What Does a Photographer do exactly?
I've been meaning to write a post like this for some time. In part for my present & future clients - so they can have been better insight into what it is that I do. But also for any other photographers out there - each of our processes is different - and this is what I find works for me.
I keep a scrapbook and a sketchbook. I don't limit myself to just wedding inspiration - in fact, I often try to avoid it. Almost every photographer & designer worth their salt finds at least some inspiration in other sources - that's how the medium expands, that's how experimentation turns into fresh imagery. For me, I am constantly inspired by film and fashion. I like work that is cinematic and I want my wedding images to have the mystery and appeal of an Annie Leibovitz photo. So I cut out a lot of inspiration images from magazines, keep mood boards around the house, and draw out shot compositions. I also take a ton of notes of ideas for compositions, or new techniques.
I am big on planning. I would rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. Most of my clients find a bit of comfort in this. What I find, though it is certainly not my job, is that my role will sometimes merge with that of an event planner, should the couple not have hired one. Now let's be clear: I strongly advise every couple to get, at the very least, a day-of coordinator for their wedding. But I do work with my couples via mood boards for creative conversation, and the careful determination of a photography itinerary a few weeks before the wedding.
What knobs is he turning? What is that electronic device he keeps putting up to my face? I'm sure many clients are thinking this when I'm shooting. The fact is when it comes to shooting at a wedding, one must work efficiently. Though I am getting better at guessing the correct exposure, I am still constantly metering (measuring the light), so I can dial in the correct exposure on to my film camera. I am typically shooting wide open or at f 2.8 in the case of groups. I usually have my locations for things like bridal portraits and family formals pre-designated. I'll have a general idea of how the light will hit the area and I will be maximizing the area for it's full effect.
Though I do not currently shoot entirely on film, I shoot many of my daylight images on medium format film. From film purchase to sending the film to the lab (Photovision in Oregon) to getting it scanned & processed, it averages out to about $2.33 per image. This is something I don't think a lot of clients realize. When shooting medium format, one is only getting sixteen exposures per roll. For me, spending this amount is worth the investment as it is the only way for me to get the kind of skin tones and colors I want. It's an investment into a certain aesthetic that I believe is more high end and which will pay off in the long run.
POST-PROCESSING & COLOR CORRECTION
I get all my film images processed and scanned on a Fuji Frontier scanner as extra-large scans - currently at Photo Vision. I do have custom color profiles set up with my lab (ie the greens are intended to come out a certain way and the skin tones should appear a certain way). But I use these scans as a springboard for further processing. What I find is that the film scans render tones uniquely and provide a better image without color cast. When I import my film images into Lightroom, I apply an additional custom color profile to create images that have my desired aesthetic. Then I go image by image and adjust the shadows and highlights according to my aesthetic, always to maintain a consistent look for the entire collection and for my work in general.
I do light retouching to nearly all of my images delivered. Yes, this takes time - but I truly believe it makes a difference in the final result. I will always remove acne or unflattering blemishes to create clearer complexions. I'll remove distracting objects from the frame. Things like that. Ultimately a cleaner and simpler image is what I'm going for.
I put this here because preparing everything for delivery does take time! For weddings I will separate all the images into the various segments of the day ("Getting Ready", "Formals", "Ceremony", etc) I will also select my top 150-250 images and place those in a "Highlights" section. I use a service called Pixieset for delivery. I believe it's very important to not pass on lower quality images for the sake of a higher number delivered. The images I give clients are carefully curated and each one is vetted for inclusion in the collection. I deliver about 600 images per wedding, depending on the amount of coverage and how much was going on during the wedding day. Of course, if I notice there is only one image of a particular person, I will include it in the collection, but in general I find that the couples I work with like receiving the best of the crop. So many great photographers in the industry deliver approximately this amount and in this way - from Jose Villa to Ben Sasso to Jasmine Star. I'd rather deliver a higher quality collection rather than just a proofing gallery of thousands of shots.
Whether it's an engagement or a wedding, nearly all of the couples I work with will find the time to write a quick note of thanks - either by email or sometimes even handwritten! It's hard to overstate how much I appreciate this gratitude for my efforts. I print out the emails and save the cards, always. In the case that there's a few corrections that need to be made (ie additional light retouching) - I allow these corrections for up to five images and then I have a rate sheet available for additional retouching beyond that. There's always a lot of odds and ends to be completed in the post-delivery phase - from ordering prints to making sure all physical deliverables get to the client. It's important to stay on top of these things and not let them linger too long.
I lump this in at the end, though it is something that I am doing every day, all the time. This includes working on social media (Instagram and Facebook I am most active on), answering emails, reaching out to other vendors, preparing shoots for publication and submission, writing blog posts, researching techniques and imagery, client correspondences, etc. This is a huge bulk of what I do.
I hope this provides you with a more valuable insight into what it is that I do as a photographer! It's way more than just pointing and clicking the camera. It may lend some insight into why photographers charge the prices they do. Or hopefully there may be someone reading this who is thinking about starting a photo business and wants to know what's involved.