“Photographers may own the copyrights, but our clients own our reputations….It’s about integrity, not perfection.”
“Sometimes the camera is something you could hide behind in dealing with difficult situations and through the camera you can express yourself and how you feel. Difficulties strengthen the mind just as labor does the body.” ~Elizabeth "Tex" Williams
Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others. ~Orson Welles
On the closing days of the Wedding Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) Trade Show, I was fortunate enough to attend a 6 hour Master Class with international wedding photographer Mike Colon. Mike is a photographer based out of Newport Beach California, who's work has graced many international magazines, clientele ranges from Usher to Mel Gibson, and extracurricular activities include Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With a list of accolades that would tower taller than his 6' 2" frame, he is probably one of the most humble photographers I have met. I was really looking forward to his class. I won't go too much into the details of what was taught, but I will highlight a few things.
Sponsored by Sony, the class was about being able to dial in your mirrorless camera for weddings. I am currently a Nikon shooter, but I have always had interest in mirrorless cameras, because of the minimal footprint of gear compared to the regular DSLRs from Canon and Nikon.
Going into the class, I already had reservations about mirrorless systems mainly because of the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) lag and the huge battery drain. I felt that Mike would offer a unique perspective, because while now a Sony Artisan, he was once a Nikon shooter as well. I can understand now, why he made "the switch."
The first couple of hours of the class were classroom lecture to go over the menus and custom buttons on the Sony A7 series, which is Sony's professional line of mirrorless cameras. A camera that is feature rich, but button sparse.
I HATE MENUS, and the Sony has LOTS of them. I did enjoy the layout of the menus though. Mike walked us through each menu, and showed us what he did on wedding day to make it easier for him. Those who have photographed weddings, know that there is so much going on the day of the wedding, that if you are wasting time looking at menus, you might miss something important. After the lecture portion it was time to move on to the practical part of the class.
We went to the Sony PRO lounge where, we were provided with kits containing the new Sony A7RII Mirrorless camera. I was fortunate to have a 90mm f/2.8 G lens in my kit as well. (All images on this post are shot with the A7RII and are only adjusted for crop and color balance.) the other lens in the kit was the 55mm.
The practical portion reminded me of being in school where as soon as you went into the lab you forgot everything in the lecture. I was ready to throw the A7RII in the MGM Grand pool, but a few moments more the camera started to actually make sense. One of the cool things that Mike showed us was the focus tracking that the A7RII provides. I will say it blew my mind. While there were some missteps, it is a pretty reliable feature, able to track the models' movements with ease.
We had two beautiful models, although, I wish that we would have had a model "couple" to simulate more along the moments of a wedding. Nonetheless it was great to have such beautiful models. Thank you to 24 Seven Productions who provided the models and to Sony.
I see mirrorless in my future, and this class helped me move closer to that point. I loved the knowledge and hands on training that I got from the class. I learned a lot and would recommend to any photographer out there who attends WPPI in the future to take advantage of booking at least one Master Class or Plus Class. You wont regret it.
About 7 years ago, I began to outsource my photographs to external editors. While a more costly process, this proved to be a more efficient process, where the benefits were in the consistency of the edits, and the time saved by ME not having to do the editing. For example, the first company I started with was PWD Labs out of Atlanta. The editing was consistent, communication great, and fast turnaround. I could literally photograph a wedding on Saturday and have the proofs ready for review by Thursday. What did that really mean for me? MORE TIME!
The average wedding takes about 20-40 hours of post work for most photographers to complete. Essentially working a second job of which you will not be additionally compensated for. By outsourcing, I could photograph a wedding on Saturday, cull and upload Sunday morning, enjoy the rest of the day with my family, and work on other projects come Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then work on the wedding album on Thursday. More time means, more money. This allows me to put additional value into the service and products that I offer to my clients.
As a disclaimer, I am NOT sponsored by any particular retouching company...yet, but I am open to future sponsorship! Now that that is out of the way, I mentioned earlier that in 2009 I started with PWD Labs. Over the years, they grew into a company called POST. POST merged with Photographer's Edit, one of the companies used in this comparison.
Save 20% at Photographer's Edit by using the referral code: RefW9x6m56j
You can give them a try for free for up to 10 images.
You can also check out Picsera and give them a try as well.
For this comparison, I've placed the images in the order that they were received back from the editor.
The Original Image
The most crucial part of outsourcing, rarely has to do with the actual editor, but mostly with the image supplied TO the editor. The better the image quality, the better job the editor can do. I use Adobe Lightroom, which allows me to easily export and integrate retouched files. If you are using an alternative system, such as Capture One Pro, contact your editor and make sure they support your system. Most editors today allow for Dropbox transfer, where you can authorize access to a folder that is already synced with your images, which makes it fast and painless. Gone are the days of the FTP uplaod.
THE INDIVIDUAL EDITOR
The individual editor is probably the most convenient in the world of outsourced retouching. I went to Dwight Smalls, a great photographer out of Jacksonville, FL. Working with an individual editor is probably the most expensive option, but it gives you the most control over the entire process. For low volume sessions, that require heavy and detailed retouching, the individual editor is probably the better option.
I sent out all images on Monday, received proof, and final edit within 24 hours. For the record, the image was promised by Thursday.
Major changes. Softbox removed. Negative space added. Image warmed in the shadows along with adding a texture to the image. Dress wrinkles smoothed out. Waistline slimmed. Bra transparency removed. Skin retouched.
I have always enjoyed working with Photographer's Edit (PE). The work is consistent and fast. 3-5 day turnaround. I used the flat rate retouching option which removed the softbox, worked the skin retouching, which I LOVED, and "brightened" the image. My only challenge is with the dress, left pretty much untouched, and the levels in the blacks, removing a lot of shadow detail.
Major work. Softbox removed. Skin retouched. Image brightened.
I really enjoy the growing relationship I have with Picsera. Very straightforward pricing, good customer service, and a constantly evolving platform. I also used the flat rate option on this edit. The only drawback is that Picsera's turnaround is around 4-7 days on average. I must say, that between the two companies, I loved this version more, because it is closer to my style. While the flat rate pricing for Picsera is more than PE's, the results show.
Major work. Soft box removed, Shadows warmed, Skin Retouched, Dress smoothed, waistline accented.
For near perfection, I would say that the individual editor would be my first choice. Both Photographer's Edit and Picsera do offer an individual editor option that is priced per hour. I do like Photographer's Edit's option to where you can let your editing fit your budget. You can "name your budget" and it gives them the opportunity to estimate and accept/reject your offer. Value is based on what you get for what you pay. While I won't go into specifics, Photographer's Edit was the lowest. Picsera was about 40% more, with Dwight being about 200% more than Picsera. While I would love the turnaround to be as fast as the Photographer's Edit or Dwight's, the overall edit and experience is great. For that reason, the winner for me is Picsera.
Do you agree with me?
The reality is, to have a mobile setup doesn't have to be overly technical, or even overly expensive, IF you have a little forethought going into it.