Taking photos is fun. Everyone likes it, and everyone is able to do it. Taking photos professionally is fun, but not everyone is able to do it. This is not only because some people simply don't have the eye for it, it's because of the work it involves after the photoshoot.
Recently I've come across people who simply don't understand what it involves, and in this post I'll outline it, firstly to simply inform people who might be interested, and secondly to warn those who think it's easy to just be a photographer.
1. THE SHOOT
I recently had a photoshoot for a client that lasted 15 hours. Yep, that's right. I was booked for 15 HOURS. Like I said, taking photos is fun, taking selfies are fun, but when you're being paid a considerable amount of money - the pressure most certainly is on.
I'm not saying that professional jobs aren't enjoyable, but trust me, the adrenaline is through the roof. That camera becomes the most important thing in the world.
So then you get home. You're buzzing and you can't wait to see how they turned out. Card goes into the computer and you start looking through them. The buzz hits its climax when you sit back and think, "I nailed it". Then off to bed you go. You're already hours in, be it 4,5,15, that's the shift you have just done.
2. THE SIFTING
The next step is the sifting. On a huge shoot, I can easily take over 2,000 photos. Looking at them is fine and well, but now I need to choose the best ones. I do this by opening them in a regular photo viewer and writing down the file names of the ones I want to keep. See below:
This might seem easy, but it most certainly is not. Imagine you are holding a camera that takes 7 shots a second like the one I use. You're going through them and an awesome one pops up. You write down the file name, 14 shots later there's a better one. You then spend hours choosing that perfect shot and you aren't even into editing yet..
3. LIGHTROOM, SILVER EFEX AND PHOTOSHOP
Yep, believe it or not, we don't use Instagram filters. In order to provide the best work for clients, we use professional software. You won't see any bunny ears or cat faces, or fake bubbles. This is the real deal.
Taking excellent photos reduces editing time. You really shouldn't have to dabble in Photoshop to get results, just give up if that happens too often, because you're just not good. I tried to learn the guitar; same thing happened. Just like a musician listening to an out of tune singer, a photographer can pick apart every part of your photo.
So now it is the time to bring out the best in your work. Settle in, because a 15 hour photo shoot will take 30 hours to edit, resulting in only 200 final photos if you want them to really pop without taking the moles off people's skin or anything weird like that.
People think that it's only about taking the photos and then they send send them. WRONG. This is the hardest you will ever work in photography. It's HOURS. It's sitting through the dead of night making artistic decisions as to whether a photo should be put through Silver Efex to make it black and white in the correct way, it's about who makes the final cut and who doesn't, it's about file organisation, memory, labeling, folders, cropping, vignetting, saturation, highlights and shadows, white balance, exposure, dehaze, noise reduction and contrast. It's not taking a tacky HDR photo with your iPhone.
This, my friends, is photography. This is the gritty background of it. Already you might think it's a bit more work than you thought?
3. THE UPLOADING
We live in a world where the internet is fast and awesome, right? Yeah, we do, but professional photographs are massive. They aren't Happy Meal quality photos you slam onto instagram and they upload in a flash. They take some time.
So you've got all your photos from that shoot, they're edited and you're 9 Red Bulls in. Upload time. The upload starts and you know that 60 files is a good hour or 2. So you download some Jeremy Kyle and get yourself comfortable with a Pot Noodle.
But there's something wrong. Oh fuck, into the second ad break, just before the lie detector results you realise you haven't watermarked them. So it's into Photoshop, wait for 60 to transfer there, and then watermark them all. Another hour or so gone.
We're all good now, the photos are watermarked and ready to go. But now they need to be sent.
4. THE SENDING
This is where souls come to perish. You've done the shoot, you done the editing, your client is waiting, but now you have to watch little bars load on Google Drive for an hour or so. After staring at complete strangers for hours and zooming into their faces, trust me, you get the 1000 yard stare.
5. THE AFTERMATH
The photos are sent and you've moved onto the next task. All of a sudden you get a messages saying,
"Oh can I see more of the photos, don't worry about editing, I just want to see them all". - NO
"Can you make little Jubilee black and white?". - NO THAT GOES THROUGH 3 PROGRAMS
"Is it cool to have just ten more?". - JUST GIVE ME 5 MORE HOURS OF SOLID WORKING
"There weren't any of me and Grandma Jane" - YOU DIDN'T TELL ME WHO GRANDMA JANE WAS AND YOU DIDN'T GIVE ME A BRIEF
Me - "Was this Grandma Jane?"
Client - "Yeah xxx"
Me - "Well Grandma Jane was smashed and blinked in every photo despite my instruction, still want those photos?"
"There's more photos of my son than my daughter, can you send more of her?" - NO
People think that 200 photos is a small amount. Trust me, I've been doing this a long time and that is a MASSIVE amount. Coupled with the shoot, you're looking at tens of hours. It's not a Tesco job where you work your hours and forget, it's a service you are providing that is far too misunderstood. You are spending hours and hours at a desk creating memories for people that will last for life.
6. THE PERSERVERENCE
You then look down at a ten year old tattoo you got when you didn't even realise that in a decade it would represent the Tenth Floor and you calm down, understand that your clients are just excited and don't know the work that goes in. You try and make them happy by sending those photos of Grandma Jane, or sending more of the daughter and realise that they just want to see their loved ones, and sometimes the quality doesn't matter.
However it's the hours. For anyone wanting to start up in professional level, be careful. It's not only building that portfolio, that's time consuming enough but fun; it's updating your website, it's the admin, it's the requests from clients, it's the Red Bull to get it done, it's working 48 hour shifts, it's marketing knowing that you have a backlog of two shoots,
It's hours and hours.
Just take a look at my office chair:
So this was really an insight into the world after the lens in photography. I encourage anyone to give it a try if they feel they have something to say to the world, but be prepared if you want to do it professionally.
And good luck to all!!