I remember about five years ago doing a photoshoot for a wedding, and over the course of about 12 hours I took well over 10,000 photographs. As I was getting ready to leave, the bride sidled up to me, thanked me, and asked if I would please send her every single photograph taken during the day!

I could only imagine how long it would take for her to decide on the images she wanted to keep, and how many I would end up having to edit.

Managing clients’ expectations is one of the many reasons why using proofs is an absolutely vital part of the photography workflow.

In the ever-changing world of photography, in which every image tells a story, using proofs with clients is a fundamental cornerstone of a successful photographer-client relationship. Proofs are the first glimpse that a client will receive of the narrative captured through the lens, offering them a preview of the special moments before they are edited and polished to perfection.

But this initial step is not just about the client selecting images from the proofs. It’s an invitation for them to become involved in the creative process, to be part of a collaborative journey towards achieving the final image or images that meet with both the photographer’s vision and the client’s needs.

The way in which proofs are delivered has evolved over the years from traditional prints to digital formats, which has resulted in a significant shift in how photographers and clients interact after the shoot itself. It’s no longer necessary to leaf through stacks of prints. Today, digital galleries provide a much more convenient and interactive experience.

This is not only a reflection of the advancement of technology, it also aligns with the evolving expectations of clients who increasingly are looking for convenience and speed.

By being able to offer digital proofs, clients have instant access and easy sharing opportunities, and are able to provide feedback in a much more efficient manner.

The journey from traditional printed proofs to digital proofs is much more than simply an upgrade to newer technology. It’s a path towards a deeper engagement with clients, and improved satisfaction, helping to foster greater trust, boost creativity, and help all of us photographers deliver even better results.

Understanding Proofs in Photography

Proofs are the initial echo of those special captured moments, a showcase that represents the path from the original raw capture to the final masterpiece. In effect, proofs are the first draft of history as seen through the photographer’s lens, and they act as a way for clients to get a glimpse into the creative process.

Proofs can be delivered to clients in a number of distinct forms, each with their own purpose and benefits.

Digital and Print Proofs: In today’s digital world it’s not surprising that digital proofs tend to dominate within the photography world. They provide both clients and photographers a much more convenient and efficient way to review and select images.

Typically digital proofs are able to be shared through online galleries or by email, which means that clients can have immediate access to these images, and are able to interact with them without delay. 

Although much less common, printed proofs still have a certain charm to them. Holding physical prints in your hands provides a much more tangible experience, and allows clients to physically engage with the images, opening the way to a more traditional approach to the way selections are made, and feedback provided.

Contact Sheets: Contact sheets hark back to the traditional days of film photography, but still provide a valuable way of proofing images, providing an overview of all of the shots taken during a session.

Whether these sheets are provided in either digital or print format, they will still display thumbnails of every image, providing a sort of bird’s eye view of the entire shoot. These contact sheets can make it easier during the preliminary culling process, helping both photographers and clients identify the final selection of images more easily. 

Proof Books: These are a much more curated way of presenting images for proofing, often being produced as a bound collection of selected images. The idea of these is to offer clients a narrative journey through their photo session. With each page displaying one photograph, clients are presented with a tactile and structured form of proof, and as it is story driven, it can really help to enhance the reviewing experience.

Online Galleries: Certainly the most common modern way of proofing images with clients, online galleries provide a much more dynamic way of reviewing images. These online galleries allow clients to view their images in a professional format that often includes tools for selecting their favorites, and for providing feedback on each image.

Online proofing galleries really epitomize the coming together of technology and art, helping to significantly streamline the proofing process, whilst at the same time maintaining a very high standard of presentation. This can also be the most efficient way for photographers and photography studios to facilitate the proofing process.

The Process of Creating Proofs

Regardless of the format of proof that will be provided to the client, the first step in the process begins with the photographer’s own selection. This initial stage involves choosing the very best images from the shoot, those that accurately represent the photographer’s style, and the shoot’s objectives. This selection will usually involve collating a variety of compositions and moments.

