There is an old photographic saying:

“When the photograph is good, everyone gets praise. When the photograph is bad, the photographer gets the blame.”

I have never known a quote to be more true. Because of this quote, I have come to realize that we (the photographer) are the director of every photo shoot that we do. We are in control of the lighting, we should have say with regards to location, hair, makeup, styling, model selection and so forth. Ultimately when the project is finished, it will be our name on that image and we have to be able to stand behind our product proudly.

Sad to say, that isn’t always the case. When a photographer isn’t shooting for him/herself, it is inevitable that we have to produce an image for a client, and when push comes to shove, it is the client that now becomes the director of the shoot for whatever reason.

There is nothing more frustrating to get hired for a project that you have no control over. They want you for your expertise, your artistry and your eye. You set up the photograph supremely. The light is hitting the model just right, the expression is just right, the pose is just right and emotion is just right and you take what you will ultimately call the money shot.

Guess what? The client doesn’t select that image. As you find yourself going through the proofs with the client, they gloss over that image and any image that REMOTELY comes close to that. They select all the poor images from the shoot. Every single client. Every single time. Hence the title of this blog.

I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, and every single time I have had a photo shoot, the client has ALWAYS selected the worst images from their shoot. One shoot I had I had to ask the client “do you even LIKE your brand?”

Sometimes you have to ask your client why they may like one photograph over another. It’s usually something as simple as an imaginary imperfection that YOU cannot even see (one client I shot didn’t like her nostrils, however, when she tilted her head ever so slightly to the light, she looked amazing, but she selected every image with her head tilted down and away from the light). Sometimes it may be the case of their profession (one client I shot with was a hair company, so the client ONLY looked at the hair, forget that the model may have been blinking, the model looked “blank”, her hand position for the pose may have been awkward, however, the client LOVED the way the hair looked in the image).

Something to remember when working with people. They will only look at what is important to them in the image. Hairstylist will only look a hair, makeup artist will only look at the makeup, stylists ultimately will only look at the garments. If you are lucky, you will get highly evolved talent that will understand the image as a whole, until then YOU are the director, it is YOUR job to look at the image from corner to corner.

This blog has been a long time in the making because every single shoot I’ve done, the client will ultimately pick images that are just awful, however, in viewing the film, the image before or after may be a stellar image, but they move right by it. If you are lucky, you will hear the loveliest words in the world: “I trust you. You select the images.” It’s rare, but it happens.

You must learn to ask your clients questions when you are working with them. Something as simple as asking them, “what are your weak points?” They may not like the way their ears look, or they may think their eyes are too close together. They may feel that they photograph fat. They may say their hair is too thin. Once you get these sets of blue prints you can then move forward to minimize those unforeseen flaws that may be invisible to you, but glaring to them.

When shooting for a client’s product, find out what the important aspects of that product, be it hair, jewelry, shoes, etc.

Ultimately, if you want absolute control over your shoot, edit down the shoot and ONLY send them the stellar images. You will then completely avoid that problem, because remember…

Clients will ALWAYS pick the worse images.