Paste your Bing Webmaster Tools verification code here
Why I Don’t Share RAW Image Files

Why I Don’t Share RAW Image Files

Ask any established, professional photographer what is at the top of their of things that make them cringe and I would bet it is when our clients request our RAW files.  In short, my answer is always no and I must admit, it makes me cringe a little bit.  Of course, I sprinkle my “no” with a dash of diplomacy but I am firm in my response.

All high-end professional camera systems like Canons’ 5D Mark III produce images that are the equivalent of unprocessed film.   The information that the camera records for that particular image is embedded in the RAW file.  This gives us photographers the highest quality of images with the most information that we can then play around with in post-production.  This is kind of like having all of the ingredients for making a cake and you can modify whatever you want to your tastes.  Coconut sugar or regular sugar? Vanilla extract or almond?  Wheat or white flour?  Not only that but you can play around with how much of a certain ingredient.  The possibilities are endless.

The opposite of this is shooting in JPG mode.  What happens here is that the camera does it’s own adjustments and processing to the image while also losing a great deal of information.  Now, this is like having that cake already baked and the only way to change the taste is to add something on top like ice-cream or chocolate sauce but you cannot change the flavor of the cake itself without sacrificing quality.

As fantastic as the professional cameras are these days and I say this humbly, they are not as smart as me and not even close to being as smart as my image editing program.  Rather than having the camera make the final decisions about exposure, contrast, saturation and all of those other bells and whistles that happens when you shoot in JPEG mode, shooting in RAW allows us to process the image to our liking without breaking down the technical value inherent in that image.

Here’s the Breakdown:

1.) The processing of the RAW images is a part of my style and vision.  As a commercial photographer, everything I shoot is a representation of my brand.  When letting go of the RAW files to clients there is always the possibility that the images will be edited and reproduced in a way that is contrary to what I would do.  Keeping control of my brand is a must.

2.) I’ve worked super hard to develop relationships with my clients that are built on trust.  I’ve been hired because I’m able to figure out what’s a great shot, what’s not and always deliver what my clients are looking for.  So, when I go through all of the images and cull down the shoot to the best selections, trust me….I picked the best ones.  I’m not holding out.

3.) The Raw files are not the finished product.  Shooting an assignment is only one part of the job.  The other part is when I’m at the computer, essentially my digital dark room.  There are so many variations and adjustments that can be made and each modification caters to that particular image and that specific personality that is featured in the photograph.  Once I have had my time playing with the image, it gets my seal of approval and off it goes to my client as I only release the product once it is complete.

Just to give an idea of some of the tools available for image processing, here’s a partial list from Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.5: temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, saturation, tone curves, sharpening, noise reduction, hue, saturation, luminance, split toning, lens, corrections, dehire, post-crop vignetting, camera calibrations, crop.  Keep in mind, a majority of the tools listed above also have drop-down menus where you can tweak the images even more.  So, it’s quite a bit to work with and much of this can also be tailored to the camera system that was used to create the photograph.

Hope this helps to understand why some of us commercial photographers experience peaks in blood-pressure when asked to share our RAW files.  We put a lot of time, effort and love into each image we produce, from start to finish so with kindness and a little bit of “trust me on this”, I must decline when asked.

5 Answers You’ll Need When Hiring A Corporate Portrait Photographer

5 Answers You’ll Need When Hiring A Corporate Portrait Photographer

For many of the clients I work with, it may be the first time they have had to do the leg work of finding and hiring a corporate portrait Photographer.  Being new to the process, they may not be ready for the multitude of questions I ask that help me understand what the assignment entails and how to exceed the expectations of my clients.  Whether the project includes corporate headshots or environmental portraits, there are a few questions I consistently ask and if you’re looking to hire a commercial Photographer, you’ll want to have the answers to these questions ready.

1.) How Will The Photographs Be Used?

There is a huge difference in pricing between using images on a website and in internal communications as opposed to using those same images on a multi-state, billboard advertising campaign.  An environmental portrait that is done for a cover story of a magazine is also going to be priced differently than the same portrait photographed to decorate the walls of IKEA.  Although it’s the same photograph, the image itself carries different value for different uses.

2.) What Is The Schedule?

