How Many Photos should your Photographer Take?

How many photos do I take? How many do you want? I know that I’m not supposed to answer a question with a question but it’s a question I get asked all the time. That’s probably because it can be measured, like my fee or how many hours I stay at a wedding. Easy questions. Trouble is, it’s tough to answer. So before I answer it, let’s think about the question:

How about ten photos? Not enough? How about 3,000? Ever look at 3,000 photos? If you wanted to look at 3000 photographs at say, 30 seconds a picture, that’s about twenty five hours of viewing. Probably too many, huh?

Now we’re getting somewhere, we have limits. We know it’s more than ten and less than 3,000.

More to think about: most photojournalist style wedding photographers will pull the trigger between 800 and 2000 times during a full day’s wedding. The average is probably around 1200 to 1500. Multiply that average by the number of photographers. Sort of takes your breath away.

Now if these photographers care about your experience with their photos – many do – they’ll edit out the technically bad ones (focus, exposure, etc.), the visually bad ones (closed eyes, bad expressions and unwanted gestures) and the just plan boring ones.

That’s the easy part, of course, but it gets the number to something more manageable. Many, like me, typically run all the remaining shots through an additional process. It’s the process of creating a story from the photographs.

This story of a day needs to include the big moments and the little ones. The events, the environment and the things that make it special. Many times you need simple declarative photos to connect big events so the final story makes sense. For me, that usually means I end up with 300 or 400 photographs in the final “story”, sometimes more, rarely less. That’s still a couple hours of viewing time – about what a good movie would take – your movie. I usually recommend they be viewed with a glass of wine. Works every time.

Still a little nervous about how many you should have? I once sent 1500 photographs to a family. The mother, an architectural client of mine with a dry sense of humor, has never let me forget what a pain it was to view them all.

Think about it, one of the things you pay for is the photographer’s ability to recognize good shots and to cull the less meaningful ones. It’s called his/her “eye”. With my own work, you are also paying for my ability to create your day’s story from photographs. As they say, less is often more.

Jeff Ascough, the master of available light and a regular on the ‘world’s best’ lists, has a really good set of observations about this predisposition of couples (and photographers) to want more rather than less. He believes the right range is 150 to 180 shots. The key, he says, is quality. Ascough, by the way, says he’s working to reduce the number of shots he takes.

Of course, what he takes is glorious. Which is my goal, too, irrespective of the shot count.

So, how many photographs do you want?

About the Author:

Dan Derby, Wedding Photographer

The spirit of a wedding day lives in fleeting events, unfolding without direction. Wedding photojournalism is how the story of a wedding day can be captured artfully. Trained as a designer (BA & MFA) and skilled in visual story telling, Dan Derby works quietly throughout your wedding day making sure this happens. He is based in New England but travels where ever he’s”new”>

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