» A Magical Journey

A Magical Journey

A magical journey by Travis Scrogham.

Lets assume for a second that you are wanting a portrait made, after all that’s probably why you’re here right? You call all the local photographers asking about their prices. You might be a little shocked when you discover the prices are all over the place. Some may be as low as forty dollars while others could be a few thousand.

The low end or cheap portraits more than likely come from someone with very little experience. Their equipment is usually not professional grade. They may call themselves natural light photographers. Not because they are really natural light photographers, which is a real talent to have indeed, but because they don’t own lighting equipment. Let me put it this way, a lot of people toss around the word “Professional” because people won’t hire an amateur. Some photographers have less than two thousand dollars invested in their gear and others have twenty thousand dollars or more. Nobody with a lot of expensive gear is going to be offering forty dollar portraits.

It’s true the camera doesn’t make a good portrait anymore than a typewriter writes a good novel. It’s the person that uses it that makes the portrait. When you purchase a portrait you are not purchasing just the paper it’s printed on. You are purchasing the photographers skill, artistic talent and vision.

Let me take you on a magical journey. This journey begins with your desire to have a good solid portrait of yourself or a loved one. When you call or email a photographer you are taking some of his or her time. This is time they are not being paid for. Most quality photographers will want to meet with you in person to discuss your portrait. This is what we call the portrait consultation. It’s partly a planning session and partly an educational session. Your photographer will take you through what you need to do to prepare for your portrait session. That’s another article and no, I won’t go through it here. Just trust me, your going to want to do one.

Fast forward to the actual session. Lets say you are only doing a one hour session. Lets also say that session starts at 6:15 PM. Your photographer is busy working for you long before that. He or she started working for you probably around noonish. The camera battery has to be charged, both of them, yes it takes more than one battery. It even takes more than one camera. Every photographer worth his salt will have backup gear in case somethings unforeseen happens. Flashes, light meters, radio triggers, notice how all those have an s at the end? That’s because there are 2-5 of them each” all have batteries that need to be charged. A photographer could easily have 20-30 batteries he or she has to charge.

Once all the batteries are charged now comes the fun part. The photographer has to unpack all the gear from the camera bag and put it all together. Why you ask? Because things break. We want to know that everything is working 100% when we arrive for your one hour portrait session. So, all the gear is unpacked and put together. It’s all turned on and tested. Every last piece of it and that includes the backup camera and gear. Anything that is found to not be working 100% is set aside for repair. Hopefully, everything is working as it should. After everything has been tested, all the gear is taken down and packed back into the camera bag and is ready to be transported to the portrait session location.

Your photographer will want to get to the location early, before you get there so they have time to unpack the gear they are going to use, put everything together and test it again. If anything isn’t working then after throwing a fit, we can do that because you aren’t there yet, backup gear is brought out to replace the malfunctioning equipment. When you arrive the photographer is all smiles and your portrait session begins.

Nothing ever goes as planned so your one hour session probably takes a little over an hour. Once the session is complete, you say your goodbyes and your photographer tells you he or she will be in touch in a few days.

After you leave the gear is taken down, packed back into the camera bag and the photographer drives back home or to his or her studio. While you are going out to dinner your photographer is downloading the camera memory cards to a computer. Once all the pictures are on the computer then they are backed up on another device. A cautious photographer will make two or three backups all to different devices. After the files are secure then the photographer will bring up the pictures on a computer. This is usually the first time he or she has seen them full size.

The culling process begins. Good photos are kept bad ones are deleted. The photographer will choose a few shots from each different pose or group. These few photos are the ones he or she will show you as proofs. So they are all color corrected and balanced. Exposure is adjusted if needed and maybe some tweaks in the contrast. Nothing fancy, we don’t want to spend a lot of time editing portraits that you might not want to purchase. Some photographers may actually edit all the portraits because they only want to show a finished and polished product. Everyone is different. Then a proofing process is started. Some photographers will put them in an online gallery, others may order paper proofs from a lab. Some will put them in a video presentation that will either be projected or viewed on a large screen monitor or T.V.

The ordering session, this is where you see your portraits for the first time. As mentioned above there are many different ways to do this. You choose the portraits you want to purchase, pick a size, mount type, print type, framing options and so on then you generally are asked for a payment. This is usually 50% of the order total but, it could be anything really.

After the photographer knows which portraits you want he or she can then really get down to editing the portrait. This is a time consuming task. It takes real talent to do the things we do. I won’t go into great detail but, almost all portraits are edited to make them as beautiful as we can possible make them. Eyes are enhanced, teeth are whitened, blemishes removed, skin softened, and stray hairs removed are all common.

The photographer then sends the finished digital portraits to a professional lab to be printed. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the order. Once the photographer gets the finished order from the lab, it is inspected for quality and accuracy. Yes, even pro labs have been knows to screw up an order. If everything is good then any additional services you purchased are performed. This probably is custom matting and framing.

Once all this has been completed to the satisfaction of your photographer then you are notified that your order is ready for pickup or delivery. Usually small orders are picked up by you and large wall portraits are delivered by your photographer. Again, everyone is different. Either way, once final payment has been made and your finished portraits are in your hand or hung for you on your wall then your photographer has completed the job you hired him or her for.

If you have read all of this then I applaud your efforts. Most will not read it this far. So if you are reading this then I know you are serious about wanting a quality made portrait. The ones that didn’t read it all are not my clients because they don’t value quality portraits. I wanted to give you an idea of what a photographer, a good photographer, will do for you. As you can see, it is so much more involved than most people realize. A one hour session for you could and often does turn into ten or more hours work for the photographer. This was just a small portrait session. Can you imagine how much work goes into a wedding? So, when a photographer gives you a quote that sounds high to you, please remember he or she has put a lot of work in it. They have very expensive equipment that will need repair and replacement. They pay an average of 30% to taxes and they have to pay all the bills everyone else pays along with their studio rent and utilities if they have one. On top of all that, they have to make a profit. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it’s expensive and yes it’s worth every penny.

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