Behind the Scenes: My Shooting and Editing Process

So today I wanted to take you "behind the scenes" and share some information on my process. Most clients get to see what happens during the shoot, occasionally a shot or two during the shoot, and then their final image gallery. But every photographer works differently, both in-person and behind the scenes during the editing process. So that you can better understand how I work at BlondeShot Creative, I not only wanted to give you a glimpse of my editing process, but talk a little bit about some of the things we "do", and "don't do" here, and why we've chosen to work this way. 

* I don't use pre-built Photoshop (or other editing software) actions or filters. Some actions or filters tend to be subtle, but most are not. I can pretty easily tell what photos have an applied action or faux filter that was created on a computer. Most photographers purchase or download these actions from one of the many supplying companies or websites. This does a few things that I'm not particularly fond of- makes lots of photographers work look similar because they are using the same filters, takes away some of the individualization from each session and each shot, and doesn't challenge or utilize my own skills as an editor. Just like any skill, you keep it by actively using it, right? So how does pushing a button to do all the hard work or detailed work benefit me, let alone my clients who want something unique? While I understand how these actions and filters can be beneficial to someone who has a ton of  photos to edit and can't spend a lot of time doing so (like a wedding photographer for example), it's just not something that I've ever had a desire to include in my work. I want my work to be my work, not my shots but someone else's editing process or filters. So, we do edit each individual photograph "by hand".

* Speaking of uniqueness… I prefer not to shoot a new clients session just like we did for another client, and I will NOT copy a photo that someone has brought to us that they've found on Pinterest, or anywhere else. While sending us inspiration for your own session is sometimes great so that we can get a better idea of the "feel" you want for your session, it will in no way shape or form guarantee that our images together will look like the ones you bring me. Without even getting into moral topics like copyright and "ripping off" another artist, here's a few more technical things that will vary the photo. Every single detail that goes into a photo can either simply or drastically change the outcome of how it will look. These "details" are everything from the equipment used (camera and lens), the lighting equipment and setup, the props and backdrops, the angles shot at, the distance (and zoom) shot at, the individual people in them, and even everybody's moods. It's not realistic to exactly duplicate all of those conditions and details, and people can often times feel let down if you're attempting to copy something, and then something is off about it. 

* Mini sessions can be a great way to "test the waters" with a new photographer, or to get in an extra session at a great price. But there are multiple reasons why mini sessions are not the best choice as your only session. There is no customizability- you will get a similar shot as everyone else who signed up for that set of mini sessions. Your time is limited- you usually have 20 minutes or less to get your shots done, and sometimes that's not enough to get a great shot, especially when it comes to children! Not to mention it leaves no time for any experimental shots (which can not only be super fun, but can have some amazing and unique results). Because of these reasons, I did not start offering mini sessions until just a few months ago! In the history of BlondeShot Creative (10+ years), we now have only had two mini sessions. While we're planning on having another one this year, I do highly recommend that a mini session be a supplemental set of photographs to a custom portrait session. 

* Something that has changed so drastically over the years with the digital camera coming full circle, is the desire for clients to have the actual digital files. I get it, I want files too. But here's a few things to consider… are you actually going to do something with the files, or are they just going to sit there and be forgotten about on you computer once you've uploaded them to Facebook? If you want a picture to last, you're going to want to print it. Some people do print their files, and some people have the intentions of doing so, but get busy and then don't print them when they're "fresh", forget about them, or feel like they're outdated by the time they get around to it. If you spent the time and money to have the photos made in the first place, doesn't it make sense to display them proudly on the walls of your home? I do offer digital downloads to clients, and that's a great thing when you want to print a bunch of 4x6 shots to send out in your holiday cards, I highly recommend purchasing important prints, especially anything in an 8x10 or larger through me. This guarantees that it gets done (and in a timely manner), and that you will actually have something tangible and long-lasting from your shoot. I also use high-quality professional printers with archival materials and UV coating. I pay attention to the details when one of your photos goes off to the printers, and hand-crop each image according to the print size and aspect ratios. To put it really simply, there's this thing that happens when you get one of the typical print sizes made, which ends up cutting off part of your image and framing it differently when you go from a 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, and up. If you are sending the files off to be printed somewhere, you have no control over where your photo gets "chopped". If I do it, I do it in the best places possible, sometimes little by little, so that we can avoid having someones face chopped out of your photo.  

* Props can be a great way to add a little something to your session or images, especially when you're trying to tell a story, capture a specific time in life, or theme a photo around a holiday. But, props can also completely take over an image and turn into the focal point. The point of having a portrait made is to concentrate on the person(s) in the image, and not on the props themselves. This is why I may offer a prop or two for your session, but why you will never see me opening up a prop closet for clients to go crazy with, and also why I do not do newborn sessions that are full of fluffy blankets, crowns, baby pods, and baskets. So if you're looking for a really prop-centered photographer for your child's session, I'm not it. 

* Ok last thing… Every time I shoot a session, I strive to achieve my desired effects and images in-camera. This means I try to get my exposures correct (or at least close) so that I don't loose the details that are important to me and don't waste a lot of time editing on the computer to correct mistakes. This means I hand-make tangible filters, use funky materials, and light my images the way I want to capture them, instead of faking it digitally. A lot of this probably stems from my photo background- learning and being "brought up" shooting on film, developing my own film, and hand printing my own prints in the darkroom. And a lot of this also probably stems from my fine art background. Either way, I feel like it's much more fun to do it this way, more practical, more "real", and more challenging. I may smooth out some skin blemishes or brighten up someones eyes, but I don't change anyone's actual appearance. I try to shoot at angles that emphasize a subjects strong features, but will not Photoshop out part of your body that is there, or enhance part that is not there. 

Now, on to the GIFS! Below I've included five example animated GIFs for you to compare the SOOC (straight out of the camera) images, with the edited final versions. The amount of editing varies in each, but what you should notice is some of the things I just talked about above… my effects are all created by my set-up and how I shoot an image, and that I do very little editing (a little brightening or darkening, and a little skin touch-up).  

I hope you enjoyed these examples and getting to know a little bit more about my process and me as a photographer. Please note that these are all my personal opinions on the topics, and what I feel works for ME and my business. Just because another photographer may do something differently, doesn't mean they are any more or less of a photographer… just different styles and different preferences.