint. Light at that time of day is softer because it takes a longer time to reach the surface of the Earth, as it has more distance to travel across the universe.

Warmth

Another quality that’s unique to golden light wedding photos is the temperature of the light. In somewhat more technical terms, at magic hour the blue wavelengths of light particles are more scattered, which is why there are more reds and yellows in its makeup. This will make your wedding portrait subjects look almost golden – sort of naturally tanned-like.

Depth

Magic hour is essentially that time of day right before sunset, which means the sun has descended lower in the sky. This low angle will effortlessly add depth to your photos. Since your subjects will have longer, softer shades at that time of the day, the pictures will look more dynamic and more profound, in terms of depth-of-field. Golden light wedding photos simply look like more accurate 2D representations of this three-dimensional world.

When to take perfect golden light wedding photos

golden-light-wedding-photos02The ‘magic hour’ is actually about two hours each day: one right after sunrise and one immediately before sunset. The span of time you have at your disposal also varies according to where on Earth you live or the place to which you’ve traveled for the photo shoot. The rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the Equator, the shorter the golden hour is going to be. Seasons also extend or shorten the magic hour (with less natural sunlight in the colder season, it goes without saying that there’s going to be less golden light then). And, of course, the weather also plays a major role in how much time you get for taking golden light wedding photos. Clouds in the sky are not a good sign, if you’re going for that warm, soft vibe of magic hour portraits – though they can work wonders for achieving sharper shadows and a more dramatic quality to your pictures. In the case of weddings, the golden hour will usually catch you right after dinner or during the meal, so try to inform your clients of this in advance, so you can sneak out into the great outdoors with them for a few beautiful portraits.

How to shoot golden light wedding photosgolden-light-wedding-photos03

There are lots of great options in this sense, since golden light is so permissive. You can have your subject directly facing the light, or you can get a warm glow with backlit portraits. In this second scenario, you can also try to obtain a rim of light outlining the silhouettes of your subject, which will make it stand out from the background and appear aglow. You can also try to obtain a flare, which will differ greatly from one specific aperture to the next, from one lens to the other – try to find the best kind of effect for your subjects. And, of course, golden light allows for a ton of experimentation, so just go out and have fun with it!

Rekindle Your Passion for Wedding Photography in 3 Easy Steps

It happens to the best of them: we haven’t asked, but we’re sure that, were you to catch her on an off day, even contemporary glam photography guru Annie Leibovitz sometimes feels like the spark is just gone.

passion-for-wedding-photography01

Bottom line, no matter how passionate you may be about wedding photography, sometimes that passion just vanishes without a trace. Sometimes you feel stuck in a rut and, no matter what you do, you’re just not happy with your work. It happens to us all, which is why we’re here today to show you what you need to do, in order to rekindle your passion for wedding photography in three simple steps.

Ever felt this way? You need to find your passion for wedding photography again!

The danger of feeling stuck and trapped within monotony is that you develop an entire range of very negative, self-deprecating thoughts about your work. And while, at first, it may seem like these ideas will propel you toward creating ever better wedding photos, this rarely ever happens. Rather, you become more prone toward creative blocks, which, in turn, lead to creative frustration and a whole lot of resentment. In fact, what these thoughts are there to tell you is that you need to take better care of yourself, both as a person, as well as a creative individual, who happens to work in wedding photography. Here’s what could have gone wrong and made you feel that your work is subpar, or otherwise inadequate:

-          You keep compromising. Instead of working toward honing your creative vision, you’ve let go one time too many.

-          You don’t value yourself and your work enough. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to turn down a job or two every now and then – especially if you’ve been feeling stressed, overworked, and burned out.

-          You feel underappreciated and, hence, uninspired.

The good part is that all creative individuals, no matter the field they’re working in, feel this way every now and then. If they say they don’t, they’re lying (either to you, or to themselves). The part that’s even better: you can fix these feelings and make them work for you, not against you. Here’s how:

Step #1: Where do you see yourself?

passion-for-wedding-photography03

This may sound like a total cliché, but in order to find your passion for wedding photography all over again, you need to refocus on your vision. Your ‘voice’ as a photographer. Your signature style. This may mean that you’re going to have to start learning to turn down projects that don’t align with that creative vision. It’s all a matter of prioritizing and of asking yourself: ‘does this job make me feel proactive? Am I working to achieve a dream, or simply going with the flow?’ If your answer is geared more toward the ‘going with the flow’ option, perhaps it’s time to step back and assess whether or not you really need to say yes to the umpteenth White Wedding gig this year. Refer the potential clients to someone who can do the job and move on.

