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What To Do When Your Client Wants EVERY Image From Your Shoot

what am I missing out on?


psychology for photographers question and answerQ:  When taking portraits for seniors in high school, the final images that are given to the client do not contain every single pose that we did during the shoot

(due to technical photography issues and/or the client just doesn’t look that great in the picture).  

The parents question me on what I have done with these poses/pictures.  I explain to them that we do all sorts of different poses in order to get the best and most flattering images (which is what they receive).  They aren’t satisfied with this answer and want to see all the photos taken at the photo shoot….no matter what they look like.

I explain that I don’t edit all the photos, only the ones that I feel are the best representation of my clients.  It doesn’t matter, they still want to see them.  I don’t want to show them images where their children have their eyes half closed, where my lighting wasn’t right, or my exposure is out of whack because I’m afraid it will make me seem unprofessional and like I don’t have a clue about what I’m doing.

What do I do about this and how do I handle this situation?   -A.W.

A:  You’re going to hate me for saying it, but PREVENTION is the best way to handle this.

Obviously if it’s already happened, the toothpaste is out of the tube.  We’ll get to damage control in a minute.

But managing your clients’ expectations on both the type and number of images they’ll receive should feature prominently 1) on your website, 2) in your pre-session discussions, and 3) in your contract.

Step into your clients’ shoes for a minute:  They see awesome photos on your website.  They pay a lot of money to have you “take pictures.”  They hear five hundred shutter clicks during the shoot.  They know when they click that many times themselves, they get 500 pictures out of it.  And they’re excited because you “have a good camera” and they can’t wait to see all the pictures.

Their expectations have probably been already set by department store type photography, where THEY get to select from a several dozen similar poses on a touch screen.  They agonize over which one makes them look the best, then they order their little packet of prints.

That’s what they’re used to.

Then you deliver 30 images.

Unless you’ve educated them as to your process before the shoot, you can’t blame them from going “HUH?!

A comparison:  If you shop at Target, you’re responsible for rummaging through racks and trying everything on until you land upon the “right” thing.

In super high-end stores, the rummaging is taken care of for you.  The sales assistant looks at you, chats with you about your styles and goals, and then brings you a tasteful selection from which you can pick.  Their job isn’t to bring you the whole store.  It’s to make you look and feel good, and part of that is eliminating the exhaustion and self-consciousness that comes from trying things on that just aren’t right.

Part of what custom photography clients are paying for is for you to take the responsibility of eliminating repetition, bad shots, test shots, and eyeblinks.  Instead of exhausting themselves slogging through every possibility, making hundreds of choices all at once, they’re presented with a beautiful collection of unique images with which they can immediately decorate their homes, send to Grandma, freshen up their online presence, etc.

This is a fundamental shift in thinking that requires preparation.  If someone’s expecting Target when they go into the high-end store, no wonder they’ll be peeking around the salesperson saying “but can’t I just go look myself?”

To manage their expectations effectively, I recommend a three-pronged approach.

reflectingYour website:

Describe your session process clearly and succinctly.  Perhaps something like:

Your images are captured in a raw color format.  After our shoot, I handpick the final images from the session and work with each selection to bring it to its full potential. 

These final images are then presented to you in a stunning slideshow/ordering session….Most clients receive between X and Y images from our time together. 

Etc, etc.

But people forget what they read, so this is just step one.  Next up:

Your pre-session consultation:

As you deliver information before the actual session, walk them through the process again.  Repeat that you’ll have the session, and during the session you try a lot of things and have a lot of fun.  Then you’ll select the very best of those raw images, spend time developing each selection, and present those final beauties to them after about X days.

At that point, you can have a lighthearted chat about eyeblinks and open mouths, and also let them know that there are technical things you need to take care of during the session.  You have to make rapid real-time adjustments which requires test shots, changing up composition, and solving any lighting challenges to ensure that you create the perfect image for delivery.

Those excess images help create the final product, but they are not the final product, and won’t be treated as such.

If the client has an issue with it, they can bring it up at that point.  It’s much easier to explain beforehand than justify afterward.

Your contract:

People tend to forget what they read and hear only what they want to hear, so it’s important to get this in writing.  Have a signed contract for every single person who gets in front of your camera (including friends and family, whether it’s a paid shoot or not) so that you have something to refer back to if they ask later.

Your contract can make it clear that you will select the best images from the session, state a minimum number (or anticipated range) of final images they can expect, and also affirm that you are not obligated to give the client any images that are not already presented to them.

