I covered an event some months ago over a period of a few days during which, as you can imagine, many hundreds of photos were taken. Due to the popularity of this event, (we’ve covered it over a number of years, thankfully) I knew the folks that were a part of it were really going to be anxious to see, share, print, etc.
After editing and uploading their photos to the online gallery, they ended up having a really great selection of photos that told the story of their event quite well. All images showed people having a good time, shaking hands, hugging, smiling, laughing, posing for group shots; basically enjoying their evening.
Any photographer that has been doing this for a while can judge the evening pretty well. Actually, more than that. We can judge the day, the event, the evening, the shoot, whatever it is, we can sum it up and pretty much determine how it’s all going to roll. Once in awhile curve balls are thrown, but if you do it long enough, nothing is really a surprise — and that is a good thing.
The evening was slow, not much was happening. You can only get so many photos of the same people doing various activities. While there are infinite poses and different combinations of people you can pose with, after a while you’ve gotten everything. Seriously… everything.
After sending the gallery to the clients, I get a text a few minutes later.
Client: Are you sure that is everything? We just remember a lot more photos being taken…
Me: Hello! Yes, that is absolutely everything. What you didn’t get were any test shots, or shots where you or others were blinking, or were in between facial expressions.
Client: So out of 2 days, (4 hours each day), all we got was 600 photos?
Me: Yes ma’am. You got the absolute best photos from your event.
And that was it.
So why are clients surprised by the number of photos, and why is there so much emphasis over “THE NUMBER”? Why does there have to be a number? If you are covering the day perfectly, and not shooting your camera off like a machine gun, then why are the photos you deliver never enough (sometimes)? If you are shooting moments as they unfold, as well as moments that the clients have arranged, (as well as the band, the food, the room itself, the table settings, the event space, and every single guest in candid and posed positions), why is it that people think there should be thousands of photos to thumb through?
It all goes back to client education. I always let my clients know, whether it is a bride and groom, a CEO, or a model, the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, & WHY.
WHO: Who will be on the shoot that day (assistants, make up artists, etc.)
WHAT: What exactly we are shooting, what we are going to accomplish, what you should expect from us during the shoot, as well as what you can expect AFTER the shoot.
WHERE: Exact address(s) where coverage is needed
WHEN: Exact time and date of coverage
WHY: Depends on the event (wedding, event, etc.)
While I have worked with this company for a few years now, they know what to expect of me. However the girl that I had been corresponding with did not know what to expect from me — she was new — and no one there informed her of the way we usually work. Ultimately this was my responsibility to make sure she knew how I operated, and how we have handled images in the past. So… my bad!
We don’t cover anything — be it weddings, events, or commercial shoots — by standing around holding our shutter down, and pointing it in all directions firing just so that we can look busy and productive. We are keenly aware of our surroundings, and really try hard to anticipate what will happen next. If we see something special happening, or shots our clients have arranged, we will definitely take the photo.
At the end of the day, it all goes back to a number. What number are clients generally looking for? Over the years, the number can go either way. Some clients think 200 is way too much, others snicker at 200 and ask “Why not 2000?!”
In the day and age of instant gratification, and cell phone cameras, we forget that photography is really an art. We don’t hold our cameras up and record every single thing like a cell phone can. I’ve had clients’ First Looks go on Facebook before I can even take a second shot — it’s incredible!
Some clients ask me how many images they’ll get, and I tell them, “Honestly, I don’t have an answer. We average 75 images per hour, BUT it depends on what your wedding (or event) is like!” If you have planned 8 hours of coverage, but have only invited 50 people to your wedding, and you are not having a reception afterwards, you can probably expect significantly less photos than if your 8 hour wedding has 250 people, a DJ that is commanding a packed floor, and lots of food being catered.
If there is a lot going on that needs to be photographed, more photographic opportunities come out of that. If we are shooting a quiet gathering of friends who eat dinner for 2 out of the 4 hours that we are there, then you will probably not get many photos…
While we are shooting ANYTHING, we are not thinking about any certain number of images. We are thinking about the moment. What is happening NOW? Are we successfully telling the story of what is happening here today? If we put too much emphasis on a certain number of photographs that we must hit, then we are put into a situation where we are worried about JUST the number, and not the quality of the photos. We are so busy counting, we are no longer focused on what is happening in front of us.
Client education is key, and this was a good reminder for myself that even if I have been working with a client for several years, I must make sure that all “i”s are dotted, and all “t”s are crossed.
It’s extremely rare that a client asks me about the number of images they will receive. Not only have we talked about our process, but I’ve been extremely careful and diligent in making sure that they understand what they should expect. Clients are so pleased that we have told their story so well with our photos, a number is really the last thing they think about.
So please, make it your goal to educate your clients. No one wants a surprise!
About the author: Leia Smethurst is a wedding and commercial portrait photographer based in Oklahoma City. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of her work on her website, Instagram, and Facebook. This article was also published here.