Step #2: Step outside your comfort zone

passion-for-wedding-photography03

The paradoxical thing about being a wedding photographer is that you sometimes end up saying yes to engagements that you know won’t help you learn. They are clearly not the type of work that you want to be known for. You would like to change, but simply can’t seem to motivate yourself to try something new, and would much rather stick to the beaten path. But if you genuinely want to find your passion for wedding photography once again, you need to step outside that comfort zone and experiment. What’s the worst that could happen? No, seriously. Consider the best and the worst possible outcomes of doing things differently. Hint: it’s always worth trying out something new, if only for the sake of the experience.

Step #3: Kick back

Take a break from work. Drive off a few hours away. Be with yourself and no one else for a few days. Learn to unwind and enjoy your own company.

passion-for-wedding-photography04

Think you can’t afford that?

That’s a fair issue. If money is standing in your way to relaxation, then work your way through this problem. Price your shoots better and as soon you’ve got some money saved to take a short break away from work, do it. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Hell’s Bells: 7 Nightmare Wedding Photography Clients

nightmare-wedding-photography-clientsWhile every wedding photographer dreams of that perfectly cooperative couple, a dream to work with and easy-going, too – that kind of work assignment is rare. And, at the same time, while not every assignment is a disaster, the notion of nightmare wedding photography clients is certainly real. In today’s post we’re going to briefly outline seven of the most common issues that such clients are likely to pose (pun not intended).

#1 Nightmare wedding photography clients that ignore the schedule

Some people simply don’t understand that a photographer’s main resource is lighting. They blatantly disregard the wedding day shooting schedule, as they fail to grasp the importance of the time of day. Midday sun, for instance, casts very harsh shadows, in which most people won’t look good, so it’s important to avoid this time of day and shoot in the later hours.

#2 The chronically late/in a hurry

These nightmare wedding photography clients are a similar species with the ones listed above. While they do follow the schedule to a certain extent, they will either be late, or assume the shoot only lasts for 10 minutes. Make sure you approach such cases delicately and explain that it takes a bit of punctuality and patience of their side to get the shoot right.

#3 The uninvited second fiddle

A very specific type of nightmare wedding photography clients will bring along a relative with pro photo gear, who will insist to take pictures alongside with you. Yes, they mean well in most cases, but chances are they will also get in your way, ruin your official shots, and provide unsolicited advice. Try to approach them with kindness, but gently explain they should leave the picture-taking to the actual hired professional.

#4 The clients that hate the way they look in the photos

Some wedding photography clients don’t understand why it’s important to communicate with their photographer beforehand. After all, you’re a professional, so, in their view, you should be able to just guess how they like to look in pictures. Kindly ask all clients to show you pictures of themselves that they actually like before going ahead with the shot. Alternatively, you can ask them to explain what looks and angles they would like to avoid.

#5 The camera darlings

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the nightmare wedding photography clients who don’t enjoy picture taking at all there are those who love it a bit too much. You should always make sure to reassure the couple to be that a wedding day photo shoot shouldn’t actually take all day. The best wedding photos are those in which the couple and guests can be seen enjoying themselves, not cooking up elaborate, unlikely poses for the camera. This kind of thing can turn tiring very fast and will almost always end up looking artificial and phony.

#6 The last minute special

Most couples to be understand that booking a photographer early is just about as important as booking the venue and band in a timely manner. However, not all of them do, which makes some postpone the decision until the very last minute. This, of course, can tend to make them feel frustrated with their choice and usually leads to rushing through the whole photographing process, in order to make sure they’re getting all the photos they want.

#7 The trend addicts

Wedding photo booth? Sure, they want one. The Instagram hashtag? Of course they want you to take care of that, too! Some couples will just fall for anything that’s trendy right now, in terms of wedding photography – and no photog out there could ever satisfy their needs, no matter how skilled or versatile he/she is. Explain that great wedding photography is the kind that passes the test of time, not the kind that got 100k likes on  Facebook yesterday.

