Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

(Continued from last week)

If you do not see a difference between two photos, pick either. Let the photographer choose best amongst small differences. He cannot choose different poses, because that is a subjective opinion. Perhaps many should be used? If you have an opinion, go with that. If your opinion is that you value the artist’s judgment, then he should be happy to suggest what you will enjoy. And you will take that suggestion.

Know what the album is to be. Don’t make elaborate lists and notes, only to use 60 out of 3,000 images! Just pick the loudest ones, the strongest ones, some nice moments–great shots–and call it a day. Or pick the large groups, add the memorable quirky shots, and the key moments. Or let your photographer do it. Today, albums can have 200—300 images. But images alone won’t make a great album if there is no thought to their use. True design takes heart, time, and thought. Maybe there needn’t be much thought. Shots can speak for themselves. That is fine. That is a book to hold your favorite images. But it is not a design.

Ten percent of a heavy shoot or twenty percent of a smaller shoot is a good average for book use representing unique, different, meaningful, and must-get moments, emotional expressions, formals, and décor. I can pick 500—600 images that I propose to use in the album design. Clients can nix any, add more, and indicate essentials to use. I then design the book of 200—300 images that includes all their musts and others that work best. Clients have gotten back to me in a few hours easily approving, adding, and nixing images online!

Or, specify the few shots you hate, and the few shots that mean so much you insist they are used, leaving others up to the photographer. Again, with 200—300 images, this works because it represents the full spectrum of the day’s actions and emotions–something a pro can choose.

Starting albums with 50, 60, or even 100 images often means leaving out the most interesting shots, or leaving out the traditional shots. And this is where we get into the adding of images that bogs things down. A photographer cannot conscientiously leave family members and great moments or emotions out.

The ground-breaking moment for me came years ago, when you would get a box of 200—500 proofs, then meet to arrange the proofs in album order. Some cared how the story was told. Making a great album was much more than merely choosing favorites, but choosing those that worked together! We would be shuffling hundreds of paper proofs. Each album page turn would raise more questions and lead to more time-consuming research into “what goes best with this?” Or “can you find something where we face the other way?” and, of course, “what do you think?”

6 p.m. to 1 a.m. I shuffled, searched, and sequenced paper proofs, following the client’s concerns with my creativity, till we both were beat. Next day that successful businessman called. “This is the third of our children’s weddings you have done for us, and G‑d willing, you will do the next one. But we came right after work, and it took till 1 a.m. I do not know what the answer is, but there has got to be a better way!” Finding a better way meant not designing the book with the client and defining what it means to be an artist.

People are different. Some want hand-holding. They don’t want a mind or an eye attached to that hand. They do not want a better vision. They have their own. They do not know about composition or storytelling. They just want their favorite photos in some order. And they want to feel they are making the right decision. Their contract had no relation to how many emotions and moments were recorded, or how much they would love the photos. At contract time, they said, “Let’s see how the photos come out, we can always add more.” So they took a small contract. Later, after all the other event vendors are paid and their jobs long finished, the photographer’s work is, in some ways, only beginning.

For some, the original starter contract defines everything. Others know it is only the start. And for those who knew they would want a masterpiece at the outset, the contract can be all you need with everything included. Adding any image, even if it is as important as the grandparents, the groom full length, or a dramatic bridal shot that should be in the studio window, can be interpreted as an irritating cost and often is not appreciated.

The better way realizes that there are two kinds of albums. One pays attention to all the subtleties, and the other just collects pictures. One has the basics, another values the icing, toppings, and accents. One is predictable–a binding of photos. The other is passionate. One is simple. And the other can be a work of art, or it can just be a bigger binding.

All clients deserve customer service. A studio member should review their album for glaring errors, answer questions, and try to help place their photos to make the book as nice as possible–within contracted amounts. On the other hand, a true design involves time, thought, and feeling. It has value in itself. The word design, like the words create, write, and sculpt, can involve much, or little. The hardest part about choosing your images is either finding images you like from a bad photographer, or eliminating images you like from a good one. But assuming you liked your photos, either decide to have the photographer use an abundance of images, or pick the essentials and do not sweat the details. You will enjoy the album, the photography, and the whole experience much more. v

Gary Rabenko may be reached at Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway

in Woodmere.

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