Is it time for a change in post wedding services?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fotografz, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. In a recent thread, the question was asked as to how to control the client's selection of
    prints. This triggered a few additional questions in my mind.

    So, I have a few thoughts I'd like to share that may be a bit controversial. A different
    POV from the mainstream based on changes in the wedding business, and on other related
    professional experiences.

    I guess my main rhetorical question is "how much, and when, should a wedding
    photographer surrender the decision making process to someone else?"

    The tradition seems to have been to provide a fair quantity of select proofs and leave it up
    to the B&G and their family to edit it down to album selects (with some preference and/or
    guidance provided by the photographer). I don't disrespect that, but I do question it.

    The reason I question it is because of the evolution toward the photographic essay
    technique that is so popular today. Yet the post wedding tradition seems to be a throw-
    back to the more formal, posed wedding coverage. (obviously, this discussion doesn't
    apply to those who shoot more traditional wedding coverage)

    IMO, today's story telling approach requires an editorial skill that runs parallel to skill in
    taking the photos themselves. In effect the album selection is as much a function of
    editorial work after the fact as it is the actual shooting throughout the wedding day.

    To me, it is very much like editing motion film, which I am involved with in my real job of
    creating TV commercials. When shooting motion film or a still photo essay, many shots are
    taken for consideration during the editorial session. It is the post selection process of
    what images, in what sequence, at what size relative to each other will tell the story most
    interestingly. How that flows one to the other is what can make the whole story more
    compelling as a whole.

    If the essay type wedding photographer just provides a bunch of proofs to a client for
    selection, I think it is short-changing them. Just because the wedding has been shot
    doesn't mean the job is done IMO. To me, that would be like flying to LA and shooting a
    TV commercial, then mailing the dailies to my client in NY for them to edit it together.
    These clients aren't trained for it, they don't know all the subtile aspects that were
    discovered during the shooting relative to other shots, nor do they have the talent to put
    it all together in a story-telling manner... that is why they hired my ad agency.

    While I do strive for individual excellence in each separate shot, I've discovered that sum of
    selected images in an essay format is much greater than the total of it's parts when it
    comes to portraying the story. It is not an easy task, nor one to surrender to amateurs
    IMO.

    Of course, this conjures up a host of other problems when selling this approach, chief
    among them being how to price it all in a competitive sense. I've managed to sell it to
    quite a few clients using the rationale provided above. It's sort of an all inclusive pricing
    which is competitively high for some clients, but provides a sense of value in the end
    analysis.

    Your thoughts?
     
  2. ray

    ray

    You've made some excellent points and I agree that we are short changing our clients by
    letting them do the editing for us. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done to take that
    editing role back.

    Unlike the b&g, we have no idea who the people in the pictures are (apart from the
    obvious mom, dad and siblings). I've noticed that brides will often pick a picture with poor
    composition and lighting if it has someone of great importance to them. While we are free
    to provide alternate proof recommendations, it's hardly our place to tell the client which
    pictures they should put in *their* album!

    I try to take a middle road: let the client pick the proofs but only after I have edited the
    images down to the ones I want to present to them. Then I'm solely responsible for image
    size and layout. This gives me the flexibility of design and story telling but at the same
    time the client has an opportunity to provide input.
     
  3. It is also a cultural thing: in the Netherlands most photographers choose the photographs for the albums themselves (although some advertise that the couple have the choice).
    So I have never done anything else than you suggest, Marc, and I think it is great. It enables me to do my own editing, tell the story in the way I took the photographs.
    Were the couple to choose, I suppose they would use too many pictures, without the right flow etc.
    This helps to get a consistent album. And as the couple can order reprints of all shots I took (not just the ones in the album), the costumer is happy as well.
    Wim
     
  4. What about a split the difference sort of approach; here's your album for which I selected all the shots in order to tell a story etc, and here's your cd of all the shots that weren't junk. It would be interesting to go back to clients a year later and ask them which was more satisfying. I wonder how many of them would have only glanced at the cd.
     
  5. Yes Matt, I do that. They get a DVD with all the useable images. So if there's a picture of
    someone important, they can still get a print. It's included in the all inclusive pricing.

    As far as not knowing who's who, that's pretty easy as far as album candidates are
    concerned. Just look at who's in the front rows during the ceremony and nearest the bridal
    table at the hall. Plus, I usually shoot an extended family shot either at the church or the
    reception.
     
  6. You could also produce two albums; one with your "story" selection, and the second album of other seemingly less-important candids. Or, one album with the "story" at the front, layed out in a artistic manner, then at the back, maybe separated by a vellum sheet, pages of left-over shots arranged in a simple manner of 4-8 or so per page.

    This "album" could be printed in a low-rez manner if you are designing on the computer, this proof-album can be presented to the b&g for approval along with a CD of all the shots (those left after first editing for technical quality), then if there is some shot that they just have to have in the album that you did not include, then they have some opportunity for input.