Always Shoot in RAW Format! 4 Main Reasons

rawIf you’ve been shooting weddings or anything else, for that matter, as a professional, for at least some time now, then you’ve definitely been told you should always shoot in RAW format. Now, if you haven’t been around the photography circuit for long enough, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s just another file format, right?

Wrong. RAW is the format that any and all photographers should care about, if they have any claims to make about being a professional. See, the difference between shooting in RAW and using any other file formats is that the other ones will always compress the data captured by the sensor on your camera. This way, the information will be lost and your processed, final photo will inevitably suffer in terms of quality. File formats like JPEG also produce a series of errors, which you can’t correct – as you would be able to in RAW. Here are the top four reasons for which you should always shoot in RAW format and nothing else.

RAW yields top quality photos

This one has been lightly touched upon above: when shooting in the RAW file format, you lose no data, of everything the sensor on your camera picks up on. And this format has even become accessible enough for compact point-and-shoot devices, so there’s no reason why you, the owner of a professional level DSLR should opt for anything else. If you opt for JPEG, you’re essentially allowing your camera to process the image as it sees fit, which takes a lot of your creative input and decision power out of the process of picture making.

RAW is smoother

To say that RAW file formats are brighter is an oversimplification: in fact, images shot in this format simply come with more levels of brightness than any other formats. Compare it with the JPEG – it’s only able to record 256 levels of image brightness, as opposed to the staggering 4,096 to 16,384 levels that RAW files are able to reproduce. In other words, while JPEG is only capable of 8bit image captures, RAW files can support anything from 12bit to 14bit. More levels of brightness means smoother transitions between different color tones in the image you produce. It also entails the freedom to correct exposure levels, highlights, shadows, recover distorted areas, and toy with the contrasts, to name but a few perks.

Always shoot in RAW format for correct exposure

A lot of photographers who do no action shoots will tell you that the file format is, at most, a last resort for correcting bad exposures. In a certain sense, they are right: you will always get the best exposure in camera. However, at times it’s next to impossible to expose the image right under pressing, dynamic circumstances such as those often encountered at weddings. That’s where all the information stored in a RAW file steps in and allows you to correct exposure levels in post-processing, without a sensible decrease in picture quality.

RAW gives you the right to decide on white balance

Do we need to explain just how important white balance is for photography in general, but for wedding photography in particular? Hopefully not – but since we’re trying to determine you to always shoot in RAW format, we’re just going to mention that, when you shoot JPEG, the white balance is automatically applied by the camera, without your specific input. RAW files do also record white balance levels, but they also allow you the choice to intervene later and adjust the amount, so that your colors come out just the way you want them to (and not your camera).

5 Tips to Prepare Your Clients for the Photo Shoot

prepare-your-clients-for-the-photo-shootPortraiture and wedding photography may seem a bit like alchemy – and that’s because of the artistic ingredients involved in the process. However, there’s also a lot of science behind taking great pictures of people in formal settings. We’ve covered a lot of the essentials of this part-art, part-science endeavor before, but today we’re going to approach the issue from a wholly different angle. You see, no matter how skilled you are as a professional wedding photographer, or how much you know about lighting and compositions, there’s one ingredient without which all your photos are going to seem less than genuine. That ingredient is collaboration and it has everything to do with how you prepare your clients for the photo shoot. Now, especially for beginners this may seem like a daunting task, since talking to people you barely now can be difficult – all the more so when there’s a lucrative connection at stake. But with our bare essentials list of tips and tricks, we’re going to try and figure out the secrets of the photographer-client collaboration, one step at a time.

#1 Know what to tell your clients

Let’s break this down: you’re a professional wedding photographer, while your clients are mere normal people. They are effectively paying you money in exchange for your expertise. That’s why it’s vital to have that expertise, your very own handbook of style, laid out very clearly in your head. In fact, it’s even more useful to write it down, in accessible, layman terms. Know how much information they’re going to need at each step of the process – you don’t want to overwhelm them. The goal here is to create very clear expectations about what it’s like to work with you and to make them want that.

