Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Growing Pains: Letting Clients See Unedited Photos

The shot Gloria chose for her senior yearbook picture because she thought the natural dramatic lighting made her look more mature.

After giving it more thought, I decided to follow some colleague's advice and allow a client to pick their favorite proofs and then edit only those images. I have struggled with this decision, since I always edited the images from a session before my clients saw them.

However, I paid closer attention to how one of my senior portrait clients reacted to the images during presentation to prove what I thought was ultimately the truth: I had been spending too much time editing images that my clients were not interested in purchasing.

It's not that my editing was bad; it's just that the client didn't prefer some of the images no matter what wonders I worked with Photoshop. Things that didn't occur to me while editing really stood out to the client. For instance, she didn't like one picture because she thought her body position made her look fat and unattractive. I completely disagreed with her because I think she is an amazingly slender and beautiful young lady. Another image (that I loved) was dismissed because she thought her head looked too big. I spent a lot of time nitpicking and editing the photo I THOUGHT she was going to choose for her senior portrait (which was actually her mother's favorite). Meanwhile, the image she ultimately chose for her yearbook had very basic tonal, lighting and portrait makeover adjustments.

The bottom line is this: it doesn't matter what I think about an image; it only matters what the client thinks.

Out of the 50 images I edited, my client only really seemed to like about 30 or so of them...that doesn't seem like a big difference in numbers, but I'm thinking about how much time I spent meticulously editing those other 20 images. That's time that could have been spent working on another project (such as the one that I'm on deadline for now!).

As a matter of fact, my client seemed overwhelmed with those 50 images, and she had a very difficult time narrowing down her choices. I thought that was a sign that the session was successful and that they were ALL so good that she couldn't chose the ones she wanted. Now I'm starting to wonder if it's still just too many photos for a client to chose from. Remember in the old days, film only printed about 24 images. I don't want to overburden my client and make it too hard for them to decide to order prints.

So after I finished my last senior portrait shoot with Nina on Sunday, I did some initial edits on the images, paring them down from about 500 shots to 125. I put them on my website and told Nina and her mother to pick their favorite shots (up to 50 images), and I would edit only their favorites.

I hope this doesn't back fire on me, but I'm willing to take the chance to put a more beneficial work flow into place.

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