Sal Cincotta talks about How to determine if outsourcing your post-production is right for you?
Is outsourcing right for you? In this post, Sal Cincotta, co-founder and co-owner explores some of the things you should consider before outsourcing your post-production work.
Outsourcing your post-production is one of the toughest things any photographer will ever consider. How can anyone possibly edit your images the way you can? Well, I got some news for you. It’s not that complicated. Sure, no one will ever edit your images EXACTLY the way you will, but then again, is that really necessary? Can your clients really notice that subtle difference of 2% more magenta? Or, is it tied to how neurotic we are as artists? I think we both know the answer.
Here is the reality. Color correction is no different than other mission critical business tasks, for example, accounting, legal services, etc. There is no reason for you to do it all. You can’t scale and you can’t grow your business this way. It’s a recipe for burnout and customer service disasters as they wait and wait for you to edit their images. Instead, outsourcing your post-production allows you to focus your time and energy on the business tasks that will help you grow and make more money – marketing and shooting. Unless you are going to offer color correction as a service for other photographers, this is a non-revenue generating task and should be delegated.
Is it really any different than the days of film? Sure, it was nice to know how to work in the dark room, but most photographers sent their development off to the lab. Why? Because of the time, effort and expertise required to develop their own film. The only thing that has changed is the medium. Today, we are digital.
Here are some things to consider before you outsource.
Be patient. No one is you. No one is going to edit exactly like you. However, a partner will learn your style and deliver a consistent set of images that is within 90% or more of your style. Think of what you can do with all that extra time.
Maximize your time. Once you start letting go, you will wonder how you ever did without it. Great, now you have all this free time. What are you going to do with it? Focus on the things that matter. Family? Marketing? Shooting? Growing your business? The choice is yours, but do something.
Increase turn time for your clients. Imagine a world where your client images are ready in less than a week? How happy would your clients be? In fact, you should be using your turn around times as part of your marketing and competitive advantage. People want to see their images almost immediately. Give them what they want.
Beyond color correction. Something Evolve is known for are their creative edits. It can be as simple as a stylized black and white image, Premium Edits, to something much more involved and creative like their Signature Edits. Give your business and your clients that extra something to really make your images stand out.
Unlimited. There are a lot of options out there for color correction services, but one thing to consider is a program that offers unlimited color correction. Plans like this allow you to grow your business and give you maximum scale with your business. Best of all, it allows you to properly budget your costs. The more you shoot, your cost per job goes down. Check out our unlimited program – Premier.
Stop making excuses. There will always be a reason to not do it. Think you are not busy enough? That’s one of the most common excuses we hear. People are constantly shocked when they realize that even a moderate shooting schedule or busy season can bog you down. Evolve is here to help you grow. It’s a chicken and egg situation. How can you ever get “busy enough” when you are spending your time on things that don’t help you grow? How can you ever focus on the tasks that will help you grow when you are stuck doing monkey work like color correction?
Interested in getting started? Well, getting started is easy. We have a 30 trial to see if we are a fit for one another and a proven onboarding process that gets our team dialed into your style quickly and efficiently. Learn more.
Sal Cincotta is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in O’Fallon, IL to see some of his work visit his site here.
Creative Editing: Getting the most out of Leading Lines with Payton Hediger
Leading lines are an important aspect of any image. They give flow, create movement and even give us direction as to where to look. Straight, hard lines are usually what we think of first such as horizon lines, the hard lines that make up archways and door frames or maybe even the railings of a walking bridge that lead right to the subject. But not all lines in an image are obvious. There are soft lines that are created in cloudscapes, water or rolling hills. There are even invisible (implied) lines. These lines are a bit trickier because they are often created from the eyes of the subject. The direction the subject is looking can often create these implied lines that lead the viewer around the image or right out of the frame. Identifying which lines are helping to draw the viewer to the subject and which lines may become distractions will make or break the image. In wedding photography, this can be especially difficult to implement with the fast pace of the event. However, take the time with the creative artistic edits as these will be your portfolio and leading sales images.
