Ramblings and Other Things from My Head

This is more or less in the spirit of frequently asked questions. But the strict question-and-answer format of FAQs feels cheesy, so this is closer to a long list of musings and–you guessed it–ramblings.

How do I edit photos?

Well this is an absolutely gigantic question. The short answer is that I apply—to each and every photo—one of several “presets” that I’ve been tweaking, updating, and modernizing for over a decade. Then I make more specific adjustments to exposure, color, crop, etc. You might have noticed that the vast majority of images in my portfolio have a similar feel: a vibrant, contrasty, true-to-life style. That’s just always been my personal preference, because I think it’s the most modern and still-timeless look. But I like other styles—vintage chic, retro farmhouse, ethereal…fuckin…tall-grass whatever—and I have presets for lots of them. If you prefer a more delicate look with subtler colors and contrast, let me know!

The LONG answer is…long. You’ll have to get me into a conversation if you wanna hear it.

How is Shutterhead Studios different from other photography companies?

Man what a good question.

I believe that a photography session, whether it’s for a family, a baby, a wedding, an engagement shoot, or some commercial shots, can be an experience that is about more than just the pictures from the shoot. It is an opportunity to explore emotions, build relationships, and maybe try something that I’ve never done before. Instead of soliciting smiles and poses, I’ll interact with you. I’ll try to make you laugh, and I’ll try to make you make each other laugh. Conversations don’t have to be about photography. They can be about your life or my life or our favorite movies, or maybe we can just sing songs. I’ll never try to make you look or act or feel like somebody you aren’t, because pictures of you as you really are make the best pictures. For example, my favorite group pictures are the ones where everyone is still getting ready to pose. I know we have to do the posed, family pictures. I know those are the ones people print and put on the mantle. But I think the time in between the posing is what’s actually precious. When you aren’t thinking about your fake smile or how much you wanna be done with pictures. In that small window, you’re the most present. Whether you are happy or sad or bored or agitated or whatever, you’re so genuinely you that I can’t believe it ever even occurred to anyone to say “look at me and smile.”

Why is wedding photography expensive?

An old painter sips coffee at a cafe and watches the foot traffic pass busily while he waits for his breakfast. A lady sitting with her friends at a different table recognizes him and humbly approaches. She tells him she loves his work and that he’s so talented and would he be willing to draw her something pretty please. The old painter smiles and tells the lady he’d be happy to, and the lady gives him the napkin she brought from her table. He takes a charcoal pencil from his jacket pocket, thoughtfully strokes his chin, and gets to work. After only a couple circuits of green to yellow to red of the nearby traffic light, he sets his pencil down and hands the napkin to the lady. The drawing is rough but beautiful–soulful–and so reminiscent of the old painter’s style that no one would question its authenticity. As she gazes at it, the painter tells her that $1,000 seems a reasonable price, and that he’ll take a check or wait for her to go get cash. His breakfast isn’t even ready yet, after all. Shocked from her reverie, her face now painted with incredulity, she tells the painter that it’s an absurd price since it’s couldn’t have taken longer than two minutes. The old painter smiles understandingly and says “of course it did. It took 60 years.”

Then I imagine she throws the napkin onto the ground and goes to back to her friends and calls the painter a jerk or something like that.

Anyway, you get the idea right? I’m not comparing myself to a famous painter; I’m only saying that part of what I am including in my pricing is my experience.

I seriously know what I’m doing, because I have eight years worth of mistakes and successes to guide me. I know how to make people comfortable and how to get the shots that I want. I don’t stress out when something inevitably goes wrong. I know that having fun and being myself is just about the most important thing. I’m comfortable shooting in the rain or the snow, inside or outside. I understand how light works, how my gear works, how people work, and how to makes those things cooperate.

These are not things I learned from reading articles or going to school for photography (I went to school for English, and then for business). These are things I learned by doing. Legwork baby. I’m proud of what I know and what I can do and the art I produce. Maybe more proud than anything else. And so that’s why you need to trust me that my prices are correct, and hiring me to shoot your wedding would be cheap at twice the price.

What about locations for shoots? How is that decided?

I’m pretty easygoing with this. I can make suggestions, or you can. Or we both can. I like places with dynamic light and lots of textures. We can go pretty much wherever you want, though for locations that are more than half an hour away, I might need to charge a small travel fee.

Traveling for out of city, out of state, and out of country weddings.

I’m happy to travel! Typically I ask that travel expenses, including accommodations and flight, if necessary, be paid for.

