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Review :: Best & Worst of 2010

This is the third post in a Series about making the most of the slow season. In the first entry to this series I suggested an exercise where you take your favorite and that most dreaded session from last year and you analyze them both. (you can read all about it here.)


I hope a lot of you gave it a try and I want to thank those of you who submitted your best and worst reviews for me to take a look at. I hope the notes I gave you were helpful. We are going to take one submission, look at it and break in down for growth potential opportunities. Here is what the photographer submitted:


WHAT: senior session…the first one to kick off class of 2011
WHEN: august

  1. mom emailed me (I had shot some mutual friends’ daughters the previous year and they loved my work)
  2. chat with mom about prices and details and email her all the info
  3. book and bill for session
  4. connect with senior girl about her vision and style and give clothing tips
  5. have her text and email me her clothing choices/make suggestions (this is always a multiple text/email scenario)
  6. plan the session out artistically and have assistants booked and ready and briefed on the session (to assist me with set up and such)
  7. chat once more the night before session with senior girl….she got a new outfit that gave me amazing last minute “scene” inspiration
  8. scrambled to create the scene that I had developing in my head
  9. arrive to the first location to work with my clients
  10. Drooled over her clothes (ha!)
  11. Went to work and had a blast for two hours…despite the fact that it was 108 degrees…yes…108…at 6pm. Ugh.
  12. sneak peeks up on FB that evening
  13. blog post up five days after shoot
  14. client gallery posted 7 days after shoot (fully edited proofs)
  15. connected with mom and assisted with ordering
  16. Digital package ordered with five images added on
  17. Total sale: $975 (average sale for senior clients)
  18. package delivered to client 7 days after order

Why was this my best? Gorgeous girl, with exquisite (and super expensive) taste in clothes, good sale….this is pretty much all my senior clients. What made this different was that Jenny was a kindred spirit in all things vintage. She truly gets it…and now I have an adopted little sister and a muse…..the girl who has now become the face of my sister’s company (Nicole Moore vintage headbands) and the one I call when I want to experiment with shooting techniques. I adore her and hope I get to be her photographer for life. So, the connection and friendship and artistry from this session makes it my best one for 2010.


