9 Rules of Thumb for Delivering a High-Value Gallery that You Feel Great About
Culling and editing galleries used to be painstaking for me, especially for big sessions. With so many factors, scenes and stories at play I'd find it hard to a) know when to leave an image out and b) stick to a cohesive, good-feeling look for the whole gallery.
That's where best practices and expertise comes in. It's how you define your brand and deliver a great gallery, instead of a messy gallery with a few gems buried in there.
One - Avoid digital noise
I believe that too much of something takes away from the ability to access the value. Much like having too much clutter in your closet makes for a lot of work to find the things that you need or enjoy the most.
The same goes for photos. Choose a few different perspectives from the same story, using your experience and instinct to decide which pictures will provide most value to the clients. Including 7 pictures of the same scene, or pictures that aren't high-quality (whether in aesthetic or in detail/story) takes away from the best ones! One image can remind us of so much. Use your expertise to choose the best one or two and you'll have a gallery of all winners.
Two - Maker sure it feels good
You want to feel good when you look at your final gallery of images all together. If you don't feel good looking at it, you're not going to feel good delivering it to your client. You can also avoid sensory overwhelm and go for a pleasurable overall look by ensuring the collection of photos
- works well together
- feels good to look at
- fits the vibe of the session
- is true to your aesthetic.
The same goes for choosing images in general. You want to strike a balance between choosing photos because they're beautiful and in alignment with your work as an artist, and choosing photos that are really, very special solely to your clients. Bonus points, and the goal really, if it checks both of the boxes!! But sometimes you might say - this image gets me, and I don't know why. I can't put words to it, I can't reason it. These images, yes, you can include in the gallery. But make sure there are also images you can reason about.
Three - Let your full-body yes's guide you
I used to easily get stuck in a "decision and revision loop", where I would overthink every image and every edit, to the point where I'd feel insecure about my choices. After all, I'd changed my mind so many times. How do I know when to call it "good"? My solution became to notice my body yes's and no's, not to think as much about it. This solution works because in the end I have a gallery full of body-yes's, so my chosen images and edits are in alignment with my body yes's (call these feelings or intuitions), which are much less wavering than my logical mind.
Culling and editing a gallery is a conversation with yourself. It's not a simple yes or no - it's a "why"? Why am I drawn to this photo? Why am I on the fence? A full body yes is rare, and when you have it, receive it. But when you don't have a full-body yes, when there's some doubt or discomfort, you need to ask yourself why? If it's something within your control to address, then try it and see if you have that yes again. If it's something you can't control (say you missed focus or everyone's eyes are closed or it's just not quite right), then you need to let go. Which can be hard to do sometimes.
Listening to your full body yes's also helps you stay in alignment with your authentic brand and value as a photographer. No one else is you!
Four - Remember human nature
Humans instinctively pick up on subtle expressions and gestures when looking at photos of themselves and the people they care about. These subtle details will influence how they feel about an image. They might see feelings that we miss unless we look closely. Listen to your gut and/or use tools to determine which moments are real, and thus, have real meaning to your clients.
When I cull a gallery, I use a tool that shows me the faces of each person in the image at the same time. This allows me to more easily see the vibe at the moment. I can more easily tell if it was a stressful moment, or a happy one, or a disjoint one. When I'm picking photos, I try to pick faces that look genuine, connected and authentic.
Five - Review old galleries
Browse past galleries and see which images really stood the test of time. Take notes. And keep your eye out for images of this nature in the future.
Six - Let time do it's magic
They say time is the best editor, and I believe it. When I can resit the urge to go through photos, I love to leave a little space between the session and culling. This lets me see the gold more easily.
Seven - Offer new perspectives
Give people several different views of themselves. There's more to a person than a big smile or laugh, but these are the ones we tend to feel safer delivering. It's nice to see photos of yourself when you're doing other things, especially the rare moments where you're not as aware of the camera. This might be when the client doesn't think they're being photographed, or when they're caught up in the moment.
Eight - Put some faith in the things you can't control
We can do everything in our power to deliver a gallery we feel confident about, but we can't control how it is received by another person. Keep that in perspective as you cull and edit. If you make the process one that you enjoy, and feel good about the end gallery, this is already a huge win. Yes, the most important thing as a photography business is the your clients are satisfied, but if you've done your best to deliver images that will have value to them, in a way that was enjoyable, that's the best you can do for both them and you. <3
Nine - Start small, observe as you build up
The feeling of the gallery is important. You might start by choosing your favorite images, and, if you need to build the gallery up or meet a minimum image requirement, you can add one by one while keeping an eye on the overall feel of the collection of images.
I hope this has been helpful to you! I use it as my north star when I'm feeling indecisive or overwhelmed with delivering. We're human after all, and sometimes we loose clarity, confidence and access to the joy that brought us to photography in the first place. If you've found this helpful or have anything to add, send me a message! I'd love to hear from you.