Leading lines flow to and from your subject and giving the visual effect of pointing the viewer toward the subject. Generally speaking, leading lines are more effective when they are symmetrical. Think of placing the subject in the middle of a path with the subject centered in the image. The sides of the path serve as the leading lines pointing towards the subject. However, leading lines do not always have to be straight hard lines. Soft natural lines of clouds, water or hills can often become leading lines as well.
There are also invisible leading lines that are created from implied direction. Most prominently these are created by the direction the subjects are looking in the image. Between two subjects these lines can help reinforce a connection between them. But if a couple is looking in opposite directions, positioned slightly up or down, you can create some amazing implied leading lines. See images 26a & 26b below as examples.
Vertical and horizontal lines are not necessarily leading lines. These lines do set the building blocks for your composition though. Following traditional composition rules such as the rule of thirds will dramatically strengthen the image. However, if these lines are placed in the wrong location they can easily become distracting elements.
Horizon lines are especially guilty of becoming a problem in an image. Photographing someone of the same height as the shooter often puts the horizon line right through the head of the subject. But this is not limited to just horizon lines. Any line that cuts through the head, neck or joints can easily become a distracting issue. The head is especially important because it is a focal point. So even if the viewer gets to the focal point they are driven away by the line(s) cutting through it. Lines through joints can often create optical illusions that the adjoining limb has been separated.
Lines do not always have to point to the subject to assist the subject. In many cases simply framing the subject in an entryway or window can help keep the viewer stay focused on the subject of the image. However, pairing framing elements with leading lines and a strong composition with horizontal and vertical lines will truly separate a strong photograph from a simple snapshot.
Below are a few images from one of our long-time clients, award winning Portrait and Wedding Photographer: Megan McCormick, owner of McCormick Photography. We have worked with her for many years and as you will see in the images below, her work has grown through the years to truly take full advantage of what lines can do for her imagery. Throughout these images, we’ll see examples of how lines that make up the imagery can both enhance and detract from the subjects in the following Signature Edits from Evolve.
Here we have a wonderful image of an engaged couple in front of a gorgeous estate. This particular image, as well as the other examples that follow, have all been processed through our Signature Edit service. Through our Signature Edit process, we are able to make lighting and exposure adjustments, skew adjustments and we can even replace the sky to help add drama among other things. But what becomes difficult to overcome through any kind of post production processing is fixing perspective. Had the shooter taken about two steps back and a step to the right the over all building would have made it in the frame roughly the same as it is now. However, the symmetry of the entryway would have been perfectly aligned. While most may not immediately recognize the difference in spacing between the lamp posts and the grand entrance, they become areas of tension to the trained eye. Even if the view doesn’t recognize this immediately, the areas between the lamps and the entrance will still become a distraction point that pulls the viewer’s attention away from the subjects. The other issue in this image is the placement of the couple. Had they been positioned a few steps up the hard lines of the tops and bottoms of the steps would not be cutting through their heads and ankles, respectively. Instead, the doorway would have framed the couple and the hard edge of the steps would have been appropriately placed mid-torso. These subtle faults in the image create a battle between the first and secondary subjects. Just as easily the secondary subject that is the house could have been used to showcase the primary subjects had they been slightly repositioned. As you can see in the markup below many of the leading lines point to the middle of the doorway. By framing the couple with the doorway the viewer would have been lead directly to them and the frame would have kept the viewer focused. Yes, the overall image is beautiful and we certainly want to view it as a whole, but we also need to quickly be able to identify the point of the image.
This is another example of lines that can become distracting. Both the horizon line as well as the top of the tree line in the background have been placed in such a manner as to cut through the heads and necks of the wedding couple in this image. Simply dropping down to one knee would have pushed the couple above the horizon line to have it intersect at a more appropriate placement, just below the shoulders to mid-torso. In addition, moving the horizon line down a bit and cropping our some of the foreground, would have placed the horizon line on the bottom third line. There is actually a perfect triangle created by the branches behind the couple that would have framed them nicely as well. However, these aren’t the only distracting lines in this image. As you can see in the markup below, lines in the brush, grass, and asphalt create leading lines that push the viewer out of the right side of the image. The line created from the transition between the grass and the asphalt create the biggest issue. Segmenting off the asphalt into a distracting negative space. This can be helped by the shooter moving over to the left place the couple in the right third. Paired with moving the horizon line down to the bottom third, the composition of this image becomes much stronger.
