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Wedding Photography is Not About the Numbers

I was recently asked why I delivered only 800 photos when I shot about 2000 on the wedding day. “That’s only 40%. That’s a failing grade!”

Well, I suppose if this were grade school that would be true. And it’s also true that there are other fields where a certain degree of precision is important. If I were a surgeon, for example, and only 40% of the operations I conducted were a success, that would be pretty bad.

However, I’m a wedding photographer. A storyteller. While the photos I create are important memories, photography is an art, NOT a numbers game. I deliver a complete and detailed story, but I don’t shoot with the intention of delivering each and every image that is recorded on my memory cards.

There are several reasons why I don’t deliver every single photo:

• Often throughout the day I fire the shutter two or three times in rapid succession capturing almost identical duplicates of the scene. I do this because there is always one “best” photo. Someone may blink or move slightly. I sift through the rough to find the diamonds for you.

• I experiment throughout the day. I’ll say, “Hey, let’s try this…” Often it turns out great, but sometimes it doesn’t. What may seem like a good idea at the time just doesn’t work photographically.

• Good storytelling is about what to leave out as well as what to include.

• If I threw every photo I took on the CD it would be simply overwhelming. I’ve known couples who received CDs with 2000+ photos that they still haven’t looked through completely even a year after the wedding. It’s just too much.

• Sometimes bad photos happen to even the best photographers. Wedding are fast, unpredictable and take place in conditions that aren’t ideal for photography. People blink. Some photos will be out of focus. Sometimes the flash won’t fire. Sometimes people move. Nobody shoots anywhere near 100% keepers. (David Fokos, one of my favorite landscape photographers, takes hundreds of photos but adds only three to five selected, finished photos to his portfolio each year.)

You can’t apply a generalization of a “score” or a “grade” to all situations, particularly not photography. The goal of a wedding photographer is ultimately to create a good, detailed story, not try to achieve some theoretical score.

Think of your favorite novel, movie or song. Do you really care how many rejected pages of notes and rough drafts were required to create the final masterpiece? When calculated like that, I bet it would receive a pretty low “score” too.

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