How many pictures should my photographer give me? / by Kyle Sharp

One of the most common questions clients ask me when booking a session is "How many pictures will I get?". It's very easy to equate the value of a shoot with the number of completed pictures you get from your photographer. However, the value proposition of hiring a professional photographer is not in how many images they give you, but rather in how good the images are.


Quality vs Quantity

I never promise a certain number of images to my clients. I also don't give away every image that I take. This applies to all areas of photography that I offer professionally (headshots, weddings, and portraits). I don't care how good your photographer is, not every shot is a winner. Sometimes the eyes are closed or the expression isn't right. Maybe the pose wasn't quite working, or there was a technical issue. With weddings, it's very common to throw away as much as 40% of the pictures the photographer took. I know that sounds like a lot, but it's really not. Weddings are incredibly dynamic. Everything is constantly in motion. When I'm going through images from a wedding, I ask myself 3 questions to determine whether or not an image makes the cut:

Moments are the most important part of any wedding. A good photographer will make sure he nails the big moments, no matter what. These can't be repeated and always need to be delivered to the client.

  1. Does this image meet my own personal and professional standards of quality?
  2. Is this an image that the bride and groom would really want?
  3. Did I capture a better image of this moment?

A bride and groom isn't paying a professional photographer to just document the wedding day. We now live in a world where nearly everyone has the ability to take a picture at a moment's notice. My job as a photographer is to capture the fantasy of the wedding day, the gorgeous imagery that the bride has built up in her mind and wants to revisit for the rest of her life. That requires acute discernment when culling through images to make sure that only the images which live up to the bride's expectations make the final cut. There are exceptions to these rules, of course, but these are the general guidelines a good photographer will follow to ensure you get complete coverage of your wedding while still only getting the best images possible.

With headshots, my process is a bit different, but still similar. Headshots are conducted in much more controlled environment, so I don't have to worry about things changing quickly. Generally, when someone is booking a headshot session, they really only need one image. It's usually a good idea to use a single headshot across all social and business platforms. Using multiple images makes you less recognizable to potential clients and/or hiring managers. I have four questions I ask myself when determining which headshot(s) to carry over into the final editing stages:

Clean, simple, welcoming. The trademarks of a good headshot.

  1. Does this image meet my own personal and professional standards of quality?
  2. Is this an image that my client saw and liked in-studio?
  3. Does it send the right message for the client's needs?
  4. Is it the best image from our entire session?

If I can check "yes" on all those boxes, I know I've picked the perfect shot. Occasionally, clients will request variations of the image for a multitude of reasons (formatting restrictions across multiple platforms, requirements from an external agency, or just plain indecisiveness). I'm more than happy to accommodate those requests, but I will always denote which image I think is the best for their needs. I prefer to take the time to get it done right. It's like my Dad always told me: If something is worth doing, it's worth doing better than everyone else.


But how many pictures should I get?

If you clicked on this article looking for the short answer, here are some general rules of thumb. For headshots, you should expect 1-5 images. For weddings, you can expect anywhere from 300-1200 images, depending on the length of coverage and frequency of big events (cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc.) For a one-hour portrait session, generally anywhere from 10-30 images is normal. However, you shouldn't feel like you're photographer is "ripping you off" if you don't get loads of images. Look at the quality of the work. It takes time to get a picture perfect. There is always a trade-off. You can either have more pictures, or you can have better pictures.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! Be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you're in the DFW area looking for some great pictures, please contact me. Let's start a conversation