Most people know what occurs during a photography session, or at the very least it becomes clear once the session is complete. But not everyone knows what a photographer does both before and after a session. Recently I had a conversation with a friend about what my process looked like when people book a session with me. She wanted to hear about all the details involved, and being on the consumer end, thought it might be interesting for future clients to know what happens before and after the shoot.
Most photographers don’t just show up, take some photos, download the images, then send them out. I may not be able to present every detail of the process for all photographers, but what I can do is provide some information based on my experience as a lifestyle and portrait photographer.
Scouting for Photography Locations
If a client requests a specific photography location that is new to me, I will usually travel to that place in advance so I can find the best possible spot to shoot at that time of day. Lighting is an important factor in this process. I find that scoping the scene out ahead of time is really key for being prepared, this way I can focus all of my energy into the shoot. I also go out every so often just to find new places to shoot. Being fairly new to Austin, it’s been a fun way to explore and get to know the city. To learn more about locations in Austin, see my article about photo session spots.
Preparing for the Photoshoot
Whether I am taking photos for families or senior high schoolers, I like to prepare for the session. I will often go through some of my favorite poses, and even look for new poses that I want to try with my clients. Basically I’m creating a shot list and I usually vary the list between clients. I read through their online form to learn about the family or person, which may help when deciding which poses to implement. I’m not always committed to every pose, but doing the research ahead is extremely helpful considering the variety of tasks involved during a session. Aside from directing my subjects, I must also think about camera settings, composition, details on the person, as well as details in the background.
Organizing and Sorting Images
The first step after downloading the images to my computer is called culling. This is where I go through and narrow down which images to keep and which to get rid of. This process can be time consuming for me because I try to narrow things down as much as possible to make things easier for the client. I don’t want to overwhelm them with tons of images to look through when I post their gallery. At the same time, I try to consider options the client might prefer, and not just what I like most.
Post Processing Images
The next step in my process is editing. Back in the day, this was called “the dark room.” When I worked in the darkroom, I had to expose light through the negative onto the print. In doing so, I might expose more light to some areas of the image than others. For example, a sky might need more light exposure in a sky to burn in the details of the clouds. Or I may want less light exposed to darker parts of the image so shadowed areas still have detail, which is called dodging. This process can be done from editing software in the modern world. But that is not everything that can be done with editing software. Aside from burning or dodging parts of the image, there are tools to adjust color, shadows, highlights, sharpness, saturation, etc. Although there are some edits that can be done once the client has chosen their images, most of them need to be done just to present the gallery. Because there are a significant amount of tools, I can spend quite some time on the images, especially since I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I can easily spend a few hours and even more if I don’t stop myself. It’s a struggle because it’s somewhat addictive for me considering I really enjoy this part of the process.
Export and Publish
After all of this, I then export all images and upload it all to a webpage. I then need to make adjustments to some of the thumbnails for presentation purposes. This is when I send the gallery to the clients for review.
Post Editing Selects
Once the client has gone through their gallery and selected the final images, I will sometimes perform a few more edits, such as taking people/things out of the background, or touching up blemishes on the face. I then make copies of everything in black and white and again, need to adjust contrast, highlights and shadows. Then everything gets exported out and the client will receive a dropbox link to download the images.
The goal for this post is to provide the client with an understanding of what I do as a photographer. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what is included with your session fee! And if you have any questions about my photography process, feel free to contact me.