Why does it take so long to get my photos from the photographer?

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

As a photographer I always get this question, “Are my photos done yet?” “When are you going to be done with my photos?” and it can be quite annoying when you have to stop editing photos to answer that question when it hasn’t even been 48 hours since the shoot. Don’t get me wrong if it has been more than 2 weeks and you have not received your proofs at the very least then yes ask those questions. But the process of culling (going through) the photos and doing basic edits so they are suitable for you to view can be tedious and take longer than you think. For example, I just finished my Pop! of Color shoot and the final count was 1639 photos. Even if I only took 1 second to decide if that photo should be kept in or thrown out that still adds up to 27 mins. Now realistically I try to go through the photos as quickly as possible, so I’d say I spend between 3-5 seconds on each photo on average bringing the time to 1 hour and 20 minutes just to decide if I am showing you the photo or not.

Now some photographers leave it at this and then show you the photos, but I can’t bring myself to do that. Once I cull the photos, I then do the basic edits just so you can get a feel of the photo using Lightroom. Lightroom does not give me the control I’d like to fully edit the photo but it is perfect when doing basic edits. So, what basic edits do I do? I fix the exposure (is it too dark or too light), fix the color (are you too blue, orange, yellow, magenta, or green), boost the contrast, fix the highlights and the shadows and lastly quickly fix the “noise” in the photo. I go through this process for each photo that I decided made the cut to be presented to you. That process can take about 5 mins per photo on average. 5mins X 625 photos = 3,125 mins (52 hours). This makes our total for the shoot thus far 53 hours and 20 mins.

Once the basic edits are done, I separate the photos in each respective model or participant folder or if it is a wedding into respective category (bride and groom prep, ceremony, family and friends, bridal party, reception, etc.) so they can easily be view once uploaded. Then, you guessed it I upload the photos to the Shootproof gallery and send out the email letting the client know the photos are ready to be viewed. I take out the photos that I would be submitting to the magazine. Then, I allow each participant in a fashion shoot 5 digital photos. Let keep using the Pop! Of Color shoot for our example. For that shoot there were a total of 10 participants, meaning I would be retouching 50 photos. Warning: Your photographer is about to use a bunch of photography terms you won’t know. When I do the full retouch, I use Photoshop, and I can spend anywhere from 15mins to 20 hours on a single photo depending on what I am doing to it. If it is a photo manipulation where I am creating a scene from scratch, it’s closer to the 20-hour mark. I don’t do photo manipulations as often anymore. On average I spend about 1 hour on each photo. So, what am I doing to the photo that it would take me 1 hour to retouch it? Glad you asked. I go a little deeper into exposure, brightness, and contrast. I add in some dodge and burning techniques (makes specific areas of the photo either lighter or darker). Now that the overall photo is semi where I want it, I start on the skin. I zoom in really close and spot healing to remove any blemishes, zits, pimples, etc. from the face and body. I then use frequency separation to start the skin retouching because it does not remove the texture of the skin. The next step for me is to run my portraiture and noiseware plugins, which helps smooth the skin some more and remove noise. I then whiten teeth and eyes, make the makeup more vibrant, remove stray hairs, and sometime even liquify. Exposure – Done Contrast – Done Highlight – Done Skin retouching – Done So, the photo is done, Wrong. Now comes my favorite part the creative edits. I get to play around with a lot of tools that produce the finished product. I do this for all the photos that were chosen by the participants of each photo shoot I do. If I only did my photography full time, then I do not think my process would seem like it takes so long because I have a 9-5 day job. I start working on my edits and all the other things that come with starting your own business after work at about 6:00pm and I cut myself off at midnight because I have to work in the morning. There are times that I am working on more than 1 shoot at a time so it can get a tad bit hectic. So, for all of you math wiz, how many hours has been devoted to the Pop! Of Color Shoot? 78 hours and 20 minutes, on top of all the administrative duties I have for the business, advertising and marketing, communicating, booking new clients, writing these blogs, keeping my web presence up to date, social media posting, Should I go on? I’m not going to bore you with all the tasks.

I try to get the proofs from the session to the participants within 2 weeks and for the most part I do 95% of the time. There is a lot of work to prepare the photos that come out of the camera for a publication or for client use, so please be patient with your photographer.

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