No Retouching?...No Way!

Jan 13, 2021

As studio photographers, our standard workflow boils down to shoot, retouch, deliver. BUT when we were asked to shoot hundreds of headshots at an event for the first time, we realized that our studio workflow wouldn't meet the needs of our event client.

Our client wanted to us serve hundreds of people with new headshots AND deliver the headshots instantly. We had to rethink our workflow to achieve their goals. 

One of the biggest areas we had to rethink was retouching.

Retouching done well takes time—much more time than we'd have at the event. On a typical day at the studio, we would NEVER let our images leave our doors without some kind of polish applied. Our images are our brand, our art, and our reputation...right?

So how could we deliver headshots instantly without taking time to carefully retouch and still be happy with our work?

We had to come to the realization that event headshots are NOT studio headshots. They are NOT the same service!

Event headshots serve a different purpose, a different client, and a different goal, with different deliverables than studio headshots.

Events headshots are a gift from a brand/company to an individual (ie. trade show swag).

Event headshots are supposed to make your SPONSOR look amazing and generous.

Event headshots draw a crowd.

Event headshots capture leads.

Event headshots promote a brand/company and their message.

When we realized our event headshot service is NOT the same as our studio headshot service, that gave us the freedom to rethink HOW we delivered headshots, and also WHAT we delivered.

Think about this...

When you go to Costco and a smiling lady is handing out free samples of that yummy lemon chicken on a toothpick, you try it! Hey, don't be ashamed if you do a few laps and come back to try it again. Good free stuff...thanks Costco! 

We're not saying headshots are equivalent to lemon chicken, but maybe we can pull out some of the fundamentals truths and learn from Costco. People LOVE free stuff. Companies LOVE to look generous. People win...the company wins. Everybody is happy.

You could be giving out free water bottles, free back massages, free t-shirts, or free ice cream. The point is, FREE stuff is cool. As a headshot photographer representing a brand, your job is to make your client look amazing by giving out free headshots. Headshots are just the THING that makes it happen.

So, back to retouching. We came to the conclusion through various experiences that a paying client at our studio cares about stray hairs, skin blemishes, and clothing lint. Someone receiving a FREE headshot at an event does not. It's that simple.

Yes, we make sure the lighting is beautiful. 

Yes, our stylist prepares each person.

Yes, our editor applies crops and quick adjustments to each photo.

But we do not retouch event headshots.


Because the participants don't care! AND our client doesn't care! 

The participants are so happy that they've just received amazing new headshots for FREE. Our client is happy that we've attracted a crowd, collected leads, and promoted their brand.

Everybody is happy!

When we have mentioned that retouching is available in the email that delivers the event headshots, very few (if any) have requested it.

People put up their new free headshots on LinkedIn and they are excited at receiving such a valuable gift! 

AND one more point...when a headshot is in that little circle, compressed to the max on LinkedIn—can you tell the difference between a retouched headshot and one that is not? Have a good look at the banner image above. Can you tell the difference? Maybe, maybe not. We instantly deliver the headshots at 2048px on the long edge, but most people just upload them to LinkedIn, which overly compresses the image.

The big juicy tip...your event headshot clients are not the same as your in-studio headshot clients. Understand their goals and adjust your mind and your workflow to make them happy. It's worth it!