Expert Photographers Denver
If you’re on the lookout for a seasoned professional to take your product, service, likeness or concept from just an idea in your head to a breathtaking photograph, it all starts with communication before a camera ever comes out of the bag. An expert photographer will jump through hoops to make sure they completely understand your ideas and provide the best possible service.
Photography Pre-Production Process
The process is varied but it’s always good to start with a mood board. This is where you can get an idea of the photographer’s taste and thought patterns. A common method for this is a board on Pinterest.com, a website where you can search for images and articles and pin them to a communal board. They can even include their previous work that may have attracted you to them in the first place. This is great for when you need to share it with other people in the process such as your boss. As your photographer populates the pinterest page, you can begin sharing what is in line with your concept and what is clearly going to muddy the creative process. This filtering process is the best time to catch if you two are on the same page. It is imperative that everyone on your side of this exchange is filled in on the creative elements.
There is nothing more costly than showing up on the day of the production and someone who hasn’t been briefed inserts a new idea that wasn’t prepared for. A non-expert will simply omit this process or will do it in a way that is too brief to establish trust and assurance that they see eye to eye. Don’t let your photographer rush this process!
Photography Production Process
Now that all the complex puzzle pieces of pre-production have been covered by you and your photographer (I only touched on the big pieces, there are a lot!), you and your photographer are ready to shoot. This is where the expert photographer will take the reigns. They should already know, in the very least, what is available at the given location. If you are shooting in an abandoned warehouse (for some reason, this is very common for me!), they (or their assistant or producer) will evaluate electricity options, seating options for the client, arrange food plans, a shooting schedule and have an idea of where amenities such as the bathrooms are. If the locations require permits and model releases, an expert will have these in an organized folder or binder, ready to go.
Not every shoot will be on the scope of what I am breaking down here, but the fundamentals are the same. This kind of preparation is what separates the good from the great. They have already made these mistakes time and time again and never want to go through making mistakes again. Some issues are inevitable but an expert has already forecasted for the unexpected and has a back up option. I, for instance, never show up without two cameras and all the accessories to make both ready. I’ve never needed the second camera but just knowing it’s there as a fail safe provides some wonderful peace of mind. This also give an assistant an ability to shoot behind the scenes photos which is essentially free content for social media.
Let’s get to the good stuff; shooting. It’s what this is all about anyway, right? This is where you get to watch an expert work their craft. If you have an expert, they already have the basic composition and lighting ideas already figured out in their head and maybe even did a few tests and documented their lighting designs. You just get to watch them fine tune it. Both an amateur and an expert will do a lot of trouble shooting but an expert will proceed with far more confidence. This is where an expert can cut a lot of time, however. Their knowledge will keep things moving along at a steady pace while a non expert is still second guessing their process along the way.
Don’t be surprised if your photographer has some issues with their gear performing properly. If they rented something to make the shoot extra special, often times some issues are unavoidable. Despite costing 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of dollars, some gear is simply unpredictable. Your expert will know pretty quickly why they are running into issues while an amateur won’t have the tools to troubleshoot. The old saying, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong was probably coined on a photoshoot. This isn’t necessarily an indication that your photographer isn’t an expert or didn’t prepare. What is an indication, however, is how they handle the stress and if they planned accordingly. For instance, if a wireless transmitter stops working, they have a second unit, or a cable to patch the issue.
While shooting, an expert will include you in the process at appropriate times and explain to you, in layman’s terms, what you should be looking for. Often times, we have to composite a number of photographs to get to the final piece or we have a very elaborate plan for color correction later on. An expert will be able to do a rough mock up live or, in the very least, explain which elements you should be looking at and how they will come together for the final piece. An amateur, on the other hand, will not include you in the process or include you so much that you wonder if they know what they are doing. You may hear “maybe we can fix that in post”. While this statement isn’t always a red flag, the manner in which they say it is. If it wasn’t apart of the original plan, there is no guarantee they have the know how to fix it without delaying the project. This specific point contains subtleties that are too varied and in depth to cover here entirely, but the key factor is: go with your gut. Most people are in tune enough with others to pick up on confidence issues. An expert will walk you through it and make sure you are understanding where they are steering the ship, an amateur will have you feeling like you are steering the ship through dicey waters.
