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.
Some of the fondest memories from my childhood are recollecting the
hundreds thousands of stories that my mom used to tell me growing up. I HAD to have a story for everything – for drinking my milk, for eating breakfast, for patiently waiting for the school bus, for dinner time – everything! They were varied in nature – from fairies, to children, to animals. But almost all the stories had a moral at the end. As I eagerly listened to my mom weave the story through twists and turns and generations of characters, I was ignorant in my belief that the story ended just as I took the last bit of food or gulped the last drop of milk. My mom would triumphantly say “The End” and then proceed to talk about the moral of the story so that I would not catch on to her tricks.
This aura and mystique of storytelling makes it’s presence even now in many facets of my life. Of course, I tell similar stories to my kids. But more importantly, I see myself applying this principle in my photography. After all, don’t they say a picture is worth a thousand words!
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against posed family portraits or standard architecture shots of buildings and landscapes. But a picture that brings out emotion, mystery, mystique or relationships is so much better. Images that tell a story, that convey a message, that elicit an emotional response are more powerful and long lasting – much like the childhood stories!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to effectively become a “storyteller” with your images.
Capture the details
Whether it’s a family session, a wedding, or even your own personal pictures, capture the details. After all your clients and you (in case of the personal images) have taken the time and effort to dress up and look good. Capture those details – they add meaning to the story!
Capture the emotion
Even if you are looking straight at the camera, capture the emotion surrounding you – be it laughter, tears, anger or pure simple joy!
Add an element of mystery
Do you know the lyrics to the famous Ronan Keating song? One line in particular – “You say it best when you say nothing at all”…same concept here…Add an element of mystery and let the viewer guess what’s going on. In come cases it is obvious and in some it is a guessing game.
Elicit a response
This is very similar to capturing the emotion in the image. Once you successfully capture emotion, a response from the observer is sure to follow – be it laughter, grins or even tears! – I really want to know what father and daughter are discussing
Create a finale
Just like a great story or a good book, it is very important to have a finale to your story. In most cases it is a parting shot, that shot before you switch off the camera. In some cases it is very apparent and in some cases it is inferred – like the view on top of this mountain!
So the next time you have your camera with you, take a more documentary approach:
- Does your story have a begin, middle and an end?
- Can you decipher the who, when, what, and where within the single images?
- Does your image tell a story and better yet, can you tell that story within a single frame??
Karthika Gupta, guest blogger for this article is a Lifestyle, Wedding and Travel Photographer and avid photo storyteller. You can see more of her work on her website Memorable Jaunts and follow her on her Memorable Jaunts Facebook page.
I once saw a conversation about RAW vs JPG going on in a photography Facebook group. The question was, “Should I shoot in RAW or JPG?” And the photographer in question was stating that he only shot in jpeg – not only did he get more shots on his card, but he felt RAW gave no benefit to him.
Large files – are they worth it?
I have a particular fondness of my work. I have several drives that save every photograph I’ve ever taken, and sometimes I sift through older works and edit them with my MCP Photoshop Actions, just to see how they look. Other photographers have a time limit and delete files after a certain length of time. I could never do this – that work is, a part of me. Storage is a little tough for me since I shoot in RAW. Each edited image has four copies – The RAW, the PSD of my editing process, the high res jpeg saved out, and the low res for internet use. Sometimes there is an extra copy where I make a collage of several images together. Each image folder from a session is a gigabyte or more in size.
I shoot in RAW even though it takes up more space. It allows you to do things after the fact that a jpg won’t… In short, it provides photographers with flexibility and a margin for error.
Raw saves the day…
In June of this year, at a session I did for free, I decided not to set up lights. It was a mistake as there was not enough light, even at a higher ISO. This is the RAW image, SOOC. It was the darkest image from the whole session, as her placement in this pose put her off the ground and at a different position from the window than the others. As you can see it is way under-exposed and really should be a deleted picture. But…it is fun to push the editing limits.
If this was a jpg, this would have been the result in Photoshop or Lightroom after increasing the exposure. Not acceptable.
This image isn’t useable. It isn’t even worth saving – it’s the kind of image I wouldn’t feel bad about permanently deleting because no amount of Photoshop wizardry on any level can enhance data where there isn’t any. This simply isn’t saveable.
