This post was written to help you get your life back. =]
Are you still doing your RAW post-processing yourself? Stop that now and open yourself up to getting some help. Doing so WILL NOT make you any less of an “artist” so you need to get that out of your head first. In fact, outsourcing will help free up a lot more of your time and allow you to be much more selective with the type of “art” you like doing best… like just clicking the shutter and photographing! Think about it. Back in the day, famous photographers like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange did not have editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop to “tweak” their images. That didn’t make them any less of a creative professional.
Now, I’m not saying this is for everyone but it is for a lot photographers who are running a full-time photography business, especially most wedding photographers who find themselves delivering late work (thus, sacrificing good customer service for your clients) and/or turning down work (income) because of the thousands of images they have to cull through and edit each and every weekend. The precious time we spend editing can be used towards shooting another wedding (making more money) or even better… spending quality time with your loved ones. Collaborating with a photo lab that will process your RAW files of your wedding photos will help you maintain an honest and acceptable amount of workload, stress and allow room for artistic maturity as your photography business grows and flourishes.
I understand that most of us don’t like change but I heard this quote once when I was younger and it literally changed my life and way of thinking:
“If it weren’t for change, there would be no butterflies.” ~unknown
As a wedding photographer (and any other type of business owner for that matter) who wants to run an efficient photography business that can actually IMPROVE our lives, we need to learn to take advantage of the technology and other unique business ventures and offerings around us. This includes looking into a lab to post-process our images. Here’s how to get started with that.
Try out as many post-processing labs as possible. There are over 20+ reputable ones out there now.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about photographer’s sending out their test images to 1 or 2 labs (which is usually always free to do by the way) and then being disappointed when they get their images back. Not every lab is going to nail your style. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re no good… just not for you. Be patient and try as many of them as you can. There are over 20 credible post-processing labs nowadays. I am sure you will find one that suits your needs… just be patient with your search.
With the outsourcing of post-production being in such high demand for the past few years, labs have become extremely competitive with their pricing and providing the best overall experience for their photographer clients. They WANT to please you and keep you as a loyal customer forever. They’ve learned to train their editors to match your style and have also accepted to part ways with other photographers who might be better off collaborating with a different lab.
Learn to let go.
I get it. You care about the quality of your work. Chances are, if you are a good photographer, you are also very selective about the type of work you give your clients. Here’s the best way to approach this obstacle if outsourcing your post-processing is something you are wanting to do but can’t seem to let go of your inner megalomaniac. ;p
Use your post-processing lab to do the first 80% of your work. This includes the basic color corrections for each of your images such as temperature, tint, exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, brightness, contrast, clarity, vibrance, saturation and tone curves. Truthfully, an editor with a trained eye can do this stuff very easily, even if you think the way that you do it is unique. You are NOT the only one who can edit “your way”. Most labs make their clients fill out a “style form” or questionnaire which basically tells them if you like your photos to look a certain way. Maybe a little warmer or colder… and with a more or subtle punch of color. These questionnaires help the editor get to know your style preference.
You can do the last 20% of your editing yourself. Put the final touches on your images and apply the skills that define your unique style. This might include special lighting effects, specific photoshop actions or black and white conversions. Let your lab do the easy and most time consuming stuff so that you can focus all of your editing power on what makes your photos speak your style.
Things to look for in a post-processing lab.
Size. You have small labs and big labs. Big labs usually consists of a huge room filled with editors. Big labs usually have hundreds of clients and have a customer support team who will be the people you will talk to if need be. In some cases, your work MIGHT be edited by different editors but all while following their standardized method of matching each photographer’s editing style. There are advantages and disadvantages for both types of labs. The upside to big labs is their consistent turnaround times. They will probably also give you a access to an online account that allows you to view the process/timeline of your submitted images. Downside? You might never have the opportunity to speak with the person who edited your images.
Small labs (or boutique labs) usually consists of a small group of editors. The upside is that they are willing to spend a lot more one-on-one time with their clients to perfect their editing and styling characteristics. It is also likely that the person who edits your photos will also be the person you talk to for customer support. Downside? Turnaround time might not be as consistent since the editor is handling, both, the processing of your images as well as the customer service part of the business. Timely responsiveness to phone calls and e-mails might be sacrificed as well.
Whether it’s a big lab or small lab, they both can end up being a good fit for you.
Their Website. What these labs choose to share on their online portfolios can tell you right off the bat if they have a conservative or exaggerated processing preference. You might be able to cross off or circle a lot of labs by just looking through their website.
Test Images. It is standard practice now for these photo labs to process a few test images for free. Make sure you fill out the “style form” or styling questionnaire before sending in your images. This is a good trail run and it wont cost you a thing.
Here Are Some Awesome Labs To Try.
FYI: I use VitalEdit. They have a great referral system that gives all photographers (including myself) a discount if mentioned by new customers. Be sure to mention my referral code: 4371_GL if you choose to sign up with them. By the way, their referral program has nothing to do with why I chose them as my post-processing lab.
Feel free to share you experiences with outsourcing your post-production and if there are any other good labs that I didn’t mention above. I’d like to hear your input on this. I hope this write up was an intervention for you and helped you open your mind to the world of outsourcing and leveraging your resources. =]
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