Photo Workflow

Many people do not realise the work that goes into what seems like a simple photo shoot. So I thought I'd share an overview of my typical workflow. For simple assignments, it may not be necessary to use a team, or even an assistant, but the rest is pretty much the same, whether a simple PR shoot, or a fashion catalogue shoot with dozens of items and several models. Even when using a simple white background, it may be easier to replace it than remove unwanted shadows, or patches where it is not quite completely white.

Photshoot flow.png

1. Client Brief - This can vary from "take some headshots of new staff" to a full description. We can work with our clients to develop a mood board and select a style and location appropriate to the brand image values. The North East is fortunate in being particularly rich in different locations, from gritty urban and industrial, to stately homes, seascapes, beaches, harbours and rolling hills of the Cheviots, Hadrian's Wall, and Kielder Forest - all within easy reach.

2. Set Up - Once the location or studio has been selected, it may be necessary to apply for permission to use it or, at least, book studio space. It may be necessary to hire additional lighting, depending on the detailed requirements.

3. Assemble Team - An assistant (or two) may be required, depending on the nature of the shoot. For fashion, models have to be selected in conjunction with the client. The team may also include a hairdresser, make up artist (MUA), presser and a dresser, some of which may be supplied by the client.

4. Take Photos - First there will be initial test shots - checking the lighting and making sure any props are in place. Typically the photos are sent directly to a computer or tablet using wifi, so that both the photographer and the client can see what they look like. If using green or blue screen backgrounds, it's desirable to avoid unwanted shadows on the background. Once everything is working smoothly, there is time pressure to finish the job quickly, especially as the cost of keeping the team can be an expensive item. I typically allow an average of about 15 minutes per garment, although it can be much less than that after the first few are in the bag. This assumes more than one model, so that one can be changing while the other is in front of the camera. Using one model is obviously simpler and less expensive, but introduces changing delays. Obviously a designer wedding dress takes longer to arrange than a T-shirt.

5 First Pass Edit - As well as the test photos taken during set-up, there are always some where eyes are closed, the flash doesn't fire, someone walks in front of the camera, or the photos fail for some obvious reason. Simple cropping may occasionally be necessary too - perhaps a light is in the edge of the photo. These "duds" are removed.

6. Client Approval - We always take more photos than are required, so we can pick the best. The client can select their preferred images on site, if they are present, or we can send the electronically (usually by WeTransfer) before we carry out any further post processing - it is important not to waste time and money by working on photos that are never going to be used.

7. Final Post Processing - The extent of this depends very much on the brief. It nearly always involves checking the shadows and lightening them if necessary, and making sure the colour balance is just right (we set the colour balance at the time of shooting, but it may be necessary to make it warmer or otherwise make minor adjustments to give it a better "feel". White wedding dresses, in particular, need processing to bring out the detailed texture. Backgrounds may be cut out or replaced (especially if green or blue screen backgrounds are used), and models make up may need adjustment. A good make up artist will minimise the need for this. All things are possible, however, from simple removal of blemishes to adjusting figures and giving a complete make-over by software. My personal preference is for only minor adjustment - if it's obvious that the photos have been touched up, then it's probably gone too far. However it all depends on the "look" the client wants. Other requirements may include resizing for web display, perhaps with a white border to maintain a corporate standard, and changing the file names for similar reasons.

8. Deliver to Client - The finished photos are sent electronically to the client for final approval. If there are any issues (and there usually aren't) we can revisit the post processing and adjust as necessary.