How Many Images Do We Get?

A guest post by Vivian Chen.

One question that clients often ask is “How many images are we going to get?” When you are starting out, you may also be wondering what is the proper amount of photos to release to your clients. Having worked with a lot of different photographers, everyone has their own final amount. Some may release all the unedited shot images to the client while also releasing a small set amount that have been edited and color corrected. Others may  release only a set amount of edited and color corrected images to the client.

When thinking about the numbers, you must keep in mind the variables that come into play such as the amount of coverage hours, number of photographers shooting and amount of events covered. Obviously a three hour elopement wedding shoot will have significantly less images than a two-day Indian wedding celebration. Each event will have a different total to be released to your clients.

In general, when I am editing a wedding that I second shot with another photographer, we will end up with about 3-5,000 images for a six or eight hour wedding. I’ve found that after culling the images, we will end up with about 600-800 images to edit and color correct for our clients. That works out to be about 100 images per hour of coverage. 100 images per hour is a great rule of thumb to use when estimating how many images clients can expect to receive.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Like I mentioned before, variables of the day will alter the final number. The main thing to keep in mind is quality outweighs quantity. Releasing 1,000 images to your client will not have the same impact if the majority of those images are repetitive or don’t help in telling the story of the day. If you have 50 portraits of the bride, but 20 of them basically look the same (same angle, same lighting, similar facial expression), you will only succeed in overwhelming the bride with too many similar choices. Learning to edit effectively is important. Giving your client 500 strong images is better than 1,000 weak ones. If you need convincing on this, read How to Instantly Improve the Quality of Your Work.

Some clients may see this as getting less, when in fact by providing a stronger edit you are adding additional service. Instead of forcing the client to sort through several thousand images, you have done some of the work so it’s not quite so hard on your client. Communicate this as a level of service and educate your clients to want quality over quantity.

Be mindful of this when you shoot. As long as you are capturing the key moments, the numbers will usually work out and allowing you to present a powerful collection of images to clients. The quality of your work will speak for itself. What do you think?

headshot of Vivian ChenVivian is a long-time studio assistant for several well known San Francisco photographers. Her roles include second shooting, editing and color correcting, album design, customer service and studio operations. Because she is familiar with the inner workings of some of the best studios in town, she knows how to streamline day to day operations to keep everything working smoothly. In her free time, she works at building her own photo business. PhotoMint readers, please  sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

To read more of Vivian’s thoughts, check out 10 Tips Every Second Shooter Should Know and Shoot Like An Editor to Minimize Your Time in Post.


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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin Hill July 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Hi guys,
over the years we have found that our clients became very over whelmed the more images we showed them. We did show our clients about 700 – 800 images per 8 hour shoot but the viewing and subsequent album selection became a war of attrition rather than a pleasurable event. We also found that with the more images available the less our clients we buying over and above their allocated starting number. We then came up with a little formula! We decided that we would simply work out how many we realistically wanted our client to purchase over and above their starting allocation. You do need to understand your client a little but social media is great for working out your clients buying habits. Every time your client has an expensive holiday, new pair of shoes etc bang it’s up on TW or FB.
So a client who we thought could stretch to 150 images in an album we’ed show them just over 300 images and so on. It worked like a dream not only the once but time after time. Our extra sales increased ten fold just by simply making the selection process less over whelming. Hope it helps.

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White Ivory Photography May 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

The survey is a great idea. I do agree it still seems like a lot of images. And I also agree that fewer, stronger images are better than many, weak ones.

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Jannette May 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I am by no means a pro photographer, but I read once (in regards to giving unedited photos to the client), that a chef wouldn’t give the customer the scraps, why would photographers give the unedited photos to their clients? I thought this was a great way to explain it!

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Viv May 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

What a great analogy, Jannette!

