Unless you shoot only for yourself, you have a customer or someone expecting the output of your photography. This can be a paying customer, a TFP client, a model, an agency, a creative director, a friend, etc., etc. Therefore, one aspect of this “business” is what photos are selected to post process and deliver. Which photos are selected can determine the quality of the shoot and the time required to post process. So the question is, who selects? I had this happen to me just recently, so I thought I would write a post about my process.
You know, you shoot 500 images and once the images are loaded into your computer, you have to start the selection process. This isn’t a blog post about turnaround time, only the selection process. How you make that selection and who selects will keep you sane, your creativity / processing on point, and a happy customer.
OK, as a caveat, everyone has a different business model and philosophy on who selects image from a shoot. There is no right answer, just an answer that works for you and your success. The following is how I do it, and what I try to commit.
One VERY important point - as the photographer you need to set the appropriate expectation and then stick to it. Communication is critical. You don’t need to explain your selection process, but you need to set the proper expectation in advance of the shoot. You can be flexible, but set the expectation.
Here’s what I do:
Paid shoot (I’m being paid) – the client selects the images to be processed. If the person I’ve photographed asks for suggestions I will give my advice. Within an agreed number of days after the shoot I cut the images down to eliminate fails and duplicates. I upload those images to a gallery and send the link to the customer. They are asked to select the predetermined number of images.
Test shoot (no one is paid) – most times it is based on who arranges the TFP, but generally, I’m making the selection. I make the selection because people are hiring me because they like my work or my “style”. If someone doesn’t know me or doesn’t know my style then they won’t be reaching out to me. I think I have adequate skills in determining the best photos from a shoot. This is based on the overall composition, lighting, posing, shadows, body features (i.e. is one eye closed, where does your hair fall, etc.), ease to post process, etc. Because I’m doing the post processing and have been doing it for years, I can figure out pretty quickly which image will come out the best. However, as another caveat, I’m not 100% rigid on this. If I’m asked to do a TFP and agree to the shoot then I’ll let the person reaching out to me make a few selections.
Shoot for my portfolio, a themed shoot or I’m paying the creative team – I select. I don’t vary from this unless I have an agreement where part of the payment is with selected images. Even then it’s usually my choice.
OK, with this said, these are my general rules. Do I vary these rules, of course, but only with advance agreement and that agreement is communicated. Also, if the person expecting my photos decides to change the agreement or didn’t read the call sheet (which documents the agreement) then I politely remind them. If I do change the agreement due to pressure then I’m negatively impacting other agreements. It’s all about setting the expectation, communicating it and keeping it.
Bottomline, this is one of those little business details that sometimes gets overlooked, but can make or break the quality of the shoot. It’s really that easy.