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Quality and Quantity of Photographs - Contributing Factors

Quality V.S Quantity of Photographs

Quality of photographs refers to the presentation of the photographs. Lighting is one of the biggest factors. Good photographs please the eyes.

Quantity of photographs refers to the number of photographs. Excessive number, even if the quality is good, would bore the viewers.

Some clients are confused over the quality and quantity of photographs, especially for event shoots. This group of people may prioritize the quantity of photographs and insist their photographers to promise them a certain number of photographs.

There are various factors and limitations in getting both good quality and large quantity of photographs. Eventually, you should trust your professional photographer to get the best work out of the shoot; unless, otherwise, you're hiring a budget photographer who's willing to take up your project at a cheap photography rate.

Factors Affecting Photo Quality

Lighting is one of the most crucial parts of photography, which would greatly affect the quality of the photographs.

Given good lighting conditions, any professional photographer should be able to produce at least satisfactory quality of photographs. However, having good lighting is a luxury, which often isn't the case.

Good photographers may not be able to create a miracle in extreme bad situation but they can create the best photographs possible given all the constraints. This greatly differentiates between good and amateur photographers.

I. Outdoor shoot

For any outdoor shoot, the most challenging thing is the sun and its constant changing exposure, partly due to the moving clouds. The worst scenario is when the shoot is held around noon time when the sun is (1) scorching hot that will melt makeup and cause perspiration while the subject may have problems (2) opening his/her eyes; the (3) direction of light is from the top and thus sharp and ugly shadows will be casted on the face and the (4) harshness of light highlights flaws on skin. Of course, if the intention of the photographer is to produce very high contrast photographs, it may be a favourable situation instead.

For outdoor shoot in the evening when the sun has gone into retreat, quantity (availability) of light is another challenge. It is often dependable on the existing continuous light from the street lamps. At times, the photographer may have to resort to mounting a speedlite on top of the camera in order to light up the subject(s), which may produce very flat light that will "hide" features of the face and reduce the gradient effect of the exposure that helps to make the photographs look more 3-dimensional (3D). For a portrait shoot, the photographer can set up off-camera lighting with light modifiers to light up the subject(s), which takes times; however, event shoots are usually too fast paced and spontaneous, and thus way too difficult for setting up of multiple professional lighting equipment.

II. Indoor shoot

A challenging situation for an indoor shoot is where part of the venue has a glass door/ windows and the sunlight shines through it. The strong natural light is very directional and uncontrollable, while the inner part of the venue is much dimmer. Many indoor places use orange (warm) light and the sunlight's colour temperature is leaning towards blue (cool). The mixture of colours may not be very attractive in most situations.

In most situations, having dim light is the beginning of the horror, which is subjected to various factors of the interior. In such cases, professional photographers usually try to bounce light off the ceiling and walls to create soft and directional light, and thus the quality of photographs depends a lot on the interior.

In event that bouncing of light is required to create soft light, some factors of the interior would strongly affect the quality of the photographs are:

  1. High Ceiling
    High ceiling will reduce the efficiency/ quantity of the flashlight, as it has to travel a longer distance.
  2. Black or dark coloured ceiling/ walls
    Black or dark ceiling/ walls will also absorb light and thus reducing the quantity of flashlight hitting the subject(s).
  3. Non neutral coloured ceiling/ walls
    Non white ceiling/ walls will add weird colour tone as the light bounces off the surface and hit the subject(s). Imagine blue or green light on the faces.
  4. Reflective Surfaces
    Another horror is the existence of reflective surfaces such as mirrors, door grinds or metal cable/pipe trucking, which will disrupt the judgement of the flash's ETTL ability to fire the correct amount of light. It can cause unforeseeable amount of additional harsh light to fall onto the subject(s).

Factors Affecting Photo Quantity

In general, difficult situations that affect photo quality would affect the photo quantity as well; it takes more effort and longer time to get good photographs and thus reducing the number of good photographs.

