March 30, 2013

Quality Wedding Photography…Versus Quantity


How many photos do you shoot during a wedding? We get this question a lot. And the answer is usually in the thousands depending on the time our client wants us to invest in their wedding day. The answer usually generates a surprised look and a “wow” from the questioner. The second question is usually how many do you give the couple. This answer often has the same reaction.

Eric and I shoot a lot. At a recent wedding our frame count numbered somewhere around 3,000-4,000 photos. Why so many? The day is filled with little moments. So much is happening. We might take 20, 50 or 100 photos of each moment we’re witnessing. We’re constantly shooting, and if we’re there for 8 to 10 hours, the frames really add up.

After a marathon wedding like that we go home and crash for the night and reconvene in a day or two to start the editing process. We have several personal editing sessions to whittle the count down to 200-300 photos each to remove the obvious non-keepers. Then we looked at each others work and hack some more. This can be a ruthless part of the process; it’s hard to watch someone else cut a photo you had a personal attachment to. There are any number of reasons a photo won’t make the cut at this point. There may be a series of photos of the same situation and I may have difficulty making a decision of which to keep. Or I might be holding onto a photo because I like it for some reason. This is where our twenty plus years of experience comes in and sets us apart from many other wedding photographers. Eric can quickly tell when I’m hanging onto a photo for no good reason and vice-versa.

Once this edit is over and we’ve both had a good cry, we put our keepers together and look in chronological order. Another edit to weed out similar photos and we’re down to our final count of 300-plus photos. That’s right, from thousands to around 300 or so. And those are what we consider the cream of the crop. But they’re not just pretty photos to look at – the photos tell a cohesive story of the wedding day. Each photo adds another story-telling element to support the larger narrative that makes up the story of your wedding.

Many people ask to see our full take to see if we got a shot they remember us taking. We don’t like to open our full take for good reason. You hire us as artists and rely on our artistic judgment to give you the photos that tell the story of your big day. Also, we have a reputation to uphold. We stand behind the work and we want to be sure you like all of your photos. If we give you a photo we felt didn’t make the cut, we are not being true to our inner artists. That sounds sappy but it’s not about bruising egos, we really do care about what we do and we trust the process. We have trusted the process for years as photojournalists. If a photo doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work. It’s like the metaphor that says you don’t want to see the sausage being made. Enjoy the final product and don’t think too much about how it was made. The editing process may not be pretty, but it’s a good process. Of course, if there’s a photo you know we took of Aunt Martha, just ask us to look. We’re happy to delve back into the full take to see if we did in fact get that photo. If you like our work feel free to drop us a line to say so or set up a time to talk about our vision for quality wedding photography of your big day.

Chris Stark
Wedding Photojournalist at Stark Bellamy Photography
Chris Stark is an award-winning photojournalist and former news photographer who honed his craft at several Colorado newspapers. Documentary wedding photography translates perfectly into Chris' fly-on-the-wall style. Chris lives in Longmont, Colorado with his wife and daughter and spends his free time on the bike or hiking with his family.
Stéphane Audet 10:40 April 23, 2014 Reply
Great article. I share the exact same vision as you and it is good to see other photographers like you who valorizes this work and artistic ethic. Cheers.