HOW TO CHOOSE THE HERO SHOT
Updated: Mar 26
You've gone to the expense and effort organising a photo shoot so make sure you get the most out of it by choosing the best final images.
THE POST SHOOT SELECTION PROCESS
A professional photographer rarely relies on a few shots to get a great image... we take a lot of shots to capture the right moment. However with choice and variety of images comes file management. Comparing the content of multiple shots and making creative decisions quickly is demanding work and takes time.
WHO CHOOSES THE FINAL SHOTS?
The client usually chooses the finals for a few reasons, however f you want me to make the final image selections please let know.
The final shot is often decided upon by the client who has better background knowledge of their product / image and is across the set of agendas of which they are working within.
Often companies have internal approval processes.
We all have different aesthetics and ways we interpret the tone of a shot. There are visual trends that influence each person in a different way.
The financial reasons. Mostly I am not quoting for the time it takes to choose the final shots. Approval processes can involve a lot of back and forth emails. File management fees cover all of the steps above but not the final selections unless discussed prior to quoting. If a client wants me to do the final selects and do the back and forth approvals then that is something that I would quote my time for. As a freelancer without a wage, I need to charge for my time and also balance this with practical processes that also keep quotes low.
THE STANDARD PROCESS POST SHOOT.
Once the shoot is complete I do a first round edit of the shot removing about half of the shots. The shots I cull are ones I feel the client is unlikely to ever use. Often this is for obvious reasons like someones eyes are closed.
I then give all the shots a generic colour balance and levelling. As there might still be hundreds of shots at this stage so it is done with a batched approach across multiple images. Other things I may do here is straighten horizon lines, fix perspective, adjust colour balance, adjust highlights and shadows. The basics which get most shots to the point where they can be used.
The shots are then converted into low resolution jpegs and drop boxed with a link sent to the client. These shots are not to be used, but rather for selection and designers placeholder purposes only.
Next the client then will do their own round of culling and select their hero shot/s. The client will send me a list of shots to have sent back high res (use the same file names as delivered )
I will then revisit the shoot folders and make individual colour corrections to the final shots chosen. I normally quote my time to cover 1 or 2 hero shots per shot / setup; for example one shot per persons portrait. If you want more that is fine, however when selection numbers are high I will not be able to individually colour balance and level every shot unless quoted for and discussed.
Some clients will add retouching in at this stage.
These final selections / retouched images are then converted to large TIFF or Jpeg files and drop boxed back to the client for use.
HOW TO CULL A SHOOT
The easiest way to work through a large amount of shots is to use a program like Adobe Bridge in film strip mode to view the images. Here you can star rate them and then filter to see on the ones you have rated. This way you can go through them all once with "1 star" ratings to pick the good ones and then "sort by rating" to filter the others out. Then give the best of these "2 stars" and so on until you have culled to the best of best and star rated the finals higher than the others. This information is then embedded in the metadata for you to always come back to. Here are some other tips:
Never change the file names. When you come back with your final selections I'll need the original file names to match to the high res RAW files to be converted.
As mentioned it's much easier to use a program that allow star ratings or a similar method such as flagging to sort through the low res files delivered after a shoot. Some examples of professional programs that will help organise images are Lightroom, Adobe Bridge, Photo Mechanic and Capture One. Adobe Bridge is the only free program and I think is also the simplest and easiest to use. The only caveat is that you will need to install Adobe Creative Cloud (also free) which you need to sign upto to gain access. Dropbox has a star system but is clunky and unable to compare shots easily.
Another option is to use your web browser. If you want to do this you will simply want to ask me to provide a fold with a "web browser contact sheet". This will include a link that will open all the shots in gallery mode in any web browser. This is a different way for me to supply low res files and requires image conversions. It offers no star rating option and simply opens them in a gallery which many computers do in their own system software anyway.
Be ruthless when culling images. You are not likely to use two very similar shots. To get down from large numbers of shots to the one hero image you need to compare an image to others and if it isn't as good then cull it. That said it's always a good idea to make a copy of your low res folder before you start deleting or leave the original folder in dropbox unaltered ;)
Download the images as soon as possible from the drop box FTP link I send you. I keep them active for 14 days.
If you would like a copy of the whole shoot I can supply everything to on hard drive, posted at cost. A great idea if you have a large shoot that you'll be using for a long time to come.
Screenshot from Adobe Bridge with Star Rating.
TIPS ON HOW TO CHOOSE A HERO SHOT
Choosing the final image from a shoot is not easy. Often there are competing agendas to fill in the brief or there are just simply too many similar images that work. Here are some tips on how to get to the final shot.
Never change the file names. Without the matching original file names I will need to visually match shots which takes time.
Consider the tone and the message you are conveying when going over a shot. Does it say what you are wanting to convey? Subtle changes in expression can make a big difference.
You find a shot you love but there is some issue. It's often a good idea to ask if it can be fixed in retouching. Often I can remove or add elements which might make a good shot better. For example, in some cases with group shots you may want to literally swap heads from one shot to another. Your boss looks great in one image where another person has their eyes closed.... maybe we can swap their head for another shot where their eyes are open and make the hero shot work as a composite.
It's far better to ask for only the shots you are going to use. The hero shot. Having a smaller selection of finals allows me to spend more time on each of those shots making them better. A long list of shots, that likely will not be used will take up valuable post production time costing you more. If you want some extra shots then it would be a good idea to list which ones you want retouched and which ones you just want raw. Think, 'what will I actually use' and 'how can we make one shot really shine'. put you budget behind the hero shots that will be seen time and time again and represent your company.
You can always come back and ask for more shots later if you find you need more. Some clients also want a hard-drive of everything shot high res so you can have them on file for the future use and designers you may work with.
Retouching improves nearly all shots. We can easily bring better attention to the point or focus in the shot by adjusting levels and by decluttering and cleaning up an image. Consider allocating some budget to bring the most out of the final shots to be used. It's the face of your brand and should be given the best chance to stand out and send the right message.
Always look to choose for the expression and overall composition. Skin, teeth and body shaping is likely easy to fix in retouching however there are somethings like altering hair which is often fiddly and time consuming. I can adjust lighting, exposure and colour but not easily change the shadows or the clothes someone is wearing. Feel free to send a wish list of what you would like changed.
The low res shots you get sent straight after a shoot will not be individually colour corrected, so expect the high res photographs to look even better when it comes to tone and colour.
Download the images as soon as possible from the FTP link I send you. I keep them active for 14 days.
If you would like a copy of the whole shot I can supply everything to on hard drive, posted at cost. A great idea if you have a large shot that you'll be using for a long time to come.