Best foot forward – First Impressions

Quick Rant

I just quickly wanted to leave a couple of words. (Turned into a lot)
Drop a quick rant on the blog.

If you’re a photographer and you want my honest advice.
Here it is.

Think about how you present your pictures.

OK so I can sometimes be a bit lazy sometimes and though I have tons of ideas there is plenty i’ve thought of or appreciated in others that I have yet to implement.
Sometimes I try to stand on the principle that the pictures should speak for themself and I object to people trying so hard to present their pictures so nice to try to make up for obvious lack of quality.


But if there is one thing that I believe strongly in… it’s first impressions.

Putting your best foot forward means lead with what you do best.

If you’re going to show your pictures, you should probably start with the best ones.

(Much more after the jump)

When you designed your website (assuming you have)
You put your best pictures on there right?

When you post a blog you put your favorites on there, right?


Selecting pictures is such a big part of the photography process.
So often it’s brushed aside for the other elements of taking and editing.

Not trying to say it’s more important but it’s crucial and it’s a skill that we should try to get better at.
There are ways to get better  (such as knowing what a good picture looks like)

When i was getting into photography I always viewed the clients pictures with them.
That way I could see their reactions to my pictures and find out what they liked.

Chronological Order: Do’s and Don’ts

I want to find a nice, non-confrontational way to say this.
But I’m afraid if I do you’ll keep doing it.

There are a couple of exceptions to the rule.
But let me bluntly just say.

If you’re putting your galleries in chronological order and showing them to everyone you’re shooting yourself in the… Face!

It’s retarded!

What are the exceptions?

1. Well if you’re trying to tell a story in chronological order. How should it be done?
With the minimum amount of pictures needed possible.

It should never ever be done with a full gallery to tell a story.

2. Chronological order is so that the CLIENTS can view the pictures and compare.
If you don’t give the clients a disc then it might be important to do.

But it’s for the clients only… you do not want their friends, future clients or photographers (like me) to have to sift through a huge gallery only to stumble upon good ones several pages later.

So if you want other people to view those pictures you better be organizing those galleries so the best ones come first.

if it’s not then don’t let people see those galleries.

Also it shouldn’t be the customers First Impression.

What if your first picture isn’t that good? Don’t you want them to see the great pictures first?

3. You don’t give them many pictures

Make Both available?

4. Offer both, but only those needing to compare pictures see the chronological ones.

Remember I understand the usefulness of a chronological order when someone is going to pick their pictures.
Again it shouldn’t even be the first gallery they look at. (You want a good first impression)
Perhaps you can make a highlights gallery.

Chronological should be for those who need to decide on a picture.

Perhaps you do both

Use a blog to show your stuff off

If you refuse to organize your galleries with the best ones first…
At least do a blog or a facebook gallery of your very favorites so that your friends and more importantly the friends and family of the clients can see those highlights.

Don’t let the people not deciding on the pictures go to a chronological gallery by default.

We use the concept of best first impressions when we do blog posts anyway.

Emphasis on those who take a lot of pictures.

If you only present like 10-20 or so pictures you can pretty much ignore this post, it really doesn’t apply.
They’re gonna look at all 15 pictures anyway.
Still lead with the best but it’s not the end of the world.

If you shoot and display a ton of pictures… well it is the end of the world 😉

Yes, They aren’t always “the best”

Ummm yeah, I know that sometimes (even often) your choices are not the same as the clients.
If they were I wouldn’t be selecting so many pictures to give to the client, that’s why I include “the rest”

If we were perfect at choosing we’d only have to pick like 5 pictures to edit and show them.

Since we don’t know perfectly the mind of our clients we allow them to see many pictures.

But best impressions implies generalities.

Trying our best to please the majority.

Who’s viewing these pictures?

If you want other people to see these pictures post pictures that will have the most impact on people in general.

So if your excuse is that some people pick the ones that aren’t my favorites, that’s a weak excuse.
I liken it to someone saying “I’m not going to try to be good because I’ve been known to not be”

As a side note: It’s a choice and a style choice at that, how many pictures you give your clients.
Those that aren’t good at selecting should not be choosing only giving a few pictures to your clients.

But if you have the time and the desire to give lots well that’s up to you. Because as we know, there might be a reason why they like one you didn’t like. (Face expressions etc)

But if you put it in the gallery you better be willing that they pick it. If you are stuck saying, why did they pick that one, I don’t like it, and don’t want others to see it.
Perhaps don’t add it in the gallery.


The workflow I use for selecting:

1. pictures I think the clients will want and I’m willing to give them (in focus, good)

2. review those in #1 and pick those that stand out above those

3. review those in #2 and pick those that stand out above those

4. review those in #3 and pick those that stand out above those

After having gone through many hundreds of thousands of pictures I know that making these simple yes no decisions help improve the quality of your choices and improves the speed.

But I won’t go into that.

5. Now reorganize with the best ones first. (Drag those in #4 to the head of the class, then those that were only #3, 2 and then those that never progressed beyong #1)

6. on export (let’s say lightroom or aperture) you should rename the pictures with a sequencer (001,002,003,004…) IN FRONT of the picture.

Most online systems and computer file systems let you organize by file name.
Therefore your opening picture, the one that sets the mood is #001_DSC_0488 or something like that.

Example if you’re on smugmug they let you organize by (file number 1-99)

Then you can create the second gallery and set it to organize by chronological.

Then you tell the couple please look at this gallery and tell your friends and family to as well.

But for you personally I have included the same gallery in chronological order if that helps you to make decisions.

I guess my quick rant turned into a full post


  1. sloanie says

    Great advice. As a graphic designer, the ideal is to put only 12-15 pieces total in your portfolio that you show someone. Out of ALL your work that you’ve ever done. And of those pieces, you make sure both the first and last pieces that people see are the strongest of those– good first impression and a good “last” impression– easy to remember the last thing you saw.

    As I thought about how this applies to photography, I decided you could basically adapt the principle to various presentations. (Whether you’re presenting a general gallery for potential clients or using a blog post to share a recent shoot, I think you could apply the same idea. Share just enough, and share the best.)

    Great post, as usual :)

  2. sloanie says

    Oh, and I’m not opposed to people caring about presentation. Perhaps you’ve come across photographers who’s work doesn’t live up to the presentation, but that doesn’t mean presentation isn’t important. But I think as far as priorities go, you’re right– the absolute most important thing to show is the quality of the work itself. Presenting it well just shows that you care. That and sometimes poor presentation comes across as unprofessional. It may not mean the photo work is bad, but it may say something else about the photographer.

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