How can photographers return photographs fast

Throughout my years of doing photography, there's always one issue that bothers me often - the demand for quick return of photographs.

There's one thing that clients and friends don't understand - professional photographers want to finish processing the photographs fast as well, so that they can take up more projects with an ease of mind. No photographer wants to owe anyone any photograph.

I remember my elder brother engaged a photographer for his actual day wedding and he was promised to receive the photographs within three months. He received the photographs probably four months later (or longer). Similar empty promise happened to my younger brother as well. Therefore, I assume there are many other photographers who have to give empty promises just to secure projects.

I'm not able to do it and thus I have been losing a lot of projects. However, I do know of ways that photographers can do to return photographs fast to their clients. They are for portrait, event or both.

  1. Compulsory HMUA
    A professional hair and makeup artist (HMUA) is important for a shoot and it makes a big difference with the help of an experienced one. Even an amateur HMUA will be able to at least hide the flaws of the subject and thus reducing Photoshop work. By "playing" with the hair and probably securing it, there will be fewer strands of hair falling and covering forehead, face and eyes, and thus also greatly reducing the amount of professional Photoshop work for advanced editing.
  2. Hire the HMUA to stay throughout the shoot
    HMUAs charge fee by the number of looks and the duration they have to stay behind. Their duties when staying behind include touching up of hair and makeup, whenever required. With all the little flaws being taken care of, it makes Photoshop work easier, although it's not foolproof.
  3. Do tethering
    Bring a laptop over for the shoot so that every photograph can be transferred over to the laptop almost instantly from the camera; with a bigger screen, it's easier to judge the photographs. The LCD screen at the back of the camera isn't trustworthy enough and even blur photographs may look sharp because the screen is small.

    Remember to weigh in the time and effort of bringing, setting up and dismantling the laptop into your total charge.
  4. Get things right during the shoot
    Professional photographers will try to do things correctly during the shoot so as to reduce the amount of Photoshop work. The styling, background, lighting and poses are some of the things photographers have to look at.

    One example of a common problem was that some girls may insist in wearing bra with transparent straps despite telling them that the straps are reflective. The subjects usually would ask me to "just Photoshop it away". Therefore, if the photographer happens to face such subject with low EQ, he has to know how to handle her without slapping her.
  5. Work only with subject who has perfect complexion
    Complexion makes a big difference. Makeup can help a lot to cover the flaws but it may not be perfect if the subject has flaws such as pimples and scars. At certain angles and with certain lighting, the flaws will still be shown and thus require Photoshop work.

    The easiest way out is to shoot only subjects with perfect complexion.
  6. Work only with subject with bald head
    Through my experience, hair creates lots of problems. For professional post-production work, even tiny strands of hair have to be edited if they are messy or cut through the forehead or eyes. Removing away the hair can take up tremendous amount of time and the finished work may not even look natural. Even with a professional hairstylist's help, there will still be chances of strands of hair falling.

    Therefore, if the model is bald, it can save a lot of time during post-production.
  7. Take fewer photographs
    The more photographs that the photographer snaps, the more time and effort he has to spend in filtering (choosing) them. Filtering photographs can take hours.

    My biggest problem is that I love trying different backgrounds at the same location, and even moving around. I also love taking more shots during the shoot because the more photographs I take, the higher the chance I will get good photographs.

    A photographer can reduce a lot of time in post-production by taking fewer photographs.
  8. Work on only one photograph
    Depending on the model and styling, each photograph may take up to two hours for editing. The closer the photograph is taken, the clearer the subject's face will be and thus the more editing work to do. My record is taking around five hours to edit a photograph, of course, it required "extreme makeover" in Photoshop.

    Working on just one photograph will definitely help to return the photograph fast to the subject.
  9. Keep subject small in frame
    The smaller the subject appears in the photograph, the lesser skin touch-up work to do.
  10. Take "emo" shot
    The point is to keep the subject's face dark so that nobody can really tell the flaws and thus doesn't require much editing work. Lighting can create mood and lighting that shines more from one side or from the back will give the sad feel; at the same time, one side of the face likely doesn't need Photoshop work since it's too dark.
  11. Use backlighting
    This is kind of similar to the "emo" feel but with natural soft lighting from the back, you may get the popular Korean style kind of romantic feel. At the same time, backlighting will reduce the sharpness of the photographs, so that the flaws won't appear too obviously.
  12. Don't do any editing
    Since each photograph may take hours to do advanced editing; doing nothing to them will save lots of time and effort although the photographs would look very normal. Perhaps, clients who don't think
  13. Spend less or little effort in editing the photographs
    Often, to do a 7/10 quality work, it may take just 50% effort, but doing a 10/10 work will require 100% effort. Therefore, 50% effort may be sufficient. Moreover, people who demand to get back photographs fast are mostly ignorant about quality of photographs.
  14. Outsource post-production work to retoucher and demand fast work
    Firstly, photographer and retoucher are different roles, although most of the time, photographers do the retouching (post-production) job themselves. There are also many photographers who have too many jobs on hand and can only pass the post-production work to retouchers.

    Retouchers can be from less developed countries. They accept low rates and will edit the photographs until the photographers are satisfied.
  15. Return photographs in low resolution
    There are times when you look at the photographs at the small LCD screen at the back of the camera, they look nice but after transferring them to the computer, you realise they are actually not in focus. Similarly, photographs taken by phone camera can look good on the screen but viewing them in the actual size may be a different story.

    Therefore, if the photographs are returned in low resolution, most of the flaws won't be too obvious; hence, editing work may not be very precise.
  16. Cancel all appointments
    If the photographer cancels all his appointments, including dinner with family, friends or girlfriend, he may have the time to start working on the photographs soon, perhaps, right after the shoot.

    I'm not sure what kind of life he will live; at least he will get to finish and return the album faster.
  17. Ignore other work/project
    A photographer may be working full-time or part-time. There are many photographers, especially hobbyists, who are just doing freelance photography outside their full-time jobs. For a professional photographer, he's likely to have other projects on hand. Perhaps, both types of photographers are busy people.

    In order for a photographer to spend time on editing the photographs, he can take leave/off from his full-time job or ignore his other photography projects, including new enquiries.

    Although photographers' projects are very inconsistent, such that there may be a few demands within a short period of time while no business in the following weeks, in order to finish up the photographs fast, he can turn down all the other job requests. Maybe, the current client is paying him five or ten times his usual rate?

The tips above include impossibilities and I would use satire to describe most of them. However, in summary, as long as the client can fork out a larger budget, it can make some sort of miracle.

From my experience, people often rush for photographs right at the end of the shoot without highlighting the "urgency" when asking for quotation. I have stated clearly on both my contact and service agreement pages. The most outrageous thing is that these people actually don't need the photographs back as urgently as they have claimed. There are times that they are lucky that I'm able to finish and return them the photographs fast, they take a few days to download.

For example, there was once at the end of the event on a Friday evening, the "boss" talked to me excitedly to request for the photographs by the following Monday (3 days). It was one of the biggest projects her company had dealt with and thus she placed extra priority on the entire project, including the photographs. Her reasoning was that she was going on leave soon and wanted to push the photographs live (online) by the following Friday before her long holidays. Somehow, I "burned" my weekend to work on her company's two projects, going through the photographs countless time to spot and rectify tiny flaws. Although I promised her I would try to give her on Wednesday, I actually gave her earlier. Eventually, I didn't see the photographs on the company website a week after sending them the photographs.



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- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography
- Why can't professional photographers take up cheap jobs



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