Portrait Photographers - Question

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by CThomas817, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. CThomas817

    CThomas817 TPF Noob!

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    Do you show your clients raw files to allow them to choose their images before editing, or do you edit first?

    I do mostly newborn, child and family work. My process is to cull and edit first, and then show the final photos in an online gallery to the client from which they choose. I am still working on my editing workflow. A newborn session (I include family and sibling shots as well) can take me upwards of 8-10 hours to edit. I head swap, composite, etc. A gallery usually consists of 25-30 photos, so on average, each photo takes me approximately 20 minutes to edit. Family shots obviously take longer.

    Anyway, in the end, most clients end up choosing 15 digital images or less, and maybe 3-5 prints. It feels like 15 photos worth of editing time (4-5 hours) is wasted. Yes I have them for my portfolio but I certainly don't need all of them.

    Just wondering how you operate. I know of photographers who do it both ways. I personally do not love the idea of clients seeing raw files but I need to become more efficient because after the shoot time and editing time, I am barely making a profit.


     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    NO ONE but me sees raw files. I create a LR gallery of proof images which have a level & crop, colour-correct, and not much else done. A 20 minute average to enhance (we try and avoid the word 'edit'; it has negative connotations; "enhance" on the other hand means to improve something that's already good) an image is going to kill you! Assuming proper set-up, lighting, etc, and shooting 4-6 images/pose you should be able to get through a 60-90 minute session in under an hour. That said, your sales are impressive; I would love a ~$1500/session sale! It sounds to me like your problem isn't so much inefficient workflow, but poor preparation and shooting.
     
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  3. paigew

    paigew Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    If you are barely making profit then you need to redo your pricing structure. If it takes you 8 hours to edit then build that in to your minimum price/package.

    To answer your question I never share raws, or un-edited images for that matter.

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  4. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    HOW are you barely making a profit???? Your average sale should be at LEAST $750 based on your stated prints/files.
     
  5. CThomas817

    CThomas817 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the input but it's def not a $1500 session sale. I wish.

    Not sure if you work with newborns but setup alone takes about 60 minutes. Half the setup time I am
    moving furniture in the client's home to make space. Breakdown about 30. Add travel. No assistant to cart things back and forth from the car. I do not have a studio so I bring it with me. 2 types of backdrop stands (traditional and beanbag) two lights/umbrellas, props to put the baby in, etc. Then you have to get baby into a deep sleep before you can begin your first pose. Then baby unexpectedly poops. Baby has to be changed and wakes up. Then baby has to be put back to sleep. 30 minutes in to family/sibling shots and baby is hungry again and needs a break to feed. For newborns you are talking about a family pose, a siblings pose (often toddlers who can sometimes be uncooperative), and then 4 different setups/poses for the baby alone. Half the session is spent getting the baby comfortable and settled. A newborn doesn't know or care about your time constraints. If I ever meet a newborn photographer who travels to the client's home and gets a session done in under 90 minutes I would offer to assist them for a month for free to see what miracle they pull to do it.

    Not trying to be fresh, but unless the photographer is offering very limited options, a newborn session usually takes several hours, and I think that's pretty standard. I wasn't doing newborns when I had my children so we went to a highly acclaimed newborn photographer in my area. She has a very large studio and all of the lights/setups were already in place when we arrived. We were still there for 3 hours. Mine average about 5.5 not including travel. Only 2 hours of that is spent shooting.

    I think I need to speed up my "enhancement" pace. I don't use lightroom/batch edit. The issue with newborns is more the red, flaky skin or jaundice which aren't really batch edit quick fixes anyway. Mom's post-partum tummy that she hates, dark circles from not sleeping all night, etc. This isn't the kind of session where adults typically look their best, so much time is spent trying to get them to look like they aren't dying for a nap or some Advil.

    My pricing structure is a flat rate package that includes digitals and prints. It includes the session fee and the products. If you think I am making $750 I don't want to tell you what I charge. Clients often do not purchase beyond what is included. Everyone "wants the digitals". I have an a-la-carte option as well, but I only have a few clients purchase that way and it's typically clients that want the wall art.

    I try to research successful photographers in the area to see what they are doing. Some do it the same way I do, others don't. I am still relatively new in this business so I'm on the learning curve. I feel like I am learning the hard way though.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  6. CThomas817

    CThomas817 TPF Noob!

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    I agree with you that I should be charging more. Aside from the fact that photography is a saturated industry as it is, I am in a very saturated area of the country as well. Within 2 square miles of my home, there are at least FIFTEEN newborn photographers. It's hard to try and yeild $700 from a session when they have more experienced work and are yeilding less. One of these photographers, who does breathtaking, Kelly Brown worthy work, offers the session and 30 digitals for $500. I give less, but I also charge less.
     