Finally, an expert will have already sorted out the dimensions of the final photos in order to compose properly. For instance, I shoot a lot of campaigns for companies that post to instagram, facebook and twitter. Each of these platforms have different aspect ratios (width vs. height) and planning accordingly will make it so there doesn’t need to be a crop applied that kills the visual balance of the photograph. While most of these decisions are done in pre-production, it is on the expert photographer to remember what the plan for delivery is and have a document listing each shot and the platform they are going to. Amateur photographers will leave you scrambling to make corrections later, something that is sure to destroy the first impressions of the work.
I could go in depth on the things to expect on production day but i will just distill it to a few quick points to be on the lookout for. First, you are looking for in depth preparation for the shoot. This includes knowledge of the location, gear, schedule, permits, client comfort and the team the shooter needs to accomplish the project. Second, problems are inevitable but the expert will have a quick back up plan and do whatever is needed to make the shoot stay on schedule. Third, a photographer will have a clear command of the shooting process and will include you when necessary for approvals but won’t lean on you to take the reigns of the shoot. Finally, the photographer will have a gameplan for the final output of the photos and will have plans to compose the photos accordingly.
Photography Post Processing
Arguably one of the most important parts of the expert photographers arsenal is post production. Depending on the production specifics at hand, an expert will typically shoot tethered to a computer. This process gives you an instant preview of the photograph on a large computer screen monitor. From here, the photographer will be able to mark the specific photo as a select choice or omit it from their final collection. They will also be able to apply basic color correction options live on set. This means everyone is on the same page and you can be a part of the process of selections live. An amateur, on the other hand, may not possess the means to do this, or they simply don’t find it to be that important. They will show you the shots on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. The issues with this are vast and plenty. First, the LCD preview is dramatically different from the way it will appear on a larger screen. The photo has been given a slight increase in the contrast and saturation of the picture and it has auto adjusted the shadows to appear better. Every camera does this, whether the photographer is aware or not. It’s simply just a simpler monitor isn’t meant to be much more than a preview window. The second reason for tethering is to check for sharpness. The small monitors are notorious for masking slight focus issues. This can be prevented by zooming in on a full resolution capture on a computer. The expert photographer recognizes the huge list of benefits of tethering and will go out of their way to provide this for themselves and the clients benefit.
You may be curious why this clear production provision falls into the post-processing section. It’s simple. Proper approach on set will keep the post process streamlined. You will be able to leave set confident that your expectations were met and the photographer will leave with a clear plan on what is expected with the photos that were captured. An amateur will send you low resolution (or god forbid, full resolution RAW files that will clog up even a moderately powerful computer) and ask you, after the fact, which photos you would like to see edited. This clunky process will take you hours and will delay the process, sometimes up to a few weeks. An expert has made this mistake before and knows to get client input before they leave set.
From here, the photographer will begin cleaning up the images and making all of the necessary composites. An amateur will go silent on you for a while or, inversely, will send you minute updates that aren’t necessary to get clarity on something that should have been asked prior. An expert, on the other hand, will know what is expected and knows that your time is best used approving the final edits or making as few notes as possible.
This final aspect of the production cycle is the most critical of anything I’ve expanded on in this article. The expert will immediately take your notes, with no offense taken, and make the necessary adjustments or inform you that some are either not possible or are outside the scope of the initial agreements and discuss the necessary needs and budget to accomplish them and the timeframe necessary. The amateur will really show their colors here. I’ve witnessed a number of things happen to the inexperienced and the worst is that they simply ignore the project for a while. The notes came back and either they took offense and prioritized something else, or the edits seem so daunting that the idea of opening the image editor again feels as if you asked them to bench press their car. An expert has heard it all before and knows that a critique isn’t personal and has the wherewithal to see the project to the end. An amateur may be facing critical critique for the first time and doesn’t have the necessary self drive to get past this hurdle. This is the hardest thing to foresee as a client but is something you can ask when you meet with your photographer of choice before you even sign any contracts. Simply inquire about the post production process, how many re-edits you will be allotted (standard is at least 1 on the house) and how that may affect the schedule. Deadlines are the most motivating thing in my world and being specific about this will lead to a much smoother journey into the world of post production. Saying “ASAP” is a sure fire way for a project to be delayed.