It seems like a pretty cushy job. Show up at the studio, shoot for an hour or two a few days a week and then spend the rest of my time drinking mimosas at Olive and Ivy, right? I wish.
The truth is that I only do a handful of shoots a week, but each shoot is like an iceberg. You only see the 10% that's above the surface. The remaining 90% takes place behind the scenes. In my apartment. Often in my pajama bottoms. Sometimes with mimosas. But it's hard work, nonetheless.
As a client, this is the part you see. Me being bossy, you jumping around, click, click, click. This day alone is as exhausting for me as it is for you. I feel like a circus ringmaster. I'm continuously talking, directing, monitoring the camera settings, the lights, and every hair on your beautiful head. It's an intense day and I love every minute of it.
Then you go home and wait. And I know you. You're probably thinking, "what in the world is taking so long? It's been like two days! Where are my photos?!" Hold your horses.
During a head shot session, I might take three to four hundred frames. For the shoot above, it was more like a thousand. That's because it involved motion, and we wanted to get every leap and twirl and turnout absolutely perfect. I mean, what's the point of working with a dance photographer if your kick isn't caught at the absolute peak? Then add in the likelihood that your hair is going to do something weird or your skirt is going to cover your face or I catch you mid-blink. That's why we take so many shots. Maybe one out of twenty will be good.
So we have about a thousand shots, and I cut out the totally unusable ones. You know, the one where you look like you're about to be hit in the face by a softball (All dancers do it, believe me). In this case, we were left with about six hundred.
Then I bring you in to see them because I know how picky you are. I have a pretty good idea of the technical aspects, but I'm not a dancer. I don't want to spend hours and hours on edits only to have you tell me that your instructor would kill you if she saw your sickle foot in that shot! You choose the ones you want me to work on. What you see is five or six hundred photos that look something like this, and you pick the ones with the best form.
Yep, that's how they come out of the camera. Surprised? I told you I'm not drinking mimosas all day. Those photos need work! The raw photo is merely a sketch as far as I'm concerned, and this one is nowhere near finished.
So you've given me a list of the ones that you'd be happy to show your instructors and that's where the real work begins. I start editing fabric, erasing stray hairs, and making my small studio backdrop look like Carnegie Hall. And here's the final product.
Well, one of them. That's the file I send to the printer. If you've told me you are interested in prints, I print it, mat it, and hope you like it enough to buy. Then I prepare a digital file in case you want it for your website. See the difference?
Then I prepare a digital square file for Facebook and Instagram. You gotta have that profile pic, am I right?
Then I do it roughly 19 more times because I like to show twenty photos in my final reveal. Crazy, right? Maybe, but look at the outcome. I would never be happy sending you home with photos right out of the camera. I'm a perfectionist, and I want you to have twenty perfect photos, not a thousand mediocre ones.
So next time you wonder if good photography is worth the time and expense and me telling you to do that jump "just one more time," remember what goes into it. It's an absolute labor of love for me, and I feel insanely lucky to be able to do it for a living.
Whew. Good post. Now I think I'll have a mimosa.