I coach photographers how to get commercial clients. During one of my webinars with one of my groups of photographers, I talked about using tear sheets in photography, and the photographers asked a lot of questions about this, so I figured you might have some as well. In this post, I will talk about what a tear sheet is, how to use them, and why. Photographers AND Bloggers can use these!

What Are Tear Sheets In Photography

What Is A Tear Sheet?

A tear sheet is simply an image that is showing how your photography was used by your client. This could be shown as an ad, any of their marketing materials, social media campaign images, magazines covers, magazines feature stories, and even uses like packaging or bill boards, etc.

Anyway your image was used by the client where the client incorporated your images into any of their marketing materials, could be used as a tear sheet.

What Is A Tear Sheet | Food Photography Blog

The name “tear sheet” comes from days of film where photographers would find their images in a magazine for example, and tear it out of the magazine. We would take that sheet from the magazine and show that in our physical portfolio.

Tear sheets these days are either PDF’s or jpegs that we get from the client after they have put all the artwork together that is incorporating our photography.

In the images above, you can see six ads and one website rebranding that I shot the photography for, and the ad agency put those images together for the client.

Why Do You Need Tear Sheets?

The way photographers get new clients is by showing everyone the types of clients we’ve had in the past and the types of jobs we get hired to do.

This is our proof that we have worked as a professional photographer.

If you are new in business, you might not have tear sheets yet, and that’s ok. It’s great to know about this now so that you can start thinking about it and get tear sheets when ever you can.

With every job I consider doing, if I can get a great looking tear sheet out of it, I’m really excited to do that work.

If the client won’t even allow me to show the pictures I took to anyone else, it won’t help me get new work and I will charge more for that job because of that.

Are you a food blogger? As soon as you start doing sponsored posts – you should start making tear sheets of those as well. You show brands that you can do sponsored posts by showing them the sponsored posts you’ve already done.

How To Ask The Client For Your Tear Sheet

PB Tear Sheet

In every estimate and invoice, I include this phrase in my terms and conditions, “Client will furnish a PDF tear sheet of the completed work for photographer to use in her self promotions.”

Many photographers think they are not allowed to show those images. You can show them as long as you do this in the ways I describe below.

At the end of every job, when I am sending my final invoice for payment, I ask the client if I can get a PDF of our work that we did together. Sometimes this might take some time because they haven’t finished it yet on their end.

So you might need to follow up several times to get your tear sheets – don’t hound your client for these. I check in every few weeks.

Also, your client won’t want you to show the tear sheet before they do – so make sure to ask them, “when do the images go live?”. This way you can respect their timeline and only show the images on your website AFTER they show the images.

Now, every client is different regarding tear sheets. With some ad agency jobs, they aren’t signing your contract, you are signing their purchase order, and in that purchase order it will state various things about this.

Some will say the photographer is never allowed to show the work. I charge more for this, as I mentioned above. Others will say that the photographer is not allowed to show the work unless they get permission first, this is common.

I have never been told by a client that I can’t show the images we shot together unless it was a top secret, new product that the public doesn’t know about. I have images I have taken for several brands that no one will ever see because the product was top secret and never made it out of testing.

If you are working with a small brand or company, they usually have no problems with you showing the images you made together.

How To Make A Tear Sheet If You Can’t Get One From The Client?

I do have several clients that won’t give me tear sheets of our jobs. It’s really annoying. Then I have other jobs where they aren’t using it in a manor where it’s easy to get a PDF from that work, like a billboard, or in-store menu board.

Your clients won’t give you tear sheets of website work either.

Now you are going to have to make your tear sheet. There are several ways to do this.

1 – Screenshots

Food Brand Screen Shot

Here are images from a website where I photographed about 125 food items for the client. The ad agency was rebranding their entire website, and I did all the photography they were using. What you are seeing is one of the screenshots I took of all the pages that contained my photography.

If your photography is being used on the client’s website, you better get screenshots of it as fast as you can! The bigger the brand, the more they change their websites. So my photography was only up there for a short time before they changed everything again.

I have a great relationship with that ad agency, so they gave me a heads up when the new website was going live so that I could see it and get my screenshots.

The easiest way to do a screen shot on Mac is to type Shift, Command, 4. Then draw out your box. This will make a PNG file. It will appear on your desktop

On PC’s – press the “PrtScn” (print screen) key. This will create a file on your clipboard. You will need to open your image editing program and paste that into a new doc.

Use screenshots for your work with online magazines, e-commerce sites, and for bloggers – your sponsored posts.

2 – Use a Browser Extension To Create A PDF Or Jpeg

Screen Shot Software

The other way that I make a PDF or Jpeg tear sheet is by using a screen capturing extension in my browser. The one that I find works best is on Chrome, and is called Fireshot. It’s the best one I’ve found that does manage to capture the whole page. It gives you the option to save as PDF or Jpeg.

Every browser will have several extension options for doing screen shots, so find one that is highly rated by googling, “best Safari (or what ever browser you use) extension for webpage screenshots”. Then just follow their instructions for installation.

3 – Make Your Own In Photoshop

Tear Sheet With Logo

Many times when I can’t get digital tear sheets from the client, I’ll make my own in Photoshop.

You simply find the logo of your client, then place it on the image somewhere, or create a document in photoshop with a few pics, and pop the logo on there too. Super easy. These images to the left I found on my clients website with other images that weren’t mine so I just grabbed my images and then made my own tear sheet.

You do need to be careful where you are showing those images with client logos. Technically, you are not supposed to use the logo of the client. That is a trademark. I only show those tear sheet images on my commercial site, and of course here on the blog when talking about that kind of work. That’s it.

I am not blasting that all over social media channels. Respect your clients and they will appreciate that.

When I am making my own tear sheets, I will often put a soft drop shadow effect on the layer to give it some depth.

4 – Take Pictures Of Your Images In Use

Many times I’ll create images for clients, they won’t give me tear sheets, and I can’t find the images in use online anywhere.

If I did photography for a quick service restaurant menu board, I’ll go into the store and take snaps of their menu boards with my phone, and set the phone to the largest file size it can do. Other times my images are used outside the restaurant at the drive through on posters, so I’ll take pictures of those as well.

Those aren’t the best looking, but it’s ok because it’s showing my images out in the wild. Again, more proof that I do this kind of work for large brands.

5 – Make A Mockup If Appropriate

Little Book Of Cheese Cover

The last way that I make tear sheets is by using pre built mockups from Creative Market. The image to the left of the cheese board was taken for a book cover. I bought a digital mock up of a book cover that was the same size as the real book and placed my image on it.

This is super easy to do and the good mockups will give you instructions for how to do this in Photoshop. They are very inexpensive, and look very realistic.

With this mock up, it made my image look like it was a book cover and had a realistic drop shadow so I composited that onto an image of fabric that I already had.

I created this mock up because photographing the real book cover wouldn’t look as nice as using a digital version of the same image.


So there you have it. Tear sheets are a great way to show your prospects what kind of work you do and help you get more jobs. If you have any questions about tear sheets, just let me know in the comments. I read and answer every comment that comes through.

Got more questions about the business of photography? I have a lot of posts about this – you can check them out here.


Join The Facebook Groups

Do you have questions about photography or the business side of photography? I have two Facebook groups for you to check out. I’m in these groups every day moderating them and answering questions.

Here is the link to all things food photography so if you are just starting out, this is the perfect group for you. Food Photography Club FB Group – Click Here.

If you are already shooting and want to learn more about the business of photography and getting clients, then join me here in the Professional Photography Academy FB group – Click Here.





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