The mysterious process no one tells you about - what happens after your photo session?

I wanted to write all this in an Instagram caption, when I realised I have way too much to say already and it was just getting too long.

So here it goes. You had a session with a photographer and you are waiting for your pictures to be delivered. It takes ages and as soon as you get them, you proudly apply your favourite Instagram filter, share it with the world, maybe tag the person who took the photos and wait for the likes. Right? I mean they are your pictures now, you can do whatever you want with them. Or can you really?

Most photographers have contracts to protect both parties. To protect you, making sure they show up on the location and deliver whatever you paid for in a timely manner. But the contracts also protect the photographer. Let's say when you decide to ask for ALL photos that were taken during the session. A real professional photographer will never do that and never give these pictures to you. Why? Because they were sorted out during the first couple rounds of selection (yes, there are more than one!). Maybe they were blurry, the focus was missed, you blinked, there is someone in the background in a big, red jacket and a purple umbrella, or just the pose doesn't seem right. Whatever happened, the photographer decided that the photo was not reflecting the expected level of quality and needs to be sorted out. And the ones that made it to your preview gallery are still need several hours of editing. And when I say editing, I don't mean VSCO filters and beautifying apps.
It is a fact, that an unedited photo is only a job half done. I'm not making this up, this is the truth. The editing process is a really important part of the work. It's like the paint on your walls before moving in to your new apartment. Or another example: you don't expect to get a plate full of raw ingredients in the restaurant but a nicely cooked and spiced meal. And if you go to the hairdresser, you won't expect them to hand you the scissors cause you can also do it for yourself (maybe you can, but that's not why you're using someone's service). Do you see where I'm going with this? When you expect a photographer to give you raw files, you ask them to give away their talent, their knowledge, their graphic design skills and all this because you can do it for yourself in an app.

I used my own portrait to show you how this works. The first image is the raw photo, that's how it was taken by my husband. The second is the professionally edited one. I went through several steps, removed distortion, vignetting, perspective correction and used a special graphic design technique to fix skin problems without destructing the texture or achieving a horrible, airbrush-like effect. Since I don't shoot in .jpg format, I need professional softwares to even open these files from my camera (and besides all this, a plenty of storage space as well - my average file size for raw photos is between 27 and 34 MB.
The third photo was edited by a simple beautifying app I downloaded from App Store.

Let's take a closer look at the skin, shall we? (Click on the photos to zoom in.)

A lot of people think that photographers just slap a preset on their photos and consider it done.
Well, yes and no. First of all, not everybody uses them (I don't), and even if I would, presets wouldn't fit ALL of my photos. Sometimes they just don't work. When they do work though, they require plenty of adjusting too, to make sure the photo's not too dark, not too bright, but just perfectly balanced. There is no certain editing scheme that can be applied to all pictures in the world.
If you've ever tried to copy someone's VSCO settings and it didn't turn out as good as you expected, that's why. (I'm not saying it's impossible, only that your original photo might has different properties, therefore needs completely different adjustments to achieve the same results.)
As a photographer, I am completely aware of all this, and won't hesitate to put in several hours of work to make all your 30-40 photos look completely consistent and flawless. I hand edit all my pictures, taking the time to search for small details most people wouldn't even notice.But besides all the necessary technical aspects I also work on aesthetics. I find the perfect balance for your skin tone, mix reds, yellows and magentas until I am completely satisfied with the results. I'm not kidding, I zoom in 400% and make sure the texture and the shade of your skin is just as good as it can be.

When I finally get everything right, and create a photo that reflects my all professional values we can both be proud of, I don't immediately send them to you, oh no. I put them aside for a few hours at least, and go back to the editing with a fresh eye. I try to search and pinpoint all the tiny details I haven't seen yet, any inconsistencies in white-balance, cropping, straightening. I go through them again and again with a critical eye. I believe I spend at least half an hour on each picture I give out of my hands. Feel free to count the time goes into editing 40 of them, plus importing, exporting and organising them into pretty galleries. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I love what I do, I love it with all my heart.
But when I finally deliver your photos, and you just slap on a monsterous Clanderon, Gingham or Mayfair filter to express your creativity, well… it is not only a breach of contract, but also quite disrespectful towards your photographer. If there is something about the photo you don't like (hair color, shadows, etc.) just communicate it. I think every photographer would be happy to work on the issue until you are completely happy with the result.

You're supposed to pick your photographer depending on their style of working and editing. If you don't like how their photos look, they are too bright, too moody, too colourful for your taste - just find another person instead of getting work done by them and then altering it. My favourite example is that you don't hire a makeup artist, get your makeup done, redone it for yourself and credit the makeup artist for it. Then why would you do this to your photographer?

Annie Kostolany