#2 Know what you’re about

This essential point, which you need in order to prepare your clients for the photo shoot, is inextricably linked with the one above. In fact, it’s difficult to tell which one comes first. Regardless, the point is that your clients expect you to have a philosophy, a concept behind your work – and they will keep asking you about it, in various forms, each step of the way. Needless to say, as a professional, you need to have the answer to this question ready, even if a potential client were to wake you up in the dead of the night.

#3 Know where to shoot

Though for a photographer setting the precise location right away might not be the main priority, it always is for the client. If you want to best prepare your clients for the photo shoot, expect to be asked this question early on in the process and know that you get to have the final say. If you only work outdoors, or, conversely, in a studio, do stand your ground and explain this from the get-go. Explain how you select your wedding shoot locations and sample your arguments with illustrations from your previous work.

#4 Know how to handle fashion choices

It requires no explanation, since this is wedding photography we’re talking about, but we’re going to lay it out for you anyway. It is vital to prepare your clients for the photo shoot with tips on what to wear. Some wedding photographers actually choose their clients’ outfits, others join them in their quest for attire, while the more relaxed set simply comes with a set of handy guidelines. Decide which approach you’re more partial to and prepare to stick with it.

#5 Prepare your clients for the photo shoot per se

This final point on our list involves actually running them through a description of what’s going to happen during the actual photo session. Tell them what they’re going to do and explain what you’ll be doing to. Don’t limit yourself to descriptions – tell them about the whys, too. The more they’re comfortable with your reasons, the easier it will be for you to work with them.

The AK-47 Approach To Photography – Are You Spraying And Praying?

What’s the difference between many of today’s photographers, and the photographers of yesteryear?

Its what I call the AK-47 approach to photography.

Because they don’t have the proper training and knowledge in photography, they are unsure how to pose, how to light, and how to compensate for different situations, they resort to the “spray and pray” method.

Yep, buy any professional camera today and you have rapid fire shutter action. With an average of 6 frames per second – that’s 360 frames per minute – you can make sure you capture every emotion, every twist of the head and blink of an eye. And with multiple high capacity magazines in hand – one 64GB flash drive gives you more than enough room to store hundreds of raw files, imagine what you could do with a dozen – you’ll be able to follow every move a client makes in front of you.The AK47 Approach To Photography Are You Spraying And Praying

Yet once those flash cards are filled, that’s only the beginning. Then it’s back to the office where the real fun begins.

Plan on a full day, or two, or three, scanning over hundreds, even thousands of images looking for the right ones.

Nope, not that one. Lighting was bad.

Nope, not that one. Exposure was off.

Shoot, that one’s bad too. How could they pose like that?

Oh wait, I guess this one’s okay. Let me take it into Lightroom and see what I can do.

Then the client decides on a couple of the images. They buy a few 4x5s and 5x7s, and are out the door.

What happened? All that time, all that energy, and barely income to survive.

When a photographer shot with film, every image was money. If you added up the cost of film, developing and processing, it would average out to around $1 an image. If you did a portrait and took 50 images, that was $50 out of your pocket before any ordering took place.

And without the instant factor of digital, it could be days or even a week or more before you saw the results. If you made a mistake and a week passed, it was much harder to tell the client what happened. And make a correction.

So before you pushed the trigger, you thought about what you were doing. You double checked your camera settings. You looked through the viewfinder again and again. You focused in on how the subject looked. You checked the background for things you didn’t want.

And you learned from your mistakes and quickly adjusted so you could improve everything you did.

So what went wrong? Two things.

1. Photographers no longer care about getting properly trained.

I’ve sat through hundreds of hours of training. I’ve attended hands on classes that taught everything from camera settings, to posing, to lighting. I’ve had the a-ha moments when you see a professional explain how to properly light, have him move the lighting so you can see the impact, and literally see the change happen when great lighting happens. We’ve worked tirelessly trying to achieve the same results.

And when you finally get it, you get it. You know exactly what to do in every situation. That doesn’t mean it always works and that you may not have an occasional problem. But 98 times out of 100, it works. No spraying and praying because every shot you take you know without a doubt is quality.

If you never have those a-ha moments, you never learn. If you focus on perfecting the image in Photoshop rather than in the original setting, you’ll never achieve perfection. Why?

Because you can’t change perspective without it being noticeable.

