Photographs will be taken in the 'RAW' file format, as opposed to JPEG so long as this is practicable. This ensures the maximum capture of image-data and eliminates the cumulative degradation of quality caused by compression that occurs as JPEGs are saved, edited and saved again. For this reason, except for in exceptional circumstances, it is not possible to provide images directly from the memory card at the end of the shoot.
Use of the LCD-screen
The LCD screen on the back of digital cameras has transformed the field of commercial photography, allowing image creation to be more collaborative by giving instant feedback which the customer and photographer can discuss. This does however come with some limitations. When shooting in RAW-mode, the LCD screen is not a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) device. RAW files contain more information than any digital display device can display; and must be converted for display on the LCD screen. It is only after careful processing that the data in a RAW image can be extracted into a JPEG that matches the original vision, especially in terms of colour-fidelity and the extreme ends of the brightness range. For this reason, it is recommended that the LCD screen only be used to review composition, overall contrast and sharpness of the image.
Colour-fidelity is achieved through the use of a growing range of technical tools, including colour-targets and monitor calibration tools. Where appropriate, samples of materials photographed may be taken away to be viewed under a specialist white-light and compared with the image on screen (on a calibrated monitor). Since the appearance of colours on any given monitor depends on how the user has calibrated it, no guarantees can be given for how well the colour-fidelity holds up on monitors other than my own. Similar constraints exist in printing, which requires knowledge of colour profiling to achieve colour fidelity, therefore no guarantees can be given on colour fidelity of prints which aren't from reputable and professional print-labs.
Sharpening is a commonly misunderstood procedure and a professional understanding of the process is important in producing the best photography with the crispest detail. For most people, shooting straight to JPEG or TIFF, some level of sharpening is automatically applied by the camera’s built-in software. A RAW image of the type shot by most professional photographers contains pure unprocessed data hot off the sensor with no sharpening applied at all. These images can appear soft at first glance.
Applying sharpening to these photographs while still in their RAW state is a fundamentally different procedure to the sharpening processes often applied to JPEGs and TIFFs in Photoshop, which have often already been sharpened. Sharpening an image again in this way can create unsightly artifacts which have given sharpening a bad reputation and let to some photography users stipulating that they require unsharpened images, assuming that this will mean the photographs are of better quality.
It takes a certain level of skill to sharpen an image correctly but it is almost inconceivable to release a completely unsharpened photograph to a client who does not intend to process the image in RAW as they will never be able to achieve the same quality of crispness trying to sharpen a JPEG or TIFF image. Contrary to popular belief, sharpening is not a way to 'fix' a photograph which has come out blurred due to camera-shake or bad focusing.
My policy regarding sharpening is always to apply a moderate and considered level of sharpening along with related processes to reduce noise and artefacts and only sharpen those areas where sharpening is required, leaving smooth gradients untouched. I don’t apply any further sharpening after this.
Objects shown in images, in particular products, can be cut-out and provided as an image with transparency which can be placed against any background. Providing this will add time and therefore additional cost to the commission. The amount of time spent on cut-outs can vary greatly. An opaque object with a simple outline, shot against a plain background with strong contrast between object and background can be cut out in less than 5 minutes. Complications such as objects with finely detailed outlines, translucency, or that have been shot against a non-plain or non-contrasting background can go up to anything like several hours per photograph, however applying the right techniques when taking the photographs can drastically simplify the process of cutting out complex translucent objects. Therefore, proper preparation can be the difference between cutting out adding tens and thousands of pounds to the cost of the job.
Format of images provided
Normally all photographs will be provided in the JPEG file format and in the sRGB colour-space, ideal for digital displays. Since saving a JPEG causes a loss of quality which is cumulative with repeated edit and save cycles, files will only be finally saved as JPEGs once all processing is complete. If the customer wishes to print images or use them in a way which will involve saving a new JPEG (such as adding a text or logo overlay, or adding them to a larger design or collage to be saved as a JPEG), then TIFF format files and a colour-space to match the printer, or ProPhotoRGB is recommended. If you simply take a JPEG which was designed for internet use and send it to print, you may find that the colours aren't what you expected. In some cases, customers with access to technical image-processing skills may request RAW files. Any RAW files provided to the client have had my recommended adjustments applied and have been saved in the DNG RAW format, which embeds my adjustment while also allowing free re-adjustment. Cut-outs for which transparency is required are provided in the PNG format, which is the only commonly-used format to support transparency, and like TIFF, is lossless.