Do I have to do my own Post Production?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by steve_kenway, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. A group of post production artists and my self are trying to determine if photographers need to do their own post? We are thinking of starting a web-based service that would unload the daunting post production activities so photographers can go out and shoot! Would this be a valuable service? What type of work could we do to help photographers from amateur to professional? Are there other services out there like this available from the internet? Are there some skills that they are lacking? We are looking for feedback from photographers in all industries to help us understand how we can help and where we can offer a valuable service. Please respond to the forum with your thoughts and opinions. It would be much appreciated! Hey, we might even be able to help you in the future!
  2. I know a couple of people who got their start in photography careers doing post production for more famous shooters. So, there are people who do it for a living and photographers who hire it out, certainly.
    However, after the basics of removing a pimple and fixing white balance, you get into matters of style.
    Example: my friend and sometime assistant & I shot some engagement photos for a nice young couple. My friend gave me her RAW images and I did the post, because I was the primary shooter. I gave her back her card two days later. What she did with the images and what I did were very different! My look is more natural color, cropped for tension, and sometimes black & white. Hers were done with sepia, totally different crops, digitally framed, and sometimes vividly over-exposed in post. Afterward she said "I took them, but they look like your work" and we had a laugh about it.
    How would you account for that kind of situation with your business? Could you give each photographer a different stylistic treatment? I know some wedding photographers who farm out their post-production work but it's usually to a very trusted source, someone they've built a relationship with over time. How could you do that over the internet accounting for employee turnover?
  3. Farming out post production duties is starting to grow rapidly now that prices for this are dropping. I think that much of this type of service will go overseas in the near future. With such fast internet connections people could FTP their images anywhere in the world. As far as maintaining the photographer's own style, I would have them send some reference images. This is just like the labs used to do in the old days of hand printing. In fact, that would be a good selling point for the service; that you are not some factory, but that each photographer's unique tastes and styles are met. I would do a deeper market analysis to see the competition, their prices, level of service,etc. Then devise a model that works better.
  4. I woud do some research on your target clients (if you've properly identified them) - how much they're willing to pay and their expectations being top of the list.
    I might be wrong, but my feeling is, there just isn't enough margins for the average pro-photographer to farm out their work unless it's very high end and/or on tight deadlines. Not to say it's not a viable business concept, just that it'll require careful objective research and probably safer not to fall in love with the idea.
  5. I would say the most important aspect of what you're trying to do has to do with style. If you want to attract customers you need to develop, not only your basic skills (spot removal - and NOT with Portrait Professional!, skin smoothing, coloration of items, and so on and so forth), but also a style! That is the most important factor IMHO.
    I would advise against trying to emulate dozens or more styles to cover the demands of a few photographers, but rather develop one or two yourselves and then attract more customers wishing to adopt that style. That way, even someone who did not use you in one shoot may choose you in another because of the different shoot s/he just did.
    The most important aspect however is not artistic - it is legal. You need to be able to GUARANTEE image protection, both technically and, above all, legally. You need to have secure servers and even better contracts to make sure your customers will entrust their images to you. And you need to make sure your results are constant, consistent over time and of the same quality.
    Other than that, it's a question of pricing and marketing and speed of service. Good luck...
  6. I might be wrong, but my feeling is, there just isn't enough margins for the average pro-photographer to farm out their work​
    That would only be true if you put no value on the time spent post processing your own images.
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You might find that established studios who hire other photographers to meet their bookings will also use professional digital photofinishers.
  8. Steve, let's consider a hypothetical scenario: a wedding photography session results in 500 photos and nets the photographer $3,000. If you were this photographer, and assuming you valued your time, how would you partition the spending to take advantage of the OP's service in a manner that made financial sense?
  9. I don't know the answer but it seems to me that a lot of wedding photographers are spending many hours post processing. In my father's day he would have just sent the films to the lab, waited for the proofs then get the lab to produce re-prints (also the way I have done a couple of weddings). No post processing at all.
    All of this post processing needs to be accounted for otherwise you are doing it for no charge.
  10. "All of this post processing needs to be accounted for otherwise you are doing it for no charge."
    That might be the crux of the problem, Steve.
    A modern photographer is forced to do more because technological innovations allows more, so the market demands more yet the monetary rewards remain similar or even less when inflation adjusted. It's an inescapable evolution of professional photography which in most instances can only be compensated by developing a more efficient work flow, improved skill set, and savvy business sense - the first two being the money saver, unless one is overbooked with work which most are not.
