How Much is Too Much?

When it comes to our wedding business, Lola put me in charge of “QA” (Quality Assurance) before images are delivered to our clients. After she is done with all post-processing work, we sit down together and review all images. She is naturally good at working on images and her creative and artistic side really comes into play when she photographs and then edits images. I have a very different approach to photography and I often pay lots of attention to such things as image sharpness, detail, framing and angles. It is surprising to see how well our different perspectives merge into a productive environment – while we sometimes do disagree, we both understand that our ultimate goal is to provide the best results to our clients.

On average, Lola and I come back with approximately 1,000-1,500 images per wedding, all shot in 14-bit NEF (RAW) format. Once we sort everything out and pick our favorites, we leave approximately 500-600 images that will be delivered to our clients, with only about 1/10th that are retouched in Photoshop. I was once talking to a photographer based out of Florida, who told me that he only takes between 100-250 images per wedding. When I told him how many images Lola and I take, he laughed, arguing that most images are probably duplicates of each other and that we should learn how to take fewer, but higher quality images. Being in business for over 30 years as a successful full-time pro, he definitely knew what he was talking about. But I also realized that his habit of taking fewer pictures definitely has to do with film days, where more photos meant more photo lab work. With digital SLRs that have a shutter lifespan of at least 150 thousand clicks, we no longer need to worry about the cost or working with chemicals in a lab. So, what is better – take fewer, but higher quality images right on the set, or take as many pictures as possible at different angles, perspectives and settings? As far as I’m concerned, I am somewhere in between. I think that taking very few pictures is risky, as you might think you got everything right on camera, but you might have missed some details – eyes closed, focus not 100% accurate, etc. The last thing you want is a frustrated customer that asks for another picture you do not have. On the other hand, walking with a DSLR and shooting non-stop is also counter-productive, since then you have to deal with too many images and the process of choosing the best ones and working on them later might take hours of precious post-processing time. Wedding photography is a tough business to be in mainly because of a photographer’s time, especially if complex Photoshop retouching is involved. Details can take away too much time and the question that I have been asking myself lately is “how much is too much”, when we work on images.

Take a look at the below image, as it came out of the camera:

Shoes 1

Yes, very minute problems that are often ignored by many. The scratch on the surface is not a big deal, the little dark spot on the left shoe can also be ignored. But is it distracting? Certainly yes, to me. Is this too much attention to detail? Here is the final image that was delivered to our client:

Shoes 2

The scratch, the dark spot and a small red dot in the middle of the right shoe were fixed with the spot-healing brush in Photoshop and it took Lola 30 seconds to do it. Was this change worth the extra 30 seconds? Let’s take a look at another image:

Shoes 3

I caught the problem in the image right away – look at the right shoe of the groom. That white label looks distracting to me not just because it is a label, but because it is white on dark sole. Right before burning the images on a DVD, I quickly removed the white label and re-extracted the image from Lightroom:

Shoes 4

Now the big question is – am I crazy? Would you pay attention to such details, or would you ignore them? Am I being too picky about this kind of stuff? Would love to hear your opinion, our dear readers!


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Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Anastasia

    Your not crazy! I’m totally the same way. I think those types of fixes make the picture that much better. Isn’t Photoshop great? :)

    • Anastasia, I agree, Photoshop + Lightroom rock!

  2. 2
    ) Greg Kravtsov

    Certainly not! I’m actually am the same way. When I looked at the picture of the bride and groom I noticed the tag right away. I’m not sure whether 3/4 of the people who look at the pictures notice these kinds of details but I do, and in my pictures it bugs me… so I get rid of the little distractions :)

    • Thank you for your feedback Greg! Seems like not everyone agrees though, as some readers consider the tag to be a part of the story. That’s an interesting take on the subject.

      • 45
        ) Greg Kravtsov

        Oh no problem, my pleasure. Now that you mention the story aspect of it then yes, the price tag does play a role in the story telling of the photo. But for me, somewhere deep inside I prefer for the tag not to be there, and I’m not even too sure why. Just saying.

      • 48
        ) Artury

        I’m coming late to this post (new subscriber), but I do think the white label on the shoe makes the picture. Maybe the clients don’t want it there, but I think without it the image is just another run of the mill wedding picture. As a working wedding photographer, maybe you should do a corrected version as well and let the client make the choice. As part of your portfolio, however, keep the label there.

        artury

  3. 3
    ) Hussain Gadli

    Dear Mr. Nasim,

    I am a great fan of yours and I check your blog atleast twice a day for new articles.

    The question you have asked above is quite intriguing, and many professionals face this question once they start maturing as professionals, including me.

