Photographers are very fortunate to be living in the digital age where memory is abundant and not too expensive. We can easily take a few hundred photos during a photo session and hope to get some good photos. We work hard to nail our camera settings, find the right light, master posing and lead the session in a direction that will result in the best images possible for the client.
Typically I recommend taking taking two to three images per pose. Sometimes it gets windy or your client blinks. You want to have a few to choose from. The screen on the back of the camera is nice, but way too small to do on the fly reviewing. Also, you don’t want to put the session on hold to look through every image. Every session has a flow and you must maintain it, along with a positive attitude, to keep your client engaged.
So, you finish your session and let the client know that it will take you a few days to sort, select and edit the best photos from the session. The client walks away happy and you head home to begin the reviewing process.
Narrowing the choices – the proofing session
Let’s say you took 300 photos and have 70 that had sharp focus and great exposure. You think to yourself, “they are going to love these 70 images!” A few days later you present the images to the client in a proofing session. The client really enjoys seeing the images, but only really like 30 of the images, and love about 10 of them.
The possible outcome of showing too many images
They tell you that they would like to continue reviewing the images before they make their final order. You remind them about your online proofing gallery, which is password protected, and tell them to take their time as you don’t want to rush them. A few days later they contact you and say they couldn’t make up their mind, but just want a CD of all the images, as they’d love to share the images with their family and friends and social media. They don’t order prints.
What went wrong and how to fix it…
- Prior to the photo session you didn’t set an expectation on how many photos you would share with the client or how the selection process would occur. Explaining this will help.
- You didn’t make sure which photos were the most important to them. Make sure to ask what they are looking for, in a location, pose or outcome. And deliver those images.
- You chose the 70 images that were properly exposed instead of the best photos with an emotional connection from the session.
- By providing 70 images, the client had so many to review that they could not decide.
- Present only the very best. It hurts sometimes to remove some photos that you really loved, but it’s always best to put your best foot forward. By reducing the number of images you increase the chances of them picking their favorites. This means more immediate sales as they are emotionally invested in the images.
- A general rule that seems to work most of the time is 20-30 images per hour for portrait sessions. This makes the reviewing process easy and also cuts down a lot on your editing time. (For events and weddings, as a minimum, you can double the numbers of images listed above per hour.)
- Editing time is billable time, meaning that in your pricing you should always factor in your time editing, proofing and traveling to see your clients. By reducing the number of images you edit, and reducing your travel to only one proofing session you are reducing your cost of doing business per session. Which in the end means more time and profit for you.
- Finally, in the sales process, you directed them to your proofing site and told them to take their time with making an order. Statistically the longer the period is between the proofing session and the actual order the less the client purchases. Make a short window in which they must place the order.
I understand that this kind of scenario doesn’t happen everyday, but it might have happened to you when you were starting out. We all learn a lot from our first few clients and hopefully want to improve our service, time management and sales!
Tomas Haran is a Portrait and Wedding photographer based out of Massachusetts. He enjoys using natural light for his sessions and has a relaxed/candid style of photographing his clients. You can find him at Tomas Haran Photography or working on his blog.