If I move an arm because it’s out of place in Photoshop, I guarantee it won’t look 100% natural.

If I make sure every movement of the body is perfect before I take the image, it looks natural and I only have minor cleanup work to do.

No matter how much you love Photoshop, its still “garbage in, garbage out”. If you don’t have a good base to work with, its that much more difficult to create quality on the other side.

That being said, the problem isn’t just with the way the photographer shoots. Its also with the way he shares.

2. The customer – the general population – has become untrained in what good photography really is.

We have a client we’re helping with their marketing. When we first started working with them, we recommended a fantastic photographer who is one of the best lighting professionals in the area. He gets lighting. And his portraits are phenomenal.  They’ve used those images for years.

Things change. They’ve added new team members and lost a few others. They wanted an updated look, so they hired another photographer. Only this photographer doesn’t understand lighting. So the images are flat – no depth whatsoever. It’s lit from the side, causing harsh shadows down one side of each of the faces. In one case a woman has such a severe shadow, her nose looks twice as large as it should be. Not flattering in any way.

But the photographer Photoshopped it and added vivid colors.  Obviously the clients liked them enough to use in their new promos. But from a photographer’s perspective, they are anything but professional.

Where does it start?

Digital won’t go away. Photoshop won’t go away.

But the art of photography can come back tenfold.

If you don’t understand every aspect of your camera, take a class.

If you’ve never worked with a true lighting expert to understand lighting, work with someone.

If you don’t understand posing, learn more about working the human body.

If you don’t understand set up and backgrounds, look for a mentor photographer that does it right, and sign up for every hands on class they teach.

Photography shouldn’t be about “spraying and praying”. Every time you pull that trigger, you should know beyond a reasonable doubt that the image was perfect in every way.

Then use Photoshop as it was intended: to make your amazing image phenomenal.

4 Poses That Make Your Photographs Look Amateurish

When you first start out as a photographer, you tend to have a false sense of expertise. Your family tells you your images are fantastic. Your close friends tell you they love what you do. So you print up a few business cards and start out in the business.

Then things change. The moment you start hanging around true professional photographers, attend a few classes by people that have made it in the industry, or submit your work to a professional photography contest … that’s when you learn all the mistakes you’ve been making along the way.

The first time someone criticized our photography it hurt. Did they really think it was that bad?

Then as we began learning more about what the pros were saying, and really studied our own work, we discovered they were right.

Taking an amazing image is more than luck. Its more than letting a person roam freely in front of you, snapping a few images as they “do their thing”. It takes a lot of work. You have to get a completely natural looking image that has every single aspect of it well thought out in advance. [Read more...]

4 Ways To Prepare For The Shoot

“I hate the way I look in pictures.”

“I run when I see a camera.”

Chances are you’ve heard a lot of people say that. I have a few of those in my own family!

Yet have you ever stopped and asked them why? Chances are they’ve never really thought about it. You may get the standards response of, “I don’t like the way I look”, yet what is it that they don’t like?

If you asked them to find one photograph taken in the last few years that they love, I’m sure they could find one. There was one that captured their true essence. In their minds, this is who they are. And all the others make them “hate” the way they photograph.

Typically its because they don’t like a certain “thing” that shows up on film. It may be the way their hair is parted. It may be the angle at which an image is taken. Or the way they show too much teeth. Or differences in their eyes. Your job is to find out what it is, and use that to create a portrait that will truly WOW them. [Read more...]

What Makes A Photograph Breathtaking?

Its easy to look through hundreds of pictures, and enjoy each one for what it offers. Then you open up a site with a photograph that makes you say … WOW!

There is a difference between 99 percent of the photographs out there, and the 1 percent that truly leaves you breathless. And while you may say that a breathtaking photograph is in the eye of the beholder, there may be things you can do to make your photographs truly breathtaking.

Head over to a site like The Big Picture. I visit there every once in awhile when I need inspiration. The photographs are unbelievable. But what makes them truly magical is the story they tell when you look at each subject all together.

And of course you can’t leave out a site like National Geographic. Their photography has been WOWing people for decades. And while the stories they tell are remarkable, it’s the photography that really penetrates your heart.

So how do you take a breathtaking photograph? I searched through other photographers sites to see what they have to say. [Read more...]