It is critical that the photographer eliminates from the shoot all of those images that don’t meet their own high standards. For example, those photographs in which the subjects may have blinked, or where the images may have been slightly overexposed or out of focus.

it is likely that the client will have initially approached the photographer based on the images showcased on their website or social media channels. Those galleries and portfolios, perhaps shared on a website or through social media, will certainly have been curated and edited, representing the very best quality that the photographer can produce.

Clearly the proofs provided to the client will not be at the same standard because they won’t have been edited or worked on, other than at the very basic level. It’s for this reason that it’s imperative for the photographer to discard images that are clearly below standard, delivering to the client proofs that are as close as possible to the standard the client would naturally expect.

It’s important to remember that as photographers we can look at a raw underdeveloped image and have a vision in our heads of the potential available.

But clients will generally not look at images in the same way, and so we’ll need to present them with a final selection of images that is as close as possible to the standards they may reasonably expect to see. 

A certain amount of minimal editing will usually be required, including cropping and applying basic presets to just make the most of each image’s potential. Minor work on color, contrast, and clarity won’t take the photographer too long to do for each image, but will increase the probability of the client going on to place their final order. Enhancing the visual appeal of the proofs is a crucial step.

The Importance of Using Proofs

Proofs are a fundamental and pivotal part of the photography workflow, acting as a critical bridge between the photographer’s vision and the client’s expectations and needs.

The proofing stage is not simply about selection, it’s much more a dialogue, being a process that makes sure the final images resonate deeply with the client’s wishes and the essence and meaning of the occasion.

There are a number of crucial benefits that proofs bring to both photographers and their clients.

A Crucial Step for Feedback and Satisfaction

Proofs offer a vital and unique opportunity for clients to engage with their photographs before the images are finalized, an essential step for ensuring a client’s satisfaction. By reviewing their proofs, clients can express their preferences, identify their favorite moments, and make requests for edits and the adjustments, making sure that the final images align perfectly with their wishes and expectations.

This step is fundamental in helping to build trust between photographer and client, and by empowering the client to take an active role in the creative process it is much more likely that the end product accurately reflects their wishes and hopes.

Saving Time and Enhancing Efficiency

One of the most practical benefits of using proofs is the fact that it helps to save the photographer such a significant amount of time. By identifying the images and moments that client prefers early on the photographer can focus their time and effort editing just those selected shots, rather than spending countless hours editing almost every shot taken during a session.

This approach helps to significantly streamline the workflow, and frees up the photographer’s time so that they can spend time focusing just on the images that truly matter to the client, and of course attracting new clients, (not to mention actually getting out and taking photographs!)

Managing Expectations and Fostering Collaboration

I remember a photographer friend of mine was once sent a photograph by someone with a request for him to edit it for her.

The photograph was an image of her child facing away from the camera, and the lady requested that the photographer flip or rotate the picture so that the child was facing the camera!

This kind of experience highlights the importance of managing clients expectations, and this is another benefit of the proofing process. By providing previews of the captured moments, clients are able to understand the raw material that the photographer will be working with. This is vital in helping to align the client’s expectations with the realities of what’s possible through the photographic process.

Combining the skills of a photographer with cutting-edge tools such as Adobe Photoshop it is possible to create amazing and magical images, but ultimately there’s always going to be limitations inherent with the raw images.

But perhaps more than this, by involving clients in the proofing process it also helps to create a collaborative environment which opens the door to creative insights and new ideas. It would be arrogant not to imagine that clients can come up with their own creative ideas which can ultimately help to enrich the final outcome.

Benefits of Online Photo Proofs

Of all of the different ways in which it’s possible to deliver proofs to clients, online photo proofs have radically changed the landscape of photography, offering a huge range of benefits that go far beyond traditional proofing methods.

Platforms and tools, such as picu, have made the proofing process interactive, dynamic, and extremely client friendly, helping to create a more streamlined and efficient photography experience.

There are a number of clear benefits that online photo proofing brings to photography.

Ease of Sharing and Accessibility

One of the most significant benefits that online proofing brings is just how easy it is to share images in an accessible way. Using tools such as the WordPress plugin – picu, photographers can share entire galleries with clients in just a few clicks, which is a massive advantage over having to have physical meetings or posting bulky print proofs.