UNLESS…. I shot in RAW… which I did. Here is the same image with exposure increased in ACR (Lightroom would get the same results). This is the image that comes out of it.
Not the best image by any means. I had better images from the session, but this ended up being one of mom’s favorite images of her baby girl. Once I had this image, I applied edits to it with MCP Actions.
- Number one, I applied One Click Color from the Fusion set at 50% opacity.
- Number two, I masked Hush the Reds and Hush Jaundice onto the face from the Newborn Necessities Photoshop action set. Reds at 29%, Jaundice at 42%.
- Number three, I applied Natural Vignette from Newborn Necessities at 53%.
- Number four, I masked Increase Opacity to Darken onto the wrap from the Newborn Necessities set.
Here again is the final image:
If you shoot RAW, and accidently underexpose (even by a lot), you can see how Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Photoshop can get you great results. Those little tweaks in color balance, exposure and contrast help your images in ways you wouldn’t realize until you tried it! Every once in a while, a shoot turns out some darker images. I am glad that I have a raw file and MCP Actions to help it.
Jenna Schwartz is a newborn and senior photographer in the Henderson, Nevada and Coshocton, Ohio. You can find her on Facebook or her website.
You’re thrilled – the perfect photo shoot! The prettiest accessories! The jaw-dropping actions that make the colors leap off the page!
You’ve spent hours prepping, shooting, culling, editing, re-editing, tweaking, smoothing, and perfecting a set of gleaming images.
They’re resized and just as you upload them to the blog, you realize:
Shoot. What do I say about them?
You could just publish them without words. But since it’s a blog post you feel the need to – you know – blog.
So you start typing:
Little M is adorable. We had a ton of fun together.
You wrinkle your nose and shake your mouse a little.
This doesn’t do these images justice! It doesn’t get across how wonderful she is, and how perfectly this whole session came together.
You try again, pumping up the enthusiasm:
Little M is soooooo adorable! Look how cute she is! I had an absolute blast photographing her, this was the best session ever.
Okay, you sigh, now I just sound like a caffeinated cheerleader.
Plus, this sounds exactly like what I wrote last week. Not every session can be the ‘best session ever.’
After mulling for five minutes or so, you move a few words around, take out some o’s in “soooooo” and hit “publish.” Oh well, you think, this is about the photos anyway. People don’t read, they just want to look.
Let’s pause right there.
Yes, sometimes people want to just look at photos. But they do like reading gorgeous words, too.
Mostly, they’re tired of reading things they’ve already read.
That’s not to say your excitement about the photos isn’t worth consideration.
But when our blogs become an endless parade of “look how cute this girl is” and “she’s so pretty” and “wow I loved this session,” your reader can guess what you’re about to say in a new post before they even glance at your words.
If your words offer no new information, then yes, they probably just want to get on with the images.
When you share the shoot, don’t just tell us how great you thought the whole thing was.
To put it in the most unsugared lemon terms, we your readers don’t care what you think. We want you to present a case and let us decide for ourselves.
Author Elizabeth Berg explains why:
“There is a certain kind of resistance a reader feels when he or she is being told to feel a certain way. [It] says to the reader, “Look at this! Do you see how sad this is? (Or funny, or grim, or scary?). A reader likes to do a little work, to make his or her own discoveries.
Give readers the ability to make their own discovery.
Don’t just tell them your client is so cute and adorable. Show them how you arrived at that conclusion.
Simple. You can make over that post in five minutes flat:
Let’s practice. Go find a past blog post of yours – one where you just wrote a few lines exclaiming how “cute” or “sweet” a client was. One that you’re not quite happy with, or feel that you didn’t get across who the person was.
(If you don’t have a blog, pull up a photo on Facebook that you captioned.)
Okay. Circle any place where you used words like “awesome” or “adorable” or “sweet.”
Let’s say you circled “sweet.”
Now, how do you know she’s ‘sweet’?
What about her, exactly, makes her sweet? What did you see her say or do that was sweet?
Write a few things down. For example, maybe:
She texted back immediately whenever I needed to get in touch.
She smiles warmly any time you greet her.
She was patient and kind to her kids, even when little Andrew pitched a fit at the end of the shoot and spit Kool-Aid everywhere.
