Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

It’s before the exodus. Many are in panic mode. Some don’t care at all about having their photos until after Pesach, but some must have them for Pesach! Some cannot be reached and are never available to come in. Some don’t care most of the time, except when they need something now!

Often I write about the photo-shoot, before the photo-shoot, and during the photo-shoot. Here I plan to discuss postproduction: the many steps that go into making your finished wall mural or wedding album. Many photographers today outsource. They sell you a solution, but all the ways that the images are interpreted and the books designed, as well as the printing, are left to others. Quality control most often involves product that is deemed “good enough.” That invariably means that the customer accepts it. But customers admit they do not know what they are looking for.

It’s a rare photographer who is experienced, skilled, and concerned enough to critically assess what he is getting from the lab. I can tell you that a huge percentage of product simply does not measure up in the eyes of a concerned and critical photographer. Years of experience printing for an early color printer have made me a rough customer for nearly any lab in the wedding industry. Commercial printers can easily charge 50—100 times what event photographers pay. Those printers cater to my standards. Still, a few “wedding labs” find me a refreshing challenge and respect that I point out things that most don’t know or notice.

Some clients have expressed interest in the complexities, and feel that many others would care more if they knew there was more to know. So, without getting into the boring details: There is a huge difference between how the same image can appear and how an album can be designed when made by different vendors. You get what you pay for–and that often means paying for it later in disappointment.

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At this time of year, I like to ponder the many ways we can all be slaves–and consider how perspective affects our vision . . . how we look at things to see more or less. Last week, I asked if I was wrong to feel that Joe’s assistant Dennis needed to show up at the wedding, even though he claimed to be ill. I am waiting for more responses. So far, I got one cryptic comment that said, “Yes, you are wrong!” Sometimes it is good to be wrong. Does being right always make one feel good? No. I actually love being wrong sometimes. I can apologize and move on. But being right, how often does one get any real satisfaction?

So, I enjoyed reading Baila Sebrow’s response in the March 28 5TJT Dating Forum, to a woman dating a man who liked his dog too much: he would not abandon the pet, for a potential wife, even though she feared dogs. Baila nicely explored many perspectives, closing with: “Men who take good care of their dogs make excellent parents.” Another perspective might be that any man who can abandon his “best friend” today, can abandon a wife, parent, or child tomorrow. Animals have feelings, are sensitive, and feel pain. How could that beloved pet ever understand what happened? Is that right? What pangs of regret might grow in a man who chooses to do that? Isn’t that something to consider?

This week, I have a personal regret I need to share. While some readers might feel I am wrong to expect an assistant to show up for work when he is ill, I really try to be responsible and reliable and always consider my word to be my bond. That is why I expect others to be reliable as well. On the one hand, I could rationalize that if a crew need not take responsibility seriously, then neither should I. But that is not how I am. So when I screw up, I really feel bad, and I want to apologize.

I want to apologize to Rifky and Eli. It’s their first anniversary. I am beside myself that their video is not done. I wear many hats. It is most efficient to oversee, delegate, and direct. I edit videos when I think I can make a difference for those who will appreciate it, or for whom I have done so in the past. It felt wonderful editing for three days last week and four days in the prior week. Most photographers don’t know video. They just sell it. At the event, you want a team with one conductor, and for that, really knowing video is a major advantage for me. As photo postproduction is more than meets the eye, video editing is off the charts in tedious detail with tremendous possibilities at every moment. I try to edit from the heart and put feeling into every decision. This takes time, concentration, and focus. A long-form, three-camera project can take over 100 hours. Traditionally, most studios either selectively shoot video to avoid editing basic projects, or they do a cinematic approach where shots are planned, not natural, and very little footage is used later. A long-form deluxe video is the opposite on all counts.

But it does not make a difference. I would be furiously apoplectic in their situation, and yet from my perspective, it too is painful and I can only hope they will enjoy it when it is ready.

Video is undergoing a revolution. I think that in a few years, as the fad of using DSLR cameras for video is replaced by the use of cameras that can be more effectively operated, there will be a shift back to more significant values. Most cameramen don’t want to edit and most editors don’t want to make decisions, which takes so much time and can always be met by a client wishing changes. The editor has to second-guess not only the client, but also consider “what would Gary want or do in this situation?” Complex projects can therefore take more time when I oversee an editor than when I just do what feels right. But running a business and being an artist are two different things! Very different perspectives.

On another note, Mandy surfaced after five years. She loves her photos and has selected hundreds of images for her album. Experienced photographers’ contracts usually specify some time limit for image selection. Mandy wants to get all the images specified in the contract but not the cost escalations clearly stated above her signature. Some brides just hope their photographer still has the images. Others also expect years of free storage!

In a way, we are all slaves to perspectives. Some only see it one way; others may end up trying to serve more masters.

Wishing a sweet and happy Pesach to all. v

Gary Rabenko can be reached at Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

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