One practical note:  Watch how you number your images.

This issue was brought up in a recent forum discussion, and one photographer had a great suggestion:  If you give them a selection of files, and the first two they see are 001 and 025, they’re going to naturally wonder what happened to images 002-024.  You might consider renaming the files in numerical order upon exporting your final images, so this helps reduce people wondering what happened to the rest.  (Brilliant.)

Now that we’ve set a system up to help prevent this in the future, let’s turn to how to handle a current situation:

Manage FOMO.

FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out.

Let’s think about what’s really going on:  If they love all the images they saw, they’re imagining what other delights they might be missing out on.  Plus, they can’t stand to imagine what gems this photographer must have discarded!!  They didn’t really like how their chin looked in that photo – what if there was another, similar snap where their chin looked better?!?!

(Think department store touch screen here – they’re used to being in control of those granular decisions.)

They also might be in the camp of “I have to preserve every moment, even if it’s not perfect.”  After all, they have a lot of their own photos that are imperfect snapshots but they might have value to them because they still have people they love in them.

pensive portraitTo handle the situation, stand firm on your policies, but explain your process so they understand that the whole shoot was designed and executed to deliver exactly what they got. 

My precise wording would depend on what my contract said (ideally, you just have to say, “remember how we talked about this?”).  But I would likely call them on the phone and say something like:

“I understand it seems a little odd to go through a photoshoot and hear so many clicks, and then receive ___ images.  I’d love to tell you a little bit about the process and explain why this happens.  During a photoshoot, I’m making real-time adjustments to lighting to create the perfect shot.  I’m also occasionally firing “burst” of shots to ensure that I get an image with no eyeblinks, and to make sure we don’t get any shots of a person starting to talk or brushing their hair out of their face. 

It’s necessary to take these images, they are part of the working process of art, just as a painter sometimes tries a few colors before making the final stroke.  Or how a writer might try a couple of words before landing on the right one – she doesn’t publish all three words, the first two just served to lead to the third.

All images are captured in a raw color format, so the image-making process is not finished, even when the shoot is over, as funny as that sounds.  My job at that point is to discard the eyeblinks and my own testing shots to select the real pieces of art that all the other shots helped create.  I take those shots and spend a great deal of time working with them by hand to tone the color, smooth any imperfections, and produce heirloom pieces of art that are up to my artistic standards – the same quality of work you saw in my portfolio. 

I don’t release any images not included with this set of final images, because they were neither created nor intended as final products – they simply enabled me to work out issues that arose to ensure you’d get the high quality images you received.”

Then I’d listen kindly to what they said, but I’d stand firm on what I provided.

If they get really insistent, you always have the option of sending them a few examples side-by-side with the shot they received.  Meaning, an unedited eyeblink shot right next to the edited final image they received to highlight the stark contrast.  Or a shot where someone’s mouth was open, mid-sneeze, etc, next to the final pose.  I’d advise against this, because it may or may not satisfy them, and I’d rather not crack open that door.

What I’d hope to achieve with the discussion is to help them see the “other images” not as options that I’d blithely discarded, but as part of a working process leading up to exactly what they received.

Overall, I’d work it out over the phone, keeping a friendly Two Hundred Dollar Attitude, but staying firm that I do not show clients work that isn’t of portfolio quality.  Then I’d make sure that in the future, I managed expectations (starting with my website), and cleared this up long before the shoot began.

Best of luck!

P.S.  For more problem-preventing ideas about what to include on your website, you might want to check out How To Build An Absolutely Irresistible Photography Website.

Why not use the upcoming winter season to revamp your online presence?  Let me help you get started:  The discount code READY2GO will snag you $30 off, Nov 23rd-26th (Black Friday through Cyber Monday).

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  1. Sandra M. on November 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Great article! Very informative. Thank you.

  2. Stephanie on November 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    This is all great advice. I talk about this with clients before the session and I remind them at the end that they can expect between __ and __ number of images. The few times that I’ve still had someone come back and ask to see the rest, I explain to them that, for storage and maintenance reasons, any images that did not make the final cut were deleted so there are no “more” photos to see.

    • Noelle Brockhoff on November 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Ooooh, that’s brilliant! I must ask – how exactly did they react to that info?

      • Jenika on November 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm

        I’ve never had this situation come up personally when I didn’t have the contract language already in place, this is just what I’d say if I didn’t already have that. This is very similar to what I tell people before a session, and I haven’t had any issues with it, they just nod. Perhaps A.W. can test let us know how it goes!