Clients are able to access these online proofing galleries wherever they are, and at any time, and are able to use almost any device with internet access. This level of accessibility makes the reviewing process very simple, and of course significantly speeds up the feedback loop. This means that with online photo-proofing photographers can enjoy a much swifter progress from shooting to final delivery.

Efficient Client Feedback and Revisions

Online photo galleries provide a much more interactive experience which is not only more efficient, but also helps to structure the feedback process better. Clients can very easily browse the images, select their favorites, leave comments on any images they wish, and submit their edit requests directly within the same gallery.

This seamless and direct way of allowing the photographer and client to communicate means that the feedback received from the client is clear and actionable because of the structured nature of the platform. This significantly cuts down the likelihood of misunderstandings which can otherwise result in time being wasted.

Tools such as our own plugin, picu, take this experience even further, and offer a range of features designed to fully optimize the client photographer relationship, helping to make sure that the feedback process is both straightforward and productive.

Emotional Engagement and Professional Presentation

As photographers, we probably all appreciate how important emotional engagement is when it comes to the decision making process for clients.

While contact sheets do certainly have their place, a beautiful curated online gallery that allows clients to browse your best photographs, and be able to view photographs at full size, will really help bring the special moments alive, evoking stronger emotional responses that can be hugely influential in their ultimate selection and purchase decision.

Best Practices for Proofing with Clients

Not only is photography an art form, but here at picu we very much feel that the proofing process is an art form in itself.

It needs clear communication, the setting of realistic expectations, and the use of tools that help to facilitate a productive and meaningful collaborative experience.

As a professional photographer yourself you’ll certainly want to streamline your workflow and lift up your clients’ experience, and so using the best online proofing tools is absolutely essential.

That’s why we created picu, a free WordPress plugin that has completely changed this aspect of photography, providing photographers with a way to present their images online in a professional way that helps to actively engage clients in the proofing and selection process.

Communicating Effectively with Clients

It is essential that, for the proofing process to work successfully, clients need to have a clear understanding of what the purpose of proofs is.

You must make sure that you explain to clients exactly what proofs are, what their purpose is, and how they will fit into the overall workflow.

Clients must understand that proofs are only preliminary images produced for their review and selection, and are not the final edited versions. Making sure you educate clients about this process helps to make sure that their expectations are realistic.

It’s also extremely important to make sure that you discuss timelines with your clients, highlighting when proofs will be available, and what the expected turnaround time will be for the delivery of the final images after they have made their selection. Creating this clear schedule reduces any potential anxiety or concerns that clients might have regarding the timeline, and helps you to concentrate on the editing process without having to fend off multiple email inquiries about what’s going on.

Using online proofing tools such as picu allows photographers to enhance the communication even more by having personalized messages and instructions sent to the client along with the link to the gallery, helping to make sure that they feel guided and informed throughout the entire process.

Selecting the Right Proofing Tools and Software

The proofing tool that you choose to use is critical, not only because it should work smoothly, and seamlessly fit into your workflow, but it should also reflect your brand’s quality and ethos. Ideally you need to choose a proofing tool that provides a balance of aesthetic appeal, functionality, and ease of use for both clients and the photographer.

It would certainly be advisable to look for the ability to create customizable galleries that will match your existing branding, and provide a friendly and intuitive interface for your clients to use so that they can comment on images and make their selections easily, without any ambiguity or confusion.

We’ve been in the photography business for many years and it was our collective experience that let us to design picu as the ideal online proofing tool that met all of these criteria.

picu has been designed specifically for photographers and photography studios to allow them to create online galleries that can be branded to match your own aesthetic and identity, and to integrate it into your existing WordPress website so that it matches your existing professional image.

With an extremely user-friendly interface it makes the process of selecting images extremely simple for clients, with little to no explanation or guidance really needed.

This means that from the client’s point of view the experience is one of ease, simplicity, and convenience, but at the same time it also means that photographers can enjoy much quicker turnaround times.

If you’re interested in this kind of approach, then try picu for free today.

Feedback? Questions? Send us an email.