How long should the post production work take?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by poloniaphotography, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. Hello,

    I have been in the business for over a decade (part time or as second shooter).
    This year I branhced out on my own as the lead photographer and photojournalist.
    Already I have an assistant going with me to weddings and portrait shoots. I do all
    of the editing on my own. Hence my query.

    Having recently done a few weddings on my own, which took quite too long to edit
    through. For example one families portrait session editing took me about 24 full
    hours. Does that seem high or normal? If you want to view the pictures for quality,
    they are under the portraits section of www dot plumtreestudio dot com

    My main questions is... using two camera's at once and many multiple disks...
    How long "should" efficient post production work take? START - From the moment
    you have already downloaded all of the images into folders... to FINISH - When
    you pull out that complete CD. I am trying to gauge an estimate of how long the
    actual editing, cropping, adjusting, coloring, etc would take for a family portrait
    shoot (3 people, 800 photos) and also for a wedding (150 guests, 2000 photos)

    Additional steps of course, are posting online, book editing and proofing, but that
    is for another post.



  2. I would say it depends on how much coverage you give and also if you are work
    alone or have assistants. I personally tell them to allow for 4 weeks and they are in
    the understanding that I work ALONE and generally get 1k+ photos on disc for them.
    I do all of the general PP such as obvious blemish removal and each photo comes
    in color as well as bw and selected images are artistically enhanced. The albums
    are ready at this time as well, they are only proof albums, but they are ready! (Oh
    yeah, and I also let them know this is not my day job, I only do this PT so I cannot
    devote 40hrs/wk hence the 4wk waiting period) But, I have also heard that some
    brides would NEVER use a photog who took more than 2 weeks for the finish. But I
    have personally had a good track record with this and in most cases the B&G set
    the date to get the images back 5-6 weeks out. Maybe they can handle waiting
    longer because I always email teaser pics to them at low res.
  3. approx. the same time it took to shoot it if your settings were good at the time of the shoot.
  4. I think Heather is pretty well correct in her approach and perspective. I work a full time job in addition to my photography. I have a lot going on in my life, and have little downtime. In a busy season, with weddings coming along nearly every weekend, I was falling behind. I was spending 10-15 hours posting 1000 wedding images (and that's using batch processing).

    I really needed help. Thru Craigslist, I sought out and found several eager, talented graphics folks with time to spare who will work for $10 an hour, are willing to be trained by me, and want to do this post-production work. I sit them down and give them the parameters of what I'm looking for, send them off with a copy of the images, and let them spend the time "roughing them out", while I put on my marketing hat and do the things a business person needs to do. I'd rather pay them $100 to $150 and spend my time landing new work.

    They adjust shadows and highlights, color balance (I calibrate their monitors), sharpen, rotate, crop, tighten histograms, and generally pretty-up my images. When they come back, I evaluate and final-tweak each image, provide feedback to the editor for next time, and have had very good results this way. I'm personally spending far less time editing, and more time growing my business (and living life). My turnaround time is improving too.

    I tell clients 4 to 6 weeks for image disc and proof book (I try not mention this before the contract is signed, in case someone might think it's an issue, but usually nobody asks). Now, if someone is just really antsy for images, I do offer to burn them an unedited or partially edited disc, but this is rare, and I've never had to actually do it. Most folks understand that I don't operate a studio, I'm a busy guy, and good things take time. With help from editors, my turnaround time is within a month, which clients really like.

    On the other hand, I hear stories of photographers taking 6 months or a year to fulfill their obligations. I couldn't sleep that way. I'd be afraid angry townsfolk would gather outside my home one night with torches.

    Now, I know some will say if you get it right in the camera, you won't have to do much post production. This is mostly true. However, in the fast-paced world of weddings, in the heat of battle, you're sure to blow some exposures, be lied to by your LCD, or have some images that just need some sharpening or tweaking. It's the nature of the beast.
  5. Take a look at Portrait Pro! Portrait Pro is a relatively inexpensive program which can stand alone or be used in concert with Photoshop.

    In reality, it can't do anything that you cannot accomplish using Photoshop, but it can do the job faster and easier (at least for me). I can post process a portrait in 2-3 minutes and my female subjects love the results. This is one of the few programs that lives up to its advertising.

    You can get a free trial at:

    Except for using it an loving it, I am not connected with Portrait Pro in any way.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    How long "should" efficient post production work take? . . .

    How long is a piece of string?

    There are just so many variables, but the major three criteria are, firstly the amount you give yourself to edit; secondly the way you shoot: batches or more haphazard; and thirdly what you business model is based upon.

    For a Wedding of 150 guests I would typically shoot around 400 images. I shoot in batches. The studio I shoot for has a dedicated Post Production Editor: If pushed, she can turn those original 400 to 360 / 370 final and corrected images for a viewing on the following Tuesday night, from a Saturday night shoot. That would require about two days work for her, sometimes less, mainly depending upon how tricky the lighting was I encountered and what time pressures I had. She is very good.

    I am less speedy at this work but I typically can work in PS at a rate of 3 to 4 minutes per image, working on each image individually.

    The per image time is markedly lessened if that image is part of a batch, in which case once the first one is corrected . . . it is a breeze.