        • Audra on November 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm


          I’m the A.W. who asked this question and this issue had come up some in the past, but what prompted me to contact Jenika was I had a client who wouldn’t take no for an answer! I had a general statement in my contract that was something like “the client agrees that the photographer has done everything in their power to produce the best images possible” but I didn’t clearly state in my contract, “this is how the process works:” which is totally my fault. Needless to say, it’s spelled out pretty clearly now.

          After receiving the third question of “well what happened to this pose?” I finally said this to the client: “I completely understand that you wonder what happened to the pictures taken of your daughter in certain poses, but these images you’re asking about were either under or over exposed and were beyond repair. When this happens, I immediately delete the photos to save space on my computer and to reduce the number of photos I’ll sift through from the photo shoot so I can get to and edit the best photos more quickly.” This finally got the client to drop the issue.

          I don’t promise clients a certain number of final images because what if something happens outside of my control during the photo shoot and I can’t deliver the agreed upon amount? Then I’m in violation of my contract.

          I have learned my lesson and my procedure is explained thoroughly in my contract now and is discussed prior to the photo shoot. I’m sure I’ll still receive curious questions, but I’m glad I have a system in place now!

          • Jenika on November 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm

            Thanks for the added info!

            Just one additional thought: I contract a certain number of images so people can’t sue me for “not giving enough,” to set expectations, and so people can’t be shocked by how many they receive since they get a fair estimate. However, it’s a low number (I usually deliver more than twice the amount I state in my contract), and if I didn’t get that many usable images I’d want to have a reshoot anyway. Something would have to seriously go wrong for me to not be able to reach it. 🙂

            Saying you deleted the photos seems to be a popular way to solve this problem, should probably update the post to add that.

      • Stephanie on November 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

        After I told them that the images that didn’t make the cut were deleted, they were very understanding and didn’t push any further. I think that even though I told them before the session, in the contract, and at the end of the session what the process was, they were just secretly hoping there’d be more anyway. Once they heard for sure that there weren’t anymore photos, the response was generally still positive. I’ve even had referrals from some of those same clients!

    • Jenika on November 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Indeed, they can’t see what’s not there. Good approach. It’s great that you talk beforehand, too, it’s really about building trust that they feel you will make them look good and know what you’re doing.

  3. Bailey on November 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Jenika, this post could not have come at a better time for me! Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a a couple of prospective wedding clients ask about “the rest” of the images, and they were genuinely bothered about it. Thankfully, we’ve been having these conversations before a contract is signed. However, it has still been a challenge to explain (tactfully) why they can’t see every image captured. Thank you for your fresh and insightful take!

    • Jenika on November 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      My pleasure Bailey! Glad it was helpful!!

  4. Stephanie on November 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    After I told them that the images that didn’t make the cut were deleted, they were very understanding and didn’t push any further. I think that even though I told them before the session, in the contract, and at the end of the session what the process was, they were just secretly hoping there’d be more anyway. Once they heard for sure that there weren’t anymore photos, the response was generally still positive. I’ve even had referrals from some of those same clients!

    • Stephanie on November 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      I somehow double-posted this response. Sorry about that!

  5. Allison on November 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    This topic has come up an awful lot recently, and I’m seeing it everywhere. Wonder if Someone is trying to give me a hint before I book my next session…/scrambles to add language to documents 🙂

    • Jenika on November 14, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      I know, it has! When this person emailed me I realized that I’d been talking about it in other places (forums, facebook) but hadn’t posted on the blog about it, so I thought I’d just put these suggestions where they could be easily referenced.

  6. Karin Aiello on November 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Have I ever told you how much I love you, Jenika? This is perfection. I’ve run into both of these problems before (before and after the shoot) and I’ve never had the perfect words to say until now. THANK YOU!!! Now. Off to go update my website! haha!

  7. Glenn on November 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Very nicely explained Jenika!
    It helps if the people trust you, that you will only show flattering images….I tell them that I wouldn’t even show unflattering photographs to my wife!

  8. Brenda J on November 15, 2012 at 4:03 am

    Great article. Love the explanation that the photos they don’t lead lead up to the ones they don’t. And explaining it as the equivalent of trying on clothes in a department store set me in the perfect frame of mind! Every woman can relate to that. Thank you

  9. Nina on November 15, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Great advice, as always! Your articles hit home every time 🙂 Thank you!