WHAT- sister christmas shoot (4.5yrs and 3yrs old)
WHEN- October

  1. returning client…one who used me when I first started out…love the mom…not the kids
  2. chat about session on phone, plan location
  3. book date and bill
  4. Send her a fashion layout with suggestions of clothes from crew cuts and Gap (she wanted red/navy/white pallette)
  5. She went shopping per my suggestions
  6. Chatted on the phone..she was excited with her finds…couldn’t remember what she bought (?) but said she would send pics and never did (BIG MISTAKE #1 on not insisting on seeing pics)
  7. Booked my assistant and chose props/accessories that would compliment that color pallette
  8. Assistant and I Drove the 1 hour drive to location near her (BIG MISTAKE #2 should have charged more for travel..only charged $60)
  9. Called her to let her know we were almost there….she lives 5 min away from the location yet showed up 30 minutes late
  10. Assistant took props down into the gardens we were shooting at…met client at her car
  11. She pulls out two bags of clothes in which the outfits were wadded up in and wrinkled(?!?!?!?!?!?! Who wads up $100 crew cuts dresses in a bag?????????)
  12. Outfits were not in the color scheme we discussed…she brought grey/blush/hot pink…oh and incomplete outfits…she was missing a bag
  13. Girls get out of the car…both had damp hair because they just got their hair cut (I am not making this up….)
  14. Little sister has chipped blue nail polish on finger and toe nails (ABSOLUTE nightmare to photoshop)
  15. Big sister falls in parking lot, scraps her knee, mom applies HUGE SILVER band aid which big sister refuses to remove (photo shop nightmare)
  16. Children become difficult to work with…mom is a stress case
  17. I send mom off to the car for a brush
  18. Work with girls…get some sweet stuff
  19. Girls start melting down
  20. Mom wants pictures in the woods but because she was so late it was too dark to shoot there…and to shoot in main gardens
  21. Finish shoot
  22. Mom calls me to tell me how much she loves me, how calm I am, thanks for being patient with her, talks how she is going to order a canvas and books (BIG MISTAKE #3…not recognizing the warning signs of big talkers…buttering you up…she said this last year and didn’t follow through)
  23. Blog 5 days later
  24. Gallery posted 7 days later
  25. Mom asks if she can still purchase a single digital image (I did this in 2009 and took it off the options for 2010) and talks about how she loves one of the images but the others just really aren’t that great…her daughter’s eyes look too puffy and she doesn’t love the outfits or their hair (REALLY? Damp, just cut hair doesn’t look good in a picture?????)
  26. I said, “yes” because she makes her own christmas cards and I don’t want to deal with the haggle of designing for her (BIG MISTAKE #4-should have made her buy a digital package)
  27. She did not return my calls for ordering sessions (BIG MISTAKE #5- even though she is an hour away I should have made her book an in person session…we could have met half way)
  28. I had a deadline for orders to make it in time for christmas…she asks if she can place the urgent orders first, then the rest later (BIG MISTAKE #5-I let her place an order in two…first not meeting print minimum)
  29. She places a $130 order for prints and then one digital file
  30. Calls me and asks why her 8×10 prints are “dimpled”…what is wrong with them?
  31. The ordering software clearly states that the 8×10 and up come with linen finish
  32. Calls me from the lab where she is printing pics for her cards and says that picture won’t fit in a 4×4 crop
  33. Call her and explain how cropping works. Sigh
  34. Calls me from the lab again and asks why her daughter’s hair looks singed
  35. Call her and have her check to see if her lab is sharpening the image (because it was fine on my end)
  36. She goes to three different labs and says all proofs her daughter’s hair looks singed (Are you tired of reading about this whip of a session yet?)
  37. I order a proof from WHCC and the picture looks perfect
  38. I call and tell her that there is no problem when I print it and send her the proof
  39. Despite calls and emails, she has yet to finish up her order to meet the $300 print minimum for 2010

I thought my best opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas (without writing a book) on what to take from these two analysis was to make a video. As I decided what to address I tried to consider what I felt would help the majority of you. I hope you enjoy it! Many more videos will be coming through out the year so if you find these helpful, please subscribe to the You Tube page I made last night.



  1. Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing those mistakes! I was stressed out just reading about it. Hopefully we can learn through your mistakes : ) …and that she finally finishes that order for you!

  2. Kalli says:

    First off, LOVED IT. I really see the benefit of making these lists now–before it was something like, “Yeah, good idea, maybe later…”

    A quick question I had after it though, with contact made before the session: I have those clients where we are in contact ALL the time–and it almost feels like it makes everything more complicated, I’m afraid they are feeling frustrated and stressed. And then I have those that we have the phone consultation, everything goes great, I e-mail them some follow-up materials, and then I see them at their session. And I don’t feel like I know them at ALL. Is there a minimum number of times you contact clients before a session? Phone, e-mail, etc? How do you keep everything positive and simple?

    Loved it!

  3. Marissa says:

    Loved the video! I can totally see the benefit to this excercise and you offered great suggestions. Time to put pen to paper and do it myself 🙂

  4. Morgan says:

    Leah… I loved your video! You did a great job.
    Thank you to the photographer that shared her best and worst session of last year. I think that we all try to set up boundries for ourselves and our business, but sometimes we trust people a little more than we probably should. Maybe if she asks you next year to take pictures you should say no. 🙂
    This series has given me a lot to think about for this year

  5. Carrie says:

    Awesome, Awesome!!! I loved this Leah! Thanks to the incredible photographer’s submission and for all your insight on it Leah!

  6. Yana K. says:

    wow. another awesome blog post! i’m loving the video integration! and that exercise is so worth the time. i still cannot get over my worst appointment from last year and the many changes i’m rushing to make to avoid ever reliving that again. thanks leah!

