This is a question we get very regularly. Strange that I have not written about this until now. The question is not easily answered. While it’s true that we generally create between 20 and 60 finished images per hour, per photographer, you’ll see that we don’t make promises about the quantity of images, only the quality. Some folks probably find this ambiguity a little annoying, but let me explain why we refrain from making any guarantees about that.
It depends on context
The context of the shoot is one of the biggest influencing factors in the number of images we are able to create.
For example, a shoot on a rainy day will typically yield fewer images than on a sunny day, and a shoot on a sunny day will typically yield fewer images than a shoot on a slightly overcast day. Likewise, a shoot where your photographer must not be disruptive will return fewer images than one where they can move about freely, without fear of ruining the experience for someone else. Take a wedding, for example. If the photographer is stuck in one spot for the whole ceremony, they will likely produce fewer images than if they are given the freedom to move around.
Your photographer will try to create as many unique and interesting images they can, given the limitations of the context.
It depends on control
Related to the question of context, is the level of control afforded to your photographer. The amount of control given to your photographer often has an inverse relationship with the quantity of images you receive.
The more control you give your photographer, the fewer images you’ll typically get back. Now, remember, working with a photographer is not like buying a package of toilet paper. Hopefully, the purpose is not the same either. More is not always better. The reality is, in order to stumble upon the good images, your photographer will tend to produce more unusable images in situations where they lack control. And, thus, will usually deliver more imperfect images.
However, when your photographer is given full control, they will tend to put more time and painstaking effort into producing fewer of exactly the right images. Stylistically, we prefer to sit somewhere between that painstaking pursuit of perfection and the wabi-sabi charm of the unexpected.
It depends on the people
Speaking of control, people are always autonomous agents. You can’t walk into your shoot and go under anesthesia while your photographer puppeteers your body into the perfect images, so that you wake up to perfection. That would be super creepy. So, however much control you’ve given your photographer, the human element will always be a confounding factor.
What people are actually doing during the shoot will bear heavily on how many images are produced in the end. During a portrait session, your photographer can help coax you into a great shot. But they can’t make an unhappy baby look happy. They can’t make bean bag chairs look flattering for the people sitting in them. They can’t capture joy if there is only sadness.
So, consider two events: First, a cocktail party where everyone is dressed nicely, looking their best and enthusiastically mingling; and, second, a baby shower where everyone is wearing these silly hats the whole time. The cocktail party is most likely going to produce more images because the people are naturally setting up the shots for the photographer. The baby shower is going to produce a lot of fun and funny shots too. But how many unflattering, but charmingly silly images do you want? The answer is almost always “some, but not too many”. Thus, two events of similar length produce a very different quantity of images.
There’s a reasonable ballpark though
The number of images we deliver varies widely and we can’t make any promises. However, there are some pretty useful ballparks that you may find helpful. If you’d like a more realistic guess, you’ll have to tell us a bit about the shoot you’re hoping for.
Weddings: For a wedding which takes place all in one location, we will produce around 50 finished images per photographer, per hour, averaged across the whole day. For a wedding with multiple locations, that number is typically closer to 40 images.
Engagement Sessions & Couples Portraits: Most typical outdoor Engagement Sessions return between 60 and 100 finished images.
Family Portraits: This will depend greatly on the ages of the youngest people involved. A typical family of four, with kids under 5 years old, will usually receive between 35 and 60 finished images.
Business Portraits & Headshots: It would generally be safe to expect to see around 15 finished images per hour.
Indoor portraits of any kind: Indoor portraits almost always mean bringing our own light sources, which will slow the pace of the session. When shooting portraits indoor, we’ll usually produce between 10 and 20 finished images in an hour.
It ultimately does not matter that much
Your iPhone can snap dozens of images a second. If what what you want is just a bunch of photos then you may as well just pull out the phone, spray and pray. In all likelihood though, you’re after something with a greater attention to detail, produced by someone with a creative mindset and a careful thought toward helping you get the images you really want—not just a whole bunch of them, whatever they are.
So, while our consumer culture has lead us to see “more” as “better”, you will be disappointed if you approach your photography needs in that way. Instead, talk candidly with your photographer about your priorities and expectations, and trust them to not just create a lot of images, but to create the right number of images.