    So if I were doing that work myself I could still maintain the Tuesday deadline, but my two days editing would be a bit longer than hers.

    The major criterion defining my workflow is my business model and, to a lesser extent my customer offer.

    I want (and the Studio wants) the client to get their choice of goods as soon as possible after the event, but still maintaining excellent post production and superior end image quality.

  7. I shoot a tremendous amount of frames as well and I can typically do all of the basic corrections..color, contrast, WB, etc. within about an hour and a half...depending on how long it takes my computer to save the images on an external drive..and most of that time is spent doing just that...waiting. If you are getting into cosmetic corrections (other than blemish removal or something simple of that nature), the time spent on adding artistic effects, stylizing the image, etc, it can certainly become time consuming to do. However, I think a couple of people have spoke to those really important things...what's your business model? Are you getting paid for that time? Have you calculated that into your pricing structure? Do you really have the time to not be actively building your business? These are tough times, and the importance of marketing is as crucial as I have ever known it to be.
    I think though, if you are spending 24 hours on the back end, then either your editing it far more extensive than it need be to deliver nice polished images (I can typically do a wall portrait in about 5 minutes), or, and please do not take offense, as I am certainly not reflecting on your ability, but something is wrong at capture. What is it in particular that you are spending the most time on?
  8. Agnes, if you shoot 2000 photos at a wedding, how many do you end up providing to your client? I realize many people shoot this many, but in my opinion it is [too much]. I would shoot around 500-650 and provide around 300-350 final edited images. Also, 800 shots for a portrait session sounds huge! Each to his/her own though. I think the client might be overwhelmed by so many images, many of which will be very similar making selection a bit more difficult.
  9. Hi Agnes. I come from a film-shooting background, so perhaps that informs my method even when I shoot digital, but I think that if you're taking 800 shots for a portrait session involving a family of 3, your problem started long before the post-processing. I've had a look at your website (portraits section) and to me it looks like there are very many photos with only incremental differences. In other words, a lot of repetitive shots. I personally wouldn't sit around for 800 frames in a studio. In fact, I would probably think the photographer didn't know what they were doing. I don't even take close to that many when covering an entire wedding (usually a 6am to midnight affair in my part of the world).
    My advice would be to practice your posing and lighting technique and get your ideas down way ahead of the shoot, since you know who your subject will be. Use family members and close friends to explore lighting and posing ideas. You are shooting in a studio, hence the lighting should be totally under your control. For a paying customer, I would reckon 50 shots max and you should nail 80% of them if you had prepared beforehand. See what a big difference that'll make to your post processing time.
  10. We usually will shoot between 900 to 1200 frames (two shooters) at a wedding and then deliver between 300 to 350 color-corrected, cropped, edited, blemish-removed images to the couple.

    We shoot Nikon and I use the Nikon program Capture NX to do 90% to 95% of the work. The color point technology is AWESOME. I then do a batch conversion of all the final RAW files changing them into high quality JPEGs. I use Photoshop for the final touchups on the images that need it or the very few that might get a special effect (vignetting, selective coloring, etc.)With the new version of Capture out now (2.0) I can see myself doing even less in Photoshop for all future weddings.

    Total time for all of the above - usually less than 12 hours.

    We always tell the couple that their images will be posted to their online gallery in 7 to 10 days. I usually have them posted in less than a week.
  11. I'm going to assume that for a family portrait that you shoot 80 images and the extra 0 was just a typo.

    Using batch processing for my images, most of the time the computer is doing the work while I'm doing other things. Once each folder has been batch processed I will eyeball each image for final tweaks, cropping and spend less than 30 seconds on almost all of the images. I select a few images for additional "artistic" processing but this isn't more than a couple of dozen and using my batch actions takes less than 2-3 minutes for most.
  12. However long it takes you.

    Many variables are part of the various photography stages with each photographer
    having their own set determines the outcome. It depends on what the client wants
    to see with their photographs.

    In today's digital world each of us is spending time in the process stage of our
    images and the printing/showing stage of images. This is in addition to the taking or
    creating part that begins the process.

    Hope this helps you, but for me it depends on the job, location and what the client
    desires. Even each job of the same category can have varying amounts of time
    depending on the circumstances.
  13. (Richard Crowe, above) Richard, I use Portrait Professional too, but only for headshots. It's an awesome program for $50, but I think the original poster was asking about general editing of hundreds of wedding images rather than strictly portraits. And whether you use Lightroom, Aperture, or even ACDSee Pro 2 (as I do), with 1000 wedding shots, it will take a significant number of hours to go thru them all and pretty them all up. At least it does for me.

    I spend about 95% of my time with ACDSee Pro 2, and the rest in Photoshop or even Portrait Pro. The adjustments and batch processing it provides are superior to anything else I've used, including Lightroom. And, it's only $130.
  14. I'm just curious what you did to those photos that took so much time? For an in-studio portrait shoot with consistent lighting and location, I estimate that it should have taken you about an hour to cull your picks and run a quick batch to adjust your color and contrast. You might spend an additional hour doing quick retouching if you felt so inclined.