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Erika Szostak / PhotoMadly May 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

As usual, a super useful post addressing an issue that comes up all the time. Thank you for this.
I know it’s not a hard and fast rule but I do think the number suggested here is quite high though. If we’re talking 100 images per hour and we’ve spent 10 hours covering a wedding, that’s 1000 images, which is way too many, I’d say. I tell my clients to expect 400 from a full day with two shooters and usually deliver around 450-500, which is in itself a whole lot of images. If we can’t tell the story of the day in that number, then I think we are not doing something right. And we’re not editing well enough.

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Viv May 16, 2012 at 9:05 am

This is true Erika! As I stated above, 100 images an hour isn’t a concrete rule to follow. It’s just what I seem to end up with after working with several photographers. A lot of variables will alter the number of images. Quality over quantity is key, in addition to telling a full story of the day.

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Mike May 15, 2012 at 9:58 am

Very timely! Just shot a wedding at the weekend and currently ticking picks in Lightroom.

To be honest, I tend to part with far fewer images than you have indicated. I do an initial sweep in lightoom, then a second one to root out the duplicates, then only go to town on those that I really think are going to make the couple happy.

I rarely if ever give several variations of the same shot; there are so many tiny changes in expression that can change from moment to moment that I just look for the best and junk the rest.

I do however keep alternatives for a couple of months, just in case!

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Lara White May 15, 2012 at 11:45 am

good approach Mike!

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Adam May 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

I agree with Lee. I have the same experience with weddings, The day after the ceremony I see the couple’s facebook page filling up with lousy iPhone captures and flat, unedited DSLR shots while I am still editing my selects. A couple of weeks later, when I submit my final selection, the couple realizes why they hired a professional. I pride myself on giving them something none of their relatives could capture. And that means giving them only the best shots. My weddings whittle down from 3000 to about 400-500 selects, which seems like a lot to me! (Yes, there are exceptions: lots of grip and grins -if that’s what they want- for example.)

A good exercise to learn the great benefits of editing, editing and more editing is to check out the “deleted scenes” on the DVD of a movie. Almost invariably the filmmakers say something like, “Well, I really, really love this scene but we had to cut it because at the end of the day it didn’t help the story; it got in the way.” I feel that way about my editing approach to a wedding. Better to have two or three amazing shots of the kiss, rather than 15 different angles, which diminish that key moment.

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Viv May 16, 2012 at 9:03 am

I agree, Adam! Learning how to edit is key and essential part of being a great photographer!

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Chris Malpass May 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

I just had my own wedding and requested that our photographer give me the RAW files after the event. We ended up with about 3,800 images and to anyone else that would be overwhelming. I was able to pare it down to around 350 images without feeling like there was too much going on.

When I shoot weddings I try to build expectations for a few hundred images. Anything more than that and it becomes overwhelming for clients to rifle through.

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Viv May 16, 2012 at 9:01 am

Another thing you can do to help with “bridal overwhelm” is categorize all the images into separate folders. 600+ images is less daunting when you break them up into smaller chunks: 30 images for “Getting ready”, 50 images for “Ceremony” etc. It can also be helpful to create a “Best of/Wedding Highlights” folder of the best 100+ images of the wedding.

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Ian Hamilton May 15, 2012 at 8:14 am

Most weddings average out at between 4-500 edited images – there are exceptions of course! 🙂

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Lee May 15, 2012 at 7:59 am

Great topic and thoughtful discussion! Beyond the culling of misses and redundant shots, there is the bigger issue of do you as a professional strive to create (through post processing) images that other guests (with their high end DSLR camera) can’t create straight-out-of-camera. IMHO, the “quantity model” will not set you apart.

Case in point, I do concert photography which is perhaps the most challenging assignment, e.g., low light, color casts galore, fast action, etc. But, it’s the post processing of the images where you “cut the diamond” so to speak – bring out the tonal contrast, correct color casts, increase vibrancy, and convert to B&W. I love it when people post their iPhone images from a concert and then I come in with the enhanced images.

