Are Sneak Peeks Hurting Your Photography Business?

The sneak peek has been an indispensable part of my photography business, providing clients with a few quick photos right after a shoot to "whet their appetite," so to speak. But is it a bad idea overall?

Photographer Sarah Petty believes so, and she lays out quite a few reasons why. She describes how she wants to control the client experience so that they are more impressed by the final images when they see them on a large monitor or projected large on a wall. The risk that photographers run by sending a few digital files early before sitting down and revealing the entire shoot to the clients is that they'll either receive the image when they're not in a good spot to view them (i.e. in the car with the kids) or that they'll be viewed on an inferior phone screen and leave a lesser impression of your photography overall. Additionally, if you do the sneak peek on social media, there's a good chance that family and friends of your client will see the photos first before they do.

That last one's definitely a valid concern, for sure, and while in an ideal world, it's always best to control the experience so that your work is presented to the client in the best light, it isn't always possible.

It's all about reading the couple and their preferences. It's possible that some would appreciate the "wow factor" in the presentation of their final images. Other couples might have speed higher on their priority list.

In my experiences, after a couple is just married, they're pretty eager to post photos on social media, and in those cases, it was better for those photos to be mine. If I had waited, the couples would have instead posted Uncle Bob's photos he took with this Canon Rebel and then my photos would be buried under the couple's social media and wouldn't get the engagement and future business I was hoping for.

Petty talks about bad timing, which can be subjective. Receiving a photo of a happy moment is a way to bring joy to a client's day, and yes, a phone screen is small, but it's the content that counts. To Petty's point, however, that photo could become associated with negative feelings if it's received at the wrong time.

The point about social media is important. I've made it a point never to post the photos to my social media channels before the people who've hired me have had a chance to take a look at them. I leave that decision to post to social media up to them. Maybe they don't like the way their chin looks in that photo, or perhaps they have a request to remove a mole from their face or some other touch-up that I may not have anticipated. It's a bit risky to post to social media without a client's consent first.

Generally, I view the sneak peek as an integral business practice, but not everyone does, it seems. Do you think Petty makes some good points about previews? What are your thoughts on the sneak peek? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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9 Comments
Wes Perry's picture

Quick turnaround sneak peeks are literally the most effective tool in my entire business model. They’re so enormously popular and the organic social spread and amount of specific responses leading to new business is just insane.

Tony Clark's picture

She lost me at, "I have one of the most profitable studio in the US". I guess that I'm old school and prefer to have my clients talk about the quality of my work. How about sharing your best images and let the viewer or client determine it's value. If profitability is the standard then perhaps one of the portrait franchises would be the most profitable, right?

Michael Holst's picture

Also... how does she even know this info? It's not like photographer revenues are public info. She has grifter energy with that opening.

Zdenek Malich's picture

Exactly... Hate all thouse award winning photographs and most successful people nonsense unless its told by the customers themselves. Cheap marketing with even cheaper looking portfolios when people are still feeling the need to get to the level and making up stories

Roger Cozine's picture

I think sneak peeks are very effective in keeping customers interested in your work. Personally, I've never lost a client by showing a few pre-shots. If anything they've help promote business by excitement and word-of-mouth. I guess how customers react will depend on the quality of your work.

Beau Whately's picture

I must say I was very intrigued by this article! I provide previews to my clients, but only my wedding clients, for the exact reason mentioned in this article; so the couple post my photos after the wedding instead of uncle Bob’s.

dayv glusing's picture

You lost me bashing Uncle Bob's Canon Rebel. The camera is the tool, the means to an end. If you can't take a "good photo" with anything but a 1DX, you're a bad photographer. I've got a stable of full frames now because I was able to build a business starting with the Rebel. If you're worried about Uncle Bob's photos being better than yours......

Besides that, I'm for the sneak peek on the back of the camera screen to elicit a response from the subject. I'm looking for the "wow! I love that!", or the "ehhh, that's ok, but....." so I know if I'm on the same page mentally with the layout of the photo. I'll send a blooper to the subject as a sneak peek, but I do like to see/hear the client response for the full package, even if I'm as impatient as the clients are to see the photos.

Gregory Bowman's picture

As a business owner you want to control your message and present your products and services in a favorable light. I can see sneak peeks as going both ways. A sneak peek needs to be prepared, not spontaneous. Emotions and business do not often mix well.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Dayv - caught me in a slip up. You aren't wrong. I started shooting weddings with a Rebel.