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I have a corporate client for whom I did a shoot earlier this week. They complained that all the portraits were of the team members facing the same way and they like to do composite images of the team as a group with the half on the left turned to the left and the half on the right turned to the right.

Instead of heading out to shoot again, should I recommend they just flip the necessary portraits horizontally to achieve this? If not, why?

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    Did they inform you of this desire before you shot everyone? – Michael C Oct 19 '17 at 10:02
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    @MichaelClark No. I knew they had done something like it before because I told them I had seen their Facebook page (it's their cover photo) and they just explained that they would like to be able to cut out the background to make composite images. So it was pretty unclear. They didn't specifically say that they wanted to do different angles to reproduce it. – xtojump Oct 19 '17 at 12:01
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    Just leave the decision to them. You can advice them on how nice a flipped portrait might work. – Trilarion Oct 20 '17 at 13:32
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If the lighting was asymmetrical and consistent between shots, then the lighting will be flipped as well and this might easily make the shot look simply awful or so awful its funny.

This may not be appropriate for their brand.

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    Big +1 for mentioning light issue. Images like that sometimes look really weird. Not always, but when it happens it can be awful. – Mołot Oct 20 '17 at 11:16
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There are no hard and fast rules in art. You are free to follow your heart. If flipping some of the images assists in the symmetry of the final presentation, then go for it!

Few if any will recognize their image was flipped. After all, they see a flipped image when they shave or put on makeup. Yes, the dressing, shaving, and makeup image in the mirror is flipped.

Some may say " I part my hair on the left, this picture is wrong". However, few will comment.

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    Actually, I read somewhere that a survey shows that most people find horizontally flipped images of themselves to be better or more similar to their actual appearance. Likely, because they are most used to see themselves in a mirror and not on printed, 'unflipped' portrait pictures. – jarnbjo Oct 19 '17 at 15:00
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    @ jambjo -- A tip of the hat to you from Alan Marcus. – Alan Marcus Oct 19 '17 at 15:39
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    Note that many selfie cameras (e.g. smartphones) output a horizontally flipped image. So many people are accustomed to seeing flipped photos being saved already. – Nayuki Oct 19 '17 at 15:52
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    Speaking of hair parting... There is some discussion about whether the direction you part your hair will influence people's perception of you. Here is a link to a RadioLab episode which discusses this. There is also the famous Superman hair part switch too. The Atlantic covers this as well and even includes a mention of Superman vs. Clark Kent's hair part. – Erik Oct 19 '17 at 16:48
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    @jarnbjo More similar for the subject, less similar for everyone else. – Agent_L Oct 19 '17 at 16:52
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What I did in the end

Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. You all really helped me decide what to do.

Just to clarify, I wasn't aware that they wanted this before the shoot and they were very happy with the photos, they just wanted some taken from the opposite angle (with the subject turned to the right rather than to the left).

In the end I did a quick cut-out of the portraits to make up a draft just to show them what it would look like if some of the portraits were flipped and that it was entirely possible. The lighting was fine and didn't seem unnatural (if it were more of a cutting light across the face with more shadows it might have looked strange, but the light was 45° to the subject's face each time). I decided I would let them decide on what to do. After seeing my draft/suggestions they clearly saw no need to re-shoot half the employees and opted for the horizontal flip. At the end of the day I left them the choice in the matter and they were happy to just flip the photos. Otherwise I would have had to charge them for the extra shoot since they didn't tell me about this particular desire.

Next time I will really make sure the client tells me everything they want to do with the photos!

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    +1 upvoted. Not only is this a good answer to the OP, it also presents a little bit more context. If SE's purpose is to have these here as an archive of solutions to problems, then this answer is IMO a requirement to fulfill that vision. – Octopus Oct 20 '17 at 20:14
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    @PatrickMacCann thanks for the explanation of why you answered, but it isn't really part of the answer. It's fine as is without needing a justification for posting your own answer. – AJ Henderson Oct 22 '17 at 14:50
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No. It sounds like the client is looking for specific representations of the subjects. Flipping it is no longer an accurate representation. The average human face is not symmetrical

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In addition, unless you lit each subject with exceptionally flat frontal lighting, your composite shot will have two apparent key-light sources which do not affect all of the subjects. In other words, it will look weird, even if the viewer can not place their finger on exactly why.

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From a content perspective

Last time I had a photoshoot, I asked the company to flip some pictures. They firmly refused because it would not be 'good'.

I don't know the rationale other than 'it looks less natural', but I guess it is safe to say that flipping would be a compromise on quality.

From a business perspective

This brings us to the business question.

  1. Did you do what they asked?
  2. Did you do deliver something that someone without context would consider reasonable?
  3. Did you read their mind about what the context would be?

Assuming you did what they asked, delivered something reasonable and had no clue that they had hidden additional requirements, now this is the situation:

You can ask them whether they would like to flip the pictures, or whether they would like to hire you for a followup shoot.


Unless you have a long standing (and good) relationship with them, I would definitely not do a second shoot for free (discount or 'at cost' is of course possible). If you give this for free, you have a good chance that you poison all potential future profit from this customer because they will keep giving you extra work to do for free.

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My first thought was the same as Michael Clark's comment - it depends when you found out this was what they wanted, and it sounds like this wasn't until after the shoot.

The phrase "they complained" suggests to me that they've already seen the pictures, so while what Alan Marcus says is probably true in isolation, someone who's seen a picture will spot if a supposedly new picture is the old one, flipped.

You could certainly ask them if they would accept that to save them additional cost (I would phrase it that way). If not, quote them for the additional shoot. Don't try to do it without asking them - you'll look cheap (and not in the good "inexpensive" way).

  • They "complained" might have been a bad choice of words on my part. They suggested that they would like to shoot some people from the other side (but after the shoot). They knew the photos were all the same profile because they all went through one by one. – xtojump Oct 20 '17 at 13:56
  • Fair enough. But it gave the right impression (ie. that they'd already seen the pictures, and would be more likely to spot if one was flipped). – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Oct 21 '17 at 7:23

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