Sometimes my clients go through the final set of images and don’t see a shot or series that they’re looking for. Here’s the deal with that.

I get this a couple times a year. Most of the time, the answer is “no,” and there are two parts to why:

First, after seven-plus years of culling, editing, and organizing images, I’ve gotten exceedingly efficient and, *ahem•, good, at it. During my first pass through your images, I remove all the shots that are one or more of the following:

  • Duplicates
  • Dramatically out of focus
  • Utterly uninteresting
  • Profoundly unflattering
  • Unrecoverably under- or overexposed

I’m pretty conservative in this first pass. If I see any chance of you desiring this image, I don’t mark it for deletion. Often, I’m able to salvage an image with some aggressive editing. Even out-of-focus images can sometimes be rad with the right treatment. Simply, if it’s got any potential at all, I hang onto it.

Second, it’s entirely possible that I just didn’t capture the picture you’re seeking. Much to my chagrin, I can’t be two places at once, and even with a second photographer, we can’t be three. Also, I’m only human, and I make mistakes. Sometimes it’s gear malfunctions; sometimes it’s user error. Maybe the autofocus misses, maybe I accidentally had flash on when I shouldn’t have, or maybe it’s one of a hundred other things that I could possibly screw up. This is why in my contract I say that I can’t guarantee any one or more specific images. Certainly I do everything in my power to limit these errors, but as they say, shit happens. It doesn’t very often, but as is the nature of shit, happen it inexorably will.

How do you do albums? Pricing, proofing, choosing images? All that jazz?

I entrust my wedding album keepsakes to the excellent company, KISS Wedding Books. “KISS” stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” Though I’d never call anyone stupid (to their face), I am endorsing simplicity, craftsmanship, and a focus on the pictures. KISS promises these things, and so do I. Albums come standard with 10, 15, or 20 spreads (20, 30, or 40 sides), but you certainly are not limited to that. This is the process:

  1. I complete my edit on all of your wedding and/or engagement pictures.
  2. I upload these pictures to ShootProof, separated into appropriate, (mostly) chronological folders
  3. You log in and mark 50 or so of these images as your “favorites.”
  4. I design the album using my “Best of” folder images as well as the ones you’ve marked as your favorites. Some spreads will have 6 or 8 images; some will only have one big one (those are my favorites).
  5. I release the design to you to make comments, suggestions, and requests. Then you release it back to me, I make your changes, and we rinse and repeat until you love it big-big. We can either do this process in-person or online. I prefer in-person…with beers.
  6. I order the album and send you an invoice for any additional spreads beyond those included in the package.
  7. You enjoy the crap out of your album for the rest of your life.

Generally, I believe that the more pages an album has, the more awesome it is. As mentioned before, every album comes standard with 10, 15, or 20 spreads. However, each additional spread comes with an additional cost that is dependent upon the size (4”x4”, 8”x8”, 10”x10”, or 12”x12”), the thickness (thin or thick), and finish (luster or matte). The trick is to find a happy medium between including your most beloved images and not overextending yourself financially. Of course, I can help with that too.

Can I finagle packages to my liking, or are they carved in stone?

Our wedding packages are designed to help you figure out how far Shutterhead can take your dollar. They are not carved in stone; they are not carved at all, in fact (mostly they are typed). They are malleable, and they are open to interpretation. For example, we can substitute excess hours for album or Youbooth credit dollars. We can add a la carte pieces to any packages. We can even order from the off-the-menu menu. If you can dream it, we can get it into a wedding package. This is not about coloring in the lines; it’s about getting creative, thinking outside the box, and ultimately giving you what you want for a price that doesn’t make you go “DAAAAMMMMMMMMNNNNN!”

How are copyrights, printing rights, and digital files handled?

I believe that you should have access to your wedding pictures. You paid for them, and I want to give them to you. Here’s the short explanation: I own them and always will, but you can use them preeeeeetty much however you want.

Here’s the long explanation:

As the creator of these images, Shutterhead Studios retains copyright and ownership of all the images, and thus has the exclusive right to manage them.