For example, doing a shoot at night or in the darkness may also affect the quantity of photographs because it may take longer for the camera to focus on the subject. There are also high chances for the camera to make mistake on the focusing (out of focus) and thus losing the shot. The photographer may have to snap a few more photographs in order to not miss the moment. In situations where the special moments were to end in a short span of time, the photographer may not have the chance to retry.

I. Portrait

There are two types of portrait shoots - high-end and casual.

Most people who seek high-end photography requires top quality photographs that require advanced enhancement (skin retouching) on the photographs. Advanced enhancement requires huge amount of time and thus is charged by per photograph. Therefore, the quantity of final photographs would largely depend on the client's need.

For a high-end portrait shoot, if light modifiers have to be set up, it will take extra time not only to (1) assemble them, but also for more (2) testing of light. Whenever the model moves or the sunlight changes, (2) additional testing is required to get the proper exposure. Shifting of location with the heavy and bulky equipment will further delay the shoot.

Therefore, given the same duration of time, a high-end photoshoot would produce fewer photographs than a casual photoshoot.

II. Event

There are ways too many factors that would strongly affect the quantity of photographs and thus no photographer can estimate the number of good photographs.

  1. Nature of the Event
    If the event is a formal one, especially about a talk or panel, there may be fewer photographs to capture. Imagine one of the speakers is taking half an hour of time to talk, a photographer can try to capture the speaker in a few angles and perhaps, in both serious and happy expression. Eventually, only a few best photographs of the speaker would be chosen. At the same time, most of the guests would be looking attentively at the speaker. There would be both serious and happy expression (if the speaker cracks jokes) and applauds to be captured. At the same time, since the speaker is the focus, we don't want the number of photographs of the audience to overwhelmingly outnumber the speaker's.
  2. Programme Outline
    If it's a celebration in a restaurant, which the programme outline is mainly about eating and some mingling around, there's very limited chance to take photographs since most guests wouldn't want their unglamorous moments to be captured. Therefore, I always pray hard that my clients would put in more efforts to arrange for more interesting activities.
  3. Layout of Tables and Chairs, and Stage
    The layout of the tables and chairs, and stage will affect the movement of the photographer. I've encountered situations where my paths were too narrow that I couldn't get to the other side of the venue in time to capture some good interactions.

    In some table arrangements, the guests can spot the photographer easier and thus it's more difficult to get natural snapshots. Imagine the guest has noticed the photographer, he may turn away and thus wasting the photographer's time.
  4. Requirements of Standard Group Shoots
    The demand for group shots where many guests have to get ready or get together will require more time.
  5. The Guests
    Having interesting guests will spice up the entire event. Sometimes, just one outgoing guest can create great expression on the rest of the guests. On the other hand, if most of the guests are introverts, there will be fewer photographs to be captured.
  6. Additional Cameramen and/ or Videographers
    If there's other cameramen and/or videographers around, fighting for better angles, it will also take up time and thus reducing the number of photographs from the official photographer. In many cases, the additional photography enthusiasts will also become photobombs to reduce the number of good photographs.

Advice from a Professional Photographer

I'm looking forward to work with people who focus on the quality of photographs. People who are overly concerned with quantity do turn me off; it's an insult to doubt my professionalism and also a signal that there would be many unforeseeable problems in future, given our misaligned goals.

Due to excessive unforeseeable situations that photographers cannot control, some photographers either don't promise any minimum number of photographs or simply give a very conservative number instead.

I would personally state "up to" a number of photographs if the client is very concern about the quantity. I would usually under-promise and over-deliver. Eventually, I would be losing majority of the clients who are overly concerned about the quantity of photographs and yet don't trust me enough to do my best, but they aren't my target audience in the first place.

Eventually, a photographer can simply promise the client a huge quantity of photographs in order to please the client. In order to deliver his promise by making up the number, he can simply include the bad photographs, including "duplicated" ones (multi snaps for a scene).

Therefore, you shouldn't be obsessed with the quantity of photographs.

You may be interested in:
- How many photographs should a photographer give?
- Different types of photography styles
- Post production - photo editing (enhancing, retouching)
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography
- Why can't professional photographers take up cheap jobs
- Differences between high-end and casual portrait photography

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