It’s critical for the Photographer to know the timeline of each project.  This includes when the estimate is needed by, the days that you’re looking to schedule the shoot itself and when the final images are due.  This gives us an idea of how much time we have to plan for the shoot, line-up our crew and process the final images so they are in your hands even before the deadline in case any modifications are needed.

3.) Corporate Headshots Or Environmental Portraits?

Of course you can do both options and it’s actually a good idea to do so if the time and budget allows.  I have seen clients use the corporate headshots for their company LinkedIn profiles and use the environmental portraits on their websites for variety.

However, if it needs to be only one of the options, you’ll need to know:

  • How many people will need portraits
  • The time that you have to accomplish all of this in
  • How many final images of each person you would like to be retouched
  • If you are doing corporate headshots, what backdrop color would you like to use
    • Keep in mind, for this set-up, it’s best to have access to an empty conference room that has plenty of space for the seamless paper and lighting set-up.
  • If the plan is to go with environmental portraits, will they be done in one location or several locations within the same office

Chicago-Corporate-Portrait-Photographer

4.) What Look Are You Going For?

In some cases, even with corporate headshots, I have clients who want to go with a very casual feel.  So, the subject is still photographed against a backdrop, however the cropping may not be the typical 3/4, there is more room for a greater variety of expressions, the images may be converted to black and white and the subject may be looking off camera.  There are so many options so make sure you have in mind the feel that needs to be conveyed and the branding that must be matched.

Chicago-Corporate-Portrait-Photographer

5.) What Is The Budget Range?

For each proposal that I work on, there are three factors I take into consideration.  The complexity of the assignment, the time it will take to complete the job from pre-production through image delivery and finally my clients’ price range.

In many cases, when I ask about this the answer has been that they are in the process of collecting bids which is totally understandable.  However, I always try to narrow this down to gain a better understanding of what the client has the budget for and then inform about what is possible within that range.  This transparency ensures that the expectations are not only met but exceeded.

Granted, not every Photographer you speak with may go into details such as this to quote a corporate portrait session however the more details and information we have before we even walk in the door, the more value we can provide.

Getting Ready for Your Corporate Portrait

Getting Ready for Your Corporate Portrait

Corporate Portraits. Social Media Pics.  Avatars. Wherever you might plan to use your business headshot, the thing to remember is that you never have a second chance to make a first impression.  But there is no need to stress because with a little preparation, you can easily optimize your photo session and produce stellar results with these simple tips.

CLOTHES

Selecting what to wear is easily the biggest challenge when prepping for your portrait.  The most important thing to remember is that you need to feel comfortable and most like yourself.

MEN

Go with the classic look.  Something timeless. Think navy blue, gray or black and with pops of color in the tie and button down shirt underneath.  Be sure to choose clothing, especially when wearing a suit, that fits well and does not bunch up when you sit down or button it.

For ties, these work well when their tone falls somewhere between the color of the suit jacket and your shirt.  For example, light shirt, dark suit and a tie that’s a shade right in between and don’t forget that pop of color.

If going more casual, the layered look works very well especially when wearing a polo button down as they tend to wrinkle easily.  But if you want to stick with the polo solo, go with a darker color as it adds to the contrast and depth of the photo.

Think simple and avoid heavy patterns, bold stripes, plaids, checks, or distracting colors as they do not photograph well digitally and take attention away from you.

WOMEN

The same classic clothing choice applies as your final portraits should be timeless.  Again, mid and deeper tones such as blue, green, purple and chocolate tend to work best and are very slimming.  Also, if you are light skinned, avoid colors that approximate flesh tones such as beige, tan, peach, pink, white, and yellow. One fail safe tip is to pick a top that accentuates your eyes.

Watch the neckline.  V-necks are great and accentuate features however don’t go too low.  It’s also best to avoid short sleeves and sleeveless tops as bare arms in a corporate portrait can be distracting, taking away attention from your face.  Also, whatever is closest to the camera is accentuated, so if wearing a sleeveless top, the arms tend to look bigger than they actually are.

As for jewelry, again, think small, think classic.  Nothing too decorative as we want to notice you, not your bling.

GLASSES

If you wear your glasses on a daily basis, wear them for your portrait. Don’t worry about whether or not they are reflective, there are plenty of tricks we Photographers use to make sure that’s not an issue.

