5 Things Your Photographer Never Wants to Hear

If you’re in marketing or are a business owner who’s serious about marketing your business, sooner or later you’re going to need to work with a professional photographer to get high-quality images to accompany your written content or to document a big event. Before you do, it’s good to understand where these professionals are coming from so you can make your working relationship a success.

To get started, consider these five things your photographer never wants to hear.

You can just Photoshop that out later, right?

There’s a great deal of truth to the idea that, “with Photoshop (or your post-processing software of choice) all things are possible.” Photo editing software is amazing, but it’s not a push-button panacea.

Yes, with enough time and experience, a gifted graphic designer can shave 40 pounds off someone, match the shadows to their now-slender figure, render them proportional and generally fashion a digital Adonis, but it takes a lot of time and even more experience. Heavily edited but still convincing photos are labor intensive.

It’s easy enough to remove an unflattering pimple, but matching the roots of a month-old dye job to the rest of someone’s hair color is no simple thing. Photographers often aspire to get as much right as possible “in-camera.” What this means is they want the photo they take to look as much like the final, client-ready image as possible. So if you don’t want to share the frame with a certain logo or be seen sporting that watch an ex gave you,  it will be easier for all concerned if we correct the problem before the first shutter clicks.

This applies across all fields of photography and isn’t only about satisfying human vanity. If a product shows a soon-to-be-updated logo, then let’s postpone the shoot until the full production run is in or someone can whip up an accurate facsimile. If that dish on the upcoming spring menu probably won’t feature peas, then let’s take out the damn peas. It’s always easier to prevent a problem from occurring than it is to clean up the mess it creates.

Can I see that shot? You need to delete that one right now!

Not every photographer will be opposed to going through photos halfway into a shoot. Oftentimes, a photographer will be excited by something they see on their screen and want to share it. Also, the ability to see digital images almost instantly is a great way to determine what needs to be changed about a photo or to offer a subject concrete direction about how to pose or act.

No conscientious photographer will want to refuse a paying customer when they ask to see the emerging results of a shoot. On the other hand, regularly scurrying behind the camera to glimpse what magic may have been wrought can be bad for a number of reasons.

Glancing at the camera’s LCD screen can give a false impression because what’s seen there is just one step in a complicated, lengthy process. I’ve witnessed the mood at a shoot change in a flash (ouch) just because someone saw a 3.2-inch version of a photo and was disappointed. Most photographers want to nail each shot “in-camera” but oftentimes there are issues of exposure, saturation, shadows, reflections and a host of concerns that we plan to address when editing. What you are seeing probably isn’t the final product.

Also, LCD peeping can disrupt the workflow. If you’ve chosen well, you’re dealing with a trained professional and they’ll quickly recognize what’s wrong and what’s right about a photo. They’ll have examined the histogram, checked for overexposed or underexposed areas that could generate ugly, granular artifacts in an image called “noise.” They’ll be composing and recomposing their shot — using spacing, lighting, lens selection, aperture, shutter speed and many other tools at their disposal to hone it.

The second, less troublesome, element of this point is the client who enjoys acting as editor and censor. Most often this is driven by vanity. Some people cringe at the idea that a bad photo of them exists, even if it will never leave the digital confines of a computer. Photographers have a vested interest in making the subject of their photos look good. All mid-shoot deleting does is slow the process down. We have it under control, so focus on your role in the shoot and everyone will be happy with the results.

Design professionals can ignore this point. If you have the requisite skills and experience then your input will be vital, even indispensable. So please, art directors, second shooter, graphic designers, etc. don’t be mad. I’m not talking about you.

You guys sure do charge a lot.

Conversations (statements really, because they rarely lead to long conversations) about photography rates generally occur after a deal has been struck and often occur mid-shoot. These understandable — but not terribly well informed — comments also have a way of popping up when a photographer has just disencumbered themselves of thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

Grousing about the money photographers get paid is a bit unfair because most are disinclined to explain to a paying customer why they’re wrong. They happen to be wrong because this estimation ignores the aforementioned cost of gear, which can easily reach a modest annual salary. It also ignores the hours that will be spent editing, the years it takes to really grasp how to use a camera, lighting equipment and all that mystical software.

Not many successful photographers will complain about their compensation. We’re generally well paid for our work, but what the customer sees of us is a fraction of the time we put into a project.

As long as you’re here can you photograph my child, pet, new car, lunch, scale model of the Eiffel Tower carved from butter?

This is hard to resist. I did it to the appliance repairman not long ago. The difference is with the appliance guy, everyone understands a dryer can be fixed at any time of day, probably with the kit that he’s toting and the proverbial meter is running.

Sometimes asking for a few extra photos doesn’t make a difference, the same setup used for the main shoot may work just fine for a little fun afterwards. Other times, asking for extra shots is just a way to dodge having to pay for a different shoot.

For many photographers, these extra shots aren’t just about money. We take pride in our work and want to provide great shots to our clients. The things that make for a great portrait shoot might not make for a great architectural shoot. Of course we like to be paid for our time, but sometimes we’re reluctant to do unplanned shooting because we know the results won’t be up to the standards we set for ourselves.

This will be great exposure for you.

Just like anyone, photographers want to promote their brand, but the statement above is almost always preceded by “We can’t pay you but…”

I’m sure it happens in other professions but it seems photographers are frequently asked to work for free. Sure, no one like to pay for things when they don’t have to, but the ubiquity of decent, inexpensive cameras and smart phones has undermined the sense of value attached to professional photography. This devaluing is particularly obvious in the pitches that come along with request for free work or the use of images for free.

Photographers have a pretty good idea of how effective participation in any given project will be in promoting their work. Sometimes it helps, most of the time it has no noticeable effect on the public’s awareness of an individual photographer. Pitching your project as being great exposure has led many to scoff that if this trend keeps up, then they might die (or at least, starve) from over-exposure.

The bottom line for these appeals for free work is the photographer should be paid on the same scale everyone else is. I’ve participated in a lot of charity events where my services or products were given freely, but no photographer wants to discover that they were the only schmuck in the room not getting paid.


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