  7. Great post and video! I am going to do this for sure!

  8. awesome video. really…so informative and helpful. thank you!!! you are so right on.

  9. Sunday says:

    Thank you so much for posting this and that video. Big changes will be happening for my business in 2011! My husband asked me what my worst session was and I had to say all of them! I let the client pick their top 25/50 images and put them on a disc. Obviously you see where this is going, no sales. I had a few buy prints (and mostly those are the ones that did not get the disc) and products. My lowest point was when I walked into a clients house and she had my prints blown up bigger then a boat all throughout her house and she had them done through WHCC because she used her ex interior design business to sign up with them. This girl could afford my prints too and in that same session she told me she got out of interior design because clients weren’t willing to pay what it cost for her services. Oh that hurt! Do you do a print min. purchase then give them a certain number of digital negatives? How do you do print sales with them if they live 4 hours away? I know I will bprobably lose some clients in the new year but I also know it will be better for my business!

  10. Vanessa says:

    Awesome stuff Leah!

  11. Krystal says:

    Lots of good food for thought.

  12. kristen says:

    Thank you for the video, you did a really great job. And thank you too to the photographer that submitted those experiances! As someone who is drawn to your blog beccause I want to go pro, something stuck me as interesting here. As photographers, arent we supposed to be flexible? Isnt the client supposed to be incharge? They are the ones paying us and keeping us in business afterall.

    For her worst session, she said it was bad that her client didnt come with the “right clothes” that they had discussed. Isnt that the clients paragotive to make changes for something she is paying for? Because I am not a pro at the moment, I supposed I could be misunderstanding the seriousness of this, but I think there should be a lot to be said about being flexible and delivering your best under the least of ideal circumstances. Please dont think Im being critical, I dont intend to me, Im just wondering where the customer service is amongst all of the details being exchanged.

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Kristen this is such a great comment. You have a wonderful question and I’m really excited to give this an answer!! I think this may be my next video installment! Awesome awesome question!!

  13. kristen says:

    whew! Im glad that didnt come across as me being critcial!! Thanks Leah, I cant wait to hear what you think.

  14. Spanki Mills says:

    great question and i can not wait to hear how leah addresses it. my take on being “flexible”: yes… and no. ha! the client is somewhat in control. however when people look at my site and hire me based on my site and work alone (not a referral) they obviously like what they see… but not everyone can get themselves to that same spot without help! my “worst” client this past year insisted on their home for the location even though i was against it. i explained that i can not give the colors and “feel” of my regular work with their backyard. they insisted…and in the end were not happy with the finished product. had i been in control, and not budged, i know i could have given them what they didn’t realize they wanted…. sometimes they just need your “professional eye” with clothes or locations….did that make any sense?

    • Angela says:

      Of course this makes sense!! If we all had “client in charge” businesses then we would be shooting at the wrong time of day for good light, have people wearing clothing that does not photograph well, be giving discounts right and left, and not having people order for 6 months. I’m not saying that clients are not smart….it is just they don’t do this everyday so they are not often aware what it takes to create the product they desire. People hire us because they like what we do. If they want us to deliver that, then clients need to be willing to let us be in control. You hire an expert for their expertise….not so you can tell them how to do it better!!!!
      At the same time, you do want to reflect the client’s personality and have some input. It’s all very very tricky. Leah, can’t wait to see your post on this one!
      The “best and worst” above are good examples of “photographer run” session vs “client run” session. May all our 2011 sessions be photographer run. : )

  15. Kalli says:

    Is it supposed to be “Best of 2010?” 🙂

    • Leah Remillet says:

      That is hilarious! And you’re the first to mention that I’m a WHOLE year behind! Where were you all on that one? GEESH! 😉

  16. Happy Astorga says:

    Thanks so much for this post!! These detailed, real life experiences really help a ton! And they are a lot of fun to read! I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this!

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