While I retain copyright and ownership, I will always give you rights to your pictures, whether it’s on a disc or through a digital, online download. You are able to do basically whatever you want with these files—including printing—as long as they are for personal use only. Just ask yourself “is this for personal use or for something else?” Trust your guts. Here are some ideas for what I encourage you to do and what I encourage you not to do with your shiny new pictures and memories:

To Do

  • Transfer or download to all of your personal electronics: tablets, computers, iPhones.
  • Upload a handful of your favorites to Facebook or Instagram or the Twitter Machine if that’s how you socially roll.
  • Use them as Profile and Timeline pictures. Score mad likes.
  • Whenever you place pictures online, remember to always attribute them to Shutterhead Studios, and link to us whenever possible.
  • Buy them from me as soon as I send them to you using the HUGE discount. You seriously can’t beat it.
  • Have them printed at a reputable print-shop. If you ask, I can give you some recommendos. For prints larger than 8×10 purchased independently, always check with me first to make sure the edit is up to snuff.
  • Encourage friends and family to visit the Shutterhead website for prints and downloads.

Not To Do

  • Transfer or download to personal electronics NOT owned by you. Remember—personal use.
  • Upload all of the images to Facebook, Instagram, or the Twitter Machine. Images can be easily downloaded and are not right-click protected on these sites.
  • Edit, colorize, or crop unnecessarily. For printing, some cropping may of course be necessary. If you’re not sure, check with me first.
  • Share your login information with friends or family. Remember “personal use.”
  • Send more than a couple image files to friends and family.

But here’s the biggest “to-do:” Look at the pictures often. Study them. Closely. Zoom in and look at them at 100%. Look at everybody’s face in every picture. Look at the colors, and try to figure out why the black and whites are in black and white (usually there’s a reason). If you can’t figure out why a picture was included in the collection, look more closely. Try to remember what was happening—what you were thinking—when they were taken. These pictures are about art and documentation and journalism and all that business. But let’s not forget that first and foremost they’re about memories. They are “remember-whens.” Please, please, please, make sure you get your money’s worth loving them.

Do I need two photographers? If yes, how does that work? If no, how does that work?

Like many decisions in your wedding-planning process, this question is based on need, preference, and budget. So here is the three-part answer:

The necessity for a second photographer comes from two main components: total wedding size (how many guests, and how many in the wedding party?), and pre-wedding wedding-day plans. So. If you have more than about 125 – 150 expected guests, and you want to have lots of pictures of lots of the guests, it’s a good idea to have a second photographer. By myself, I simply won’t have time to focus on the bride and groom and your families and wedding parties AND all of the guests. Similarly, a large wedding party with 7 or more on either side, can be a little on the unwieldy side, and having a second photographer to help often increases our chances of outstanding results.

You might also “need” a second photographer if you plan to spend the wedding-day morning with your friends and family as opposed to with your spouse-to-be. Whether you’re getting your hurr did, playing golf, or just enjoying some QT with those most important to you, it’s a big day, and this is a great part to document and artify. But unlike the great Hermione Granger, I regrettably cannot be in two places at once. So our photography team splits up. I go with the ladies, and photographer two goes with the guys.

How do I determine how many hours of coverage I’ll need?

Generally, the sweet spot is between 8 and 12 hours. Many photographers offer a 6-hour package or “all-day” coverage. For the Shutterhead style, which is a very personal, warm-up-to people approach, 6 hours just isn’t enough time. On the flip side, “all day”—that is, like, 7am to 1am, is just overkill. After 10 or 12 hours of shooting, we are super burned out anyway. The number of hours just depends on the kind of day you have planned and how many different places you want to take pictures. It will be one of many things we discuss.

Who, what, when, where, why, and how is an engagement session?

Clever explanation in progress

After you’ve delivered us all the pictures, what’s the best way to look at them?

Great question! Two answers: one literal, and one more interpretive.

To look at them, download them from the link we send you to your computer. Most likely, it will have to be your laptop or desktop, because it can be awkward to load the whole batch onto your tablet or mobile. Then transfer them from that computer to another computer or your tablet or mobile. Finally, back them up onto an external hard drive or flash drive. If you’re feeling squirrely, burn them to an archival DVD or two. Just in case, we keep ALL of our files indefinitely. So don’t lose sleep over the security of the files.

To really look at them and appreciate them for the slice of history and artwork that they are: to get your money’s worth ten times over. Start at the very beginning—not the beginning of the printed album but the first of the folders that isn’t “best of.” Go through chronologically, don’t skip any, and take your time. Think about what you or others were doing, and if possible, think about what you were feeling. Try to remember.

As you’re doing this, take time to look at and think about the details in a picture. If it’s a group shot, look at each person’s face and how people are interacting. What are they saying? What do you imagine they’re saying? Look at a pictures complexity or simplicity. Why is it in black and white? Try to describe why you love the pictures you especially love.

Imagine the value of 500 unique images that evoke in you, every time you see one, a memory