  10. thomas on November 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

    hi jenika,

    your first link seems to be broken, guess this one is the one you are hinting at:

    The #1 Cause of Angry Emails and Client-Photographer Frustration


    • Jenika on November 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Fixed, thanks!! 🙂

  11. Adam Allegro on November 18, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Although I am a Landscape/Travel guy, this is some very sweet information (I do some portrait work from time to time). Thanks for writing this. Awesome stuff…

  12. Deena on November 22, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Adding a late-to-the-party reply…

    I often say at the beginning of any shoot that I will discard any images that aren’t “cute” as a way to calm my clients’ nerves about being in front of the camera and to let go a little bit. I joke about how I don’t let the ones where they are making a face hit social media, etc., so they don’t feel like they’re going to be embarrassed by trying something silly during the shoot.

    However, it also serves the purpose of letting them know one more time that they won’t see all of the images in their final gallery and the ones they don’t see are ones that weren’t “cute” anyway. Just another subtle way to get the point across one more time!

  13. Katie M on November 24, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I love the photos that you used for this post. You’re an amazing photographer and your advice is very helpful!

    • Jenika on November 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks Katie!! 🙂

  14. natashaquick28 on December 8, 2012 at 6:17 am

    great story. Sharing your experiences can help a lot of photographer like me this can give us ideas of what we should do in this kind of situation. very helpful tip. keep it up

  15. Danielle on December 10, 2012 at 2:21 am

    I will say this, even with me saying you will get between this and this many pics….if I get them less than the higher number they will contact me and expect me to hand over the rest of the photos until I have reached the highest amount expected. So now I just simply tell them they will expect this many photographs, and I take more then I normally would to insure I get that many photos.
    I find it funny that some people are that picky/pushy. I’ve never once asked a photographer how many pictures I should expect to get and then demand the rest if they didn’t reach that number!

  16. Mandi Nikole on December 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    This is a great post. Thanks for posting this. I deal with this on a daily bases.

  17. Dan Waters on January 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was to show a wedding client every single photo from the wedding. The bad ones diluted all the good ones. Only ever show your very best stuff. This goes for websites too.

    • Corey on January 23, 2017 at 1:32 am

      Actually for me my problem is the opposite. My first(and after this experience only) wedding client was upset that i didn’t include all the photos. She now wants every picture that got taken even after I explained that not all of the pictures turned put good. I’m just going to hand them over as shot in original format.

  18. Murray on January 10, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Managing clients expectations is very much part of the complete client-Tog relationship and not managing is really leaving yourself open to all sorts of hassle..
    I whole heartedly believe that you should outline what the client will receive in an email or in your brochure etc, so they can refer to this if need be.

    Also its a good idea if you feel confident enough to let the client see some images as they happen, on the back of the camera of via a memory card wifi tethered to a tablet etc..

    That way you can delete as you shoot and the client sees this process happening and will expect a further delete in your final edit..

    Anyway, the most important factor is to produce such lovely images that they are blown away!

    Good luck!

  19. Ken Topham on January 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    great post, I did have a wedding client complain that an aunt was missing from a group shot and they asked to see all of my images to find her… I politely pointed out that I couldn’t be responsible for every guests attendance!
    but this advice is very good I allways tell people that I edit my pictures so they don’t need to choose from similar ones.

    setting expectation is important

  20. Emily on March 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Wow such a helpful article! Thank you! I had to deal with an exceptionally difficult client recently, and since I just barely started up my photography business I hadn’t created a contract yet. We did however have written communications beforehand that I referred her to when she started demanding all the raw shots. Definitely a learning experience!

    • Jenika on March 8, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Emily! I’m happy it worked out, sorry you had to deal with such a tough situation. Smart to refer her back to the emails. I hope you get a contract in place soon! FYI, I’m a huge fan of The Law Tog. She sells ready-made contracts, a good place to start.

  21. Robert Gleason on July 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

    My contract included my terms for RAW post processing at $50 per hour as discussed in my initial consult with the bride and groom. I had indicated this fee would be based upon the amount of photos I would take at the wedding, the time it would take to cull through all the photo files and of course the entire conversion and processing. I shot over 2000, and gave them 522 photos. the time it took was well over 15 hours (more like 25-30 hours) but decided that I would only invoice for 15 hours. When they got this invoice, he said that he thought this was too high and that I had said initially it would only be a “couple of hundred dollars” I tried to recall him to our conversation by saying that my initial comments given was only an indication and that I could not have provided a set amount as not knowing what the final amount of photographs would be taken.

