I recently read a comment from a bride-to-be on a wedding planning website that caught my attention. The topic of the thread was something along the lines of, “How many wedding photos do I get from my photographer?” The bride in question said that she would expect no fewer than 2,000 photos from her wedding day.
Quality vs. Quantity
Let’s think about that for a minute. Two thousand photos. A standard wedding day – from “getting ready” to the final dance – typically runs around eight hours. That would be, on average, one photo every 14 seconds. And this figure includes all of the down time that elapses throughout the wedding day, such as transit in between shooting locations, the wrangling of family members for formal portraits, dinner, etc.
Suffice it to say, 2,000 images is a bit excessive.
So how many photos should you realistically expect to receive from your wedding photographer? This question ultimately boils down to the more important concept of quality vs. quantity.
A trained monkey could take two thousand photos no problem. And it wouldn’t take him eight hours to do so.
Wedding photography at its best is an art form. Much like painters or sculptors or calligraphers or watchmakers, photographers spend their whole lives perfecting their craft and refining their skills. Could they take 2,000 consecutive pictures, slap them on a thumb drive and call it good? Sure. Would you want them to do that? Absolutely not.
Think of two gunmen: one with an automatic machine gun indiscriminately spraying fire in hopes of hitting something, and another with a sniper rifle meticulously picking off his targets. The “spray and pray” method is called such for a reason: it requires a whole heck of a lot of luck.
Care vs. Speed
Moreover, capturing a really unique wedding portrait takes time to set up (if you want it to be good, that is). Reading the ambient light, setting up light stands, flashes and radio triggers, posing the bride and groom, taking test shots and asking gawkers to kindly remove themselves from the background of the photograph are all necessary to making a quality wedding portrait.
And when you finally see that finished product, you realize that the prep work was well worth it. Sure, your photographer could have thrown all of his knowledge, skills and attention to detail out the window, and snapped away willy-nilly. But if that’s what you’re looking for, there’s no need to hire a professional. Your Aunt Louise can do that for free.
Bob Ross was able to crank out a painting in 22 minutes. Michelangelo, not so much. McDonald’s can whip you up a burger and fries in the amount of time it takes to drive halfway around the building, but wouldn’t you rather have a nice steak? Have you ever bought a cheap belt from Kohl’s? I have. It broke within two weeks. I’m sure those suckers come off the assembly line too fast to count.
Our Job vs. Your Extra Work
Another important consideration here is whether or not you’ll want to wade through hundreds (or thousands) of similar photos after your wedding. Most wedding photographers go through and delete the “outtakes” before delivering your images. These, for example, are photos in which someone had their eyes closed, or the flash didn’t go off, or images that were out of focus, etc. In my experience, many couples prefer to let the photographer take care of weeding out the bad ones.
When we first started shooting weddings, Moira and I would take as many photos as we possibly could. We’d take 10-20 shots of the exact same thing, in order to pick out the absolute best one. But the more weddings we shot, and the better we became at doing it, the fewer and fewer photos we started taking. The interesting thing is that now, we actually come away with a higher number of quality images.
To provide a little transparency and context here, at this point in our wedding photography career, we’re delivering between 50-100 photographs per hour of shooting. So, for example, if you book us for eight hours of coverage, you’ll receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 400-800 images. Moreover, all of these images will be culled and edited to ensure you receive a high-quality product that tells the full story of your wedding day.
After all, wouldn’t you rather have four quarters than 100 pennies?