I figured the best way I could start this article would be to share an example of a typical email inquiry message.  I get several of these short & sweet messages every month.

“Hello.  Can you please tell me how many photos I will receive?  Do you have two photographers?  Our budget is quite small.  Let us know what you can do.”

No small talk, no thank you’s, not even a mention of their wedding date (wouldn’t they want to know if I’m even available?)… just straight to the point! This bride is all about quantity!  Number of photos, number of photographers and the number on the final invoice.

I’ve ranted about one vs. two wedding photographers before, so I won’t get into that again.  If you’re curious about my opinion on the subject, you can check out the previous blog entries about having multiple wedding photographers.

Today, I want to address the hot-button issue of the number of photos and bride and groom will receive from their wedding.  Whenever I receive emails like the one above, I often try to put myself in the brides position.  I’m betting that she has several windows open in her web browser and is sending the exact same message to a dozen or so different photographers.  I’m assuming she’s looking to get the most bang for her buck so she’ll probably end up choosing the photographer who says they will provide her with the most pictures, regardless of whether she actually prefers someone else’s style.  I’m all for the budget conscious bride – hell, I was a budget conscious bride – but don’t base your wedding vendor decisions strictly on numbers!  When it comes to photography, you need to choose the vendor whose style you love.  After all, this person will be creating the wedding memories that you will be cherishing for the rest of your life.

So how many photos do I take at a wedding?  I don’t know.  There is no way of knowing.  What I do know is that when I go to a wedding I have with me: multiple camera bodies, lenses and flashes, more batteries than you could ever imagine can fit in a belt pack and about 120 gigabytes (yes, GIGAbytes) worth of memory cards and then a few extra just for safe measure.  I go prepared!  I’m ready to spend the entire 12, 14 or even 16 hours watching the day unfold through my viewfinder, clicking my shutter at every possible opportunity.

The key phrase in that last sentence was “…every possible opportunity.”  The amount of photos I take at a wedding depends on:

  1. The length of coverage on the wedding day
  2. The length of your formal photo session
  3. The amount of activity going on throughout the day and evening
  4. The amount of little details and accents that make your day unique
  5. Whether or not your subject is relaxed and (relatively) stress-free

So just how do these five key-factors play into your final image count?  It’s quite logical, really.  I’ll elaborate further in a moment, but I can assure you that once you’re done reading this article you’ll understand exactly why I never quote a specific amount of images to a client.

The length of your wedding day: If you chose a 5-hour wedding package, you cannot expect to receive the same amount of photos that someone who chose a 14-hour package would have.  The amount of photos you receive will be somewhat relative to the length of time your photographer is present.

The length of your formal photo session:  Some brides and grooms schedule a large portion of the day for family photos, wedding party photos and formal bride and groom photos.  Couples who have 20+ combinations of family photos, have incredibly large wedding parties and want to visit multiple locations for their formal couples shoots will have more photos than couples who choose to take a handful of group photos and then do a quick 20-minute bride and groom shoot.

The amount of activity going on throughout the day and evening:  This is where the candid shots come in.  Candid shots are a wonderful way of capturing genuine emotions and reactions on your wedding day.  If you choose to get ready in the morning with just two or three bridesmaids, there will be fewer people to take candids of.  If you choose not to have a receiving line, a cocktail hour or even dancing at your reception, there will be fewer candid opportunities.  Candid moments cannot be artificially created by the photographer – they must occur naturally throughout the day and if the events taking place on your wedding day lead to only a few opportunities for candid shots, you’l only receive a few candid shots in your final image total.

The amount of little details and accents that make your day unique: Part of every wedding image collection are the detail shots: shoes, rings, jewelry, the dress, centerpieces, flower arrangements, cake, decorations, food, etc.  If you choose a wedding package that does not include morning coverage, you will be missing out on many of the morning-of detail shots.  Also, if you choose to save money by not decorating your reception hall, again, there will be fewer detail shots in your final collection.

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Don’t forget about all the little details that can be photographed!

The last point, and probably one of the most important of all is whether or not your subject is relaxed and (relatively) stress-free.  This comes into play for both the candid as well as the formal photos.  For example, if the bride is busy calling vendors, wedding party members and family to get last-minute details taken care of in the morning, there will be less candid photos of her.  No one wants photos of themselves scowling on the phone or in tears because a wedding party member is late.  There comes a time in every wedding day where you just need to let things go and get on with the day.  This is easier when you have a day-of co-ordinator and reliable wedding party members, of course.  If the bride is self-conscious in her wedding dress, it will be more difficult to get her to relax for her formal photos.  Finally, if the bride is simply the type of person who hates having a camera in her face and turns away the moment she sees a flash go off, there will be even fewer candids of her to choose from in the final image count.

For full-day weddings I’ve taken up to 2,000 quality photos.  Quality photos are taken with a purpose.  They are taken to capture a particular moment or a particular detail.  Will everyone’s wedding have a final image count of 1,500+ photos?  Absolutely not.  It all depends on the factors I mentioned above.  There are many ways to get the most out of your wedding photography and getting the most out of your photos will help increase your image count.

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Steph + Jason were very organized and with the help of friends the huge list of must-have family photos were done quickly and efficiently! They absolutely made the most out of their wedding photography and had a DVD filled with countless quality images.

The moral of the story?  Don’t be fooled by photographers that guarantee a certain number of photos.  As a bride, you should be considering quality over quantity, especially when it comes to the memories you will be sharing for the rest of your life.