This is a great example of how a few key lines paired with the subjects posing can really draw the viewer to the subjects. This is a strong image with a cute couple and a really poignant secondary element. The building in the background is very intricate and demands attention. However, the placement of the couple in this engagement image couldn’t be better. The curb on either side of them create some great leading lines to the subject which are then framed by the archway of the building. Just using the secondary element to showcase the subjects helps to draw attentions away from the secondary element, redistributing the attention back to the couple. This is because the building serves a purpose, to frame the couple. It is then a tool of the image rather than becoming a subject. In addition, they are facing away from each other looking slightly upward. This creates two nearly symmetrical leading lines to the couple that pairs nicely with the leading lines of the curbs.
This is a spectacular image that represents everything we have covering in this article. You’ll notice in the markup image below just how well all the lines work together in the image to frame and draw the viewer to the subject. The horizon line and vertical line created from the clock tower intersect perfectly at the chests of the engaged couple. The bush just above the couple frames them nicely breaking them away from the secondary element and showcasing them nicely. All the lines of the bushes and the trees in the background point right to the couple. Even the clouds create a soft arcing line to help keep the viewer in the bottom portion of the frame. Lastly, the sidewalk helps to keep the viewer from straying too far to the bottom of the frame and because the sidewalk isn’t cut off at the edges of the frame; the viewer can follow the sidewalk around the frame and still be lead right back to the subjects. There is only one minor point of contention with any of the lines of this image. If the couple had been moved a step closer to the shooter, placed in the center of the sidewalk, the far sidewalk line would not intersect at their ankles.
There are many kinds of lines that make up an image; hard, soft and implied lines. There are lines that build structure for the composition and there are lines that provide direction for the viewer. However, lines are not the pure and simple answer to create a “beautiful” image. Instead, think of these lines as tools to showcase your subject matter. Let them provide structure, flow and focus in your image. In other words, lines should provide the foundation for your composition and instruction for how to view the image.
Adding Destination Sessions to your studio with Curtiss Bryant
Destination Sessions are becoming THE thing in photography. After all, who wouldn’t love to photograph in NYC, Chicago, Las Vegas or even in places across the world like Paris, Italy, etc? Clients are continually wanting new locations and wanting their sessions to be different than those of their friends and family. Destination sessions offer the perfect opportunity and there is a lot of demand for them, but few photographers know how to get started offering them. Well look no further. This post will break down destination sessions so that you can begin offering them to your clients.
How to structure destination sessions for profitability
Let’s be real. Destination sessions sound amazing, but how do you make them profitable for your studio. Each photographer has different costs associated with running their business. These costs include utilities, studio expenses such as a lease, insurance premiums, gas, equipment, maintenance/repair, and your salary. These expenses determine the costs to run your business. A successful photographer takes these costs and determines their pricing based on the number of sessions they photograph each year, the number of hours spent on the sessions, the products they include and so on. This determines what you need to charge to make the money you want to make.
For simple math, let’s say that your expenses are $50k a year and you want to make a salary of $100k. Your cost of doing business is now $150k for the year. You decide that you want to shoot 100 sessions a year. This means that each session has to bring your studio a profit of $1500, after you account for the costs of the products you sell. If you only average $1200 per session, you are not making what you need to make to meet your cost of doing business. Knowing this number helps you make decisions to run a profitable business.
The key is to keep them as separate sessions for your studio. This means that you do not include them in your cost of doing business calculations. In the example above, we need 100 sessions per year at a $1500 average profit to meet our cost of doing business calculations. If we wanted to add destination sessions to our calculations, it would be impossible to determine our cost of doing business. Why? Destination sessions are an unknown. You don’t know how much they will cost until you start booking the session. You may decide to do one destination session a year, but you won’t know how much it will cost you, how long it will take or when you will be doing it, so it is hard to build them into your cost of doing business calculations.
