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Question
Hi John,

I would never send my raw files to a lab for processing by someone else. One of the biggest advantages of digital photography is professional photographers have the opportunity to use photoshop to process their images themselves to have the images printed the way the photographer wants. I used several different labs back when I was shooting film and I always felt like I was stuck with whatever the lab printed for me. I switched labs several times trying to find a lab that would print my work in the way that suited my personal taste and never found one.

So can you explain to me what the real advantages are of digital photographers switching to a professional raw photo processing lab other than saving ourselves time processing our raw camera files ourselves?

Answer
Bride and Bridesmaids
Bride and Bridesmaids  
Hi Shane,

Thank you for question about professional camera raw photo lab processing. Actually, I must agree with you that for some photographers doing your own raw processing is the way to go. This is especially true in this current down economy when so many wedding photographers are finding themselves with time on their hands. Might as well save the money and do their own raw photo processing since some photographers have little else to do.

Some other photographers on the other hand are still relatively busy and others are very busy working behind their cameras. The busier photographers (for a variety of reasons) are sometimes busier because their photography work is not only aesthetically pleasing and the style that many brides are demanding, but the work of those photographers are also technically professional. If a photographer has the time with a busy shooting schedule to process their own camera raw files and is not exhausted from all the other business tasks of running a self-employed wedding photography studio - again, I say go ahead and sit down in front of your computer for several hours to do your own raw photo processing if you want to.

Most very busy wedding photographers have someone else to do their camera raw wedding photography processing for them. While there are wedding photography studios which have their own in-house traditional wet labs and digital labs, most wedding photographers do not assume those operating expenses. It is more cost-efficient, especially among home-based wedding photography businesses, to do your own digital lab work - or to even send it out.  It depends upon your feelings as an artist and perhaps more importantly - your business objective of whether it increases your bottom line.

It has been my experience that the vast majority of my wedding clients did not know the difference between images processed by me or my raw photo processing lab. Actually, and this is probably the clincher, my wedding clients might sometimes actually prefer the processing interpretation rendered to a JPEG than what I might have done myself if I had spent a few days processing all the wedding images myself! While the artist in me might feel bad, the photography business person I am is glad to have a happy client. So I still end up with a happy client and I didn't have to spend hours processing my own raw photo files so I'm fresh and full of energy for my next wedding shoot. By the same token, traditional wet labs were used by film wedding photographers for the very same reason. As film photographers we did not want the time and investment in wet lab equipment drudging around in the darkroom - especially when we knew there were pro labs which could do the work for us and more cost-efficiently.

Today, from camera raw files, a good digital lab technician who incidently is often much more skilled than most photographers, is able to produce JPEGs from your raw files from which photographic prints that rival photos from NEGATIVE PRINT FILM can be made. But also with the advantages of digital - selective white balance corrections and when it comes to wedding photography - NO blown out bridal gowns or washed out flesh midtones and much more.

John
RAW Photo Processing Services
http://www.rawphotoprocessingservices.com
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photography

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Expertise

I have over 30 years of experience. 12 years portrait studio experience. I can comprehensively answer questions relating directly to the art, science and business of photography and the portrait studio business. Photoshop and other photo editing software.

Experience

Over 30 years photography and about 4 years working as a portrait photographer for a studio in Chattanooga and eight years as a portrait studio owner.

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I have attended numerous workshop, seminars and photography conventions over the years. I continually self-study from my library of over 100 photography, video, digital photography, photoshop and other books.

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