Photographers are hired as much for their guidance as they are their talents. Your photographer should have a good understanding of what your intentions are with your images and do their best throughout the entire process to make sure you’re getting what you want. So why are so many abandoning their clients when it comes to selecting their images?

On the surface, online galleries seem to be a real convenience for both photographer and client when it comes to image selection. No additional appointment to find time for and clients can choose their portraits at their convenience. So convenient that more and more photographers are moving to online selection every year. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Not so fast. What may seem like a great convenience can work against you in the long run. Here are the five top reasons why you should only work with photographers who will physically be with you to explain all your options and show your images at the sizes you want. 

  • Make the Most of Your Investment: You’ve paid for your session, probably bought at least some clothing, and spent a lot of time preparing yourself and your family. So why would you want to rely on a small, low resolution image that can’t possibly show you every detail and potential flaws in your images? You need to see your images projected large at print resolution to check things like seeing if all eyes are looking where you want them to be, making sure focus will hold at the intended print sizes, etc. You wouldn’t select a car based on an online photo, so why would you select your portraits the same way with the potential of being disappointed when your full size images are delivered to you? Especially when the will outlast your car?
  • Know Your Options: There are lots of options when it comes to printing your portraits. Papers include luster, matte, and glossy, each with distinctive looks. Canvas is also a very popular option. And now there’s metal, acrylic, cloth, wood, and many other mediums each with there unique look. Only if your photographer takes the time to show you all the options will you be able to might the right selection for you.    
  • Size Matters: Back to the image at the top of this blog. (Yes, that 8×10 is to scale!) Most people envision an 8×10 as their “big” print to display in their living room. I don’t know how this became a default size for people, probably because of its closeness in size to a standard piece of paper. But given that most people have this belief, how disappointed do you think they’re going to be when they receive their big 8×10 chosen from an online gallery? Without context and the ability to compare different sizes you’re just making a wild guess. Most photographers who project images for selection are able to show them to you in a variety of standard sizes. Would a 20×24 be a better selection for above your sofa? Is an 8×10 a bit too big for your desk at work? These are almost impossible decisions to make when selecting from small, web resolution images.  I don’t know about you, but I think this family would have been much happier with the 30×40 image below!
  • An Objective Eye: Sometimes you can’t decide on the last image for an album or wall grouping. Having your photographer there to point out differences in compositional elements, properly coordinating colors palettes between the images, etc. can be a real big help. You won’t get that help from a photographer who sends you to an online gallery.
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  • It’s FUN!!! My client selection sessions are turning into something more like a night at the movies. We view their images bigger than life and have popcorn or maybe a glass of wine…who wouldn’t like that? I can’t think of any of my hundreds of clients over the years regretting their portrait selection experience. Even though they may have been hesitant to begin with, they always left feeling more confident in their decisions and feeling they had invested wisely.

When hiring your next photographer be sure to ask if they plan on assisting you in your portrait selection. The advantages far outweigh the convenience of using online galleries.    

Charlie Cotugno is the owner of Charles Cotugno Photography in Woodinville, WA specializing in fine art portraiture and commercial photography. He is also the founder and board president of the non-profit organization Stories of Autism, a network of over 150 photographers from around the U.S. whose mission is to increase awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of people with autism spectrum disorders. For more information about Charlie and Stories of Autism please visit www.cotugnophoto.com.