The best way to manage destination sessions is to keep them completely separate from the calculations. This means that in order to profit from the destination session, we just have to cover our actual expenses (including time) and not the expenses at the studio. We still need to photograph our 100 sessions at $1500 each, that doesn’t change. We are just adding the destination sessions to our sales totals. If we take a trip to Italy with a client and spend $1500 out of pocket, we need to make a $1500 profit in order to break even. We just need to cover the costs of the trip that we take and the rest is pure profit for the studio.
With our seniors, these sessions are in addition to their regular senior session. They cannot combine orders from the two sessions. The destination session is completely separate and they can only order images from the destination session on their own. Most of our clients order an album and a wall portrait from their destination session. For our seniors, this would be in addition to what they ordered from their senior session.
As far as pricing goes, we do not charge anything extra for destination sessions. They would pay the normal session fees we have for a regular session. We pay our travel expenses out of pocket. The reason being is that most of our clients would not be willing to pay for our travel. They would just hire someone locally at the location they are going and save money on the travel expenses. However, if we pay ourselves, then that is never an issue. If you do not want to take a risk on not making a certain amount on the sale, you can institute a minimum order amount. This is an amount the client would have to pay prior to going on the trip. The amount is returned to them when they order, so they just pay the difference. This guarantees that you make at least that amount of money for the trip.
In order to maximize our profit, we utilize in person sales (IPS). This means we bring our clients into our studio a week or so after we get back and show them their images. They make their selections and place their order that day. By doing this, we capitalize on the excitement they have when first viewing their images. Never again will they be as excited about the images are they are this day. This allows us to maximize our sales potential.
The most important thing here is that the prices you set for your products are profitable. The PPA standard for product cost to price is 20%. This means that if a product costs you $200 to produce, you need to charge at least $1000 for it to be profitable for your studio. This number may vary depending on your costs, but is a good benchmark to aim for. Our studio keeps the costs between 10% and 15% on average.
How to get clients interested
Now that we know how to do destination sessions so they are profitable for our studio, how do we get people interested in them? The answer is simpler than you may think. Just ask. That’s right, just ask. Many people travel for vacations during the summer or holidays. The easiest way to start with destination sessions is to meet a client while they are on vacation somewhere. They are already there, so it’s not a separate trip for them. So ask your current clients who will be going on vacation and plant the idea of them doing a portrait session there. Most people will be willing to do a session, they just don’t know it’s an option. This is how we started doing destination sessions at our studio
Another option for destination sessions is to create a trip and invite your clients. These can either be a location that you want to go or a location where you find cheap travel. Create the trip, gather information about the travel and lodging and then send an email or message to your clients asking who may be interested. You can also post these trips on social media to see who may be interested there.
Finding cheap travel
The key to making destination sessions profitable for your studio is to find cheap travel. You will not only make more money, but you will have more interest from clients the cheaper you can find the travel. The best way to find cheap flights is through Google Flights. Using Google Flights, you are able to see a calendar of prices from the location you are wanting to fly out of to the location you want to fly. This allows you to search the calendar to find the cheapest days. You can also use Google Flights to do open ended searches. If you know where you want to fly out of and the date you want to fly, you can view a map of the world to show you the cost of the flight to each of those locations. You can quickly find the best dates and prices to fly.
In addition to Google Flights, you can use tracking apps like Hopper to track flights and costs. You put in the flight you are interested in taking as well as the dates and the app will track the prices and send you a notification when they get cheaper. This is the easiest way to track specific routes automatically to get the best deal.
Another way and perhaps the most time consuming way to get cheap flights is to sign up for accounts with the major airlines and travel sites. All of the airlines send out a newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter and be notified of sales the airlines offer. This is a good way to jump on a deal, but it takes a bit of time to get set up and it takes time to go through the emails that you end up getting. But on occasion, you can get some really good deals.
