Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Why are my photos taking so long?"

Ok, so this is probably going to be a long one.  As made obvious from the far-spaced dates on these blog posts, I never get on here.  My Facebook page is mostly abandoned and I can’t even remember my Twitter login info.  Why?  I’m working.  Editing, retouching, and designing.  And I don’t feel comfortable taking time to write or post images of cool wedding shoes while people are anxiously waiting for their photos.  But I can justify taking the time for this post.  Which brings me to a question I’m often asked and the point of this post...”Why are my photos taking so long?”

I have a very long turn around time, considerably longer than most wedding photographers. I do make a point of stating that fact upon meeting couples who inquire about my services, I explain why,  and the response at the time is usually something along the lines of “oh, that’s not a problem; we’ll be in no hurry - we want our pictures to be awesome!” Fast forward a bunch of weeks after the wedding and suddenly the anticipation of seeing the photos becomes reminiscent of Al Bundy waiting for a pizza.** And it distresses me greatly that my slogan has become “I promise they’ll be worth the wait.”

Over the years, I’ve sought out advice in regard to how to cut down my delivery time and was often told not to waste so much time retouching and not to deliver so many images.  I’ve attempted both, but with no success.  Why?  I’m attached to the images, so it’s difficult to edit them down to a more manageable number.  I’ve also tried to hold back on the retouching and to be satisfied with “good enough,” but “good enough” doesn’t let me sleep well at night.  Beside how off-putting I find the statement “the client won’t know the difference”, I’ve learned they bloody well do.  It’s why I’ve been hired in the first place.  I want my clients to look how they felt on their wedding day - beautiful, handsome, radiant, happy. As a human being it crushes me when someone looks at themselves in a wonderful moment in a photograph and all they see is the zit on their chin or the exit sign glowing obnoxiously over their an artist, I simply cannot allow that to happen when it involves my work. 

I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out the obvious - I wasn’t seeking advice and input from the right people - my clients.  Recently I’ve spoken openly to a few of my clients about the situation.  While thankfully, they felt the photos were well worth the wait, I would much prefer to spare anyone the frustration of having to do so.  The fact is, in order to speed up the process, something must be sacrificed.  I asked what they would have preferred: less finishing on the images or waaay fewer images. While it was not an easy question to answer, the consensus was "quality over quantity.” Music to my would disturb me to no end to deliver something I feel is less than my best.  One of my lovely brides reaffirmed that she hired me as an artist and it was my attention to detail that made me stand apart.  I owe her big-time; what she said to me changed how I view what I do. While wedding photography is a commercial art, I am not satisfied nor fulfilled by just churning out an acceptable “product.”  For once someone told me it’s OK to be a perfectionist and to go forward in this field as an artist. 

So with this new perspective, changes are going to be made.  Instead of delivering the usual overwhelming quantity of images, the number will be cut to a few hundred polished and fine tuned images that still fully tell the story of the wedding day and provide enough variety. Of course there will be plenty of images representing family and guests, awesome moments, the details - but they’ll simply be the best of the best and finished out as such.

These changes will also allow me to be more flexible with my commission rates, since much of what is being paid for is the time it takes to process the images after the wedding.  Less post processing time will also allow me to be available to take on a few more weddings during the year and should also improve my communication and service (ie I’ll be able to tackle email and phone calls before the day runs out of hours or I run out of steam!)

In short (haha, never!), I want my clients to have the best art I can create and I want them to anticipate it with excitement, not frustration. Art takes time and quality over quantity appears to be the long awaited answer.  I’ll be sure to update when our new commission rates are ready!

** Al Bundy waiting for pizza : season 5, episode 5, about 5 min into the show...totally hilarious.  Really...look it up.