    I suppose this could result in them wanting to mess with your careful design. Would have to try it an see. But I suspect that if your are good at all with design, they will love your choices and not mess with it much. This maybe an easier method to sell than a strict "I do it all" style.

    Thoughts?
     
  7. Marc,

    Some interesting points to consider.

    I shoot for a studio that has been in business for 17 years and has plenty of bookings and a price range from the lowest in the market to moderately high. Apparently their formula works. Each package includes a set number of 4x6's and enlargments. The B&G select the images to go in their album - very traditional.

    Last night I went to another photogs studio who is shooting my daughter's wedding next year. She is very much an "artist". She was in the process of putting together an album for a client - she picks all images - and showed us the work she was doing and part of her process. Very labor intensive and time comsuming work! And of course, she is applying her artistic talents to the process. The results are stunning. She is without question one of the most expensive in local market. Her formula seems to be working also.

    So who is doing it right? Is the album - many of which I personally shoot - that the B&G selected images for as nice as the one the artist puts together? Does it all come down to expectations and perception? IMO, if you put the two albums side by side the artistic album would be judged "nicer". However, when the B&G contracted for a traditional album, at a modest price, they did not expect to receive the same album that the artist charges seven times the price for.

    I wish I were an artist, but I'm not. I have put many hours into learning my craft and am technically proficient, but I will never have an "artistic eye". I am fulfilling one segment of the market with my traditional images and the artist is fulfilling another. Unfortunately, I think the market is segmented by price and that the price sets the expections of the clint as to what the final product will be.

    If anyone out there wants to send me a little of their "artistic eye" I would be appreciative.


    Cliff
     
  8. One thing to consider: editing for narrative flow may just make you a better photographer.

    This example is a little tangential, but I think it applies. Recently I gave my parents and my 2 sisters each an album of all the family photos I had taken through out the year. Out of the 300-400 relevant shots, I culled out about 24 each for the three different albums. Most of the shots were unique, although a few were in all 3 albums. This process of sorting through my shots to find a thread that represented each family member's year taught me a lot about my strengths and weeknesses as a photographer and story teller.

    I think the same experience would be even more useful for the pro photographer, particularly if repeated for every wedding. I think this could really help a photographer hone their observational skills. Even if you don't know the people involved, you can tell a lot about what relationships are important just by looking at the pictures. You might even highlight the importance of a relationship that the B&G had been overlooking. Just a thought.
     
  9. The wedding photographer that i currently work for as a photographer has the best method for designing albums that i have seen so far. She has an album layout specialist that she sends her couple's to, with the requirement that they choose X amount of proofs before hand. It varies with the size of the album. And then the layout person and the couple go though and layout the story of the wedding, and choose the flow of the album by varying the layouts(mats) and using B&W and color. The designer makes recomendations about what photos work and what don't, but the final decision rests on the bride and groom.

    I know this works because the reason i work for this photographer now is because she shot my wedding last year and i was blown away by how good the photos looked and how easy the album process was. We got what we wanted and felt like we really had control, but also that we had great advice on how to put together photos to make a great album.
     
  10. This exercise has made me realize the interesting differences inherent in this end of the
    photographic business. I wasn't particularly advocating my specific way of doing things,
    just curious about other ways given the variety of shooting approaches and the migration
    towards both storytelling and the growing use of digital with all of the post control it
    provides.

    What I also realized is that I am an Art Director (by training and avocation) that became a
    photographer. So, not only do I like the post work, it's what I was trained to do and have
    the most experience in (not to mention am heavily equipped to do because of my day job).

    On the other hand a photographer may or may not have that skill set (as mentioned by
    others above), and can either offer their specific abilities (taking photographs with a high
    level of competence) and have an album designer do it, or let the couple select the images
    with some guidance from the photographer.

    It all seems valid. I just feel that if you offer the story telling approach, it should include
    the telling of the story.
     
  11. I know that if they have 4 photos of nearly the same picture, they usually ask me to choose
    the best one.
     
  12. To include the best 'story' in an album, I think it is necessary to employ the skilled eye of an artist (I have always made the assumption that most photographers, 95% or so, are artistic. The reason for choosing is as a means of expression) and the emotional eye of the client. I guess I believe that the edititng process, although done initially for the general improvement of 'choosable images') should be finalized by the 'artist' and 'selected' by the client.

    Many photographers seem to cull out shots of great import to their clients. I have heard people who, whilst looking over their album some years later, ponder the presence of certain deceased relations/friends (or, indeed their absence).

    So my thoughts are to suggest (with some explanation as to why i like the shot) certain shots that seem to tell the most interesting story. This work well for me, and I never feel like they are afraid to choose, as I always have at least one or two shots that they choose and my response is to say "yes, I agree that one is perfect".
    If this can be done early in the process, it seems to make the remaining selections go quickly and supports a great feeling of being served well. IMHO.

    Not the best way I'm sure but I guess it boils down to cient satisfaction as my primary goal. ??
     

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