Before the advent of digital photography photographers were restricted to shooting in batches of 24 or 36 shots depending upon what length of film they were using in their cameras. They were also very wary of processing costs and their whole shooting ethic centered around each press of the shutter. Similarly, wedding photography "packages" usually consisted of the photographer giving the couple a large number of proof images to choose their final selection from of maybe 30 or 40 prints. This way seems so restrictive and archaic now! Imagine being presented with a set of relatively poorly printed proofs and asked to choose from them and discard the rest!
Naturally, when photographers and the buying public first had access to the new digital technology things went completely mad! Photographers were firing off thousands of images as they considered them as being free and the buyers really didn't see why on earth they had to pay for images anymore as they were perceived as having much less value now that they had lost the associated processing and printing costs. There was a number of years of wrangling before it became accepted that photographers were charging for their time for, despite the advantages of the digital medium, producing high quality hand finished final prints is now much more time consuming for the photographer than it ever was using film.
So, how many images do you really need of your wedding? There are several factors to take into consideration, not least how many can you actually manage to hold and appreciate before reaching saturation point? Many photographers offer five or six hundred images from a wedding and others proudly state that they will give you a thousand or so and assume that this is giving excellent value for money. In my experience it is very difficult not to become overwhelmed by these amounts and I have generally found that most clients are very happy viewing 200 – 250 images and then making a selection of around 70 – 100. Now, I have actually taken possibly 1500 images on the day and I feel that, as a professional photographer, it is part of my service to select and edit for my clients. Surely the photographers that are giving clients up to 1000 images are simply passing the critical responsibility of editing on to their clients. Also, each of those 200 – 250 final images will have been carefully hand manipulated to ensure the best colour, contrast etc and I can't believe that many photographers really have the time or inclination to do this for nearly 1000 photographs.
However, despite the numbers discussed above I believe that we, as professionals in the digital age can improve things both for our clients and also for our work flow as well. Why, when a majority of wedding photographers are branding ourselves as photojournalists or photographic storytellers, do we still cling to the traditional way of showing a large number of "proofs" and then stressing out our clients by asking them to choose a certain amount for their album and then charging them extra for the rest? Why not carefully and expertly edit the number of images from the wedding to around 150 – 200 (ensuring excellent quality and still allowing for full coverage) and then simply give them all to the client as a complete coverage of the day?
The advantages to the client are that they receive all of the images and don't have to arduously choose, they receive images of a higher quality and generally more quantity than they normally would and all of the associated post wedding stress is relieved. As the photographer is now offering a unique proposition and, in essence, providing all of the images s/he can charge a higher up front cost. In terms of work flow the photographer is now editing only 150 – 200 images and saves a large amount of editing time from the previous model as well as saving a large amount of post wedding admin time helping the couple choose images and communicating, emailing, phone calling as per the previous way of working. Also, if the couple are having an album as their final product, it is considerably less time consuming and easier to design an album without the restraints of the couple's choices of image than it is having free reign. Previously there was always a sense of "shoe horning" the images in rather than being able to provide a free flowing balanced and full coverage that this second model allows.
The digital age has given wedding photographers and their clients new opportunities and ways of enjoying and presenting images that would have been impossible in the days of film. We need to make sure that we are still not tempted by the ease of quantity over quality and ensure that the record that we as photographers make of the wedding day is of the highest quality and consistency possible.