  11. because technological innovations allows more, so the market demands more​
    Which would also account for couples now expecting hundreds or even thousands of images instead of the fifty to one hundred which would be found in a traditional album of prints.
    My own wedding album has sixty prints in it. That is plenty as far as I am concerned.
  12. Several studios already hire a part-timer or full-time person who doesn't do much more around the studio than doing the post-processing. Smaller shops of sole-proprietor operations or occasional part-time shooters are often shooting so inexpensive that they have more time than money..... Ultimately the viability of any new business endeavor will rest on your willingness to market and build the business.
    Years ago, several photographers preferred to do their own darkroom work and preferred their personal touch on their prints. There were also several film studios that had their own machines to handle the bulk of the prints/proofs. It often depends on your volume of work, profit margins, time management styles, & personal preferences.
  13. My own contribution would be that you have to think in what market you would be attractive to, yes some higher end people would go for it as a timesaver but mostly Id bet you will attract people who cant do their own , which in most instances would be entry level photographers probably on tighter margin.
  14. I'd never want anyone else working on my photos! To me, the post production is a huge part of the creative process -- something that's, to a certain extent, truly a matter of taste. I don't allow my clients to edit their images (not even cropping), and I sure wouldn't pay anyone to. It would seem even a little wrong to show off a photo that I took, but someone else edited.
    If I had the money to farm something out, it'd be administrative/taxes/accounting work, but definitely nothing creative.
  15. I would farm out my post production if my current time spent in post was keeping me from accepting other jobs. At the moment, it isn't and so I prefer to do my own. Furthermore, I have a hard enough time switching labs...I just don't know that I'd feel comfortable putting my work into someone else's hands..
  16. You would not be the first person/company doing this.
    shootdotedit c m (can't make this an url, but you can do that yourself)
    Full disclosure, I am not using this service, nor profiting from it, or working for it.
  17. This is a tough one Steve. Like others here, I won't even let my second shooter process their images anymore ... it was just to inconsistent.
    Plus, I also believe editing and processing is part of the creative aspect that clients are hiring me for.
    Lastly are the economics in these tough financial times that make it a more difficult proposition ... I agree that many shooters have more time than money. But even time spent on processing has been significantly decreased as the post programs like LR3 have improved across the board. Personally my time has gone from nearly a week of work to two days max ... and I methodically touch almost every keeper with creative touches.

    However, I do have a few ideas that may separate a 3rd party processing service. It would require post processing talent that can go beyond just getting things balanced out, color correct, and so on. This world wide forum is a pretty good place to evaluate market research BTW.
    Trouble Shooting Post Service: Even just this forum is a good indication of how many people can get into trouble at one time or another ... for any number of reasons. Especially relative beginners who often do not have deeper post skills anyway. Fixing images is very, very time consuming even for experienced shooters who may have botched part of a shoot. So, not only are they faced with a significant refund, they also face a tearful client and lost reputation. Often they have to buy additional programs if they attempt to save the shots.
    In short, money may be less of an issue for them if a service could bale them out. While such companies dedicated to this wedding industry may already exist, I don't know of any ... but if I did, I wouldn't hesitate to use them to save my behind in the same way that I have, and would use a recovery service to get back lost images from a crashed hard-drive ... which isn't cheap. I know a pretty experienced shooter that paid $2,500. for a professional retoucher to save part a wedding he botched. He would have lost that money anyway in a refund, but never would have salvaged his reputation.
    Evaluative Service: The second notion I'd share with you is an "assessment service". For a reasonable fee, a beginner, or anyone struggling with their post work, could send a set of RAW images for an expert post person to evaluate and provide feed back of things the photographer needs to improve on when shooting. Most of the time we see work published here that needs tweaking ... but it has already been processed to a jpg ... we never see the RAW file which more likely than not was poor to start with.
    Custom Post: Lastly would be development of a customized style format. Again, this forum is a good indication of desire. People come here and ask "how did this photographer get this look" all the time. Personally, I'd use such a service myself. If I could voice my desires ... like "I'd like an urban, more gritty feel to apply to certain images or to certain engagement sessions, or to environmental portrait sessions." Then send some sample images so an expert post person could write a set of custom actions tuned to my way of shooting ... I'd pay for that ... in the same way I've paid a hefty amount buying "Generic" actions and plug-ins.
    Provide something people need, something that you can do well, and not many others do well ... that's the first rule of marketing.
    BTW, if you truly have the ability to do the first and third one, e-mail me when you set it up : -)

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