Jason in Spokane asks a great question about adding enhancements to the images he delivers to his clients:
"I’m pretty sure it’s the same in other marketplaces but here in Spokane, there are a lot of people doing the run-and-gun thing. In order to appear different, they’re starting to deliver things like sky replacements, adding fire to fireplace hearths, and even adding a “scene” to a TV. Agents seem to like this and I’m hearing that many of them are willing to pay a little extra for it. I’ve just started to do sky replacements but my results are hit-and-miss. I have a much better time with inserting fires and TV screens, but for the TV scenes, I’m worried about copyright issues. Do you think doing this is worth it?"
Okay Jason, here are a couple of thoughts for you: First, I’ve spoken to a number of photographers recently, including one who does 80-120 shoots a month, depending on time of year! What he’s done is establish a relationship with his outsourced editing company, where he’s shown them what kind of sky replacements, fire insertions and TV “scenes” he likes (e.g., for skies, he wants them to be about a stop brighter than the interiors, so as to avoid that “poster-pinned-to-the-windows” look) and he promises them high volumes, in exchange for a reduced rate on doing this kind of editing. When he got that agreement (and after a few back-and-forths with his editing company until they were able to consistently deliver the look he was after re: these new edits), he went back to his agent clients and offered an add-on to his existing pricing packages. He told his clients that “for an extra $25 per photo package, they will never have to worry about cloudy/rainy day photos for their listings, black TV screens, or dark fireplace hearths.” He told me that most of his clients have come onboard and that while he doesn’t make a lot of money on this work, it serves to further cement his relationships with these clients.
If your finances don’t allow you to outsource your editing and/or you prefer to do your own, then there are a bunch of different plug-ins you can use. I see a number of advertisements about a plug-in called Kaotec. Maybe some of our readers who use it can share their experiences with the tool. If you don’t want to learn how to use new software and would like to try doing your own sky replacements, here is an easy way to do a sky replacement, thanks to Peter McKinnon and his "Two Minute Tuesdays" series on YouTube. Keep in mind that this is only one of many such tutorials out there, so do some research, find one you like and then practice-practice-practice! Here is PFRE's complimentary sky library to get you started. Inserting a fire into a dark hearth follows similar principles as a sky replacement. As for fires, the updated version of Photoshop CC allows you to add flames pretty quickly. You can find it in the Filter menu (i.e., Filter>Render>Flame).
As for inserting a scene onto a TV screen, personally, I rarely do this--and not because of any concerns I have about copyright infringement--I simply don't like the results I've seen. My strong preference is to make a selection along the inner edge of the TV screen (with 1-2 pixels of feather) and then add a gradient (from medium gray to black), with its directionality placed on the same angle as the incoming light. I then reduce the opacity to about 90% on the gradient's layer, to allow for just a hint of whatever was originally being reflected on the screen, to come through. I think that reflections are beneficial because they add both realism and depth to the image.
I’m confident that our readers will offer their own thoughts about charging for these types of augmentations, as well as suggestions and resources that have worked for them. Thanks for your question, Jason.
Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.