    The fact is that your keenness and your attitude/ thrive towards perfection has made you a professional photographer, which ultimately became your business. Now that it has become your business, it cannot be perfect. Because business is always calculated in terms of ROI (Return On Investment). Your investment, I presume, would be time and effort you spend behind clicking thousands of photographs and then post processing them to perfection. This very thing will keep you in business as that special wedding photographer, but its not good for the very same business as you would lose the oppurtunity to photographs another clients wedding.

    Hence you would have to work out a limit, that limit is Quality Assurance (Not Perfection). A unique blend that assure your client your special taste, at the same time its not perfect.

    Regards.

    • Hussain, thank you for your feedback! I agree, there has to be a certain “threshold” for these kinds of edits, or I will spend countless hours working on pictures. That’s why Lola and I only select some of the images to be edited – it is just unrealistic to edit them all.

  4. Those details you pointed out are quite reasonable for Photoshopping and I noticed a couple of them right away. I’m surprised you take that many photos at a shoot though. I take a ton of photos because I’m an amateur and not consistent, so with more photos I have a better chance of getting exactly what I want. I figured professionals would be more consistent and require less volume. But many photos is good for peace of mind!

    • I do try to shoot less, but so much stuff happens so quickly during a wedding, that I shoot away not to miss a moment. The good news is that I have a lot of keepers. The bad news is that too many pictures can be overwhelming for both us and our clients…

  5. 5
    ) colorado springs girl

    Hi there! I LOVE your attention to detail! It shows just how much you care. I only wish that you both could have done our wedding photography (we got married in CA, photog was part of the “package” deal). Even though I had expressed the fact that my mother does not like having her photo taken and often blinks or does not look relaxed enough, I don’t feel there were ENOUGH photos taken. We got all of them on DVDs, but I was still thinking, really? This is it? I think I would have expected more from the photog and her assistant…as in making sure to get more photos of me with my parents, or my parents together, etc. Although there were something like 800 shots, I was still feeling like there were shots “missing”….either not included or not taken. As I was going through the pics, it leaves me that feeling of “hmphf…” if I see a focus on other subject matter.

    It also does not seem like there was too much post-production work done on the photos. There was some work done, but nothing like what I would have expected. Some sepia or b/w done, maybe a little burning or vignette on the edges…but really? Is that what I got going with the “package” photographer?

    We still have some nice shots and captures, but luckily my friend and I know our way around Photoshop. There is a shot of us coming in to the reception room. It’s really nice, except for the bald-headed friend with a goatee in the background! My friend photoshopped that out, added more “twinkling lights” to the background (they were hanging down from the ceiling) and we then used that for our Holiday photo card.

    And while I’m thinking of attention to DETAIL…here is another interesting note: My matron-of-honor’s husband also took quite a number of photos of the wedding/reception. Do you know that he was able to take pics of us exchanging rings, but our photographer and her asst. did not capture that? Maybe they were standing farther away getting full shots, but I was so glad he was able to capture close-ups of our hands!

    Again, I applaud your attention to detail. I decided to hire a videographer and he did an excellent job!! He goes above and beyond what other videographers usually do or provide to their clients, and he does not charge exorbitant rates. (Dom at Bay Area VDO Productions)

    Keep up the fabulous, fabulous work and work ethic!!

    • Thank you so much for your feedback and sorry for a late response (trying to keep up with all the comments this weekend). I am very sorry to hear that you are not happy with your photographer. I have a quick question for you – did you request the photographer on the day of the wedding to take pictures of your family together, or do you feel that it was the photographer’s job? As for post-processing, did the photographer discuss how many of the photos would be edited, perhaps in your contract?

      Just wondering. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  6. 6
    ) Aggie

    I agree with you about taking lots of shots to get the PERFECT one. The focus, angle etc. has to be right for me.

    And yes, I’d go crazy too if I didn’t fix the scratch, dent in the shoe and that white tag on the groom’s shoe!

  7. 7
    ) Mark

    Yes, those fixes are definately worth the effort, that sort of attention to detail is what makes images stand out.

  8. 8
    ) Martin Harvey

    Your attention to detail and professionalism are exemplary. In my hobbies such as photography and work life I am a detail person but often others don’t notice or appreciate what I’ve done. E.g. “see how I’ve brightened up the shadows? Uh yes, sort of” So many times one must do it for oneself and own peace of mind.