    Are you shooting RAW? This can make it easier to batch process for accurate color and contrast later, AND will make it simpler to recover shadows and highlights if necessary.

    Are you getting your exposures right in-camera? The less "fixing" you have to do later, the less time it will take.

    Are you batch processing your images? I, for one, love Lightroom for processing, but others have mentioned some other great programs. One or two different presets should work to batch a set of studio portraits in less than 30 minutes. If you're opening each individual image in Photoshop and processing it solo, this will take years off your life. ;)

    Are you retouching each and every photo? I couldn't really tell looking at the shots in your web gallery, but if you're zooming in and doing intense skin retouching on every image, or if you're trying to fix stuff in Photoshop after the fact (such as shadows), then it's going to take you forever. I venture that MOST portrait photographers only do true retouching on the handful of images that the client orders as prints. A set of portraits can be so similar that it's nearly impossible to determine which the client will choose, and it's a time-waster to do extensive retouching on every single proof, in my opinion.

    Without knowing the answer to those questions, it's hard to say whether 24 hours was "too long" to spend on editing. I.e., it's not too long if that's how long it took you to do what you wanted to do. However, I think you will be MUCH happier if you can learn to condense your editing time. :)

    Weddings are a different beast altogether, because you have varying lighting conditions and locations throughout the day. You'll probably be using a blend of natural light and flash/strobe. You'll probably also deal with a larger number of images that didn't have perfect exposure in-camera, since you're working more quickly. Weddings will always take longer to edit, especially if you're making every delivered image print-ready (most people don't). But at the rate you're going, editing a wedding will take you a full month, so I'd make this top priority: "Learn to edit faster." :)

    GOOD LUCK! :)
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Re my previous and Anne`s comment and to factor into your calculation of other`s editing time, (as I mentioned, there are many variables):

    The 360 to 370 images from my Wedding shoot and shown at the Preview Evening are each `print ready` to the Studio`s highest standard.

    Yes, to make one only edit session and all prints to final print ready may be unusually, but it suits the way the Studio presents the client the results of their job.

  16. Why don't you use print fims (e.g. 3mm film slr)...?

    Shoot your wedding, drop the film container at at the pro lab (Should support direct print from negatives), and collect those next day, its big - big time save if you shoot weddings, e.g..........

    See the difference and than decide which should you follow - digital or film....
  17. Pankaj, most people these days who have transitioned to digital have done so because of the many limitations of film, and to take advantage of all that digital has to offer. We want to move forward, not backward. Not to turn this into a digital/film debate, which has been argued to death.
  18. I am coming from many years of film --just shot a portrait of 11 people ---even with all the combinations of families ::: I still shot only 30 images. Little or no editing >> <p>

    If your clients are willing to pay for 8-20 hours of editing digital, then you are one of the lucky few. Film still reigns for saving time on that post production.
  19. Steve, i am sorry if you taken this Digital vs Film, I don't always mean that. But if a person is a realy a good "real" photographer than, he dosen't need to wworry all about the final output comes out as prints in any format, but I strongly believe that, people even some pros in my town, who shoot with digitals and bring out beautiful output, can not bring out good results from films. They need to postprocess, but a used to film user won't stuck anytime........
  20. PANKAJ ::: I am sure that if I critiqued half the digital photographers images , at least in our area > right from the camera < ......they would all need post production. Even worst with a film photographer. My "production" is all in the pre shot. <p>

    AGNES ::: How long should the post production work take?
    A lot less, if one simply exposes properly before they click the camera. Read that hand meter & especially the histogram ~ for those digital shooters.
  21. All, Thanks for the rapid responses. I will try to address your queries... 1. Yes I did mean to say 800 for a family portrait! That was because I was using a Rebel XT (e.g. about 50% didn't turn out so I took doubles and triples). Now that I have upgraded to the Canon 5D nearly 95% of my images are exposed well and in focus. 2. My editing process was all in digital and I will not go back to print. Given the cost of print and the cost of new equipment, I am now in the new century of technology. There is no going back from digital for me! :) 3. Great suggestions for matching one for one the time at wedding to time at editing. What I was finding is that I was getting caught in the trap of "this one or this one this one or this one" and so on. Picking the best 400-600 for the couple really limited me to "do I love the photo" and it really helped. 4. I decided to start using Lightroom instead of ACDsee (my first love of digital editing). There was some manipulation of color issues in ACDSee resulting in non-true colors. That is another topic for another forum so I won't get into the rationale for which program to use. I did find that Lightroom allows for quick editing and allows the pick and rating of each photo. 5. Recently, I worked with models to practice my lighting, posing, and set up. Overall I had some great results. As always I am open to critique and will also submit for critique. You can view the new images posted on the blog via my site. I won't push the advertisement in this venue so feel free to visit at your leisure. 6. Though hiring someone to do my editing would be a dream come true, I am not in a revenue stream where I can afford this luxury. One could argue that outsourcing this service would allow me more time for weddings and on site jobs. I won't argue back. Let's just leave it at "not enough milk in the cat bowl charlie" :) Hopefully I responded to most of your suggestions. Again, many thanks to everyone who took the time to write a response. Cheers!!!

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