MAKE-UP

I always bring a make-up kit with me to apply a bit of powder to my portrait subjects, men included,  as we all tend to glow a bit under the lights. This helps to smooth the skin tones and minimize excessive highlights created by the oils in our skin.

Also, I work with several experienced hair and make-up artists who specialize in corporate headshot sessions. Having been trained in print photography, they can work with you to polish your look for your portrait, if the budget allows.

However, if you plan on going it alone, wear what you would normally wear without going to heavy. Take it easy in applying mascara, lipstick and foundation as a close headshot will capture any mistakes you may have made. The key is to highlight your features subtly.

Worried about a little blemish? Fret not, we have the magic of Photoshop and you can check out a few retouching examples by clicking here.

HAIR

If you are planning to get a trim, do so a week or so before the shoot. A color? At least two weeks before your portrait session as newly colored hair tends to look a little overly vibrant so with a couple of weeks of shampooing, the look will be more natural.

Gentlemen, beards should be well groomed and if you’re going clean-shaven, make sure you had a decent shave that morning of your session.

JUST A FEW MORE THINGS

When shooting against a backdrop, you’ll want to get a heads-up on what color it is. The current trend is shooting against white or shades of grey. So, when putting your look together, go for the outfit that creates the greatest contrast with that backdrop and accentuates your best features. For example, if your portrait photographer will be using a dark grey backdrop, you may want to go with a blue, chocolate or black suit as opposed to grey so that you stand out from the background.

And the last thought…..I admit, I am not a fan of having my photo taken so I totally empathize if you too, are not a fan. But there really is no need to worry as it does not need to be a painful experience. In fact, the key is to make it fun and how we approach this together is probably the most important factor in making a professional, approachable, authoritative and authentic portrait. So, just run with the tips provided and then you can relax and let us work our magic!

Why I Charge What I Charge: Photography as an Investment

Why I Charge What I Charge: Photography as an Investment

It happens very frequently.  I receive an inquiry to provide event photography for a not-for-profit who is trying to put as much money towards their program and has a minimal budget for photography.  Or the start-up with limited funds that would like to get corporate portraits of their staff as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

I recently estimated an assignment that would require me to photograph two environmental portraits just outside of Chicago for a client that I have worked with a few times over the last several months doing portraits, corporate lifestyle and event photography.

When I submitted the numbers the response I received was: “but it’s only an hour so can you adjust the total to reflect this as we would like to continue to work with you but need to ensure that this is cost-effective for the company?”

I do my best to understand the financial position of the companies that seek me out to help them with their visual content yet it is imperative to consistently educate my clients about the value of what I do and the cost of doing business as a commercial photographer.  So, in this instance I felt compelled to explain why I charge what I charge which goes like this:

“Although this is just a matter of one hour shooting on site, it is an hour commute one way, at least one hour of post-production and an Assistant is necessary whose rates are either a full-day or half-day.

In addition, for every day that I am shooting, I spend just as much time negotiating the assignments, replying to e-mails, writing up contracts, editing and enhancing images, archiving photos, invoicing and the list goes on.  I also have extremely expensive equipment that is state-of-the-art for the industry and which has to continually be maintained and upgraded.  The same applies to the computers, laptops and software.

I fund my own health insurance, retirement and sick days, have business insurance to pay for while also maintaing the vehicles that get me to each job site.  And finally, there is the marketing, from SEO optimization to mailers, e-mail blasts and the myriad of other expenses that come together to make my business visible and equally valuable.

All of these factors in conjunction with the 15 years of experience I bring to each shoot ensure that you receive high quality work that not only meets but exceeds your company’s needs and proves to be of value.

Photography can be expensive.  But excellent photography is an investment that proves its’ value over time.”

My business has been built over the years and sustained successfully through mutually beneficial relationships with my clients, a transparent approach when discussing budgets and of course, by creating those images that best illustrate the message that my clients are trying to convey.

And sometimes one of the ways that I help to maintain this is through education as we often fail to recognize the value of what others can do.

A 5-Point Checklist: Working With An Event Photographer

A 5-Point Checklist: Working With An Event Photographer

Here in Chicago, there are an innumerable amount of corporate events that happen throughout the year.  My assignments have ranged from small christmas parties at a brewery along the Magnificent Mile to international conventions hosted at McCormick Place that last nearly a week.  In each case, the parameters are always incredibly different but the way to go about preparing for the job to completing the assignment are essentially the same.