    • Martin, I agree – sometimes people don’t notice the effort of the photographer. In many cases, it becomes an expectation or something they really do not care about…I have been in those situations a number of times myself :(

  9. 9
    ) Martin Harvey

    PS did the guy in the grey suit protest as now everyone thinks he wore old shoes to the wedding? :)

    • Hahah :) He loved the pictures and thankfully did not protest :) I have the original though in case he wants it :D

  10. 10
    ) Martin Harvey

    When I am attending the odd wedding or so I always of course chat to the photographer. Asking her/him about the equipment I have on two occasions found they didn’t know what they were using! Clearly they were contract students. I know more than they did and I am an amateur!

    • Martin, it is unbelievable how many “wedding” photographers out there do not know what they are doing. I have been to a wedding once where the photographer was using a cheap entry-level DSLR with a kit lens + built-in flash. When he stood close to me, I noticed that the camera was set to P (Program) mode. I felt sorry for the bride and groom, because I knew what the images would end up looking like.

  11. 11
    ) Girish

    Hi Nasim,

    It is worth every second of your time to give attention to such detail. Nobody would know that you removed the scratch, the red dots and the sticker from the shoe as they only see the finished picture. They would notice that the pictures are awesome. But if you leave those details out then everyone who notices would saw those blemishes could have been removed.

    I am just learning photography and yesterday I went to take pictures of a cricket match played by my colleagues at work. In 3 hours I took 904 pictures and have finally chosen 236 out of them

  12. 12
    ) Faizal Mohamed

    Nice article. I would agree as well. Your attentIon to detail is what makes you a good photographer. Most people won’t praise you for that because they would expect it from you. But I envy the work you do over there because its so rare that you’d have to work at the same place twice. Our country is so small, we only have few venues suitable for weddings. If any of our people ended up shooting in another country, chances are they would end up with three times the amount of photos they usually would take locally.

    • Faizal, why not take the bride and groom to another location before the wedding so that you don’t have too many pictures from the same venue? I don’t know about the wedding process in your country, but in US, it is not a problem to take the bride and the groom to a local park or some other place to take pictures, before heading to the venue.

  13. 13
    ) Pradipta Datta

    Dear Nasim, One thing I can say people who are more into every minute detail, are in the TOP, the TOP and remain in the TOP. I love your works and learnt lots of important aspect of photography.

    Regards,

    Pradipta
    New Delhi, INDIA

  14. 14
    ) Jennifer

    No way. That’s what makes YOU the professional. If I were the client, I would have been disappointed to see a tag showing on my wedding day. You did the right thing.

  15. 15
    ) From Canada

    Re: Shooting Less at Weddings
    I think it depends on the wedding. If there are a lot of candid shots expected, then you’re in the sports photography mode; more frames the better to pick the best one. If the wedding is more formal and there are lot of portraits, you could get away with less. The balance between # of shots, quality, and time spent on PP, depends on the photographer and if the balance works for them, that’s OK.

    Re: Attention to Details
    I think that wedding photography is one of the places where you’re selling what you’re not showing to the clients. Little edits to remove distracting elements from the photos is what clients often expect. However, I’ve read some stories where certain peculiar thing about a person is what made that person who they were, and by having it edited out, made the picture worthless to that specific client. I think it’s crucial to ask questions about any peculiarities that must be preserved before editing away those distracting elements.

    • Thank you for your feedback. I agree, finding the balance is the key! As for expectations for editing images, I think sometimes there are things you cannot or should not edit, and other times there are things you must edit. But I don’t know what to say about discussing images before editing with the client – that might create a lot more work for the photographer, because clients often expect ALL of their images to be edited, which is simply unrealistic…

  16. It’s always the little things that make all the difference, that makes customers happy and creates customer loyalty, that keeps you apart from everyone else in the industry. So yeah, I support you!

    • Thank you for your feedback Mimi! Sorry for a late response!

  17. 17
    ) Noreen

    I don’t think there is wrong to paying too much attention to minute details. It may concern to some people who doesn’t do the same way you do but that just goes to show about your passion and that you care much about the result. Your name and business is at stake! If you take sloppy photos, then nobody would like to hire or contact you. By doing this, raises you to be the best among the best especially in a field that has a lot of competitions (business-wise).

    As for taking that much photos during weddings, I think it’s reasonable. It’s a one time event. If you missed something, you can’t ask that person to do again what he just did because you missed it (well, maybe in some instances) .

    In my case, since I am learning and with my 365 challenge, I almost always shot still, I make it to a point that I shoot, if possible about 10 or less. I don’t want myself to be dependent with the technology (camera and PP) that I have. I wanted to learn getting it right the first time than getting a shot because of luck.

  18. 18
    ) Ravi

    I agree – attention to each & every minute detail is well worth it & it is these things to make your work stand out from others.
    BTW, I notice a small shiny spec on the shoe (near the heel, directly above the label which you removed). Could you remove that too? More attention to detail, I guess :).

