How Many Edits & Who Picks?

It’s often asked, and often debated: how many edits should a model get from each shoot, and who picks what gets edited?  Here’s my take on how many photos a model needs per shoot, as well as who should choose the pics… and some other stuff.

I’ll start out by saying that, largely, every photographer is different, and how they choose to do things is different.  For this very reason, it’s important to discuss image receipt expectations (and realities) with every photographer you’re thinking of working with before you schedule a shoot.  This way, there’s no surprises, and no reason to back out of a shoot if you find out that the photographer works in a way you don’t agree with, and there’s less likely to be issues with someone being unhappy with what they got (or didn’t get) after the shoot.

What does a model need for her book?
Generally, a model only needs 1 great shot per look for her book.  However, in some cases, it might be best to receive 3-5 images per look so that she can choose which she wants to upload, so she can have the option to upload different shots to various sites, or create a diptych or triptych (with permission, of course) to tell a story.  Uploading more than, say, 10 shots from a single look can lessen the effect of the look, and can weaken the set overall (after all, you’re only as good as your worst shot).

This actually applies to photographers as well.  Too many images from one look with a model can weaken your book instead of strengthen it.

Who chooses what gets edited?
When I was a newer model, I liked to go through and choose photos.  It gave me an opportunity to see everything we had done and study how I moved and emoted.  But eventually, I realized that I was working TF* with photographers based on the work that was in their portfolio, which, presumably, was work they had chosen to edit.  So I stopped spending time choosing photos, and often let photographers know that I am fine with their choices.  I have found that this has helped me get edits faster too, which is nice–there’s no lag time where the photographer’s waiting for me to choose edits.

Formats, sizes, and prints… what?!
Generally I make sure that I receive one unwatermarked image that is high quality enough (and properly sized) so that if I choose to, I can make a 9×12″ print from it.  Sometimes, I request a specific image from the set of edits, to receive in this format, because I know it’s something I definitely want in my book.  In some cases, I’ve been provided with a print release from photographers, but not always.  It is something I’ve had to ask for before, and rarely is a problem if I explain I’m getting prints made for my portfolio.  Past that, as long as I get the one shot in an unwatermarked

Shout out to Blue Cube Imaging, who I use for printing.  Brent and his team always do top-notch work, and come highly recommended by myself and many others.

I recommend that photographers deliver photos in JPG format.  JPGs are generally the best format for uploading to the web, and if they’re high enough resolution, are fine for printing as well (though the TIFF file format prints well too if it’s high enough resolution).  Most models don’t have the proper software to view anything other than JPGs, GIFs and BMPs, and most portfolio websites only accept GIF and JPG files for upload.  So JPG is generally the way to go.  Some sites may mess up your image’s colors if you don’t properly embed the color profile.  Pat Yuen wrote a blog that kinda might help explaining that, so if you’re curious, go here.

Requesting all unedited photos from a shoot.
It’s not necessary that a model get all of the unedited photos, and it’s certainly not the norm.  After all, what in the world is she going to do with hundreds of unedited, full-size images?  Likely nothing.  However, I remember a time where seeing virtually every frame from a shoot was helpful.  It showed me what worked, what didn’t, and what I needed to work on.  It was a very effective learning tool for me.  But I have hundreds of CDs laying around with unedited images on them, and nothing to do with those images (and no desire to look at them, at this point).

Models, you should never expect to get unedited images at all, let alone a CD of every shot from the shoot, full size and unedited.  Photographers that provide this are not the norm, and certainly not the majority in most places.  Largely, there’s no need for you to have hundreds of images from one shoot.  

If a model asks to see unedited (or sometimes worded “raw”) images, I recommend going thru them (after copying them all to a new folder so as not to overwrite or delete anything) and removing everything you absolutely do not want published–things like blurry images, blinks or weird faces that don’t look good, light misfires, wardrobe malfunctions, whatever.  Why remove those shots?  Because, again, you’re only as good as your worst shot, and if a model really likes how she looks in a picture, she might put it up even if it’s not in focus, because, well, the photographer did give it to her.  Then watermark all of the images, across the middle with “proof” or “sample”.  Make it transparent, so that the model can still see her whole pose and expression, but make it obvious.  And finally, make the images web-size only, but too small to upload anywhere and look decent.  Perhaps something like 400 pixels on the longest side.  Then, you’ve got a thumbnail gallery in which the model can see her poses and expressions, more or less, but she’ll be deterred from uploading the unedited images.

Photographers, it’s worth noting that if you’re going to provide all of the unedited images, even watermarked, there’s some risk that a model might upload some or all of them somewhere.  Sure, she’ll look like an idiot for uploading an image marked “proof” (provided you do that), but if you provide everything, that’s your problem to deal with.  In some cases, a model might upload an unedited image if you’re lagging on providing edits, because she needs to update her book or is excited about the shoot.  So think long and hard about whether you wish to provide unedited images at all.

If I hire a model, do I still need to give them photos from the session?
Generally, if you’re hiring a model, you don’t need to provide images from the session.  It’s always nice to get one or two edited images as a “hey, thanks again, check out the stuff we got” kinda thing, but it’s not necessary or expected (generally).  If you make it clear that your transaction will be simple (model poses, photographer pays), then you can edit on your own time and not have to worry about busting your hump to provide images in a reasonable amount of time.  But, as in the case with sending images, discuss this in advance to help eliminate unpleasant surprises.

Most important point?
Discuss it all before a shoot.  Models, if you have certain things you wish to get from a shoot, be up front about it.  Photographers, if you only deliver images a certain way, let the models know.  In the end, it’s less frustration for everyone.

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One Comment to “How Many Edits & Who Picks?”

  1. Thanks for a well written and thoughtful article. Concerning workflow, this is one of the matters that I (as a photographer) am working on presently. As you point out, the proper amount of pre-session communication is the vital first step, followed by execution of a plan that’s reasonable for everyone involved in a project.

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