The best way to find deals on International travel is on travel sites like Secret Flying or The Flight Deal. These sites list origination cities and destinations that are cheap. Most of the flights listed are international destinations, but they do include some domestic locations as well. Generally speaking, the cities with the best prices for International travel are Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Denver. These are all major airports that service many different airlines. You can also find flights from other airports like Orlando, Dallas, St Louis, Seattle, etc. Check these sites often as they are always updated.
Now you have the tools to add destination sessions to your studio offerings. You can now add an additional source of revenue and travel beyond your local area to some amazing locations. Take some clients to some of the world’s amazing locations and provide them with an experience of a lifetime
Art. That is what we are creating for you and your clients. A piece that they will be excited to hang in their home; that single image that will showcase the magic of their wedding or portrait sessions.
First and foremost this image needs to show off your client(s), the actual subject of the image. And then you blow them away with something that takes the initial image to the level of fine art. This could be the astonishing architecture of a grand cathedral or a huge beautiful sky that takes you to another place. But either way the environment is there to frame your subject with bold drama.
So how do we get there?
Well, there isn’t a specific set of criteria for a Signature Edit that fits in a neat little box. We tried… it broke out like a crazed animal. But we do have a few guidelines for what we look for in the perfect Signature Edit to get you close to a definition.
Get the client out in the open. This is pretty simple. A Signature Edit is about your client(s). Don’t hide them behind bushes and rock walls. This is their moment of glory and we want to see them in it, all of them.
Go for that big shot. The magic in the added drama is often in the environment surrounding the subject.
Frame them with the environment. Use everything at your disposal from the leading lines of pillars or trees to the natural frames of grand entrances or even stone archways. Good composition is imperative.
Pay attention to what is cutting into your subject or what happens to be sticking out of them. Ha, that sounds morbid but it is crazy how many submissions we get with horizon lines cutting off the heads of your clients or even hard edges of buildings cutting them in half.
First impressions are everything. All of the bullet points above lead us here. The images submitted for Signature Edits need to have an initial wow factor before they ever get to our editing process.
In future installments we will cover different settings for Signature Edits. However, we wanted to kick off this series of posts with an indoor shot. It’s not always easy to get the kind of grand shot that we are looking for in an indoor setting.
This gorgeous bride and elegant room were photographed by Rafael Serrano Photography. We loved the big shot that was captured here. The pillars, the railing, the stairs and the perspective of the lines on the floor and ceiling all lead your eyes to the bride. The railing in the middle of the stairs is an issue but can be removed with relative ease. As an indoor image there will be no sky swap and the lights in the image are already on. So if there is no sky swap and there is no cool lighting tricks to perform then what do you see in this image for it to qualify as a Signature Edit?
When you look at an image where do your eyes go? If they don’t immediately go to the subject then we have a problem. In this case we have several areas battling for your attention. We need to shut them down and get you visually to where you are meant to look: the bride. In order to do that we need to get rid of the hotspots on the ceiling and pillars. The stained glass lighting feature on the ceiling is beautiful but bright, saturated and commands a lot of attention. The painting between the lights is a bit of an issue. All of the leading lines that work for the client are even better suited to get your eye up to the painting so it really needs to be darker to get back down the stairs to the bride. The subject is a little dark and needs a little pop to draw the attention that she deserves. Lastly, we need to get the foreground centered up and fix the slight outward bow of the pillars.
All of these things were able to be completed within the reasonable scope of a Signature Edit allowing us to add value to the initial image, and turn a good initial photograph into a piece of fine art.
As a photographer when setting up to capture the perfect image you have the ability to control almost everything within that frame except… the sky. Some days you may get lucky enough and find that you are shooting at the most perfect time of day and happen to have the perfect sky for your vision. But I think for most photographers we are not that lucky. So what can we do to create a more dramatic image if we are shooting without the most ideal sky? Sky Swap.
With Evolve’s Signature Edits we have the ability to do a sky swap to give your image that extra WOW factor for your clients. With each of these sky swaps we wanted to create something that took these images to the next level without taking away from the subjects. Let the Signature Edit team help you complete your artistic visions by adding a little more drama through swapping in the ideal sky for your image.