  19. 19
    ) David

    Absolutely ! Attention to detail is the key. However, as mentioned, you are also stuck with duplicates and the ” which picture do i choose” dilemma which takes more than a minute to decide upon. I guess being in between a lean photographer and someone who clicks away is the right place to be.

    In all, Lola and you both make fantastic photographers and every client you work with must be ecstatic with the kind of dedication and work both of you render.

    D

  20. 20
    ) Bekhzod

    Nasim, your attention to detail makes you true professional – as you are. Perfectionism comes through attention to each and every detail! You are doing good job!

    Wish you good luck!

  21. 21
    ) Marc

    Too many photos?

    Well … Depends. If it was an express wedding à la Las Vegas I’d say you were trigger happy and you camera must have been smoking by the end of the 15 min ceremony. Otherwise in my opinion you can never have enough photos of an event like a marriage. Wedding photography isn’t or shouldn’t just be about getting those typical shots PERFECT it’s also about the people the ambiance the joy and L…( you get what I mean ). You are telling a story and the more details that story has the better … and better the
    memories.

    Post processing

    Looking at your two examples I’d say yes and no. Yes to shoes No to couple.
    The first photo looks like a product shot so why not make it perfect like one too.
    The second photo wasn’t really necessary. I actually like small details even disturbing ones. They can be fun, tell something about that persons character or simply make a picture more interesting and real. If the picture would have been for an Ad compain I’d say Yes, for a wedding not necessary.

    Btw I’m no photographer I have a coolpix 8100 and just like taking all kind of photos especially of my wife and our cats so don’t take my comments seriously.

    I enjoy reading your blog a lot and thanks for all the info here. Hope my pics improve soon:)

  22. 22
    ) Mako2011

    I think the words of Hussain Gadli are very wise. Balance in all things. Sometimes you might miss the very thing you’re after if you don’t step back and see things from a different vantage. Since you asked the question, I’m sure you’ll come up with the best answer. Reading Marc’s words made me go back and take another look at your examples. Leaving the tag on the bottom, gives the photo a certain character. It blends your gift with the natural gifts of the moment. My favorite photos are not the technically superior ones, but those that evoke a certain emotion. Which are your favorites? Your articles, your reviews, and your website has character to it that separates it from the rest. It’s a happy place. I hope your clients get that same feeling or at least see it when they look back. Good Luck.

  23. 23
    ) Peter

    SSDW – Same Shot Different Wedding.

    Yes, I would remove the price tag on the guy’s shoe, and I would also tell him to exchange his plastic suit for one made of wool etc. and to take off his dopey hat.

    I did 2 weddings (paid) in my film days and never did another one after that.
    Why? How do you spell B-O-R-I-N-G? I still take candid shots of weddings for my friends and family, but I tell them to hire a professional if they want an album.

    Most shots are scripted and the one’s that aren’t, well…pure corn! They make me gag!

    Lastly, I would bet that 95-99% of those people who have wedding albums haven’t looked at them after the initial few weeks. A gigantic waste of money.

    Sorry for the rant.

    Don’t get me wrong, Nasim and Lola, some of my best friends are wedding photographers…and they shoot RAW, too.

  24. 24
    ) Myrna

    I agree with taking lots of shots… You only get one chance and cant go back. It separates the best photographers who take lots of shots and hope every bride & groom gets photographers like you who puts in so much effort into their lifetime memories. I take pictures of my kids school events and have to dedicate one 4-8 gb sd card just for that event. I too walk away with over 900 pictures for one event.

    I love reading your websites! Request: Can you please do a tutorial for Adobe Photoshop CS5 (and CS5 Extended..) Thanks.

    Myrna

  25. 25
    ) Jane

    I’m not a pro photographer, but I certainly take lots of pictures and sort through them later. I’d much rather spend that time than miss a great opportunity when photographing my kids. With Lightroom, I’ve become much more efficient at sorting through pics and making quick edits.

    The little details you posted about fixing in the photos and definitely not “too much”. I am extremely picky when it comes to stuff like this with my own non-pro photos, so if I was paying a photographer good money for photos, I would expect them to pay that kind of attention to detail too.

    I took this photo recently: http://i664.photobucket.com/albums/vv8/healeyja/2011030542-Edit-Edit__ed.jpg and spent quite a long time in Photoshop removing a seam from the aquarium and various scratches on the glass. Those little details were just too distracting.