  7. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Of course they want the digitals, and that's because they will get prints later, thereby cutting you out of that potential revenue stream.

    As others have already stated; do not show clients anything but finished product.

    Having said that, I will say that spending hours on editing ("enhancing") is a losing proposition. Personally, I am not in favor of extensive editing tricks, such as head swapping. Admittedly, I am not trying to earn a living at photography, but I usually spend less than 2 minutes per shot, just checking the WB, a few other things, then straightening and cropping. That's about it for the most part. I've only done pixel-level editing a few times, and not for any paying client anyway.

    As a professional, continue to upgrade your public image in terms of desirability. That's how the famous ones get to charge more. The really successful photographers always produce outstanding photographs (and they are good salesmen as well) that people will line up to purchase. If there is only one piece of advice I think will help the most, I will recommend that you absolutely must produce jaw-dropping work. And yes, that means never showing anything that doesn't measure up.

    Suppose you go to all that work and end up with only two truly outstanding shots. What will you do? If it were me, I'd just show them the two really good ones and sell the print order. Multiple prints of all sizes, for which you get a markup, of course. And keep your digital files to yourself. They may call again next autumn to order more prints.
     
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  8. paigew

    paigew Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I understand ever you are saying, but it doesn't matter. I live in one the fastest growing city in America (Austin) where the cost of living is outrageous and photography market is crazy saturated. You have have have to charge to make a profit or you just won't make it.

    I stopped doing posed newborns long ago and now my average newborn session takes about 90 minutes. I take nothing but my camera and flash and get gorgeous images without stressing out myself or my clients. I also use Lightroom and never edit like you do. I don't mess with people's bodies (mama bellies) or new baby flaked skin. I love the rawness and realness of postpartum so that is part of the beauty in my eyes...my clients too.

    The thing is, you have to set yourself apart from the others. xyZ might charge less but you gotta offer a better product, experience, etc. And you just gotta charge more. If you don't charge more, your clients will always be people who can only afford $300. Your offering a service that is a luxury and you need to charge for it.

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  9. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Here's another take on your situation. From the sound of it, between wasted time and travel you're spending 3 1/2 hrs on non revenue producing activity. At a min rate of $50/hr that's $175. Multiply that by 4 or more times per month and you have a justification for renting a dedicated space. That way you could do other things while the baby was fussing, no setup or take down, etc. You're working more productive.

    There's two terms every business needs to know and practice to be successfull, Up Selling and Cross Selling. Digital files are the lowest profit item in your inventory. Prints, canvases, photo books etc, all carry higher margins, but require more skill in marketing, and need to be showcased. Something that's easier to do if you have a permanent display area. Cross selling other items like key chains, Christmas ornaments, coffee mugs for Grandmas, Frames etc. are another revenue stream with minimal work. Again these always sell better when the customer can pick them up, look and feel. What about family, these are newborns, are you marketing to grandparents???? Easy enough to send a mailer, out offering a grandparent package.

    In training new salespeople over the years these two things were the hardest to get them to remember. Its like they had tunnel vision once they made the initial sale, they quit selling.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
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  10. zombiesniper

    zombiesniper Furtographer Extraordinaire! Supporting Member

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    You've listed 13-15 hours you work on a single session for less that $750 and you provide images at that price?
    Hell no! You've barley been paid for your time.
    I fully agree with a studio space to account for all of the travel time.
    If I shoot at a clients location I don't charge mileage, I charge by the hour of travel time. .5 hour minimum. I don't care if you live two houses down.
    Stop doing anything free. If you're working, you should be charging.

    P.S. Raw file are for me to see. I don't run around naked, neither do my images.
     
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  11. paigew

    paigew Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Can you set up a home studio?


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  12. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Or charge appropriately for them. I will provide digital files to clients (if they insist), but they can buy a lot of prints for the cost of a single digital file.

    If you're providing 3-5 prints and up to fifteen digital files, and that, along with your session fee isn't well north of $1K, you REALLY need to re-evaluate your pricing. DON'T take on jobs simply because they're there; take on jobs because they're worthwhile. If all the client wants is a bunch of crappy .jpg files on a memory stick, maybe they're not the client you should be chasing.

    That said, I understand that your target market is predominately young mothers, who have grown up with the cell phone and digital imagery. You need to show them why they're wrong. When you do your consult with clients what sort of portfolio do you show them?
     
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