The 3 Main Reasons Why Commercial Photography Takes FOREVER.

Why does it take so damn long to get final images from a photoshoot?

If you’re someone that has never worked with a professional photographer OR you’re about to OR you have and you're wondering the same question as above, there are a few things you should know.

Like the fact that It takes awhile.

The entire process takes awhile. At least it typically should take awhile.

Starting from initial contact all the way to you having final images in your hands (or your computer).

If you’re someone that’s in a hurry or needs things by a certain deadline then please make sure you make that known from the get-go! It can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks (or even a month) from the day of the shoot, before you’re even looking at images to choose from (if that’s a part of the workflow).

Now you’re probably thinking you’re going to find the person that can do this the fastest.

That is not always the best plan.

Why does it take awhile? Or better question, why should it take awhile?

Because you want high quality images that had time and dedication put towards creating them throughout the entire process.

And if you’re very unfamiliar with this whole commercial photography biz then let me explain.

Photoshoots do not just consist of you emailing someone, a photographer showing up and shooting on the fly, going home and editing them real quick-like on the computer and sending you stunning final images that night or the next day. That’s just crazy talk. And why you ask?


Photoshoots typically work in 3 main parts:

1. There is typically a large amount of planning that goes into a shoot before the shoot actually happens. This is referred to as pre-production in the commercial world.

Now depending on what it is that’s being shot, this can range anywhere from finding ideal locations to shoot in (location scouting), studying examples of concepts or ideas that (YOU) the client may want, figuring out what kind of lighting you’ll need, meetings to discuss the shoot, getting the paperwork together (because it’s not official until there’s paperwork!), scheduling a time that works for everyone (which can vary depending on availability or weather or location or people involved in the shoot etc etc.) and so on.

There are a lot of photographers out there trying to make a living and this is their full time job. So they themselves are most likely doing the bulk of this work. And all this work takes time. And time is money. At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me.


2. Now once all that pre-production is finalized and scheduled and ready to go, we still have to get to the actual shooting portion of the photo shoot.

For example, if this is a portrait shoot, you need to meet at the designated location (whether that be inside in a studio or outside in various locations) and be ready to be shot!

So yes, here is the portion that you were expecting. The part where the photo taker starts taking photo’s! Woo!

This part will also take some time, because us photo takers (and you as well) like having nice photo’s. In order to have nice photo’s we need nice lighting. And nice lighting could refer to anything as simple as getting to an outside location a little before a sunset (referred to as golden hour) or setting up our own studio lights which could take a bit longer.

And you want good quality lighting. That makes or breaks whether or not you have anything good to begin with. Photography is literally the practice of capturing light! Without light you have nothing! Learning how to light things properly also takes time, knowledge and experience.

The shooting portion can also involve many other people besides the photographer. This will all vary depending on the shoot itself but you might spy: a photo assistant (or two or more), a production assistant, a digital technician, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, a wardrobe set or prop stylist, a food stylist, an art director, models, etc etc.

And coordinating all those people together and to show up at the same time on the same day can be stressful. (Hence why pre-production matters.)


3. There is also a hefty amount of editing that happens after the photoshoot. That is known as post-production in the commercial world.

A shoot could end up with anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand or more images to cull. Culling meaning someone (probably the photographer) has to sit down and go through all these images and delete all the ones you don’t need and narrow it down to a few select images that are the BEST. This could take up to several hours. They might throw those up into a gallery and send you a link to view them and choose the ones you want edited for finals.

And then after you’ve responded and chosen your finals to be edited. We start editing them.

Now I don’t want to implode your mind with the editing work that could go into an image. Just try to understand that it also takes time. You want it to take some time. Why? Because it just does! Trust me, you don’t want me to explain in extensive detail all the editing work that could go into a single photograph because your eyes will start to glaze over and you might enter a coma of boredom.

If you really don’t believe me or want to see what that actually means, watch this amazing time lapse video of Andreas Jorg retouching a single image of a watch for Rolex. He crammed 2 hours of retouching work into a 9 minute video. 2 HOURS OF RETOUCHING FOR A SINGLE IMAGE. That’s in all caps because of how important it is and not because I’m yelling at you.

All in all, this is a job that takes time. Time to plan, time to shoot, time to edit and time to create this kind of business successfully.

If you’re worried after reading all of this, well you shouldn’t be. Do not concern yourselves with trying to understand the exact process of all of this. All you need to really understand is that it is it’s own process and shouldn’t be rushed. That’s why you hired a professional to help you do this in the first place! Hurrah!

We just want you to know and understand and be happy customers with stellar imagery to show off your business and help you make sales (at least for us product shooters).

See how much stress you just saved yourself by hiring someone who knows what they’re doing?

Now not all photoshoots have to be this extensive. It depends on what it is that’s being shot. There’s a huge difference between shooting an event at a nightclub and shooting a high-end ad (like that Rolex image). But all in all there is still: planning, shooting and editing no matter what (or who) it is.

And stop stressin’. I plan on going more in depth in all this business jargon in the near future.

If you're still royally confused about why it takes so long, just factor in that we are human beings that have things going on in our lives like: families, kids, significant others, oh and you know, running a business on our own so we can do things like eat and pay our bills.

Know someone that could really benefit from this information? It’s pretty much your duty to share this article with them! It could benefit you as well (if you’re someone involved in this kind of industry). Click that Share link at the bottom of this post!

I hope this enlightens you about the commercial photography world and clears up some misconceptions about the practice.

Until next time,

Anne “the quality planning, shooting and editing type of shooter” Cho