    I think you’re providing your clients with an excellent product by being so picky. Picky is good. :)

  26. I am still learning when it comes to photography basics. I must read this blog once or twice a week and still reference it from time to time. Here is my opinions on these subjects…

    Too Many photos?

    Personally, give me an hour and I will have close to 200 or 300 photos. Honestly in the case of a wedding album I think you need the choices that multiple photos give. Do I say go out and max out every memory card you own, no, but you can’t focus on just a few shots and have that explain the whole story of the event.

    Post Processing

    To be honest I give each photo that I take a good look through whenever I start post processing. I have a lot of people tell me to just do a batch edit but I can’t bring myself to do this. Those same people who tell me to batch edit cause it saves time all do use a batch edit for post processing and personally I can’t stand to look at some of their photos. The white balance would be off, or something is over exposed, or even that one unfocused photo sneaks in to the gallery. I say go ahead get rid of that price tag.

  27. 27
    ) vj

    It depends. The clean up with the first shoe photo was a good idea. Makes it look clean and nice. For the label on the shoe (2nd photo), I personally don’t think removing it was good. Reality has its tiny imperfections and the label is part of the tiny imperfection and part of the occasion. The photo tells a story and the tiny label is part of the story. When you remove it, the story is artificial (cleaned up). But if you are hired to provide photos that make the customer feel good by cleaning up every tiny imperfection, then by all means make em happy.

  28. 28
    ) Girish

    Are you guys OK?

  29. 46
    ) arz

    its worth cause it was our satisfaction

  30. 47
    ) Susan

    Ha ha, you can never pay too much attention to detail! Our wedding potographer drove us mental at the time, pulling wayward leaves off the lawn. In retrospect, I am glad he did – almost 20 years on, we have photos we are proud of.

  31. 49
    ) Katherine Pina

    I think the attention to detail is magnificent. And Wedding photography is a super tough business. I used to shoot with a Canon Rebel 35 mm SLR and would be frustrated because I would shoot an overload of pictures with film and wouldn’t be happy with the results. I just recently got a Nikon D3100 and began shooting once again, mostly with my children. I wouldn’t try to become a wedding photographer until I knew what I was doing and YES, good lenses do make a difference. I am about to spend a significant amount of money on a 50 mm prime lens that was suggested for portrait photography because I do see the relevance of having good lens.

    Like the pictures. Very beautiful.

  32. 50
    ) manny

    I had a groom once tape “help ” on the bottom of one shoe and “Me ” on the bottom of the other ! let me just say that the kneeling pictures at the alter were quite hilarious ! They had a great sense of humor ,i gave them the option of which one the liked better , clean , or sooc , guess which they chose ? lolol (as i remember )

  33. 51
    ) Julia

    I don’t know any of the details of this wedding other than seeing this picture. To me, I get the impression these portraits were probably taken mid-late in the day, and they never realized it was there. I could see them seeing the sooc picture and saying “Omg, how did I leave that there?!”. I would have definitely gotten rid of it, and I’m sure it took 5seconds. To me, those edits are fairly painless and prove you can pay attention to details, but I do know EXACTLY where you are coming from! I wonder if we do unnecessary things to our wedding photos just to say we edited them. I guess it’s more of a self satisfaction that just by adding a little finesse, it’s going to be something they could never produce on their own. Can I ask, when you say you don’t edit them all, do you literally do nothing to some photos? Or you mean photoshop editing? This thread is from almost a year ago, how are you managing now with your final numbers? We’ve been doing weddings for a little over a year now, and I just can’t see us showing 300 pictures from a 10hr day! We show about 7-900 from a 10hr day, and with the enhancements we make it could bring it up to 1,000-1,200 photos. I have never sat down with a wedding photographer to know what’s the norm, as I am not married. We have more experience with child and family sessions and that’s a whole different ball game. Soooo….yeah, I feel ya!

  34. 52
    ) Sivai

    Hello Nasir,

    I am a great fan of yours.. I am an amateur photograph and your website is what the the greatest tool I have, to learn different things abt photography.. Be it a about cameras, lenses, post processing and what not!!! Thanks a ton for the wonderful write up..

    And coming to your question – I definitely did not notice the tag on the Shoe.. But after staring some time I was able to notice it.. Well, to answer “How much is too much” – It definitely depends on what the photo is all about and who is taking it.. :) As you are a pro, every single step you take to make the photo counts.. and keeps your client happy.. It is never to be commented as “too much” :)

    Finally,,, I really like the font that you use in the entire site!!! Special Thumbs up :D
    Keep the good work up and continue to educate us… :)

    • 53
      ) Sivai

      Oops!!! My First post.. address you wrong… :( Sorry Nasim.. ;)

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