Same holds for wedding photography. I’ve never had a bride say she wanted more images; when she is thrilled is when I provide “the” image that captures the moment at hand! That said, 50 images an hour with one photographer seems a good estimation or 100/hr. for two.

I guess that’s my “two US cents”…

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Lara White May 15, 2012 at 8:03 am

totally agree with you Lee. I’d rather have one drop dead amazing shot than 1,000 mediocre ones.

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Bogdan May 15, 2012 at 4:56 am

The final number is usually irellevant. As we are hired for X hours of coverage, it is adequate coverage what we really have to provide at the end of the day… On group shots we have to keep the group engaged as we’re taking several rapid shots to ansure we get at least one with everyone having a great expression, not blinking and so on…

100 per hour might be a bit artificial I believe… it depends on the part of the day… taking LOTS of shots at the ceremony might be counterproductive and really annoying to everyone there… The opposite is true at the party following…

And speaking of albums, anything over around 150 pictures will look too busy in our experience, and lose impact. This album has to contain the absolute best shots and not much else.

Just my two Canadian cents…

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Lara White May 15, 2012 at 7:06 am

I don’t think the 100 per hour estimation is actually related to the time of day, just an overall average or estimation for the end total. For us, that’s coming from two photographers.

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Viv May 16, 2012 at 9:00 am

As I mentioned in the blog post above:
100 images per hour is not a hard and fast rule. Like I mentioned before, variables of the day will alter the final number. The main thing to keep in mind is quality outweighs quantity.

Thanks for your feedback Bogdan!

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Theresa May 15, 2012 at 4:25 am

I have struggled with this question more than a few times!
Thanks for the insight and basic estimation to use as an answer in such cases.

As you’ve mentioned here; each situation is different… each shoot is different… and generalities tend to lock me in to a certain expectation that I may not meet at the end of the day.

I tend to value quality over quantity and find myself explaining the value of such a philosophy to my clients. They receive the shots I feel are “workable” and the edited versions as well… the redundant ones (or just plain misses) are not shared with the client at all.

I value their time as much as my own 🙂

Fab article… many thanks.

Regards,
T~

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Lara White May 15, 2012 at 7:06 am

sounds like you’ve got a good process down Theresa!

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Aaron Soares May 15, 2012 at 4:02 am

This question is always brought up among photographers, especially the newbies. I cull about 60-70% of the images shot, so the bride receives around 30-40% number of images.

Karrie was saying that 600-800 images is too much. It can be too much depending on how the wedding day went. If the day was packed with different things, then no, but if its a simple wedding then yes, maybe.

I had one bride that couldn’t make up her mind which images to use in her album so she used all 400 images. The album was 100 pages and they loved it. I involve my clients in the making of their albums, from design to image layouts.

The answer to this question is never the same among photographers. I also look at it as, they hired me to shoot their wedding and I will give them the best images. This way they are not disappointed with the total number of images they receive according to how many they would be expecting. The stronger you cull and process your images, the better photographer it’ll force you to be.

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Lara White May 15, 2012 at 7:04 am

“The stronger you cull and process your images, the better photographer it’ll force you to be.” couldn’t have said it better myself Aaron!

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Karrie May 15, 2012 at 3:00 am

That still seems like a lot of images. By coincidence we recently surveyed couples from last year’s weddings and over 90% said that the 600-800 images they had received was just too many for them to choose from for their album and that they found it stressful being faced with so much choice …

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Lara White May 15, 2012 at 7:03 am

I would not have thought to survey Karrie, what a great idea! So now what are your final numbers averaging, in terms of images given to wedding clients?

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Viv May 16, 2012 at 8:58 am

Another thing you can do to help “bridal overwhelm” is categorize all the images into separate folders. 600+ images is less daunting when you break them up into smaller chunks: 30 images for “Getting ready”, 50 images for “Ceremony” etc. It can also be helpful to create a “Best of/Wedding Highlights” folder of the best 100+ images of the wedding.

Reply

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