The first thing I like to cover once the client(s) and I come to an agreement on the rate and usage is to go over the event in detail.  I have a list of to-do’s and questions that I go over with my clients just to make sure we are all prepared.

1. First, we develop a schedule of the event that includes where I need to be and when in addition to any attendees or speakers who are of particular importance.  This way, I am where I need to be when I am needed most and focus on who might need more photographic coverage.

2.  Discuss the dress code.  Yes, this may seem obvious and of course the look always needs to be professional but it is also crucial to blend in.  The key is to be unobtrusive, so wearing a business suit may not be the best idea when covering a golf outing or walkathon.

Chicago Event Photographer

3.  Take some time to scout the location together.

  • This is a must and really can take just a few minutes.  The key is to find the perfect spots where I can get the best photos while at the same time being as unnoticeable as possible.  As each assignment varies, it becomes very easy to anticipate if there is room to move more freely or if I need to stay put.

4.  Photographing corporate events can be inherently difficult as the lighting from room to room can change greatly and in some cases be almost non-existent.  In this case, I rely on on-camera flash.

  • Technically, I prefer to use flash as I can then change my ISO settings to a lower sensitivity which consequently produces images that are less grainy.
  • As flash can be distracting, it is imperative for the client to know, especially when photographing meetings, that flash will be necessary but I am also careful not to  allow too much use to become invasive.

Chicago Event Photographer

5.  Be accessible at all times to each other.

  • There is always something that comes up that may have been unanticipated.  A key moment that defines the event itself.  So, always keep your cell on hand, on vibrate, just in case.  I could be in another room finishing up some general promo shots when the keynote speaker is having a moment with the CEO.  I can always be reached and it helps to know I am not far when the next photo opportunity presents itself.

Chicago Event Photographer

The key to providing exceptional corporate event photography is not only to cover this checklist but to anticipate our clients’ needs and adapt accordingly.  This is what sets commercial photographers apart.

A Short Review of Photographic Copyright

A Short Review of Photographic Copyright

As a Chicago Corporate Photographer, I get to work on some interesting assignments.  Awhile back, I had the chance to shoot for an aviation company that was looking rebrand their website and marketing collateral.  We spent the day in their warehouse facility in Chicago photographing their product line as well as several scenarios that illustrated their the efficiency of their maintenance and customer response capabilities.  Both the Creative and Marketing Directors were super excited with the images we produced and I began to incorporate some of the shots into my marketing materials, including postcards and e-mail blasts.

Soon after, I received an e-mail from the Marketing Director who had received one of these postcards saying that I was not authorized to use the images in any of my collateral as they owned the copyright.  Of course, I immediately pulled up our agreement to review the terms and finding that this was not the case, decided I needed to do a little bit of educating on photography copyright and usage terms.

It really comes down to this…..when you hire a photographer, you are not buying the images they produce rather you are renting them.

Chicago Commercial Photographer

As copyright continues to be a hot and very misunderstood topic, with the internet making it easier to infringe, here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring a commercial photographer. (Source PPA).

  • Copyright is a property right.
  • Just because you buy a print does not mean you have purchased the copyright.
  • Professional photographers are the smallest of small copyright holders.
  • Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation.
  • Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce their photographs (right to control the making of copies).
  • Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from photographs.
  • A photographer can easily create over 20,000 separate pieces of intellectual property annually.
  • Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the reproduction of the photographs they create.
  • It affects their income and the livelihood of their families.
  • Even small levels of infringement—copying a photo without permission—can have a devastating impact on a photographer’s ability to make a living.
  • Copyright infringements—reproducing photos without permission—can result in civil and criminal penalties.

When I am gathering information from potential clients for estimating, one of the essential questions I consistently ask is “How will the photos be used?”  For my editorial and magazine assignments, the usage is typically one-time print publication with concurrent web usage.  However, in the case of corporate photography assignments, the terms of use vary greatly.  With that in mind, one of the best usage explanations I have come across was written by the former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal.  The article is extensive and includes a glossary of terminology that is useful when deciding on the budget range you have to work with as well as how to negotiate where and for how long the images you produce can be used for.