In order to realize the value of a good portrait, it is important to understand the different stages your images will go through when taken and processed by a professional photographer.
Clients book and participate in a portrait sessions that may take as little as a few minutes to shoot. Once the lights are off and the camera is put away, clients go home and await the first view of their images. For them the work is done.
But for a photographer, the work does not end when the client goes home or the photographer returns to their desk from a location shoot. On the contrary, the real work has just begun.
Every professional photographer has their own workflow, or the way in which they go about processing a set of photographs. But for every little difference in the details there might be from photographer to photographer, the process is basically the same when it comes to the actual production of your images.
The more you understand the process the more appreciation you will have for a real professional portrait.
As difficult as it may be to get people to relax in front of the camera, keep the attention of a child or pet, or keep multiple people or pets on the same track for more than a few minutes, setting up and shooting the scene is really the easy part. Time consuming maybe, but relatively simple.
Once shooting is over, the client and photographer part ways for a short period of time which allows the photographer time to process the images from the session. The time frame given for processing will vary from photographer to photographer depending on the many facets of their business.
Processing the images begins for the digital photographer when the images are downloaded for first viewing on a MAC or PC. The workflow might go something like this.
Images that are downloaded from the camera to PC are called the original images. They have had no correction other than what was made in the settings of the camera during shooting.
On first pass the entire set of images from a single session is viewed to check for imperfections. Images that are blurry, severely over or under exposed, or have any other unfixable anomalies will be discarded.
A second viewing of each image may result in image correction before they are presented to a client. Corrections like color, exposure, and some cropping will occur during this stage of the process. Once minor corrections are made, images are now called proofs. These will be the images shown to the client either online or in person with the photographer.
When a client views their proofs they are seeing the slightly corrected but unpolished version of their images, and should only be looking for the right pose for their finished portrait.
Once a client has viewed their proofs and made their portrait choices, the photographer then goes back to work to polish out the details of the images.
Further correction may then be made to color, exposure, and cropping. Skin is smoothed, eyes are brightened and backgrounds may be distorted and removed. Some photographers will go the extra step of applying their own creative touches to give portraits a more unique and artistic look. Portraits will be cropped to accommodate the sizes requested by the client before being sent to print.
It all sounds quite simple and many cases it is, but it is all a rather time consuming process. Although the many variables of an individual portrait session will determine the time it takes to process all of the images, it is safe to say that an hour of shooting time will easily translate into 4-6 hours of post processing. If a client chooses to order large prints, canvas prints, books, or gift items made with their images, additional processing is required.
For some photographers the process is over once they have completed portrait images and they upload images online for client ordering, while other photographers may want to meet with their clients to present their finished portraits. Again, this part of the process is something that varies widely from photographer to photographer.