She wrote me a nice thank-you note telling me how much these photos remind her of how great it is to be a mom.
Here’s the thing:
These are the things that we, your readers, want to hear you tell us.
Consider the line:
“Addie is the sweetest thing! I loved photographing her!”
Watch how this changes when you replace “sweetest” with an example of how she’s sweet:
“Toward the end of our shoot, little Andrew decided it was naptime. Then, like many cuties his age, he began wailing and flailing as he fought off sleep. But without missing a beat, Addie bent down and started singing softly into his ear. I watched in awe as his little body relaxed and his tears quieted to hiccups, then stillness, then sleep. So impressed by this toddler-whisperer of a mama. I loved photographing her.”
Did you feel a difference in how you thought of Addie?
Here’s why this matters:
Sharing a short illustration of your subject’s best traits pulls us more deeply into your images.
When we look at her closing her eyes in delight as she nuzzles Andrew’s hair, or grins over the top of his head, we don’t just smile at cute poses.
We feel her love for her son along with her. In a few simple lines, you added context, background, richness. You’ve shown us a window into what kind of a mother she is, and this connects us to your images. Up-close, truthful glimpses into Addie’s toddler-whispering ways trump simple adjectives like “sweet” any day.
Give this five minute trick a try. See if you don’t love the result.
Did you find this post helpful?
If so, you’d probably love even more simple ways to pull in your readers, persuade more clients, and gain more traffic for your photography.
Come check out Irresistible Words – a new course that will have your writing in top shape before Thanksgiving. Jenika of Psychology for Photographers is throwing her award-winning, Ivy League writing toolbox open and explaining everything inside.
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If you like drama and intense light, try using a Westcott Ice Light in combination with off camera flash at night to achieve this contrast-filled look.
Many of our high school seniors are looking for something “different.” Some want “artsy in the meadow” and some want “suave in the city.” Others want to push it even further and have their photo session at night. This was always a possibility but until we got the Ice Light (which we affectionately call “The Light Saber”) it was just a tad more difficult. The Ice Light has enabled us to create some unforgettable images for our seniors.
This senior guy wanted his photo in his football uniform. We headed out and found some bleachers at one of the local high school stadiums. It was definitely dark, so we knew that we were going to need to use our off camera flash. For info on OCF, check out this article.
The Ice Light was perfect for this shot! When it is dark, it is hard to get a meter reading, so we first used the Ice Light to get a meter reading for our our off-camera flash. Then we used it to fill the shadows behind him as well as give some depth to the bleachers, while lighting the other side with the off-camera flash.
Photographed with the Canon 5D MKII, ISO 200, f/5.6, SS 1/100. OCF (Canon 580 EXII) camera right – TTL
The Ice Light is perfect because we can either hand hold the light for the most control over where the light is going, or if it’s just me on the session, there are threads at either end of it so it can be used on a light stand. My husband Doug is usually with me on photo sessions (that’s him holding the Ice Light), so for these examples, Doug was holding the light. But if there’s a need (and there often is) for a reflector, we can set up our light on the stand and Doug can hold the reflector on the other side of the subject to bounce the light back onto him or her.
For our next model, we were at a really pretty river’s edge that had some really cool foliage around it. This girl was more of an edgy senior and wanted some images that she’d be able to use for her comp card. Again, our Ice Light came in handy. We were using off camera flash again which was set up camera right (you can see it in the photo below). The Ice Light was held up over her head and angled towards her hair to provide separation, as well as a little bit of back light. The power on this almost weightless little light is incredible! The light on Courtney’s hair and on her left shoulder is amazing. It adds definition to her arms and gives me the separation that I needed for her hair and the background.
Photographed with the Canon 5D MKII, ISO 400, f/6.3, SS 1/100. OCF (Canon 580 EXII), camera right
I hope this gives you some ideas for this powerful little light – I highly recommend adding it to your lighting arsenal. I’ll be doing another tutorial on using the Ice Light soon, so be on the look out.
Ally Cohen is a co-owner of Frameable Faces Photography with her husband Doug in the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, MI. Ally is the photographer and Doug handles the sales and marketing. Ally and Doug have been in their retail studio space for almost 5 years and you can follow their blog here. She lives in suburban Detroit with Doug, their two awesome kids, and their two cats.