    I do see their point and I feel my early clarification was lacking as I should have at least informed them better of the RAW processing at least in regard to time vs amount of photos processed. I feel its better to “bite the bullet” and hopefully satisfy them. I will definitely modify my contract for the future.

    I know this is off subject a bit. I apologize for that. Comments appreciated

    • Jenika on July 30, 2013 at 1:49 am

      The thing to remember is that people have NO IDEA what goes into what you do, or how long it takes. Take yourself outside photography for a moment: If you owned ten acres of land, and hired someone to come plow it, and they said they charged $50 per hour, you might say ok – but do you have any idea how long that will really be? I’m guessing not. It’s the same for them – they have no idea how long it would take you (and even as a portrait photographer, I probably wouldn’t have guessed 25-30 hours). In the future, I would either charge a flat rate based on your average delivery and charge extra if they want extra, or give them a concrete idea per hour of wedding shooting (e.g. $100 of post processing per hour of shooting at the wedding). Weddings are all about budget, it seems, so they need to know clearly how your services fit into your budget up front. Hope that helps!

  22. Curt on December 10, 2013 at 9:41 pm


    I visited your site for the first time today. I have only read the above post (, but wanted to share my excitement at what you have written and I look forward to learning more.

    Thank you for sharing your practical insight and advice.

    Best Regards,


  23. Kristen on October 11, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Thanks so much for this information! So helpful as I am dealing with a VERY difficult person at this very moment!

  24. Tamara Bay on November 19, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Thank you so much for this article! Exactly what I needed to hear!

  25. Diane Bartoo on June 5, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for the great article! I’ve been stuck in this situation twice in the last few years. I love your explanation of why there are extra snaps takes and your analogy to target and high end shopping.

    My favorite part though is your explanation of how art works, needing shots that lead up to the final piece as in an artist’s brush stroke or a writers struggle for the right word.

    Can’t wait to read more!

  26. Cynthia Davis on October 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Loved this post! It is so helpful. I really appreciate your thoughts on this and will incorporate this into my consultations.

  27. Aud on April 5, 2016 at 4:36 am

    What if you are a photographer shooting a 3 hour party. How many photos should the client get?

    • Jenika on April 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Totally depends on you, the artist. Some people find it helpful to gauge an average number of photos per hour. I’d look at past shoots, look at the number of final images you feel good about, and divide by the number of hours you were there. You should see a general pattern emerge. I’d offer that to your clients as an estimate. In a way it doesn’t matter so much how many images they get as how many they expect to get, and whether you meet that expectation. So set that expectation clearly.

  28. Fields on June 8, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    This is so thorough and has several approaches! Thank you for sharing your amazing knowledge!

  29. Anne on September 5, 2016 at 3:08 am

    I took photos at a friend’s wedding with a 4 day notice. I tried to get the couple in for a sitting to view the photos, there never was a good time. Between family illness and she and her husband becoming Ill as well in the last 2 months, the bride/ friend has asked for all the pictures on a stick as a impromptu wedding reception is coming up in a week. Mentioning that this is not a practice photographers take, letting unedited photos go, not to mention letting anyone friend or not have all shots that were taken is unheard of. I was told I was holding the photos at Ransome and had to give them up because that is not the way one should treat a friend. I offered to edit the ones I thought were the best if she could trust my best judgement so she would have pictures for the reception and we could set down and go over the rest at a better time after the reception. I felt I was bullied into handing over all the pictures, with a heavy heart and a stomp on our friendship and my craft as a photographer. Even if I only do it as pleasure, it is still my pride and joy when finished. Thanks for reading and letting me

  30. samuel ducroq on November 22, 2016 at 9:59 am

    hi i have been having the issue you have been talking about in this post, i am a newborn photographer but i am expanding into other forms of photography, i done a wedding recently and the bride has been asking for all the raw pictures as her son can edit them i have used you method above to explain to her and explaind before the wedding how it works but she is getting angry and rude, if you have and more advice would be appreciated this is the first time i have had this problem.

  31. Heather on May 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Great advice! Having open communication with a client ensures there’s no confusion on the process and that they will either return or recommend your services to others. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Chiqui on September 16, 2017 at 1:35 am

    Very well thought and well said. Thank you for your input. There are a whole lot of these kinds of clients out there. Couple I came across with.

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