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Friday, November 2, 2012

Save money by editing your own images?

Bear with me, this may get a little long winded...

A fellow photographer brought my attention to a Facebook page that encourages wedding couples to save money on their photography by editing the photos themselves, even offering them tutorials on how to do it. To the uninitiated, it sounds like a good idea, right? I'm sorry, but no. I will occasionally get inquiries where couples ask if they can have my RAW files to edit themselves, and that's something I simply will not do. Why? Because I'm looking out for you, here's how:

First (Story Time): My wife and I were married 7 years ago this past September, and like so may others, we saved money on photography by having my Aunt shoot the wedding for us. We did have a big advantage over your "Uncle Bobs" who have "nice cameras" here because my Aunt is a photographer, so she had the equipment and experience to get great shots. But here's the rub: those great shots are still sitting in a shoebox. I know, crazy, right? Here I am a photographer specializing in weddings, and I have only a single print of my own on the wall. (How's that for a dark secret, eh?) The lesson here is that life ALWAYS gets in the way, one way or another. Kids, jobs, fixing up a house... With everything that goes on in a day, what isn't a necessity gets put in a shoebox to save for when we have free time, right? That's how my house works, anyway, and guess what? I have lots of shoeboxes.

Second: I live with my cameras, I know them inside and out. I know that when I'm shooting in sunlight, it shoots a touch green, so I correct for that. I know that when I I'm shooting with an off camera flash, I need to warm the color temperature by 200 Kelvin to get nice skin tones. I know that in certain situations I can get a great exposure on the sky and rely on some dynamic range compression to bring my subjects out in the shot. Those all change from camera to camera, and if you don't have a ton of experience with working with them, you aren't going to know how to edit the files properly to get the best image.

Third: I have been editing photos for longer than I can remember, and believe me, downloading Photoshop actions is not the end all in photo editing. You can get some neat effects, but they are just that, effects. That is hardly editing a photo. Removing distracting elements, correcting for lens aberrations, removing blemishes, making detail on a wedding dress pop... The list goes on and on, and it takes experience to do the job properly.

Forth: Color correction is something that your average computer is going not to handle. If you are going to edit photos on your laptop, you're in trouble. The color quality and accuracy of a consumer grade monitor is, let's be honest, horrible. If you want proof, just go to BestBuy and look at all the laptops of the same brand, because they will usually have the same background. Take a good look at each of them and notice how the color on every laptop changes from yellow to blue, the brightness from bright to dim. Which one is right? The answer is none of them. Want more proof? Edit a photo on your laptop, then go print it at Wal-Mart. Compare the two and you'll likely be astounded at how different they are.

I edit your photos on a monitor designed for professional photo editing that has been calibrated to match the color reproduction of the professional lab that I print through, and I recalibrate it on a regular basis because my monitor's color will change over time. I take out all the variables by making sure that I am matched with my lab, and the quality of my prints is exactly what I see on my screen.

Fifth: Albums! So you have your images, what are you going to put them in? Most people would head off to places like Shutterfly to build a photo book, but again, quality here is the matter. A professional photographer not only has access to world class album makers, but they also have the experience to create an album that tells your story. The quality of a real album compared to a flimsy photo book is really night and day. Honestly, there is just no comparison.

I could go on all afternoon on this subject (and I think I almost did), but please understand this: When I show up for a wedding, I am bringing experience with me that goes beyond just clicking a picture, and a vision that takes a hand-on approach from shutter click to photo printing. Both proper experience and proper equipment are required to make the most of the images captured on your wedding day, so please, let us take care of you. It's what we do best.