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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 are pleasing to the eyes.

Quantity of photographs refers to the number of photographs. An 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 prioritise the number of photographs and insist their photographers promise them a certain number of photographs.

There are various factors and limitations in getting both good quality and a large number 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.

Quality in photographs is more important than quantity because a single well-composed and well-executed image can convey a powerful message or emotion, whereas a large number of mediocre images may not have the same impact. Additionally, a high-quality photograph is more likely to be appreciated and remembered, while a large number of average photographs may be quickly forgotten.

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 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 an extremely bad situation but they can create the best photographs possible given all the constraints. This greatly differentiates between good and amateur photographers.

Outdoor shoot

For any outdoor shoot, the most challenging thing is the sun and its constantly 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 cast on the face and the (4) harshness of light highlights flaws on the skin. Of course, if the photographer is intending to produce very high-contrast photographs, it may be a favourable situation instead.

For the 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 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 time; however, event shoots are usually too fast-paced and spontaneous, and thus way too difficult for setting up multiple professional lighting equipment.

Indoor shoot

A challenging situation for an indoor shoot is when part of the venue has a glass door/window 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 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 A 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 amount of bounced lights hitting the subject(s).
  3. Non neutral coloured ceiling/ walls Non-white ceilings/ walls will add a 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 an 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 a 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 number 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 lose the shot. The photographer may have to snap a few more photographs to not miss the moment. In situations where the special moments were to end in a short period, the photographer may not have the chance to retry.


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

Most people who seek high-end photography require top-quality photographs that require advanced enhancement (skin retouching) on the photographs. Advanced enhancement requires a huge amount of time and thus is charged per photograph. Therefore, the number 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 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.


There are ways too many factors that would strongly affect the number 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 to talk, a photographer can try to capture the speaker from 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 expressions (if the speaker cracks jokes) and applause 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.
  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 a 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 effort 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 waste 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 a great expression for 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 are 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 working 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 concerned about the quantity. I would usually under-promise and over-deliver. Eventually, I would be losing the majority of the clients who are overly concerned about the number 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 to please the client. 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 number of photographs.

You may be interested in:
- Flash vs natural light photography
- Photography editing time explained
- How many photographs should a photographer give?
- Different types of photography styles
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography
- Colour psychology in photography

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